Leveraging Custom Dimensions and Metrics in Google Analytics 4 for Content Performance Measurement: Best Practices and Real-World Examples

Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes
February 27, 2024
Leveraging Custom Dimensions and Metrics in Google Analytics 4 for Content Performance Measurement: Best Practices and Real-World Examples

In today’s digital landscape where content reigns supreme, understanding how your audience interacts with your content is paramount for success. For news and media organizations, staying ahead in this game requires not just producing compelling content but also analyzing its performance effectively. Google Analytics 4 (GA4) offers powerful tools for this purpose, and one of the most valuable features it provides is the ability to leverage custom dimensions and metrics to align content performance metrics and KPIs to your unique organizational goals. Custom dimensions and metrics allow you to enhance the data you are collecting with additional data points relevant to your business. In this article, we’ll delve into best practices and real-world examples of how organizations in the publishing and media industry can harness the full potential of custom dimensions and metrics in GA4.

Understanding Custom Dimensions and Metrics

Custom dimensions and metrics in GA4 allow you to tailor your analytics data to your specific needs. While standard dimensions and metrics provided by GA4 offer valuable insights, custom ones enable you to track and analyze data unique to your business goals. Dimensions describe the characteristics of your users, sessions, and actions, while metrics quantify those interactions.

For example, a standard dimension might be page title or page path, whereas a standard metric might be views or users. These are very useful dimensions, but they don’t tell you everything about a piece of content. Adding author, site section, publication date, or word count would tell you a lot more about the piece of content and how it is being consumed.

Best Practices for Custom Dimensions and Metrics

  • Define Clear Objectives: Before diving into custom dimensions and metrics, outline your measurement goals. Whether it’s understanding reader engagement, analyzing content performance across different platforms, or tracking user demographics, clarity on objectives is crucial. It is easy to come up with numerous dimensions and metrics, but you need to limit yourself to the most useful ones.
    • Note that free GA4 accounts are limited to 25 user-scoped and 50 event-scoped custom dimensions per property. If you are a paid (360) customer, these limits increase to 100 users and 125 event-scoped. Again, make sure you are picking only the dimensions that will help you best in your analysis of your content.
  • Map Content Categories: Create custom dimensions to categorize your content effectively. This could include dimensions like content type (e.g., article, video, podcast), topic/category, author, or publication section. You can also set up content categories in Google Tag Manager as well, to be passed to GA4.
  • Track User Engagement: Metrics like scroll depth, time spent per article, or interaction with multimedia elements provide insights into user engagement. Utilize custom metrics to track these interactions accurately.
  • Segmentation for Personalization: Leverage custom dimensions to segment your audience based on their behavior, interests, or demographics. This segmentation enables personalized content recommendations and targeted marketing campaigns. For example, users interested in sports or politics, females or users between 40 and 50 years of age.

Real-World Examples

  • Content Type Analysis: A news website implements a custom dimension to classify content types (e.g., news, opinion, analysis). By analyzing user engagement metrics like time spent and bounce rate across different content types, they identify which types resonate most with their audience. This can be taken a level lower by analyzing actual content with these metrics.
  • Author Performance Tracking: A media organization assigns a custom dimension to track the performance of individual authors. They use custom metrics to measure the average time spent per article, scroll depth, and social shares associated with each author, helping them identify top-performing contributors. Bonus: Set up a Looker Studio dashboard for each author so they can track the performance of their content.
  • Device and Platform Analysis: By utilizing custom dimensions to track the device (mobile, desktop, tablet) and platform (web, app) used by readers, a digital news outlet gains insights into user behavior across different channels. This informs their content optimization and platform-specific strategies. Users do perform differently based on platform and device. Tie this back to content and sections to see how users perform.
  • Geographic Segmentation: A global media company implements custom dimensions to segment users by geographic location. They analyze engagement metrics based on region to tailor content localization efforts and regional advertising campaigns effectively.
  • Media Tracking: By passing information about media being played, you can perform analysis on its effectiveness. For example, title, source, format, season, length, and percentage watched are all good dimensions and metrics for tracking video performance.

In the ever-evolving landscape of digital media, data-driven decision-making is non-negotiable. Custom dimensions and metrics in GA4 offer news and media organizations the tools they need to gain deeper insights into their content performance. By following best practices and implementing real-world examples, organizations can unlock invaluable insights, optimize content strategies, and ultimately better serve their audience. Embracing these capabilities is not just a choice, but a necessity for staying competitive in today’s dynamic media industry.

Do you have questions about custom dimensions and metrics?

Our team of data experts is here to help whenever you need us.


  • Ben Brooks

    Ben Brooks is a Senior Lead Digital Analytics consultant at InfoTrust. In this role, he works with clients to understand their analytics needs and concerns. He then works with developers to implement analytics to support these needs, and end users to understand and visualize the results of said analytics. In his free time, he can be found taking photographs of landscapes and transportation subjects, producing short videos, reading, and walking his miniature dachshund Bella. Ben lives in the Seattle, Washington area.

    View all posts
Last Updated: February 27, 2024

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