How to use Custom Dimensions in Google Analytics

Today the global currency is measured in Kilobytes and Gigabytes. Data holds more value than money today. If you have the right access to data, you can easily convert it into something more valuable than gold itself. We know that the internet is the biggest source of information that we can access freely today. Research shows that over 44 million Gb of data was created on the internet every day in 2016. This number will grow 10 times by 2025, taking the overall amount of data being uploaded to the internet to 463 Gb per day! (Source) We have so much data in our hands, so extracting data should be easy now, right? Wrong! In fact, extracting valuable data from the internet is not simple. Instead, it is one of the most challenging tasks.

google analytics

Luckily, we have a few useful tools like the Google Analytics tool that help us makes sense of a lot of data on the internet. Google has established its position as one of the top data-centric company in the world. It has access to nearly all the information that is flowing across the internet today. The person who knows how to use Google Analytics to his/her advantage can easily rule the internet.

Google Analytics is Huge

Google Analytics is just one of the many tools that have so much power. A digital marketer often accesses features of the tool to truly transform his/her business. The tool gives you access to a huge array of data points that you can break down to make sense of the business analytics. The best part about using this tool is that you can customize all the critical aspects according to your needs. You don’t need to see all the data presented by the tool. Instead, you can see a small portion of the data as per your requirements. This is where custom dimensions step in.

analytics reports

What are Custom Dimensions on Google Analytics?

When you first start accessing the Google Analytics, you will see a generic overview of all that it has to offer. You will see the standard data points that are visible to every person who wants to use the Google Analytics tool. The custom dimensions allow you to record other types of data points in Google Analytics. Therefore, you can have custom data points that are not visible in the standard view.

You also have the power to segregate the data based on some pre-set parameters once you start fetching it from the data points. These parameters include source, city, medium, browser, etc. You can also use the custom dimensions feature to perform a deeper analysis of the data effectively.

custom dimension in google analytics

The custom dimensions not only groups the existing data points but helps you create your own custom data points.

How Do Custom Dimensions Help You?

Here are two critical ways in which the custom dimensions help you perform the necessary data analysis.

Check User Engagement

Have you ever faced a problem generating enough sales even though you are generating millions of views on your website every day? Is your click to conversion ratio extremely low? With custom dimensions, you can take a deeper dive into the customer engagement parameters. Now, you will have access to how people interact with your blog posts/articles too. You can use it to check the number of people that visit your website and how many of them actually end up interacting with a post.

user management

This feature can also help you get enough data on social signals generated by the website. If you feel that you are unable to get enough traction in the world of the social media market, you can check these stats to be sure. After checking the stats, you can implement strategies like adding a social share button on the page to make sure that more people interact with your post.

If you can reach a wide audience without truly affecting your sales, you need to tone the promotional theme of the content slightly up. This way, you can slowly see more engagement with the post which directly correlates to the increased sales.

Get User Data

The GDPR norms have gotten stricter over time and you cannot collect your audience’s information without consent. With the demographics feature, you can add custom fields on the website for the user to fill them before viewing the content on your website. You can also use the custom dimensions to see your viewer acquisition rates. The technology leverages cookies to see if the customer is new or visiting your site for the first time. This data will give you an insight into how your ad campaigns are performing. If you get a sudden surge of new visitors on your website after posting a new ad, you can rest assured that your ad campaign is doing its job.

Combine Data

Custom dimensions allow you to combine your existing data with the newfound data on the website. Do you have the age group of the people that you are targeting already saved in a CRM system? Now, you can combine the Google Analytics data with this CRM data to get a new field on your dashboard. This field will help you keep a track of the ratio of people visiting your website that belong to one age group in relation to the ratio that belongs to another age group. You can now leverage this data to target your audience in a better manner.

Let’s say that you have created an online game and are targeting the people between the ages of 16 – 20 for it. By combining data on your CRM platform and Google Analytics you can see how many people from the target age group checked your website compared to the total number of visitors on the website. If this ratio is too low, you need to modify your existing content to attract an audience from the right age group.

Limits of the Custom Dimensions Feature

By now, we know that the custom dimensions feature is extremely powerful and handy to people who know how to use it. However, there are a few limitations to its use.

Existing Data

The data from custom dimensions is as reliable as the data that you have on your CRM system. In case you have wildly inconsistent data in your CRM you cannot use the feature that allows you to combine data effectively. In fact, most reports that you generate under such circumstances will be completely faulty and useless.


To overcome such issues, you can ask the visitors to update data for your CRM in a controlled manner by asking them to fill a small survey form before they access your website. This way, you can rest assured that your data is accurate and usable. It is a good practice to keep your survey forms extremely short and concise. In the case of longer forms, the visitor will most likely click away or check a different website for the necessary information.

Universal Analytics

You cannot access the custom dimensions or the custom metrics feature in case you haven’t enabled the Universal Analytics feature or coupled a different app reporting view. Once you have successfully done either of those, you can start setting your custom indices as per your requirements.

20 Indices

The normal non-premium Google Analytics accounts have a cap that allows you to set 20 indices for each of the custom dimensions and custom metrics. In case you have a Google 360 account, you can set up to 200 indices for each of them. You should create your indices very carefully since you cannot delete them later. You can disable these indices in a flash, but there is no option for permanent deletion. Also, do not reuse custom dimensions since the old and new values can easily pair up and create a mess on the report. This mess cannot be sorted with filters later on.

Additional Setup

You need to spend some time configuring the indices for both the custom dimensions as well as custom metrics. This additional setup requires a good knowledge of the business use case that you wish to evaluate. It is a good idea to keep distinct and clear names/properties for all your indices so that they can be modified easily later on. The three critical properties that you must set on all indices include name, scope and the activity status. You can activate or deactivate a set of particular indices by checking the active buttons on them.

additional setup of google Analytics

Reporting Features

You can easily build custom reports on your Google Analytics dashboard with the custom dimensions. The reporting feature is available only for those indices that are activated by the user. In case you do not see the reports for a custom dimension on your dashboard, there are high chances that the indices are still inactive.

Once you have successfully and thoughtfully created your free 20 indices, you are ready to organize and assess new kind of data from the website.

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