Custom Features in Google Analytics
There are many great features that come out of the box with Google Analytics, such as insights on most visited pages, how visitors got to your site, and how long they stayed there, but what else is there? The word “custom” is all over Google Analytics, so let’s dive into a few of these customisations and see how we can combine a few features to really make Google Analytics a powerful tool for your business.
Most of us don’t live in Google Analytics day to day in our jobs. It's typically a place we go to when we are looking to get some specific insights for our website. So how do we know if something has happened on our site that we should be aware of and we don’t know fast enough?
Let’s say if our site tracking breaks and we stop receiving data. How would we know? Also, more importantly, what if we get a sudden spike in traffic from a mention or a post that went viral? Here's where custom alerts come in handy.
We obviously can't just get Google Analytics to “notify me when something goes viral” or “notify me if anything breaks.” We need to define these situations more specifically. So how do we do that? An example of how we can define spike in traffic would be to set up custom alerts for percentage increase in traffic over a period of time, such as day-over-day or week-over-week. A similar approach could be taken for alerts when something breaks, but instead, we would look for a decrease in traffic by 100% day-over-day.
One of my favourite things in Google Analytics are Custom Dimensions. Every business/website requires different setups and no one knows your business needs as you do. So with that in mind, what are the important bits of information you want to know about your site. e.g. are there specific behaviours on your website that are important to your business?
An example that I have commonly come across is having visibility of which of piece of content (blog, video, etc) on the website is getting the most traffic, where are they coming from and are they converting? To solve this, we can set a hit-based custom dimension to find out!
There are many options within GA that we can use for set our Custom Dimensions, there are referred to as the “scope” of the dimension. You can read more about the Google Analytics Scopes here. The scope can be set to hit, session, user, or product. Here are some examples;
Hit: passed with one-time interactions, like a selection of a form.
Session: describes the overall visit to the site. e.g. where the user came from, whether or not they were logged in.
User: Describes a person over multiple visits and all the events within.
Product: This is for eCommerce implementations, and can be used for product colour, size, variant, etc
Custom metrics can also be sent to Google Analytics based on things that happen on your site. There are different scopes and formats that need to be set within Google Analytics to make sure that the reports make sense for your data.
Your scope will either be hit-based or product-based, and your format will be set as an integer, currency, or time. The most common implementations I see with custom metrics are things like video plays, impression counts for a banner on a site, or the number of items/checkboxes selected on a form, however — don't let these examples limit your creativity!
Making Sense of Custom Dimensions & Metrics with Custom Reports
Custom reports are commonly used to simplify the default reports that are available in Google Analytics, but these features truly shine when you use Custom Dimensions and Metrics with them. When I work with publishing sites, I always set up a Custom Explorer Report that starts with Author, then has Page Title nested below. This will let you compare all the authors with associated pageview metrics, then let you click on an author’s name to see all the pages they wrote and see the metrics broken apart by each page. You can also add custom metrics to these reports, like ad-impressions, video plays, and downloads, if you are recording those metrics.