Using Custom Dimensions in Google Analytics

using-custom-dimensions-1With Google Analytics, you receive more than 400 dimensions and metrics that are helpful for most everyday tasks. However, your business has its own unique needs for which many ready-made dimensions will not suffice. This is where custom dimensions come in useful. A custom dimension uses individual data points that you specify. With a free Google Analytics account, you receive 20 custom dimensions and 200 with a premium account.

Benefits of Custom Dimensions

The main benefit of custom dimensions is that they allow you to organize your data in any way that you please. This enables you to utilize calculated metrics. These user-defined metrics facilitate the analysis of data in a way that is relevant for you, allowing you to take appropriate action.

You can also benefit from custom dimensions on AdWords. For instance, you will receive information from logged-in users from your internal systems and other places outside Google Analytics. This allows you to divide users into sets and check the performance of each.using-custom-dimensions-2

Examples of Custom Dimensions

The custom dimensions that will be relevant for you will depend on your type of site. The following are just a few examples that you may find useful.

For e-commerce sites

  • Account type. Compare differences between users with an account on your website, visitors using a social network account to log in, and guests.
  • Visitor ID. Although you cannot receive information about a user that allows you to identify that person, you can receive a user ID. With a custom dimension, you can compare the ID with your database outside Google Analytics and track visitors when they are not logged into your site.
  • Product view. Find out which products a user views while on your site. This is useful if you have a long buying cycle and initial visits may not lead to purchases.
  • Ongoing value of customers. Compare differences between customers according to how much they have spent in your e-commerce store so far.
  • Out-of-stock products. Check how many views you receive for products that are marked as out of stock. Use this information to determine how availability impacts conversions.

For content generation sites (blogs)

  • Authors. If you have several authors creating content for your site, use a custom dimension to track the performance of content attributed to each author.
  • Categories. Just as important as which author is producing the best-performing content is what categories of content are most successful.
  • Tags. Even more specific than categories, use tags to find out what particular topics are receiving the most attention. Bear in mind, if you set a custom tag at page level, you will be limited to a single tag.
  • Social shares. Find out whether a visitor has shared your content to a social site. This will allow you to see if a few visitors are sharing multiple pieces or many visitors are sharing occasional pieces of content.
  • Comments. Similarly, you can divide visitors according to whether they have ever left a comment on your content.

For lead generation sites

  • Leads. Compare behaviors of leads and non-leads to define triggers.
  • Subscribers. You can also compare differences between non-leads, according to criteria such as whether they are subscribers to your newsletter or RSS feed.
  • Promotional offers. See how behavior of users differs after they view a promotional message.

For self-service sites

  • Member types. If you have different levels of members, such as free and premium, look for distinctions between the two. You can also compare the differences between members and guests.
  • Customer support. Track how contact with customer support impacts a user. This will reveal whether customer support has a positive, negative, or neutral effect. It may also be useful to compare reasons for contacting customer support, such as complaints and queries.

How to Send Custom Dimensions Data to Google Analytics

Once you have set up your custom dimensions, you need to send the data to Google Analytics. This involves using the dimension index — field name: dimension[0-9]+. To implement this, you will need to configure customer dimensions through the Google Analytics Management Interface. This will provide each custom dimension with a unique index to differentiate it from all others. You can then use this index in the analytics.js library.

You can only send custom dimension data with an existing hit. For instance, for a pageview type hit with the index 3, you would use:

ga('send', 'pageview', {
'dimension3':  'My Custom Dimension'

However, you may want to send a custom dimension with all the hits on a page or for a lifetime tracker object. For this, you need to set the command:

ga('set', 'dimension6', 'custom data’);

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