Using Google Analytics straight out of the box gives you a lot of options, but it can be a little restrictive. While the platform sets you up for success, there is much you’ll need to configure to collect the type of data you need for meaningful analysis. This is where calculated metrics come in.

But, what are calculated metrics in Google Analytics?

Calculated metrics are custom, user-level metrics written in an algebraic expression. You’ll use them to track specific user activity inside custom Google Analytics reports. You can set them up directly inside your Google Analytics account and add them to any custom report.

Today, we’re going to walk you through all the basics of calculated metrics and show you how to set them up. We will only focus on Universal Analytics for this article, so if you’re using Google Analytics 4, stay tuned for more updates.

For today, let’s look at calculated metrics in Universal Analytics. We’ll show you how to configure them and give you a few examples to get started, so come with us to learn all about setting up calculated metrics in your Google Analytics property.

What Are Calculated Metrics?

Okay, so first, let’s discuss what calculated metrics are, and then we can move into showing how to create them and add them to your custom reports.

One thing that often stumps users is the difference between metrics and dimensions in Google Analytics, so let’s start there. A dimension is a characteristic of an object, and a metric is an individual element of a dimension. You can measure metrics as a sum or a ratio.

In Google Analytics, there are three different types of metrics: pre-defined metrics, custom metrics, and calculated metrics. Today, we’re focusing on the last option: calculated metrics.

Calculated metrics all share certain qualities:

  • They’re configured at the view level
  • You can only have five calculated metrics per view
  • Calculated metrics are user-defined
  • You must modify the Google Analytics configuration to use calculated metrics
  • Calculated metrics are retroactive and will affect your historical data

Calculated metrics give you lots of freedom and flexibility and help you track your site’s performance and success with ease. They’re made up of an algebraic expression and let you report on user-level activity.

In the next section, we’ll discuss more reasons you should use calculated metrics, and then we’ll show you how to set them up.

Why Should I Use Calculated Metrics?

Calculated metrics give you more flexibility and precision in your reporting than standard metrics. Whenever you want to report on a compound metric, you’ll do so using a calculated metric. Say you want to report on your ROI. You’ll use a calculated metric inside Google Analytics to do that.

Let’s look at an example. Inside several standard GA reports, you’ll see the metric “Goal conversion rate.” You can see it in your Audience, Acquisition, and Conversion reports.

But this standard metric isn’t the best way to track your true conversion rate. That’s because this your standard conversion rate metric is only reporting on the percentage of sessions that converted on your site.

While this is helpful, it’s not the best way to collect meaningful data on your conversions. Instead, it’s best to report on the percentage of people who’ve converted, rather than the sessions that have converted. You can do this by setting up a calculated metric.

You can create a calculated metric that tracks the number of times a conversion occurs and divides it by the number of users rather than the number of sessions. This will give you a more accurate conversion rate for your goal.

Calculated Metrics Attributes

Now that you understand why you want to use calculated metrics, let’s discuss their attributes and give you some examples.

Calculated metrics all share four qualities. They include:

1. A name: This will be the web view name. It’s how you’ll identify the metric in your reports. You’ll want to use a descriptive name when setting this up so there’s no confusion in your reports.

2. An external name: This is the API name of your calculated metric. Google Analytics will automatically create this for you, but you can change it if you want.

3. A formatting type: There are five different formatting types available for calculated metrics. They include:

    • Float: This will be a floating point number, so a positive number that has numbers after the decimal, like 2.53.
    • Integer: Here you can use a positive, whole integer, or the number 0.
    • Time: Using this option, you’ll create a calculated metric in the hours, minutes, and seconds format. For example, 04:32:20.
    • Percent: Here, you’ll use the percent format, like 40%.
    • Currency (decimal): For this, you’ll use the currency symbol and a floating point number.

Your formatting type selection will determine how the metric is formatted in your reports.

4. A formula: Lastly, you’ll create an arithmetic formula to trigger your calculated metric. You’ll use numbers along with symbols like +,-,/*, and parenthesis. You can’t use only numbers, though. You’ll need to include at least one metric along with your calculated metric formula.

Calculated Metrics Examples

Now that you understand the qualities of your calculated metrics, let’s give you some examples. Here are some common calculated metrics you may want to explore for your property:

User Conversion Rate

This gives you the conversion rate for a goal based on users rather than sessions.

Formatting: Percent

Formula: ( {{Goal Completions}} + {{Transactions}} ) / {{Users}}

Pages Per User

This gives you the number of page views per user (rather than per session, like standard reporting).

Formatting: Float

Formula: {{Pageviews}} / {{Users}}

Goal Conversion Rate Per User

This is the example we gave above. It allows you to track your goals based on users rather than sessions.

Formatting: Percent

Formula: {{Goal Completions}} / {{Users}}

There are many more examples of calculated metrics, and you can learn more about setting them up using Google’s guide seen here.

How to Create Calculated Metrics

To create calculated metrics inside Google Analytics, you’ll combine standard metrics into a formula and make calculated ones. You can also use Google Sheets or Google Data Studio to generate your calculated metrics, but today, we’ll focus only on creating them inside Google Analytics. To do this, you’ll need edit-level permissions.

Here’s how to create calculated metrics in Google Analytics (remember, you can set up to five in each reporting view):

1. Go to “Admin”

2. Click “Calculated metrics,” under “View”

3. Click the red “New calculated metric” button

4. Give it a descriptive name and select your formatting type

5. Enter your formula

6. When you’re ready, click “Create”

7. To copy or delete any calculated metrics, click the drop-down menu next to “Actions”

Now you can move on to using your calculated metrics inside your Google Analytics reports, which we’ll discuss in the next section.

Using Calculated Metrics

You can use your calculated metrics inside Google Analytics using custom reports, but they’re not available inside your standard ones. Here’s how to add them to your custom reports:

  1. First, you’ll need to set up a custom report. You can use Google’s support guide to get set up
  2. Once you have your custom report ready, go to the “metric group” section and click on “Add metric”
  3. Then, just enter the name of your calculated metric and select it from the drop-down menu

And that’s all there is to it! You’ll now be able to track this calculated metric and up to four more in this same reporting view.

Calculated Metrics in Google Analytics

Creating calculated metrics in Google Analytics requires some advanced knowledge, but it’s easy once you understand the formatting. Be precise when entering your configuration, use a descriptive name, and look at popular examples to get started.

Have you been using calculated metrics in your Google Analytics property? Let us know!

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