Library:Circle/Google Analytics dimensions
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Every measurement that Google Analytics (GA) makes is called either a metric or a dimension. This page gives a brief description of some of the dimensions in GA that could be useful for the assessment of cIRcle usage, and tracking our visitors.
What are dimensions?
Dimensions are typically descriptive elements or categories that the numerical data can be grouped into. Often, the dimension values themselves are not numerical and so they cannot be added or subtracted, and we cannot calculate their average. For example, a dimension could be the country where the visitor is coming from, or the language of their web browser. Values for these two dimensions could be Canada, Egypt, Australia, and so on; and English, French, Chinese, and so on, respectively. Notice that we cannot calculate an average country or an average language. In the context of a typical database or Excel spreadsheet, dimensions would form the row headings.
Some common dimensions
There are about eighty different dimensions in GA, and many are related to advertising, e-commerce, and internal site searches (provided by Google, if you are subscribing to this service) which makes them unnecessary for cIRcle. Each of these dimensions can be analyzed over any given time range. Just as it doesn't make sense to measure the weight of a country, but it does to measure the weight of an individual of that country, not all metrics and dimensions can be paired together. A full list of allowable pairings can be found on Google's dimensions and metrics reference page. Some of the typical dimensions in GA are listed here to present an idea of the types of data that can be tracked.
This is the domain name of the site or source from which a visitor came to cIRcle. For example, suppose you are reading an article on Wikipedia, and click a link there to a thesis in cIRcle; the source would then by registered as en.wikipedia.org. As another example, if you did a search on Google and then clicked a link from among the search results, then the source would be recorded as google.ca. If the visitor comes to cIRcle directly, for example by typing the URL into their browser, or by using a bookmark saved on their browser, then there is no referring source, and it is registered on GA as (direct).
In the context of cIRcle, these keywords are only those that originate as a result of an organic search, that is, by a visitor typing a search word or phrase into any search engine like Google, Bing, or Yahoo! and so on. The visitor would then click one of the search results linking to cIRcle content. If a visitor has set their privacy levels adequately high on their Google services account, then their Google search keywords will not be registered, although the fact that they did a search will be recorded; in these cases, the keyword appears as (not provided). There appear to be ways to recapture these masked keywords, but they are based on paying GA and using advertisements on site, neither of which is suitable for cIRcle.
Every web browser has a language set up by it's user. GA can record this language, because this is the language in which the particular cIRcle web page is requested by the browser. The values are given using a common code; for example, Canadian English is en-CA.
Location (country, region, city)
Using the IP address of the visitor's computer, we can identify the country they are in, as well as the region (province or state, for example), and the city. GA provides the latitude and longitude of the city as well, but we cannot get more detailed location information than that, because of privacy concerns.
Domain or network name
Again, using the IP address of the visitor's computer, we can identify the domain name of their internet service provider. This can be useful to discover visitors from other universities or academic institutions, for example.
Whether the visitor to the cIRcle site is new or returning, over the time frame set up in the report. This dimension relies on information tracked by cookies installed on the visitor's computer, so it is particularly susceptible to ambiguity if visitors routinely clear their cache and delete all their cookies.
Landing page and exit page
The URL of the first page on the cIRcle site that a visitor lands on. GA also tracks the last cIRcle page seen by a visitor; this is called the exit page.
Visit length or duration
The number of visits to cIRcle that lasted 1 second, or 2 seconds, or 3 seconds, and so on. This builds a histogram of visits, put into bins based on the duration of the visit, up to a one second increment. This dimension helps to understand how engaged visitors are with the content, or even how long it takes them to find relevant content. It would appear that the visit length dimension is not particularly useful in the context of cIRcle, because visitors typically find the particular item they were looking for, download it, and then move on.
There are several other dimensions in GA that have not been described here, and their omission from this article doesn't necessarily mean that they are useless in our context. They could also be relevant to analyze usage of cIRcle, and should be explored to see what information they provide. In addition, more dimensions could be introduced by Google Analytics in future, and refinements to existing dimensions are also ongoing.