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Metrics Madness: Understanding Scope for Analytics Newcomers

This is a follow-up item to Website Magazine's Analytics Insider article from the August 2017 issue.

Not every dimension/metric combination can be analyzed within Google Analytics' standard reports.

The All Pages report, for example, provides a wealth of information (including pageviews, time on site/page, bounce rate, etc.) but does not show metrics such as the number of users or the number of sessions. To understand why this is the way it is, it is important (nay, imperative) to know about scope.

Scope specifies to which data a custom dimension or metric will be applied. When custom dimensions are processed, scope helps determine to which hits a particular custom dimension value should be applied (while view filters determine which hits and associated values are included in reporting).

There are four "levels" of scope including product, hit, session and user. Let's take a closer look at each now and discover the opportunities and limitations of each, and further, which is most appropriate for the situations at hand.

Product-level scope: When a custom dimension has product-level scope, the value is only applied to the product with which the value has been set (Enhanced E-commerce only). Because multiple products can be sent in a single hit, multiple product-level scoped custom dimensions can be sent in a single hit. The product-level scope can be used when a custom dimension value needs to be associated with a particular product.

Hit-level scope: When a custom dimension has hit-level scope, the value is only applied to the hit with which the value was set. A user may play several levels in the course of one session. Using hit-level scope means that a difficulty value will only be associated with the screen view with which it was sent. This ensures that each level screen view can be associated with a unique difficulty.

Session-level scope: When two values with session scope are set at the same index in a session, the last value set gets precedence and is applied to all hits in that session. Session-level scope can be used to group entire sessions, and all of their component hits, under a single value. Session-level scope can be used when a custom dimension value needs to be associated with all the hits of a current session and that dimension value does not change for each hit.

User-level scope: When two user-scoped custom dimension values are set within the same session, the last value set gets precedence for the current session, and is applied to future sessions for that user. User-level scope allows you to conveniently group all of a user's component sessions and hits by a single value, making it ideal for values that don't change often for a particular user.

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