Google analytics tip: using secondary dimensions

womain with magnifying glassWe gave you a sneak peek into Google Analytics dimensions and one way to use them in our Google analytics post: getting started with custom reports. Now that you have a handle on the basics, we know you’re eager to learn more ways to turn your Google analytics data into actionable information.

Say hello to secondary dimensions!

This feature is available in just about every report from the Secondary dimension dropdown menu which is just above your first column of data.

Filling in blanks with a secondary dimension

According to Google, “The Secondary Dimension feature allows you to define a primary dimension and then view that data by a secondary dimension within the same table.”

Well that’s a mouthful! Let’s translate it into English for you. Primary dimension is a fancy way of saying the main focus of the report. So whatever you select from the left sidebar navigation menus is your primary dimension. The secondary dimension is simply an additional piece you select for a more granular view of your report data.

The screenshot below illustrates this concept. We first navigated to Content > Site Content and selected Landing Pages (our primary dimension). Then, from the “Secondary dimension” drop down menu we chose Traffic Sources > Source. Don’t worry if you didn’t catch it all. We have a scenario in the next section that goes through each step of choosing and applying a secondary dimension.

Google Analytics landing page report

You can see that Source is now sandwiched between Landing Page and Visits, which is normally where you would see Visits. This is standard placement for the secondary dimension so you can immediately see how it relates to your primary dimension.

What does this mean for you? It means you have access to facts that support your current business decisions and help you make strategic and tactical decisions that affect the future health and growth of your company.

The scenario

Many newbies to Google AdWords may not realize that “broad match” is the default setting when bidding on keywords. This means that although you bid on the keyword ‘baby clothes’, people may see your ad when they type in ‘infant clothes’ or ‘infant apparel.’

This would normally be a good thing since you want people looking for infant apparel to still find you. But sometimes, due to similar words, someone may find your ad through a search that has absolutely nothing to do with what you sell. If it happens infrequently you may not have to worry about this, but you need to know when it starts to become a trend.

How toTo explain what we mean a little better, let’s walk through a scenario.
  1. Navigate to Traffic Sources > Advertising > Adwords >
    Matched Search Queries
    on the left hand side
  2. Click the down arrow next to Secondary dimension
  3. Type the word keyword into the search box
  4. Select Keyword under the Advertising drop down menu
    (it should have come up automatically)

Google Analytics secondary dimension select box

Google Analytics matched search query selection

Compare the primary dimension, Matched Search Query (what someone typed in) with the secondary dimension, Keyword (keywords you bid on). As you can see in the screenshot below, these results will help you identify negative keywords to use so you no longer get traffic from similar words that aren’t related to your products.

Google Analytics matched search query resultThis example shows how two different searches returned on our keyword “mirrors” but only one was the right match for our keyword. Without the use of the secondary dimension you would never have known about the issue. We solved the issue by putting in ‘mirrors lyrics’ as a negative keyword so that our ad stops appears when people search for this term. This helped our bounce rates go down and our ROI go up. We love it when that happens

Now you know how Secondary dimensions give you a better sense of how the keywords you’ve bid on match up against keywords people are using to find you. It’s also a good reminder of what you bid on!

The takeaways

I’m sure your head is reeling with a ton of ideas for applying secondary dimensions to your Google Analytics data. Go ahead get your hands dirty and experiment to see what yields the best results.

When you need detailed information about the business impact of your data, anecdotal information won’t cut it. To gauge the effectiveness of what you’re doing online you need the facts. Use secondary dimensions to give you the context you need to make sound business decisions.

Like what you see? Check us out on Facebooktwitter, or Pinterest!