Google Analytics Custom Variables

Google have just released some much more powerful customisable tracking for Analytics but sadly it's not available for all....

It looks like Google aren't letting up on expanding the power of their (free) analytics tool.  A recent announcement lists a number of great advancements many of which we're already finding very useful.

Many more goals...

I'm a fervent believer in measuring "Goal Conversions" not "Visitors"...  this website's a perfect case in point. and a couple of Dave's recent blog articles about CSS3 & HTML5 have brought more visitors per day than we usually get in a year but does that mean any more business for us? ... well no, sadly.. probably not immediately anyway.

So we don't just track visitors, we also track "Goals" because this is a real measure of what the website is contributing to the business. And don't be fooled into thinking Goal Tracking is just for E-Commerce sites.  With a little ingenuity you can off-line the goal tracking process, putting you in control of the conversion.

Goals used to be limited to four per profile - meaning that if you had plenty of contact forms you want to track ( The Park, for example, has enquiry forms for Golf, Weddings, Meetings and Leisure Breaks - ok that's four Goals already - so what about online reservations, membership, jobs, general enquiries.. ).

Expanding the number of goals that can be tracked is a great development.  Google now allows you 20 goals, in 4 groups of 5.  More than enough for most of our clients.

If you need more than 20 you can, of course, just set up multiple profiles for the same tracking-id... giving you potentially hundreds of goals to track.

Double Analysis...

Another great new feature is double analysis.  This is a very simple addition ( cosmetically I mean ) that allows you to add a second level to your segmentation of results.  Try it in any of your reports...  if you're looking at a report by "Medium" you can add "Source" as a second breakdown, giving you ( source X medium ) rows of information.

This is very useful, for example, to help you understand the different landing pages that different referring sites send your traffic to.  Something that's previously required some digging.

Custom Variables...

Most exciting of all is custom variables... but this is, sadly, where this article's going to have to go on hold because I've discovered, having looked more closely into the announcement that the reports aren't yet available to everyone.

To give you a quick idea of the power we expect them to provide...  

Spirit has a pretty cool "Role Management" framework within it.  In simple terms, when someone logs into or interacts with one of our websites Spirit analyses a tree-structure of roles and assigns that user to a few appropriate roles.  Membership of a role can effect dozens of low level systems within Spirit - all configuration, row-level database access, consequence of form interaction, access to pages, content , emails communication or just behaviour of the website.

In probably no more than an hour on Friday afternoon I was able to identify add "Role Membership" of a few selected roles to Google Analyitcs as Custom Variables.

I'm experimenting, first off, with a client website iStylista - a personal shopping service.  

I've chosen two branches of the Role Management tree to look at:

  • "Logged In" (or not)
  • "Profile Complete" ( or not, and if not how much is complete ). 

iStylista provides two principal services for women. First, it provides a 20-30 page personalised Style Guide helping women choose what styles suit them according to thousands of variables the user provides.  Secondly it provides personal shopping advice based on slightly fewer variables.

In the latter case the customer doesn't need to provide any information to use the service but the more information they provide the more accurate the choices the website makes based on the information the stylists have provided.

What intrigues me is whether the people who use iStylista to help them shop are getting the most out of it.  

With Google's new Custom Variables we're now recording roughly how complete the consumer's profile is and whether the user is logged in.  This should tell us whether we need to make it easier for people to profile themselves, what bits of the profiling ( bodyshape, sizes, budget ) people find most useful and so on.  All of this should help us make the experience quicker, simpler and more accurate for the ladies who use the service.

All we're waiting for now is for Google to provide us the report that shows us all the data we're collecting!! 


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    Get more than 5 custom variables

    Great coverage of custom variables. You can actually get more than 5 of them :) Details here.