One thing that can be really frustrating in Google Analytics is when you understand the data that you want to see but when you try to drill down into the data, or create a custom report, you aren’t given the right combination of Metrics and Dimensions that you want. Because a lot of Google Analytics users have experienced this, I thought I’d break down both Dimensions and Metrics within GA, and shed some light onto what can and can’t be done with them.
Dimensions are characteristics or descriptive attributes of an object. Simply put, they describe the data. A few examples of Dimensions are Campaign, City, Browser, Language, Source, and Medium. Dimensions will appear in all of your reports. However, depending on the type of report you are using, you may only see certain ones. Most reports give you the ability to have a Primary and Secondary dimension, which can be found under the Sparkline.
Tip: So you don’t confuse them, Dimensions will always be colored green when you add them or create Custom Reports.
Generally speaking, a Metric is a way to measure your data. A few examples of Metrics in Google Analytics are Unique Visitors, Average Visit Duration, Revenue, and Visits. Metrics can be found in the standard reports above the sparkline and will default depending on the specific report you are in.
Tip: Just like with Dimensions, Metrics will always be colored blue when you add them or create Custom Reports.
Not all Dimensions and Metrics make a valid combination, which is why they don’t appear in Standard Reports. However, you can create a Custom Report, which, depending what you’re trying to do, may let you pair them. But this may appear as “0” for that metric if the combination is not valid.
Google does have a very helpful reference tool that you can access here which will allow you to see what valid combinations are of Dimensions and Metrics.