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Extending the Google Analytics Measurement Platform with Custom Variables (Part 3 of 3)

Monday, May 16, 2011 | 6:59 PM

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Custom Variables allow website owners to extend Google Analytics’ measurement capabilities and track information that is meaningful to them. In this series of three articles, Barbara Pezzi, Director of Analytics and Search Optimisation for Fairmont Raffles Hotels International, shares how she makes use of custom variables to better understand how to better engage with her customers. You can familiarise yourself with custom variables in Part 1 and Part 2 of this series. – Ed.

Our hotels are located all over the world. As a result, our website visitors are just as geographically diverse. We are planning to expand our language offerings this year and want to understand how each language we currently offer is performing and which languages we should prioritise for.

On the Swissotel site we offer content in English, German, Russian, Spanish, French, Arabic and Chinese. We don’t have separate websites for each language and, in some cases, only part of the content is translated. For example, we only provide Chinese translations for content related to our hotels in China. Furthermore, the checkout pages are only available in German and English and located on a separate subdomain. As a result, it is very difficult to assess how our content is being consumed in different languages and the impact of language on our sales.

Content Languages – Page level custom variable
To help understand how our foreign-language content is consumed, I decided to use page-level custom variables in Google Analytics. Page-level custom variables apply to a single pageview and allow you to track attributes related to that page such as category, section, author, or, in our case, language. They are very useful for grouping together related pages in our reports.

The custom variables code used is fairly straightforward. On each page, we set a page-level custom variable called “content_language” and set its value to the language code for the language that the page content is written in.

For example, on all our English pages we have:

_gaq.push(['_setCustomVar', 1, 'content_language', 'EN', 3]);

On each of our German pages we have:

_gaq.push(['_setCustomVar', 1, 'content_language', 'DE', 3]);

With these page-level custom variables in place, I can see how popular each language is:

By creating an advanced segment based on this custom variable, I can now view which keywords are generating traffic for each language and make any necessary tweaks to our SEO and paid search campaigns.

Additionally, by applying the same advanced segment to our product report, I segment which hotels are being booked in a given language. We use this insight to coordinate our marketing strategies so that we are promoting the right properties in the right languages to the right markets.

We would not be able to gain such valuable insights without custom variables and I am looking forward to the day Google increases the maximum number of custom variables, since I have already used up all my slots.

That brings our series on custom variables to an end – for now. I hope that these posts have inspired you to take a closer look at your site, identify dimensions that are truly unique and important to your business, and adopt custom variables to measure them.


Peter said...

We agree on the slotting issue!

A year after my partner and I helped roll out CVs on Google's webinar, we shared many ideas for applications and uses: