Filters for GA part 2b: What do we have here?


We already talked about what the out of the box filters do in Google Analytics. Why/when does anyone use custom filters? (Note: I really will circle back and talk about how to actually create them. )

Most of the time, people use custom filters, because most of the time, the out of the box filters don’t do enough. All you can really do is exclude visitors from the data, and create a filter that includes a specific section of your site, only. But as soon as you want to do more, or flip one of these on their heads (eg. INCLUDE only the people from your company, so that you can see their internet activity — that’s what eBay did) — well, as soon as you want to do that, you need something stronger. Enter custom filters.

Here they are again, but this time, with explanations of what they do.

  1. Include. You can use an include filter to include just about anything you want. Include means, you include what you specify and nothing more. It works like the green plus sign on the little filter box that goes with almost every report in the GA reporting interface. However, you might have multiple include filter on a profile. Example: You have one include filter that says, include everyone who lives in Seattle and another that says, include everyone who uses Firefox. In order to be included in this profile, visitors have to clear both hurdles, so you only see data about Seattlites (Seattlans? Seattle residents?) who uses Firefox.Remember that include filters are going to be one of your best friend.The comments from the last fourteen posts on this blog got lost after we did the conversion, so you can’t see one important comment on this topic. The commenter, Ben, asked, can filters be used to separate marketing campaign traffic such as paid search from the standard traffic? They can and should be used that way.In fact, you can create an include filter to include only Campaign Medium = cpc|ppc (that way, you get the traffic whether it is coded as “cpc” the way that Google does, or “ppc” the way that you might have done it yourself.) More on this when I do implementation posts, coming soon.
  2. Exclude. Exclude filters work the opposite from include filters (this is actually not so trivial.) If you have two exclude filters on a profile, the data will be excluded if the data should be excluded by either of the filters. So if we have the same two filters as above, geography=Seattle and a second exclude filter, browser=Firefox, the visitor will be filtered out if either condition is met.
  3. lowercase and UPPERCASE. These are the same thing, just opposites. You can use them to rewrite your Google Analytics data in lowercase or UPPERCASE. But why would you want to do that? (I never use this one, so I had to ask.)Helen at Google gave me a great answer:
      “There are a few examples. It’s more than making URIs pretty, but also aggregating the stats for URIs that are identical though they may have varied cases. A good example of why URIs may vary in case are when the published URI is camel-case for readability, but others may get there using all lower-case. [Robbin: When she writes “camel-case,” she means, like this:, instead of] Perhaps more likely inconsistencies may be page titles or manual tags (campaign values). Finally, another great example: keywords. I may want to see all the visits driven to my site by “socks,” “SOCKS,” or “Socks” rather than seeing those results in 3 separate lines.”
  4. I love that keywords example, because I see the problem so often.

  5. Search/Replace. Google actually does a really nice job with this explanation. They even give two different examples. So I will let you read their explanation. Here’s a short version: You use these filters when you want to make one value look like another value. So you might have a strange URI that you want to be able to read and understand.
  6. Advanced. I don’t want to do this one here, it deserves a post all of its own, after the implementation posts that I will write. And I can’t wait to get to it.


Our founder, Robbin Steif, started LunaMetrics in 2004. She is a graduate of Harvard College and the Harvard Business School, and has served on the Board of Directors for the Digital Analytics Association. Robbin is a winner of a BusinessWomen First award, as well as a Diamond Award for business leadership. In 2017, Robbin sold her company to HS2 Solutions and has since retired from LunaMetrics.

  • Thanks for your response Robbin. In most of the documentation, it is really hard to find out what you can actually do with filters. I have been struggling through the documentation on filters to do the campaign traffic filter. It looks the Include filter is exactly what I need.

  • Prasanna

    I just wanted to inform you that the link on this post ( is no longer valid. Perhaps they may have moved to somewhere else.

    P.S. :- I loved your post about regular expression! I am looking forward to complete this series too.

  • Thanks, Prasanna. I fixed it. Much appreciated.

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