What is a Custom Dimension?

Custom Dimensions are special Google Analytics dimensions that can be filled with custom data passed through either on-site scripting, or manual data uploads and are one of the more advanced capabilities found within Google Analytics. Using them, you can move beyond simple site tracking and provide more intricate views of your website’s behavior and provide for greater integration of data throughout your intelligence systems.


When should Custom Dimensions be used?

If there is a way to get to the data you are looking for using a built-in report or a custom segment, explore that option first.Typically speaking, custom dimensions take on-site development work to set up. This includes passing data directly from your website to google analytics. The downside to this is, when you start adding code to your page you start accruing costs measured in developer-time, maintenance, and data QA/validation work.

That being said, sometimes there is value in being able to pass custom data directly from your website into Google Analytics.


What Types of Data Can Be Passed into a Custom Dimension?

A custom dimension can track any categorical variable that can be placed on your site. The big exception is Personally Identifiable Information[PII]. No names, email addresses, phone #s, or other data that could be used to identify an individual is allowed to be collected within google analytics.


For best practices surrounding PII, see Google’s documentation.


What Can I Do With Custom Dimension and Metrics?

Custom dimensions are almost infinitely flexible, but we have compiled a few common uses as a starting off point.


1) Connect Google Analytics Data to CRM Data

For many companies, the marketing/sales funnel doesn’t end on their website. If you use your website as a source of leads and pass those through to your CRM, then you may be missing out on critical context regarding where your leads come from. By passing through a unique lead identifier (ex: web-browser client_id, user id, or even a simple session ID) to your CRM, you can combine pre-and post-lead conversion data together to track qualified and won leads within Google Analytics. Just be sure to avoid including any PII within your User ID.


2) Collect Page Metadata

Sometimes the URL doesn’t say it all. If you have a complex site structure you may need extra data passed to GA in order to fully segment your data.  Add custom dimensions as metadata to your pages to more easily segment pages by product category, SKU, page initiative, authors and more.


3) Segment Logged-in users vs Guests

Logged in users often act differently than those who are just browsing the site. Passing a ‘Logged-in’[True/False] field to Google Analytics can provide an easy means of segmenting your data into these two groups. From this point on you can either create separate views with a filter on the new dimension or create custom segments within Google Analytics, depending on your needs.


4) Add Timestamps to your data

This may seem a bit unintuitive, but Google does not provide the exact timestamp for when events occur within Google Analytics. This can limit our ability to analyze a variety of metrics and correctly tie events on site to other data outside of Google Analytics. By passing a timestamp through to a custom dimension we can get around this limitation.


How to get started?

For more information on how to set up custom dimensions see Google’s documentation or Contact Tailwind to discuss customized solutions for your individual needs.


About the author

Business Intelligence Analyst, Tailwind


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