Complete Guide to Calculated Metrics

In this post, you’re going to learn why Calculated Metrics are important and how they can help you be more accurate in the way you report success. You’ll also learn how to create them, where you’ll find them in your reports and a range of Calculated Metric examples you can make your own.

Know what you’re looking for? Jump to a section in this post:

Why You Should be Using Calculated Metrics

Calculated Metrics give you freedom and choice when it comes to reporting on the performance and success of your website. The best example of this is your website’s conversion rate. Conversion rate is a standard metric you’ll find in a whole range of reports, you’ll find it in your Acquisition reports like we see here…

You’ll find it in the Audience reports…

And yes, you’ll also find it in the Conversion reports too.

But the standard conversion rate inside all of these standard reports is flawed. It’s not really your true conversion rate. Your real-world conversion rate is the percentage of people who’ve converted. If someone has signed up, purchased or whatever you define as success, then you’ve won. They’ve converted!

But that’s not what we’re reporting on inside Google Analytics, we’re reporting on the percentage of sessions that have converted. Each person who visits your website might end up performing lots and lots of sessions.

Here’s an example…

Let’s say two people visit your website. This means you’ll see two users in your reports. If they both visit your website on 5 separate occasions this means you’ll have a total of 10 sessions from 2 users.

Now let’s say one of them converts. They complete your goal. Amazing! And what you’ll see inside your reports is a 10% conversion rate. That’s because 10% of those sessions (i.e. one) included a conversion. This doesn’t really paint an accurate picture, does it? That’s a big NO!

This is where we can use a Calculated Metric to provide a clearer understanding of how our website is converting. We can create our own metric that takes conversions and divides it by the number of users (instead of sessions). Now instead of a 10% conversion rate, we’d see a 50% conversion rate because half of our users (in this scenario one out of two) converted on our website.

We get a more accurate understanding of what’s happening.

Calculated Metrics Aren't Perfect

I kept that example simple so you could see the benefit of supplementing the standard metrics with your own Calculated Metrics, but unfortunately, they’re not perfect. Why? Well because we’re still creating metrics based on users (or sessions) which each have their own limitations.

Most of us use the Google Analytics tracking code (or the tracking code wrapped inside Google Tag Manager) to track people engaging with our website. This tracking code relies on browser cookies and there are limits to how cookies can be used to track people. For example, someone accessing your website on their laptop and then on their mobile will be reported as two separate users. 

Top impacts on users inside Google Analytics include:

  1. Using different devices
  2. Deleted cookies
  3. Using different browsers
  4. Blocked cookies
  5. Disabled JavaScript

Moving to user-based metrics, such as User Conversion Rate, might not be perfect but they will improve the way you report on success.

Creating Calculated Metrics

Creating Calculated Metrics

There are several ways you can combine standard metrics to create your own. You can configure your own inside Google Analytics and you also have the option to create them inside Google Data Studio (using Calculated Fields). These are the simplest options and we’ll look at these in a moment.

But there are also other options available. For example, you can use Google Sheets to combine different metrics too. Although we won’t be covering this here, you can apply the same techniques to create your own metrics.

How to Create Calculated Metrics in Google Analytics

To create a Calculated Metric you’ll need to have edit-level permission inside Google Analytics. If you do, then head to the Admin section and select ‘Calculated Metrics’ under your reporting view.

You can create up to five Calculated Metrics inside each Google Analytics reporting view (if you’re using the premium version, you’ll be able to create more). Click on ‘New Calculated Metric’ to get started.

Now it’s time to name your metric. You can name it anything you like, but I recommend keeping it as logical, readable and short as possible. For this example, we’re going to enter ‘User Conversion Rate’.

Now we need to choose the formatting. We can choose from the following options:

  • Float is a number with two decimal places. For example, 16.029 would be presented as 16.03 in your reports.
  • Integer is a whole number (without decimal places). For example, 16.029 would be presented as 16. 
  • Currency will present the value as a dollar amount (or whatever you have set as the currency for the view). For example, a final value of 25 will be presented as $25.00.
  • Time will format the value into hours, minutes and seconds. For example, a final value of 75 will become 01:15:00.
  • Percent will present the final value as a percentage with two decimal places. For example, a final value of 0.16029 will be presented as 16.03%.

Since I’m going to be creating a metric which shows the percentage of users who’ve converted on my website, I’m going to select ‘Percent’.

Now I need to create the formula. To do this we begin to type the standard metric we want to use and then select it from the options. In my case, I’m going to search for ‘Goal Completions’ and ‘Users’ to create my Calculated Metric. And here’s what my final formula looks like:

{{Goal Completions}} / {{Users}} 

Here’s what you should have…

Then I click ‘Create’.

Now it’s time to start using my Calculated Metrics...

Using Calculated Metrics in Google Analytics

Once you’ve created Calculated Metrics you’ll be able to use them in custom reports and dashboards. You won’t find them in the standard reports since the standard reports don’t allow you to switch metrics. You can also find your Calculated Metrics in Google Data Studio (I’ll also show you how to create Calculated Metrics directly inside Google Data Studio in a moment), Google Sheets and the Google Analytics Core Reporting API.

