More Accurate Conversion Data with Sequence Segments


Sequence Segments in Google Analytics

Is that new page of content driving more lead forms? Is this month’s home page banner driving more free trial sign-ups? Use sequence segments in your Google Analytics data to make sure you’re getting the right answers. It’s easy to get them wrong.

Dead Ends, or Getting It Wrong

The questions sound simple. The “obvious” answers, however, often lead nowhere or worse than nowhere.

Some of the ways to go wrong include:

  • Looking in Google Analytics’ All Pages report or Top Events report for conversions or goal data (what? not there?)
  • Trying to make a custom report or dashboard in Google Analytics with your page (or banner event) and goal data (ugh, zeroes)

Why Does This Happen?

The table shows (89) conversions – none attributed to any page. It’s because goal numbers go with session dimensions, things that apply equally to all of a user’s activity during a session – such as source or campaign or device. Pages and events are hit dimensions, things that apply only to part of a session.

For example: If a session had 3 page hits and only 1 goal completion, but Google Analytics built a table with 1 goal completion for each page hit, then we’d end up with 3 goal completions for the session! Google Analytics doesn’t build tables that way.

You can also go wrong by:

  • Putting utm tags on your home page banner. Don’t do it, you’ll inflate session counts AND lose the original source of any conversions!
  • Using a custom segment for sessions that included the new page or the banner event (wait, what’s wrong with that?)

You certainly can apply a custom segment to any report with goal data. But what does that segmented data mean?

Segments cast a wide net across your Google Analytics data. Segments say: “Show me the data for all the sessions where X happened.” What you get is X, and everything else that happened in those sessions, too.


For example: If you ask for sessions where your new page was viewed, you will get data about that page, and also any other pages and events in sessions with your new page. One of those other pages or events might be a goal completion.


And look, it happened in 46 sessions – users viewed the new page and submitted a lead form. So close! And yet so far from what you want.

What the segment didn’t tell you (because you didn’t ask) is whether or not your new page was viewed BEFORE the goal completion. If the new page was viewed after the goal completion, clearly it’s not driving that conversion.

Sequence Segments Get It Right

The tool for this job is a sequence segment. Sequence segments say: “Show me the data for all the sessions where X happened, and then Y (e.g. a goal completion) happened later.” You specify conditions for each step, and each step must occur in order.

For example: You can create a sequence segment where one step is a user sees your new page, and a later step is the user submits a lead form. Now you can see how much the new page affects conversions by applying that segment across reports in Google Analytics.


In the Goals > Overview we now see only 45 conversions, instead of 46. That means one of the 46 conversions occurred before the new page was viewed. It didn’t match the sequence segment.


Try a sequence segment in multiple reports for more insight:

  • In Audience > Overview see converted session data like how long the sessions lasted
  • In Audience > Mobile > Overview see how many goal completions were on mobile phones or tablets

Add another layer of attribution in the Acquisition reports:

  • In All Traffic > Channels see how many goal completions were from social networks or paid search
  • In Campaigns see conversions by campaign or paid keyword

In the Acquisition reports, with the sequence segment you can answer: “What brought users to my site, those users who saw my new page and then submitted a lead form?”

Sequence Segments Get It Exactly Right

Suppose you want to know what brought users to your site when the first page they saw was your new page, and then later they submitted a lead form. Sequence segments can do that, too.

How Does the Sequence Start?

Choose either “Any user interaction” or “First user interaction” to get more specific about how your sequence begins.


For this example:

  • Any user interaction means the sequence starts if the user sees your new page at any point during their session
  • First user interaction means the sequence starts only if the user sees your new page first before anything else happens in the session

When you specify “First user interaction” you see what external sources brought users to your new page before they submitted a lead form. Subtract these conversions from those for “Any user interaction” and compare the two numbers.

Are users submitting lead forms more when the new page is first? Then it could be that sources pointing to your new page are already bringing better-qualified users, and not the new page that’s influencing users to submit the lead form.

Let’s switch examples and see another way sequence segments help you ask for precisely what you want.

Suppose you want to know about this month’s home page banner. Is it driving free trial sign-ups? You don’t care if the home page banner is the first thing the user sees or clicks, but you want to know if the user clicks the banner then do they immediately sign up for a free trial?

How Strict is the Sequence Order?

