Google Analytics custom dimensions

November 21, 2014
Comments Off on Google Analytics custom dimensions

By Thijs de Valk

Custom Dimensions Google Analytics

Recently we’ve released our Google Analytics by Yoast Premium plugin. As all our premium plugins, it gives you support and extra features. The first added feature of this premium plugin is the Custom Dimensions. This is a very powerful ‘tool’ within Google Analytics which will give you a lot of extra tracking power.

However, the fact that it’s powerful also means that it can be hard to understand or know what you can do with it exactly. So today I’ll be explaining what custom dimensions are and how you can use and find them in Google Analytics.

But what are custom dimensions?

Before jumping in, let me first explain what custom dimensions actually are. Usually, when you’ve added the general Google Analytics code, all the general things will be tracked. Custom dimensions are a way for you to track extra things. And as the name implies; they’re custom. This means that you can actually specify yourself what you want Google Analytics to track.

So instead of being dependent on what Google Analytics hands you out of the box, you’re actually able to track whatever you think is important! You can actually start tracking the author of each post, or its category or post type. And then you can see how much traffic each author, post type or category gets, for instance. Amazing, right?

Of course, for the non-technical people, this might not seem as cool as it seems daunting. That’s why we’ve included a few custom dimensions we’ve preset in our Google Analytics by Yoast Premium plugin. We’re here to make your life easier!

Setting up custom dimensions

Setting up custom dimensions in Google Analytics can be a hassle. However, our Google Analytics by Yoast Premium plugin will make it much easier on you! We’ve created a knowledge base article that will take you through the steps you have to take to set up your custom dimensions.

Custom dimensions and custom variables

Unlike the custom variables, which had a maximum of 5, the maximum amount of custom dimensions you’re allowed to have is 20. Apart from that, custom dimensions and custom variables are essentially the same. They both allow the Google Analytics users to track anything they specified.

However, unlike the custom variables, the custom dimensions can no longer be found as a primary dimension in the same place the custom variables were found. You used to be able to find your custom variables right in the middle of the action, the place the rest of your data was at as well: the Reporting tab.

Google Analytics being the kings of usability they are, decided the custom dimensions needed to be in a different spot altogether. Note, it’s not even in the Reporting tab, but in the Customization tab, which can be found at the top:

Customization tab - Google Analytics

But this isn’t all. You see, Google Analytics really wants to make you feel you’ve earned the data they’re giving you. Before you get to the good stuff, you’ll have to jump some hoops. Let me explain with this video:

Note: As you can see in this video, we’ve chosen pageviews as the metric, because that makes the most sense to explain things. If you’re more adept at using Google Analytics, obviously you can play around here. For now, we’ll only be going into custom dimensions with the metric pageviews.

These are the steps you’ll have to take for every custom dimension you want to be able to view. As of now, our Google Analytics by Yoast Premium plugin comes with five different custom dimensions preset for you. These are: Author, Category, Post Type, Logged In and Published At. I’ll divulge on the first two in this post and I’ll be doing a post on the last 3 in the near future!

Data from custom dimensions

Some of these custom dimensions might not mean anything to you, so I’ll explain them as clearly as I can. I’ll also explain why these custom dimensions are useful and what kind of data you can get from them.


When combined with the pageviews metric, the Author custom dimension shows you the amount of pageviews on posts and pages grouped by author:

Author Custom Dimension - Google Analytics

So this is the traffic of all the posts and pages that had an author associated with it. As you can see, Joost is dominating this. This is actually not that weird. Not only did Joost write most posts, as the other three only started blogging about a year ago, he also created most pages. So what if you just want to see the posts, so you can see which of your authors is generating the most traffic? That’s where another custom dimension comes into play already: Post Type!

By using the Post Type custom dimensions as a secondary dimension and filtering for “post”, you’ll see just the posts. Let me explain with another quick video:

Now you’ll see the traffic to just your posts, grouped by author. As you can see, Joost is still dominating this, to my own frustration. All kidding aside though, you can filter for any kind of post type you want.


The Category custom dimension gives you insight in which category gives you the most traffic:

Category custom dimension - Google Analytics

As you’ve probably seen, the third category in there actually consists of two categories at the same time. Sometimes you just can’t go around adding two categories two one single post. If you want to see the total of one specific category, just fill in that category name in the search bar:

Category - Google Analytics

This will show just the categories that have the category name you filled in, in this case ‘seo’. Of course, you can also use the Author custom dimension, for instance, as a secondary dimension. This would allow you to view how each of the authors are doing in each of your specific categories. This would be done the way I showed you in the second video of this post.

A little glimpse of what’s to come: our Google Analytics by Yoast Premium plugin will have support for tags as custom dimensions in the near future as well.

Custom dimensions in the Reporting tab

Luckily, the custom dimensions haven’t completely disappeared from the Reporting tab. All your custom dimensions can still be used as a secondary dimension in all of your datasets in there. So if you ever want to see how your authors, post types, categories, are doing for a certain dataset.

Custom dimensions are awesome

As you might’ve seen by now, custom dimensions are really powerful. One custom dimension is already powerful and can give you a lot of insight. However, combine it with another custom dimension or metric, and it becomes even more powerful.

And the possibilities are nearly endless. Remember: I’ve only used the metric Pageviews for this post. There are so many other metrics you can use custom dimensions with! Just be creative and be amazed.

All you need to do now is buy the Google Analytics by Yoast Premium plugin and start setting up your own custom dimensions! Happy tracking!

This post first appeared on Yoast. Whoopity Doo!

Source:: SEO