Google Analytics documentation

Custom Variables

The college has 5 custom variables available to it. At present two have been set up, but be aware that during the initial setup we experimented with several schemes for variable usage, meaning you can find some odditiies particularly in July and August of 2011 with the contents of those variables.


We pass the following into the Role variable, which is 'Custom Variable 1' in the analytics interface:

  • A=Alumni
  • E=Staff
  • F=Faculty
  • O='others'
  • S=Student
  • X=Applicant

People with dual roles will come through as AE, AF, AES, and so on. This means if you're designing a report to, say, capture information on alumni traffic to a given page, you'll want to do 'Contains' 'A' not 'Exact Match' 'A' - unless you only want to see traffic from ONLY alums, and not for example faculty who are also alums.

Class year

For Students, we pass graduation year, and for Alums we pass reunion year, which is 'Custom Variable 2' in the analytics interface.

Requests for additional variables

'Department' - This is tricky for a number of reasons, first because for dense technical reasons, we won't have entirely 'accurate' data for all faculty and staff, second because it's common especially for faculty to have multiple departments, and third because delivering this skates pretty close to Google's terms of service, which stipulate that you cannot use the tool to provide analysis on individual user activity. If we add Department into the mix you could write reports that got you pretty close to knowing with certainty who was looking at certain materials. Even leaving that aside, many groups on campus would be uncomfortable to know their behavior was being tracked to this degree.

External link tracking - once someone clicks on a link that takes them away from our site we lose them, and cannot tell what's happened. All we know is the last page we saw them. We could probably modify the way we build links on the site such that we could capture the fact that they're clicking away and to where, which would be useful to departments like the library, who send users off to many partners for content. There's info on a sample implementation of this here.

Binary content access - From the documentation it appears we wouldn't neccesarily need to use one of our customer variables to do this, but we would have to change how we link to binary files, or train the users how to manually edit their file download links for files they wish to track downloads on. We may also be able to do this using one of the custom variables.

Internal vs external traffic - We think using the service provider filter in reporting basically delivers this, but need folks who are writing reports to see how well that works.