A step is either: “followed by” or “immediately followed by” the next step.


For this example:

  • Followed by means the user clicks the home page banner and then at any point later in the session they sign up for a free trial
  • Immediately followed by means the user clicks the home page banner and then the next thing they do is sign up for a free trial

When you specify “immediately followed by” you see only conversions that occurred without any other pages or events in between the home page banner click and the free trial sign-up.

Sequence Segments Get Even Better

Suppose your home page banners are not immediately driving users to sign up for the free trial. Is it possible that users who click the banner are coming back and converting later, in another session?

Up to now we’ve been talking about a sequence that happens in the same session. To ask for a sequence that occurs across more than one session, switch the segment filter from sessions to users.


A user sequence segment looks across sessions for the same user, and will match steps in your sequence even if they occur in different sessions. Now you can see if those banners may have a longer-term impact on free trials. One caveat: Your date range must be 90 days or less.

Both of my examples had 2 steps, but you can have up to 10 steps in a sequence.

You can also specify multiple sequences in the same segment. So if I wanted to see how home page banners are driving free trial sign-ups for a specific group of users (defined by another sequence), I could.

For example: You can create a sequence segment where one sequence is “user clicks home page banner followed by a free trial sign-up” and another sequence is “user searches for products followed by view of product X”.

And you can define any “sequence” as a single step. In my multi-sequence example, the second sequence could simply be “view of product X”.

Single-step sequence segments are also useful for making sure that event dimensions occur in the same hit. Otherwise you could match the event category from one hit with the event action in another hit – which is easy to do when your event categories share the same generic values for their event actions such as “Click” or “Yes/No”.


Use sequence segments to ask more precise questions and get more accurate answers, especially when it comes to conversion data.

  • Get the data for all the sessions where X happened, and then a goal completion happened later.
  • Get more insight from goal data in the Google Analytics reports for Audience and Acquisition.
  • Specify what happens before a sequence and between steps of a sequence.
  • Use multiple sequences in one segment when some user actions can occur in any order, not part of the original sequence.
  • Single-step “sequences” are allowed, and in fact are recommended for matching multiple event dimensions.

Have you used sequence segments for conversion data? Are some sequences more challenging to define? What other ways have you used sequence segments? Please share in the comments.

Dorcas Alexander is a Manager for the Analytics & Insight department. Her path to LunaMetrics followed stints in ad agency creative, math, and computer science. Dorcas has a master's degree in language and information technologies from Carnegie Mellon University, where she helped build precursors to a Universal Translator. One of the top-rated tournament Scrabble players in Pennsylvania, Dorcas has an insatiable drive to compete and win.

  • Rodrigo Queiroz

    Amazing tip! Thanks

  • Cosima Crawley

    Hi there – I just read this and its really helpful but has the GA interface changed. I went to create a sequence segment but there is no option for is followed by / is immediately followed by?

    • Dorcas Alexander

      Hi Cosima, You’ll see the “followed by” options when you choose “Add Step”. This will produce a sequence of Step 1 followed by Step 2 (followed by Step 3 etc.) where each step can have one or more conditions. Your screen shot shows only Step 1, where Step 1 has two conditions joined with “and”.

  • roy

    Awesome article. Couple of requests, please.

    Couldn’t understand the last bit: “Single-step sequence segments are also useful for making sure that event dimensions occur in the same hit. Otherwise you could match the event category from one hit with the event action in another hit – which is easy to do when your event categories share the same generic values for their event actions such as “Click” or “Yes/No”.”

    Could you give please give couple of additional examples of when sequence segment can be leveraged.

    • Dorcas Alexander

      Before we had sequence segments, we could only create segments that said, for example, “Show me all the sessions with conditions A, B, C, etc.” Unfortunately, when condition A was “event category=X” and condition B was “event action=Y”, there was no way to ensure that X and Y happened at the same time. Suppose you have data for “event category=Member” and “event action=Yes” …but you also have data for “event category=Repeat Customer” where “event action=Yes”. Before sequence segments, if your segment had conditions “event category=Member” and “event action=Yes” – that segment would match all sessions where both of conditions were met, but not necessarily met in the same hit. So you could match a session where one hit had Member/No and another hit had Repeat Customer/Yes …because both conditions were matched in the same session, just not at the same time. Using sequence segments with only 1 Step solves this problem!

