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3 powerful use cases of custom dimensions and custom variables

Product best practices Use cases

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Published May 16, 2016 · Updated July 27, 2020

3 powerful use cases of custom dimensions and custom variables

Custom Dimensions and Custom variables are great features. In Piwik PRO we use them on a daily basis to identify and understand our customers. To do that, you need to analyze your reports with some proper context as aggregated data does not give you any practical knowledge at all. CD and CV are all about finding that context. They let you combine different kinds of data and get valuable insights you won’t automatically access with analytics. In this blog post we’ll introduce you to some of the possibilities and actionable use cases you can implement into your business.
With custom dimensions and custom variables you can assign data of your choosing to your visitors or actions. For example, if your visitors leave information about gender or company when signing up to your e-commerce store (or forum, social media platform etc.), you can combine this information with metrics such as page views or events. Cool, right?

This is how we might create custom variable in Piwik PRO for capturing such data as gender:

creating custom variable

This is how creating custom dimension in Piwik PRO might look like:

creating custom dimension
    At first glance these two functionalities may appear similar, but there are some differences between them worth mentioning:

  • Custom Dimensions are easier to segment, as the segment name is displayed right on your dashboard.
  • Values of Custom Dimensions are limited to 255 characters, while Custom Variables are limited to 200.
  • Custom Dimensions need less storage and so reports can be generated faster.
  • With Custom Variables you can match more than one metric to one variable, which is not possible with Custom Dimensions.
  • The last item in that list might make you doubt the whole sense of using CD. Yes, CV can deliver much more detail. However, Custom Dimensions are easier and faster to implement and they do a great job creating audiences and segments based on URL parameters. We’ll show you an example of that later.

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    Custom Variables are available in Piwik PRO by default.

      Now let’s discuss some goodies. Why should you bother to create additional reports when you already have so much data to analyze?

    • In any CMS system you can track performance of particular categories and subcategories on your website or blog, not just individual content.
    • You can assign different user status to your visitors based on actions performed on your website.
    • Your can enrich your reports with additional data from sign-up and lead capture forms.
    • You can capture any categorized information which requires additional data layers.
    • You can use Custom Dimensions when mapping your buyer personas by capturing the behaviour of different visitor segments.

    Those are some good examples of how we use Custom Dimensions and Variables in Piwik PRO. Now we’ll move on and review some superb use cases.

    I want to enrich visitor reports with data captured on my website.

    enrich visitor profile with custom variables

    This can be done with Custom Variables. Have a look at the picture below:

    Sign up form with additional data

    There’s nothing unusual here, right? If you run an e-commerce page on your own you probably use a similar form. You can also collect such an information on your landing page or social media page.

    With this data at one’s fingertips, a marketer can easily enrich visitor reports and profiles. Information like page views or events can be attached to Piwik PRO visitors’ gender, age, company name or even e-mail address.

    Be careful! Remember that e-mail addresses and phone numbers constitute PII, and the use of this data to capture an individual’s behaviour may be considered an abuse under privacy regulations.

    In the example below, we created a custom variable name = ‘Demo language’, with the value being the language the visitor is using on

    language report custom variables

    I want to track how different content/product/blog post categories perform.

    content tracking with custom variables

    Piwik PRO does a fantastic job when it comes to single blog posts or product pages reporting. But you may want to capture category information, and this is where Custom Variables may come in handy.

    You will receive such invaluable information as which product groups bring the highest traffic, which areas are the most popular within your visitors, and which categories record the most time on site and get the biggest engagement. Those are really amazing insights.

    After installing custom variables, you can generate a report like the one below:

    custom variables report

    Generating these reports is a breeze, and if you need any help, you can just CONTACT US.

    I want to pass Facebook targeting data to my Piwik PRO analytics and know how audiences behave on my website.

    facebook audience targeting

    Here’s a stellar ninja tip for Custom Dimensions:

    • Step 1: Create a social media campaign
    • You’ve probably done that dozens of times, so there’s not much to explain. Select your target group in line with your business’s profile and requirements.

    • Step 2: Tag your landing URL
    • You should always do that to attribute your conversions to the right traffic sources. A link with the right tagging may look like this:
    • Step 3: Create custom dimensions using Piwik PRO pk parameters from the landing page URL
    • This must remain consistent with the tag you used in step 2. Accordingly, the code snippet for the link above would look like this:

      _paq.push([‘setCustomDimension’, CustomDimensionId=1, customDimensionValue=’My_Desired_Personas’]);
    • Step 4: Enjoy your data!
    • When members of your preferred segments click on your ad, you get information on how they navigate and interact on your website. You know exactly who your visitors are, as you’re the one who defines the target audience. You get information on gender, age, interests, workplace and whatever else you have specified during campaign creation.

    audience custom dimensions

    Find a context!

    Reporting on logs without a context is practically a crime against your business! Aggregated data is simply not enough for you to make decisions that will help optimize your digital presence. Custom Dimensions and Custom Variables will help you find your context. They let you identify your perfect customer and the most valuable traffic sources. You can learn what that ideal visitor is looking for on your website and which product groups are the easiest to sell.

    Understand what information it is you are seeking. Once you do, using Custom Dimensions and Custom Variables will become just as easy as pie.

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Karolina Gawron

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