Depending on whether you are using the free or 360 version of Google Analytics you get 20 or 200 custom dimensions and metrics to work with.
When used correctly, these custom definitions can be one of the most useful custom features in Google Analytics. They allow you to tailor your analytics to meet your needs and to match your KPIs.
One of the most common problems related to custom definitions has been that people don’t know what exactly are the dimensions and metrics they should be tracking.
Out of the box, Google Analytics already tracks a few hundred different dimensions and metrics. In this article, we are giving you a few ideas for the custom ones you might want to add to your list.
While the main idea behind custom dimensions is to allow you track more specific things that might not be relevant to every website owner, there are some in this article that I would recommend adding to every Google Analytics setup. (Bookmark this post for your next GA setup)
Every instance of the
_ga cookie gets a unique Client ID, which is how the Google Analytics backend knows that the same visitor has visited the site multiple times. This Client ID is not exposed in any dimension you can query via the API.
There are multiple ways to access the Client ID of the current visitor, but the most intuitive solution is by using GTM and customTask.
Depending on your setup, you might try accessing the Google Analytics object directly
The User ID feature in Universal Analytics groups together hits, sessions, and Client IDs. It is the highest possible level of abstraction and aggregation available in Google Analytics.
User ID value is generally available for logged in users only and usually coming from your back-end/CMS. Besides tracking User ID using a custom dimension, you should also configure Google Analytics built-in User ID feature.
In Google Analytics, all hits are grouped together into sessions. However, using the API or custom reports alone, you will not be able to identify if two distinct hits belong to the same session.
var session_id = new Date().getTime() + '.' + Math.random().toString(36).substring(5);
Unfortunately, you can’t query for the exact timestamp of a Google Analytics hit using the API. Neither can you get it in your custom reports. However, this might be very meaningful information, especially if you want to verify data integrity across systems.
Although, you should be using Google Analytics’ Content Grouping for a similar purpose, having it in custom dimension has its advantages. For example, your page types could be home, category, product, checkout, confirmation, blog, webinar.
A/B Testing Variant
While this might sound obvious to some, many novice A/B testers rely solely on the data displayed by the testing tool they’re using. Having a second source for double-checking is absolutely a must, besides, it allows for a more granular analysis that most A/B testing tools don’t allow.
Google Analytics does have a simple bot-filtering system in place but it comes nowhere near catching all the bots that visit your site. Even tools like reCAPTCHA by Google can’t usually say for sure whether a visitor is a bot or a human but they can give you a score (from 0.1 to 1). Simo Ahava has put together a great tutorial for tracking the reCAPTCHA both score using Google Analytics custom dimensions.
Tracking User Actions
Normally, you would track user actions using custom events. This is great but sometimes you need more context, more flexibility, just like you have with Google Analytics’ built-in metrics. That is why I’d recommend tracking your most important user actions using custom metrics, and with custom events, too.
Some actions you might want to track using custom metrics:
- Add to Cart
- Add to Wishlist
- Clicked Recommended Product
- Submitted Rating Form
- Posted a Comment
- Made a Reservation
You get the point. I recommend starting with your top 3-5 most important user actions.
More on this with some examples on Analytics Ninja’s blog.
Google Analytics already tracks revenue (considering you have implemented (enhanced) ecommerce tracking). Now, to get a better context and allow for some further analysis on your financial strategies, consider adding these custom metrics.
- Displayed Price ($160.97)
- Original / Full Price ($190)
- Product Level Discount ($29.03)
Based on this data, you could build reports like this
Social Media Shares
Capturing social shares can give you a good insight into what content users find interesting and willing to share with their audience. Using this metric, you can compare content marketing efforts and see how well your social campaigns are doing. Capturing social shares gives you an idea of the type of content and types of the audience interested in your content so you can build niches or on top of previous success and increase your reach and look to grow your user base.
Time on Site
Formatting Type: Time
There are several ways you can track time on site in Google Analytics. The default solution isn’t accurate because it only counts until the last hit. This means that sessions with only one hit have a duration of 0.
Using custom metrics, you can define your own rules. One of the best solutions we’ve seen is tracking the amount of time the browser tab is active. This requires sending an event at an interval, for example, every 10 or 15 seconds.
To make this metric even more useful, you can build different calculated metrics combining time on site with other metrics. For example, time on site per session.
This allows you to build useful custom reports like this one.
Custom metrics and dimensions are key to customizing your Google Analytics setup to meet the needs of your business. I recommend taking some time, thinking through your whole business logic, reading this article (and a few similar ones) once more and decide which custom metrics and dimensions would make sense the most.
Also, if we missed an important metric or dimension, let us know in the comments below.