  • Mahmut Demir

    Hi Dorcas,
    Thanks for this amazing article. I tried to create a sequence segment, had a problem and ended up here while i was googling how to fix that. Hope you can help me.

    My purpose is to get an accurate info for some certain vouchers that have been used by our customers. I would like to see the number of conversions and the revenue via GA. So i tried to create a sequence segment to filter the customers who went to our check-out page, entered the voucher (this takes them to another url), and ended up payment confirmation page. The problem is the time span. When i expand the time span, i lose the transaction and revenue numbers. It shows zero. Why do you think it is happening?

    Thanks a lot.

    • Dorcas Alexander

      Hi Mahmut, There is a limitation for any segment that “Includes Users” – the maximum date range is 90 days. This is due to the amount of processing GA must do at the moment you request the segment. The user’s Client ID for every hit must be examined across sessions in order to return the segmented data. This limitation applies to sequence segments as well as other segments you create.

      • Mahmut Demir

        That makes perfect sense. Thanks a lot Dorcas.

  • rc


    I assume using a “Landing Page” condition with “Any user interaction” in step 1 would yield the same result as using a “Page” condition with “First user interaction”, but I get a different result with both of these settings. Could you clarify what would be the difference between these 2 settings?

    Secondly, would the first step always have to be a Pageview or could I simply specify an Event condition as the first step? For example if I want to know if a user immediately submits a Lead in a Session upon reaching my site, could I simply specify a 1 step sequence of the Lead condition with the “First user interaction” setting or would it have to be a 2 step sequence with the first step being a Pageview of All pages?

    Thanks in advance.

    • Dorcas Alexander

      Hi rc, The Page condition in GA segments can apply to either a pageview or to an event. GA events have a Page dimension. Segments with a “Page” condition can match an event instead of a pageview, and will definitely do that for any event hit that gets sent before a page hit on any given page. This leads to the answer for your second question, which is: Yes, you can specify an Event condition as the first user interaction.

  • AlexanderHoll

    Hi Dorcas, super very helpful Article. One thing i am quite not sure is, when i have a segment with scope sessions my conditions can be Step 1 “Hit 1” followed by “Hit 2”.
    Lets say i would like to measure effectiveness of my blog posts : When i have a sequence segment with scope “User” i could have condition session “First Interaction” starts on “landingpage: /blog/, then immediately followed by “Eventcategory: “Read Article for more than 75seconds” and completeted goal: Seminarregistration > 0
    Would this make sense? And on which reports this segment could make sense? Could you run this segment on Akqusition -> Source / Medium
    75% understood and still not sure 🙂
    Thanks and best regards from Munich
    PS: by the way i will be moderating Andrew Garberson on SMX in Munich

    • Dorcas Alexander

      Hi Alexander, Two things to understand with User-based segments: (1) your conditions do not have to be met within a single session – they can occur across sessions, and (2) the segment will return data for all of that user’s sessions, not just the sessions that meet your conditions – within the requested date range. Yes, you can apply your segment to Acquisition > Source/Medium, if you want to see all of the sessions from the user who meets your conditions. So you will see all session data for users where the “First interaction” – i.e. the users’ first hits within the requested date range – were on your blog. And you will also see all of those same users’ session data after that interaction. Steps 2 and 3 may occur in other sessions. And you will also see those same users’ session data after Step 3, if additional sessions occurred within the requested date range. If that’s what you had in mind, great! If not, you might want to change “Filter : Include : Users” to “Filter : Include : Sessions” – that will limit the conditions to occurring all within the same session, and will not return any extra session data where the conditions did not occur.

  • Alexandr Bililovets

    Hi Dorcas, thanks for the comprehensive guide! I have one confusion related to sequence segments, hope you could shed some light.

    After applying a sequence segment with filter = sessions (means that sequence happens in the same session) in my Audience -> Overview I see that # of session > # of users (ex: 2611 sessions and 2465 users) which means that some users had more than 1 sessions. How could it be explained?

    • Dorcas Alexander

      Hi Alexandr, This is not out of the ordinary. It simply means that some users returned to your site, and had multiple sessions that matched the conditions of your segment, during the date range you looked at. You might think that a user could only match your conditions during one session, but they might come back and do the same sequence again in another session.

      • Alexandr Bililovets

        Oh I see, it perfectly makes sense. Thank you!

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