Google Analytics reports consist of two different types of data: dimensions and metrics. But what are dimensions and what are measured values? And how can you use them meaningfully for your analysis? So that you no longer feel in the dark, here is an overview of their meaning and functions.
What are the dimensions and metrics?
A dimension is a property to which you can assign one or more measured values. The dimensions are in the first column of the reports, including, for example, operating systems, page URLs, channels or cities. A second dimension can be added for further analysis purposes. For example, target pages can be listed according to the source. In theory, there are no limits to your imagination.
As measured values, however, individual members of a dimension are called, which can be represented in absolute terms or relative to something else. This can be the average visit duration for the Page URL dimension or sessions for the Firefox dimension. However, if the given metrics are not what you want, you can use custom reports to adjust them.
In short: dimensions are the properties of user data. For example, the country, the language or the page called up.
Measured values are data that can be expressed in numbers. This includes the page views, sessions or the length of stay.
Valid combinations of dimensions and metrics
Once you have understood what measured values and dimensions are, it is obvious that you cannot combine every measured value with every dimension. After all, all dimensions and measured values have a certain, different scope, such as the user, session or hit level.
Once you understand that, it also makes sense that you should combine dimensions and measurements with the same scope. For example, the session-based metric, Sessions, can only be combined with session-level dimensions such as source or city.
The reference tool for dimensions and measured values provides you with a helpful list of valid dimension-measured value pairs so that you are always on the safe side.
Custom dimensions and metrics
By default, Google Analytics provides you with various dimensions and measurements. However, if you want to create individual evaluation options, you have the option of defining user-defined dimensions and measured values.
Before it begins
In order to work as precisely as possible, you should always formulate a question in advance and then try to map it in Google Analytics. Before creating custom dimensions and metrics, there are a few more points to keep in mind:
- Custom dimensions are only available from Universal Analytics (they are not available in classic Analytics)
- In the free Google Analytics version, you can create up to 20 user-defined dimensions per property
- Custom dimensions cannot be deleted after they have been created
- However, you can turn off custom dimensions
To create a custom dimension, do the following:
- Go to the administration
- Choose the property
- At the property level, go to Custom Definitions and click Custom Dimensions
- Click the + New Custom Dimension button
- Select the name and scope in the next window and check the Active box
- By clicking on Create, you finally confirm the entries
To create user-defined measured values, proceed similarly:
- Go to the administration.
- Choose the property
- At the property level, click Custom Definitions, and then click Custom Metrics.
- Click on the + New user-defined measured value button.
- In the Name, Formatting Type window that opens, select the option Integer, Currency or Time.
- Check the box next to Active.
- By clicking on Create, you finally confirm the entries.
When custom dimensions are processed, the scope determines which hits a custom dimension value is applied to. Data view filters are used to determine which hits and associated values are ultimately included in the reports. The scope can be set at four different levels:
Product – The value will be applied to the product for which it was set
Hit – The value will be applied to the individual hit for which it was set.
Session – The value is applied to all hits in a single session.
User – The value will be applied to all hits in the current and future sessions until the value is changed or the custom dimension is no longer active.
Product-level scope: When a custom dimension is set to product-level scope, the value is only applied to the product for which it was defined. Multiple product-level scope custom dimensions can also be sent along with multiple products in a single hit.
Hit-Level Scope: When a custom dimension is hit-level, the value is only applied to the hit for which the value is defined.
Session-level Scope: If two-session- size values are set for the same index in a session, the last value takes precedence and is applied to all hits in that session.
Scope at user level: If two user-level custom dimension values are set within the same session, the last value in the current session takes precedence and is applied to future sessions for that user.
Data view filters can interact with custom dimensions and metrics in a number of ways.
Values of user-defined dimensions and metrics are assigned to the hit with which they were received, regardless of the scope. If a data view filter is applied to this hit, the value of the custom dimension or custom metric may also be filtered, depending on the scope:
- Hit-Level Scope: Hit-level custom dimensions and custom metrics are filtered if the hit they are associated with has also been filtered.
- Scope at the session or user level: Custom dimensions with a scope at the user or session level are not filtered, even if the hit to which they are assigned has been filtered. Their values will still be applied to all hits for the current session as well as future sessions if the dimension is set to scope at the user level.
After the acquisition, configuration and other processing phases of the process have been completed, the custom dimensions and metrics are available in the Reports area. Custom dimensions and metrics are available in the custom reports and can be used with advanced segments. Here’s a big example from Google, where a game developer learns more about their players’ behaviour using custom dimensions and metrics.
Calculated measured values [beta]
We now know that it can make perfect sense to use individual indicators to assess a website since Google Analytics standard reports with standard measured values are often not sufficient. At this point calculated measured values come to our aid. You can use calculated metrics to compile new data based on real values.
Calculated measured values enable you to individualize your Google Analytics and gain additional valuable knowledge from your existing data. So you can create your own definitions and thus better adapt key figures to your analysis. You can use calculated metrics in custom reports, dashboards and widgets.
Create calculated, measured values.
First, navigate to the administration on the data view level and select Calculated, measured values there. To begin, click on New calculated measurement value and fill out the fields provided.
- Name: Enter a descriptive name here. This is displayed in user-defined reports in the measured value selection.
- External name: This field is automatically filled in based on the entry in the “Name” field. The external name should not be changed. During the creation, you can specify an external name here that deviates from the recommendation. After that, this is no longer possible. The value of the external name must be unique.
- Formatting type: Here you define the integer, the currency, the time, the floating-point number and the percentage
- Formula: When you start typing, you’ll see a list of predefined metrics that you can use to create the formula.
- Then just click on Create.
Once you have created the calculated values, they are available here at the time of query:
- Custom reports
- Custom dashboards and widgets
- Analytics reporting APIs
Identify users for user metrics.
The metrics “Users” and “Active users” show you how many users have interacted with your website or app. In order to assign accesses in Google Analytics to the corresponding users, a unique user ID is sent with each hit, which is assigned to the respective user.
At the beginning of 2017, Google Analytics began to update the calculation method for the measured values users and active users in order to count users more efficiently and more accurately with a lower error rate (usually below 2%).
To switch between the previous and the new calculation type, proceed as follows:
- Go to administration and click on the property that you want to edit
- Click in the column property on Property Settings
- Enable or disable hereunder user analysis enable the option reading users in reports
Done! In this chapter, you have learned everything you need to know about dimensions and metrics. We’ll look at custom reports in the next chapter.