Last episode, we touched on why analytics matter to you and your business (or at least, why they should). As promised, this time we’re going to focus on the two basic components of analytics – metrics and dimensions.
Now I would be remiss if I didn’t mention there’s a step that would typically come first – understanding the logistics of setting up an account, and the hierarchy of an account – but I’m going to assume that someone has already taken care of this part for you, and you’re just looking to understand the data.
So anyway, metrics and dimensions. Metrics are pieces of data associated with your website; think how many sessions there were, how long someone spent on the site, how many pages were viewed. Dimensions are ways of slicing up or segmenting that data – think what type of device was being used, what location the user was in, or how the user found your website.
I like using a pretty simple trick of figuring out whether I’m dealing with a metric or a dimension. Metrics are numbers; dimensions are not. Generally, it’s that simple.
So let’s say you’re looking at your analytics for a 30-day period. When first visiting your Google Analytics account, you’re brought to the Audience Overview section of the dashboard. A variety of commonly accessed metrics are shown by default:
As you’ll see, these are all numbers. The number of sessions. The number of users. All metrics. These numbers are global for your website; that is, they represent all users who have visited your website. However, you may, from time to time, want to see a portion of your website visitors, instead of the whole. Enter dimensions. A little further down this page, you’ll be shown a variety of demographics – the language of your users, the country or city the user is located in, what operating system they are using, and more. Think of how these are defined. Your user may speak English or Spanish. He or she may be visiting from New York, Florida, or maybe Canada. Perhaps the user is visiting the site on a Windows PC, or a Mac, or iOS on the iPhone. Notice what they all have in common? They aren’t numbers.
By combining the two, you as a website owner can gain all sorts of insights about your website and its visitors. For example, you may decide to compare metrics – like how many visitors there were, how long the users spend on the site, and how many pages they view – for users that were on a desktop computer, and users that were on a mobile phone. By comparing the two, you can gain actionable insights. Are your mobile visitors spending far less time on the site and viewing far less pages when compared to on a desktop computer? Maybe you need to rethink your mobile layout (assuming you have one).
That’s just the tip of the iceberg; looking at a combination of metrics and dimensions can provide a wealth of information that can allow you to make better decisions about your marketing and get a better value. We’ll look into these deeper in future articles.