What You Didn’t Know About Your Users: Google Analytics Secondary and Custom Dimensions

By Jeff Baum | @jeffbaum71 | Associate Director of Services at Hanapin Marketing

Google announced on 11/21 that they are enhancing their standard analytics reporting to provide deeper insights. Many new secondary dimensions have been added, along with custom dimensions that allow you to bring in business data that brings additional clarity and context to your data analysis.  Custom dimensions is a new Universal Analytics feature, so make sure you have it set up in case your account hasn’t been moved to the new standard. To set up Universal Analytics, click here.


Below are two examples from Google on how to view secondary and custom dimensions data. “User Tier” is the example used to show what a custom dimension looks like. As you can see from the examples, not only are you getting the standard Google Analytics traffic data, you can apply that data against different customer segments. For the first time, Google Analytics is providing us the opportunity to connect what’s happening at the top of the sales funnel vs. the bottom of the sales funnel. For us PPC data geeks this is heaven!

 Example 1:

Google Analytics Screen Shot 2


 Example 2:

Google Analytics screen shot 1


Setting Up Custom Dimensions


In order to set up custom dimensions, just follow the steps below. These directions come right from the Google Analytics help.

  1. From any page in your Analytics account, click Admin. Select the account and property you want to add custom dimensions to.
  2. Under property click Custom Definitions, then Custom Dimensions.
  3. Click the New Custom Dimension button.
  4. Add a Name. This can be any string, but use something unique so it’s not confused with another custom dimension or metric in your reports.
  5. Select the Scope.
    Choose to track at the Hit, Session, or User level. Read more about scope and how custom dimensions are processed in our Developer Guide.
  6. Check the Active box to start collecting data and see the dimension in your reports right away. To create the dimension but have it remain inactive, uncheck the box.
  7. Click Create.


Why Are Custom Dimensions So Awesome?


Being able to apply your business or client’s business data against the standard data available through the secondary dimensions tabs is a great thing regardless of whether you’re in in the lead generation or e-commerce space. More data means more opportunity to learn and grow leads or sales.

The clients I work with are all in the lead generation space. Although we are tasked specifically with getting leads, we are ultimately judged on the final outcome. Did those leads turn into a sale, new client, or a new student enrollment? In other words, did a click on an ad from keyword A convert to a lead, then turn into a sale, client, or an enrollee? Knowing this information allows us to optimize not just towards the front of the funnel (Did I get a lead)?, but rather to the back end of the funnel, (am I bringing in new business)?

Back-end funnel data is usually not readily available to us because its proprietary and therefore very hard to optimize for. When we receive back-end data, its usually takes a lot of time and effort in Excel to marry this data up with the standard Google Analytics data, which can be quite time consuming. With custom dimensions, some of this work can be done for you right in Google Analytics!