This post will be discussing some of the more advanced reporting features of Google Analytics – be warned!
So you’re digging into your Google Analytics – whipping out custom segments, filtering out your office traffic, creating custom reports – when you notice that elusive, mysterious “user-defined” report staring at you from the visitors menu.
“What IS the User Defined Report?” you ask yourself….so you click it and get to a page that looks like this:
…which helps you – not at all.
Don’t feel bad, like you’re the only idiot that’s not using this feature. But also don’t ignore it, because it’s a powerful little feature indeed.
First off, to answer the question -“why would I WANT to use it?”, let’s consider a very common scenario.You’re running a website where you actually sell something, it could be an e-commerce site, a subscription based site, etc…
How are you going to differentiate those visitors that have already purchased from you or subscribed to your site from the typical repeat visitor? Sure, you can track visitors that log in, but what if they don’t log in during their visit?
That’s where our friend, pageTracker._setVar, comes in.
Navigate to the page where this visitor would complete their transaction, or registration, etc. Go to where you inserted your analytics tracking code on that page – now simply assign a label, such as “customer”, to the pageTracker._setVar variable, adding it into your existing tracking code, and PRESTO! – you are now able to identify those visitors that have purchased, subscribed, whatever…
Here’s an example from Google’s analytics blog discussing this subject.
This is an excellent way of segmenting specific user groups without wasting a lot of time.
There are some issues to be aware of though, as Google points out – most importantly the fact that Google Analytics is only capable of storing one custom segment at any one time for one website. They mention the LunaMetrics site, which has code which supports multiple labels, but I think there are still some issues there. Here’s the complete techie explanation on _setVar.