February 15 2016

4 Google Analytics Secondary Dimensions You Should Use

Four out of five websites use Google Analytics to track visitor activity and marketing effectiveness. Yet most businesses don’t understand most of the metrics that are available beyond the Overview reports.

Every time a visitor comes to your website, Google Analytics tracks their browsing path, which you can then view in the Reporting dashboard. You’re also able to see which cities are driving traffic, the type of device being used, and whether users are arriving from an outside link, organic search, or an outbound marketing campaign you’re running. Reviewing this data is a great way to make strategic decisions about how your website should be structured, what products to focus marketing campaigns on, or which content your audience is most interested in. While all of the reports included “out of the box” with Google Analytics work great on their own, some of the best reporting can be found by adding layers using Secondary Dimensions.

What are Google Analytics secondary dimensions?
Google Analytics Secondary DimensionsWhen running reports in Google Analytics, such as Source/Medium under Acquisition, or Mobile Overview under Audience, you’re given the option to add a Secondary Dimension. This will let you plot an additional metric against the report you’re already looking at. The upside to this is that your data becomes more valuable because it tells a richer story, allowing you to make smarter decisions with it. The downside is that you have many more rows of reporting to sort through. To keep things easy to digest, you can add limits on these reports. Let’s explore a few examples of how to segment your reporting using Secondary Dimensions, and the benefits of each.

Add day-parting to ad campaigns
Google Analytics Secondary Dimensions BlogWhether you’re spending money on an AdWords campaign, running banners on an ad network, or deploying an email, knowing what time of day your best clicks are happening can save you money and increase the overall quality of traffic you’re receiving. Most ad campaigns allow you to use day-parting (sometimes called scheduling) to only target certain hours of the day to run your ads. You can discover which times of the day are delivering the best traffic by running the following report:

  • In the left navigation, click Acquisition > Campaigns > All Campaigns
  • Click the name of one of your campaigns in blue
  • At the top of the reporting graph, click Secondary Dimension
  • Select “Hour”

You’ll now have the traffic from that campaign broken out by the hour of the day, separating bounce rates, conversions, and more so that you can see which times have the highest conversion rates and lowest bounce rates. If you see that conversions tend to happen between 9AM and 3PM, and the rest of the day tends to see a lot of clicks of lower quality, schedule your ads to exclude the times with poor traffic. In addition to day-parting by the hour of the day, you can follow the same instructions but select “Day of Week Name” to see which days of the week are driving the best traffic.

View demographics of new and returning visitors
Google Analytics Secondary DimensionsBy enabling “Demographics and Interest Reports” within Google Analytics settings*, you’ll be able to pull reporting that shows visitors’ ages, genders, and interests. You can leverage these demographics as secondary dimensions within other reports to create a profile of your average site visitor. One helpful report is the New and Returning Visitors report, which separates visitors to your website who either have, or have not, received a cookie from your Google Analytics tag. If you’re trying to grow interest with a certain demographic, it would be helpful to check this report periodically to ensure that your marketing efforts are causing an increase in appropriate traffic.

  • In the left navigation, click Audience > Behavior > New vs Returning
  • Under User Type, Click New Visitor in blue
  • At the top of the reporting graph, click Secondary Dimension
  • Select “Age”

Now you can see a breakdown of the top age groups for new visitors to your site. Similarly, you can use secondary dimensions like City, Gender, and Language to develop specific personas to tailor content to. You can limit the report to only show one Age or City at a time by clicking ‘advanced’ to the right of the secondary dimension button and including only specified terms.

Are external links being directed to relevant landing pages?
Google Analytics Secondary DimensionsReferral traffic from third party websites is a great way to get in front of new visitors. Your website could be linked from a blog, a local business organization might have you listed in a directory, or a piece of content you’re hosting may get a reference in a local news article. In all of these cases you want to ensure that those clicks are headed to the proper destination. The landing page that a visitor arrives at could be their first impression of your brand, so you want to make it a good one. Here’s what you can do to see what sites are linking to yours, and what page their clicks are going to.

  • In the left navigation, click Acquisition > All Traffic > Referrals
  • At the top of the reporting graph, click Secondary Dimension
  • Select “Landing Page”

This breaks down all external websites sending traffic to your site, along with the landing page URL. You can read this data more easily by clicking the ‘advanced’ button above the reporting graph and choosing to only include certain referral sites, or only including a specific landing page. If the article on a third party news site isn’t linking to most relevant content on your site, you’ll see that in this report. Now you can reach out with the appropriate link and ask them to update it.

Getting the most out of Google Analytics
Secondary dimensions are just one element of what makes Google Analytics so helpful. Once you’ve figured out which of your reports are the most valuable, you can make a dashboard to organize them in one place for easy reference. Adding Event Tracking will allow you to view visitor actions on previously unseen details, and adjust your bounce rates to more accurately reflect site traffic. By the time you’ve figured everything out, Google will roll out an update giving you access to even more features.

Whether you need a one-on-one training on getting the most out of your Analytics, creation of a customized dashboard, or setup of advanced event tracking and goals, ZAG Interactive is here to help.

* Enabling these reports may require a change to your site’s privacy disclosures so check with your legal/compliance department to ensure your current verbiage suffices.

  • Analytics

posted by
Patrick Trayes
Patrick Trayes
Associate Director of Client Analytics

ZAG Interactive is a full-service digital agency in Glastonbury, CT, offering website design, development, marketing and digital strategy to clients nationwide. See current job openings.
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