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Google Analytics Metrics and Dimensions

Dimensions and metrics are the building blocks of your reports in Google Analytics, but so often I see confusion about the difference between dimensions and metrics. And even when you have a fair understanding of what dimensions and metrics are, you may not realize how many of them you actually have to choose from.

There are more than 230 (!) metrics and dimensions you can choose from when you’re creating a custom report or advanced segment. I’ve created a simple spreadsheet that should help expose the many options you have. You can download it now, but before I talk about that, let’s get everyone up to speed on the basics.

Dimensions describe the data. They are the labels in the rows of your reports. Think of a dimension as describing the “what,” as in “what keyword did they use” or “what city is the visitor from” or “what pages were viewed.”

Metrics measure the data. Metrics are elements about a dimension that can be measured. Think of a metric as answering “how many” or “how long,” as in “how many visits” or “how long a visitor was on the site.”

Download the Metric & Dimension Guide

Now, back to those 230+ metrics and dimensions. The spreadsheet organizes them into two tabs – Dimensions and Metrics (big surprise!).

For each dimension/metric, it lists the name and definition. It also tells you what type of data is being measured or described (visitor, page tracking, AdWords, etc.). I’ve also included the API reference for each metric/dimension that is available via the Google Analytics Reporting API.

There’s also a column labeled Where You’ll Find Them, which tells you how they are (unfortunately) categorized within the custom report and custom segment creation interfaces. For example, if you’re looking for the User Defined Value dimension, it’s located under Content (instead of Visitors, where it belongs). Looking for the % Exit metric, check under Visitors (instead of Content). You get the idea.

Now it’s your turn

Still confused about dimensions and metrics? Wondering about some of those odd metrics, like TV Impressions are? Ask us below!


Jim Gianoglio

About Jim Gianoglio

Jim Gianoglio is a Senior Digital Analyst at LunaMetrics. He works with implementation and analysis of Google Analytics, and spearheads the LunaMetrics Google Analytics seminars across the country. Want to see him in action? He'll be leading some of our upcomingGoogle Analytics trainings. Before succumbing to the siren song of analytics, he led the SEO campaigns of Fortune 500 companies in the insurance, retail and CPG industries. Things you didn’t know about Jim: he has biked from Pittsburgh to Washington DC, photographs weddings, and roasts his own coffee beans.


7 Responses to “Google Analytics Metrics and Dimensions”

Tim Wilson says:

Great reference resource! Rather than a question about specific metrics or dimensions…how about a request to: 1) convert this to a Google doc that is publicly available and accepts comments (for people to ask questions about specific metrics/dimensions, and so the doc can be updated as new ones roll out or as there are responses to questions), and 2) rather than color-coding the “where available,” make it a column (or two columns) to allow filtering? If you’re not interested, I may do that (linking back here and keeping Lunametrics crediting).

Tim – brilliant suggestions!

The spreadsheet is updated to include columns for “where available.”

And here is the living Google Doc version.

I made it editable (that seems to be the only way to allow people to add comments). So for anyone just exploring, please be careful not to accidentally delete or change things :)

Also, for anyone up to the challenge, there are a number of dimensions and metrics without an API reference. I’m pretty sure I got all of them that were available, but if you see one that I missed, please feel free to add.

As for the dimensions and metrics related to the social reports, don’t get me started! I would love for someone to double check my categorizations and API references on those. The naming conventions used are, well… confusing is a bit of an understatement.

Excellent helpful chart.
Definition, Dimensions describe the data and Metrics measure the data, worth tattoo on hand!!!!!!!!!

A tattoo based on my blog post!? I am truly honored :)

Tony Ahn says:

I’m currently studying for the Google Analytics Individual Qualification. What I find confusing about dimensions vs. metrics is that some dimensions, although they describe the data, are expressed as numbers, like “days since last visit.” It would be nice to have a little section that listed the dimensions that are expressed as numbers, and explained why they were dimensions instead of metrics.

Younas Aamir says:

Jim, it is really nice article.
I have a question, what the maximum information about a visitor we can get?

@Younas -

GA captures around 265 different metrics and dimensions – everything from where they’re locations (city, region country, etc.) to what pages they view on your site and more. You can see the full list of available dimensions and metrics using the new metadata API here.

In addition to that, you can use custom variables (for Classic analytics) or custom dimensions (for Universal analytics) to capture additional information you have about your visitors. So really, you can collect anything you’d like (as long as it’s not personally identifiable info – PII). Also keep in mind that you only have 5 custom variable slots (or 20 custom dimensions for Universal), so you’re somewhat limited there. If you’re a Google Analytics Premium client, then you have 50 custom variables/200 custom dimensions.