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Calculated Metrics In Google Analytics

A new feature is comming to Google Analytics that I have missed very badly for a long time and that moves the system fastly forwards to the family of advanced web analytics tools. Calculated metrics. What is it and how does it work?

Until today you were limited in Google Analytics only to default metrics defined and measured by system itself and custom metrics where you have to upload their hard values by yourself.

Now another metric type is comming: Calculated metrics. As expectable from their name, you can define (and immediately use in your reports) your own new metric by specifying a formula that calculates the resulting value from other existing metrics.

What are calculated metrics useful for?

Thanks to calculated metrics your reports can now display various numbers that you missed a lot so far. And if you wanted to work with them anyway, you had to calculate them in your mind or in any other tool outside of Google Analytics.

For example, when you wanted to work with ARPU (Average Revenue Per User) before, the only way was to display two other default metrics – Users in one column, Revenue in other one. And then divide them somewhere in your mind. Or export them out of Google Analytics and divide them for instance by a formula in Excel or Google Spreadsheet.

Now, you just add new calculated metric, filling simple formula “revenue / users” in its definition, and that’s it:

Another pain in the ass was refund data in Google Analytics. You was able to send them to Google Analytics via data upload, even retrospectively! But they were stored separately, in completely different metrics from origin revenues. Due to that there was no straight way how to display net revenues, with all refunds already counted in, if you didn’t want to use various complicated “no refunds” custom advanced segments.

Today, it is as easy as adding new calculated metric “Net revenues” defined as “Revenues – Refunds”.

If you are familiar with your average margin rate, e.g. 15 %, you can set up new calculated metric “Margin” defined as “Revenues * 0.15”.

And having gross margin in Google Analytics (no matter if average margin calculated from average margin rate, or a real margin sent to a custom metric with each transaction via Measurement Protocol), you can upload your cost data to Google Analytics via data import too. And finally, create your own calculated metric “Profit” by easy formula “Margin – Cost”.

And there is only a small step from profit to return of investment for your particular channels/campaigns. Exactly, I mean calculated metric “ROI“, defined by formula “(Profit – Cost) / Cost”. Welcome to the real web-analytics world!

And what about a final awsome Channel Performance Report like this? The very first report in Google Analytics you can really seriously optimize your campaigns with!

Channel performance report

These were only few possible examples. There are so much possibilities. And I believe you understand why I am so excited, because calculated metrics really move Google Analytics to top league.

How to create calculated metrics ?

There are very good instructions in official Google Analytics documentation, so very briefly now:

  • Calculated metrics are defined for each particular view. So first, select the right view in right-side column in Google Analytics admin.
  • Select “Calculated metrics” item and click the “New calculated metric” button.
  • Fill in the metric definition in simple form:
    • Common name visible in regular reports and dashboards
    • External name for referencing the metric in various APIs
    • Formatting type – integer, decimal, float, time, percentage…
    • Formula – along with other existing metrics you can use basic arithmetic operators + – * /, parenthesis and constant numbers, including floats.

That’s all. Once created, the metric appears immediately in metrics lists while designing custom dashboards and defining custom reports.

Additional notes to calculated metrics

Maybe you are curious why you can see no calculated metrics in your Google Analytics account. I expect that Google is rolling the new feature gradually and will be enabling calculated metrics in following few weeks or months. So be patient.

There are very unpleasant limits imposed to calculated metrics by Google. Currently they are limited up to 5 metrics in one standard Google Analytics view. So if you are free GA user, you should be very careful and thinking what you really and unconditionally need to see. The limit is increased to 50 metric in paid Google Analytics Premium.

Google is going to extend possibilities in formulas soon. There could be another new operators or functions. But I expect only few basic sum/avg/min/max functions and nothing else. Moreover, it seems to me like Google has no well-planed and systematic plan where they want to go with formulas, rather they add ad-hoc functions as they are comming. Just compare it to other deeply elaborated and clever metric-definition languages from other analytical tools like GoodData MAQL.

Calculated metrics are calculated on-the-fly in real time, I mean just at the time you are displaying each single report. This is very good news because the metric values are available imediately after metric creation or update. And it is immediately applicable to any historical data too. On the other hand, it will probably even more slow down the speed how reports are generated and rendered in standard free Google Analytics. Not to mention the risk of earlier sampling.

Yet despite everything the Google Analytics calculated metrics are great, great feature!

Published in Web Analytics