Google Analytics - Exploring Custom Metrics & Custom Dimensions

Google Analytics works well and provides actionable insights for most businesses. It collects dimensions and metrics and displays those which are relevant for most businesses. But what if your business is different? Google Analytics can still be a valuable insights tool, you just need to know how to capture and access the right information output. This is where Custom Dimensions and Custom Metrics come into the picture. Custom Dimensions and Custom Metrics are tools that allow you to customise and capture more data, and what's awesome is these can be used in both the free and premium Google Analytics versions. The free version of Google Analytics allows you to create 20 Custom Dimensions and 20 Custom Metrics (see Google Analytics limits and Quotes). With the paid version - Google Analytics 360 or previously Google Analytics Premium - you can have 200 Custom Dimensions and 200 Custom Metrics.

Google Analytics works well for MOST business. Is your business the same as others? If not - why don't you customise your Analytics...

Let's begin with some simple definitions. In short, Custom Dimensions are strings and Custom Metrics are numbers which can be summarised and calculated to produce the average value.

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A good example of where Custom Dimensions and Custom Metrics may be useful is in this scenario: During the checkout process your business allows clients co calculate delivery costs via a location-based Shipping Calculator. In this scenario, it may be important for your business to capture the entered location value and calculated shipping costs. In this case, the postcode would be Custom Dimension and shipping cost would be Custom Metric. Of course, in this particular situation, you might also use an event-saving postcode via the Event Action or Event Label fields and use the Event Value field to record calculated cost (but it important not to forget that the Event Value is an Integer, see Lost Google Analytics Events).

Custom Metrics set on page level

When you record a Custom Metric (such as a current cart total) together with an Analytics Event, it all works as expected. A numeric value is recorded as a metric and gets aggregated in your report, providing you with an average or total sum when you extract your event data. But Custom Metrics for pageviews work differently! A Custom Metric for the page will accumulate Custom Metrics (with the same index) values of the event which fire on this page!

Custom Metric for the page will accumulate custom metrics (with the same index) values of the event which fire on this page!

Consider the following scenario;

  1. A user visits a page /page2.html with $1 of products in his cart. Together with the pageview hit to Google Analytics, the Cart Value Custom Metric records a value equal to one.
  2. Later, a user visits the same page having $20 worth of products in his cart. Together with the pageview hit to Google Analytics, the Cart Value Custom Metric records a value equal to twenty
  3. Without refreshing the page, a user adds another product to the cart and new Cart Value is $100. We capture this activity as an Event and send a Cart Value Custom Metric equal to one hundred

If only Step 1 and Step 2 (pageviews) happened, the report would display 21 as the Cart Value Custom Metric for the page (which is almost useless) but 10.5 is listed as the Cart Value average which is extremely useful. So far everything makes perfect sense. When a user triggers an event (Step 3), Google Analytics will add the Cart Value associated with the event to the Custom Metric value associated with the page where this event happened. Please refer to the screenshot below.

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Please note the Total Events metric in this report, which has a value of one for this page only.

Custom Dimensions and Custom Metrics give you much more flexibility in the ways you can record and interpret your data. Not being aware of these "little features" can also lead you to jump to an incorrect conclusion when interpreting your data so it's important to include Custom Dimensions and Custom Metrics in your Google Analytics account. If you need more help, ask us how!

Internetrix are certified resellers and servicers of Google Analytics 360. We have a specialist team of data analysts and data scientists that can help you with all your Google Analytics questions or projects. If you have any further questions on Google or strategies you can take to give your data more meaning, give us a call.

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