Custom Metrics in Google Analytics Part 1

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This is the first of a three part series on Custom Metrics here at Digital Metrics Guru. Stop by next week as we explore creating custom metrics with dynamic values through Google Tag Manager.

One of the most under-utilized features within Google Analytics is the ability to create custom metrics. In my opinion this is due to most users and organizations not knowing how to implement or for what to use them.

I was troubled with this dilemma myself until recently. I always thought, “why would anyone take the time to implement a custom metric when event tracking is widely accepted and known?”

My First Sign Custom Metrics Were Powerful

Recently, something interesting happened in my life. While I use Adobe Analytics for some reporting, for the first time I was asked to implement tracking through Adobe. The customization of the platform is both amazing and frustrating.

What implementing on such a detailed, customizable system made me realize is what I may have been missing with Google Analytics. It allowed me to take a step back and figure out how to take advantage of some under-utilized customization in Google Analytics.

After getting custom dimensions in place, I looked into custom metrics. I knew of custom metrics since their inception, but have never utilized them. Once implemented, along with the ease of implementation through Google Tag Manager, I will never go back.

What Custom Metrics Can Do?

In Google Analytics custom metrics are similar to event tracking but make analyzing without segments much easier. There are a lot of schools of thought out there on how you should utilize custom metrics, but the best one in my opinion is by making a custom metric for every event track that you create.

Where this becomes very helpful is with common tracking pieces like video views or document downloads. If you are tracking a video viewed as an event, you will be able to capture the video name, whether it was played, paused or resumed, and even the length of the play into an event.

This is great detail, but in order to understand how many plays there were from a particular video from mobile  devices you would have to go through the process of creating a segment and applying other dimension around that.

If you create a custom metric for video viewed, at the same time you can create a dimension to capture the name of the video. Now by creating a custom report, you can select a dimension of video name, and a metric of video views.

There are many ways to apply custom metrics, choosing which works best for your site will take some trial and error as you experiment.

Create Custom Metrics in Google Analytics

The beauty of tag management is that it has taken a lot of programmable custom work that marketers may not feel comfortable implementing and made it very obtainable to people like myself, and maybe you as well. With custom metrics, Google Tag Manager makes implementing extremely easy.

First you will need to determine the custom metrics you are going to capture on your site. For this example we will start with something most every site wants to track, file downloads. While you have set an event for file downloads, you’ll also want to track as a custom metric.

In Google Analytics, you will need to setup the new custom metric. Going into your Admin panel, locate the Custom Definitions section, under your Web Property. From there select Custom Metrics.

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Similarly to Custom Dimensions, each custom metric has an index applied to it. For our example here our index is 1. If this is the first custom metric you have created, your index will be 1 as well. This is an important number to keep in mind as we switch over to Google Tag Manager.

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Simplifying Implementation Through Google Tag Manager

Once that is complete, you can move over to Google Tag Manager to complete the implementation. First, if you don’t already have an event tag for document downloads, you will want to create one. If you do, great, go ahead and select that tag to edit it. Click on the Configure Tag area to edit that section. Just below the Non-Interaction Hit drop-down menu, there  is a twirl-down for More Settings. Select that, then locate the Custom Metrics option.

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You’ll need to click +Add Custom Metric, and then two new boxes will appear, Index and Metric Value. Remember when you created the new metric in Google Analytics it gave you an index of 1. That is the number that needs to reside in the index box. In the Metric Value area, we will also put a hard number of 1.

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The metric value is how much you would like the metric to increase, or its value, when executed. This metric is tied to the event for downloading a file, so every time this event triggers you will want the metric for files downloaded to increase by one.

There are many ways that you can make dynamic values for your custom metrics which we will get into in a later post.

For now though, that’s it. It is as simple as that. A quick creation within the Google Analytics Custom Definitions wizard, then off to Google Tag Manager where you can fire a custom metric along with any tag that fires throughout your site.

Please join the conversation below to continue the discussion around custom metrics.

Come back next week for the second post in this three part series. Join me in exploring ways to dynamically populate a custom metrics value with Google Tag Manager.

Chris Kujawski

Founder and instructor at Digital Metrics Guru.

A passionate and driven digital marketer, specializing in Google Analytics, Tag Manager and Data Studio. A qualified expert in Google Analytics and Adwords, with more than 10 years experience delivering sound solutions to clients worldwide.

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