Using Custom Reports with Calculated Metrics:

Navigate to ‘Customization’, then ‘Custom Reports’ and select ‘New Custom Report’. Click on ‘Add Metric’, then search for and select your Calculated Metric…

You can then add additional metrics (including standard metrics and Calculated Metrics) to your report. Then you’ll need to choose the dimension for your custom report. In my case, I’m selecting ‘Default Channel Grouping’ to see the different marketing channels sending traffic to the website.

Then it’s time to click ‘Save’ and view your custom report…

Using Dashboards with Calculated Metrics:

This time we’ll select ‘Dashboards’ under ‘Customization’, select ‘Create’, name your dashboard and click ‘Create Dashboard’. You’ll now be prompted to add your first dashboard widget. 

The default is to include a straight metric, so you can simply select ‘Add a Metric’, and then search for and select your Calculated Metric.

Click ‘Save’ and you’ll see your Calculated Metric included in your dashboard…

You can also add Calculated Metrics with the other standard dashboard widgets (which are timeline, map, table, pie chart and bar chart).

How to Create Calculated Metrics (aka Calculated Fields) in Google Data Studio

How to Create Calculated Metrics (aka Calculated Fields) in Google Data Studio

Once you’ve created a Calculated Metric inside Google Analytics you can pull it into Google Data Studio. That’s absolutely supported, but you also have the option of skipping the setup inside Google Analytics and simply create your own metrics inside Data Studio.

The important thing to point out is that if you construct your own metric inside Data Studio it’s not backward compatible. What I mean is, that you can’t pull this customization into Google Analytics – it will only live inside Data Studio.

So that’s something to consider – if you want to be able to access your metric inside Google Analytics and Data Studio, then the best option is to jump back to How to Create Calculated Metrics in Google Analytics. On the other hand, if you’re happy to only access it inside Data Studio, then you’re in the right place!

Inside Google Data Studio, if you want to construct your own metric, then you’ll be creating a Calculated Field (which is actually a little different to the Calculated Metrics we just created in Google Analytics).

To create a Calculated Field you’ll need to either add (or edit) a data source or select 'Create New Metric' in the metric picker . When you add a data source you’ll see a list of all the metrics (highlighted in blue) and dimensions (highlighted in green).

You can then click on the blue plus sign at the top of the list to create your own metric. Now you’ll need to name your Custom Field and enter a formula. Here I’ve created my User Conversion Rate metric directly inside Data Studio:

Now it’s time to add them to our report...

Using Calculated Metrics in Google Data Studio

Once created, you’ll be able to select your Custom Field and add it to your report as a metric. (You’ll find them under the ‘Default Group’ or you can search for them in the metric picker.)

And you can, of course, add any Calculated Metrics you created in Google Analytics to your report too. (You’ll also find these under ‘Default Group’ in the metric picker.)

As I mentioned, Calculated Fields are different to Calculated Metrics inside Google Analytics. They can actually do a whole lot more than Calculated Metrics – you can include functions and arguments in the formula. For example, you could count the number of rows using the COUNT function.

So if you’re looking for something more advanced than what’s available with Google Analytics Calculated Metrics, then Data Studio is likely to solve your problem.

Examples of Calculated Metrics

Here are a range of examples to get you started. It’s a good idea to focus on using Calculated Metrics that will give you the greatest value from your data. I recommend starting with user-focused metrics which will complement and extend the standard metrics you find inside your reports.

Remember that you’ll be able to create five Calculated Metrics for each reporting view, so if you need more you can create another view, or alternatively, head to Google Data Studio.

Jump straight to a Calculated Metric example:


Pages per User

This is similar to the 'Pages per Session' metric you find in Google Analytics by default, but it gives you the average number of pages someone views at the user-level.

Name: Pages / User
Formatting: Float
Formula: {{Pageviews}} / {{Users}}

User Goal Conversion Rate

To get a better understanding of your true conversion rate based on users (and not sessions).

Name: User Goal Conversion Rate
Formatting: Percent
Formula: {{Goal Completions}} / {{Users}}

User Ecommerce Conversion Rate

Similar to ‘User Goal Conversion Rate’, but focused on ecommerce transactions instead of goal conversions.

Name: User Ecommerce Conversion Rate
Formatting: Percent
Formula: {{Transactions}} / {{Users}}

User Conversion Rate

A metric that combines both goal conversions and ecommerce transactions to provide a total conversion rate based on users.

Name: User Conversion Rate
Formatting: Percent
Formula: ( {{Goal Completions}} + {{Transactions}} ) / {{Users}}

Average Goal Completions per User

Name: Goal Completions / User
Formatting: Float
Formula: {{Goal Completions}} / {{Users}}

This Calculated Metric can be modified in a similar way to the conversion rate metrics above to create ‘Average Ecommerce Completions per User’ and ‘Average Total Conversions per User’.

Average Cost per User

If you’re running AdWords campaigns and/or importing cost data, then this metric will tell you how much you’re investing in advertising to bring each user to your website.

Name: Cost / User
Formatting: Currency
Formula: {{Cost}} / {{Users}}

Sessions per User

Understand the average number of sessions for each of your users.

Name: Sessions / User
Formatting: Float
Formula: {{Sessions}} / {{Users}}

Events per User

See the average number of events triggered by each user. This metric could be adjusted to view ‘Unique Events per User’ to understand if users are engaging with particular events while removing repeat interactions being reported.

Name: Events / User
Formatting: Float
Formula: {{Total Events}} / {{Users}}

Event Conversion Rate

This metric allows you to see the impact of custom interactions you are measuring using events on driving conversions.

Name: Events Conversion Rate
Formatting: Percent
Formula: ( {{Goal Completions}} + {{Transactions}} ) / {{Unique Events}}

Event Goal Completions

See the total number of goal completions for people who triggered an event.

Name: Events Goal Completions
Formatting: Float
Formula: {{Goal Completions}} / {{Unique Events}}

Page Navigations

Understand if a page is popular when a user is navigating within your website. This metric removes pageviews when people land on your website, showing you your most popular ‘non-landing pages’.

Name: Page Navigations
Formatting: Integer
Formula: {{Unique Pageviews}} – {{Entrances}}

Total Value

A metric that combines ecommerce revenue with goal value to provide a total combined value.

Name: Total Value
Formatting: Currency
Formula: {{Revenue}} + {{Goal Value}}

Value per Session

Understand the average value that each session provides.

Name: Value / Session
Formatting: Currency
Formula: ( {{Revenue}} + {{Goal Value}} ) / {{Sessions}}

Value per User

Understand the average value that each user provides.

Name: Value / User
Formatting: Currency
Formula: ( {{Revenue}} + {{Goal Value}} ) / {{Users}}

Revenue per User

Similar to ‘Average Value per User’, but focused solely on ecommerce revenue.

Name: Revenue / User
Formatting: Currency
Formula: {{Revenue}} / {{Users}}

Pageviews per Transaction

Understand the average number of pages people view before completing an ecommerce transaction.

Name: Pageviews / Transaction
Formatting: Float
Formula: {{Pageviews}} / {{Transactions}}

Non-Bounces

This metric removes bounced sessions so you can focus on people who have engaged beyond a single page within the session.

Name: Non-Bounces
Formatting: Integer
Formula: {{Sessions}} - {{Bounces}}

Non-Bounce Rate

The opposite to bounce rate – understand the percentage of sessions that included more than one pageview.

Name: Non-Bounce Rate
Formatting: Percent
Formula: ( {{Sessions}} - {{Bounces}} ) / {{Sessions}}

Weighted Goal Conversion Rate

A metric that prioritises particular goals based on their importance. You will need to customise the formula based on the goals you want to prioritise. Here is an example:

Name: Weighted Goal Conversion Rate
Formatting: Percent
Formula: (( {{Leads (Goal 1 Completions)}} x 5 ) + ( {{Email (Goal 2 Completions)}} x 3 ) + ( {{PDF (Goal 3 Completions)}} x 1 )) / ( 9 x {{Sessions}})

Additional Calculated Metric Examples

Here are some additional examples from some of my trusted sources.

The following come via my friends at LunaMetrics...

Total Goal Completions for Selected Goals

Name: Selected Total Goal Completions
Formatting Type: Integer
Formula: {{Leads (Goal 1 Completions)}} + {{Email (Goal 2 Completions)}} + {{PDF (Goal 3 Completions)}}

Total Goal Starts for Selected Goals

Name: Selected Total Goal Starts
Formatting Type: Integer
Formula: {{Leads (Goal 1 Start)}} + {{Email (Goal 2 Start)}} + {{PDF (Goal 3 Start)}}

Revenue After Refunds

Name: Revenue After Refunds
Formatting Type: Currency
Formula: {{Revenue}} – {{Refund Amount}}

The following come via Martijn Scheijbeler of TheNextWeb who I had the pleasure of meeting last year... 

Average User Duration

Name: Average User Duration
Formatting Type: Time
Formula: {{Session Duration}} / {{Users}}

Transactions per User

Name: Transactions / User
Formatting Type: Float
Formula: {{Transactions}} / {{Users}}

And from my dear friend Avinash Kaushik

Calculated Profit

Name: Calculated Profit
Formatting: Currency
Formula: {{Revenue}} * 0.30

Product Views per Transaction

Name: Product Views / Transaction
Formatting Type: Float
Formula: {{Product Detail Views}} / {{Transactions}}

Conclusion

Calculated Metrics allow you to evolve your use of Google Analytics. You can immediately begin to focus more on your users (and less on sessions).

Now it’s over to you!

If you haven’t already, then make a start, create your first Calculated Metric and add it to a dashboard, create a custom report and then experiment with Google Data Studio. And if you have a Calculated Metric you’d like me to add to the list (or if you have another tip), then let me know in the comments below!