GA Skills For Creating A Data Driven Culture: Secondary Dimensions


By: Drew McManus

In: Metrics & Analytics, Productivity

One of the most popular sections of the data driven culture session I co-presented at the 2019 Nonprofit Technology Conference was how to modify a HiPPO culture. If you aren’t already familiar with the acronym, HiPPO stands for:


The HiPPO slide from the #19NTC session on creating a data driven culture.

A common challenge for those entrusted with gathering, analyzing, and reporting data is creating trust and buy-in among those in executive leadership positions.

Fortunately, there are some super easy tools you can use inside Google Analytics to begin building that trust by confirming or refuting “conventional wisdom.”

One such tool is secondary dimensions.

Example: Older Users Aren’t On Mobile

How many times have you heard from someone in a leadership position that your organization’s patrons are mostly older and therefore don’t use mobile devices to visit the website, purchase tickets, donate, etc.?

Fortunately, that’s something you can easily confirm or refute using some simple secondary dimension analysis.

I’m going to pull some data from one of my actual clients (albeit their name is concealed). They have a great deal of historical data and have a terrific amount of daily traffic, all of which contributes to a nice slice of data pie to consume for our experiment.

Right away, we begin to see that mobile users comprise the majority of visitors, but a conventional wisdom HiPPO may continue to assert that older age groups are still on desktops. A secondary dimension will shed some light on this in a matter of moments.

  1. Navigate to the Audience > Mobile > Overview admin panel.
  2. Select the Secondary dimension
  3. To help speed up the process, enter “age” into the search field.
  4. Select the Age

And take a look at that, the most common device type used by 65+ users is mobile at a 56/44 percent ratio.

As a bonus data nugget, the most common desktop users are…wait…for…it…Millenials.

Here’s where you can begin converting your HiPPO into a data supporter: continue drilling down into additional analysis layers and provide information beyond the bare minimum needed to confirm or refute conventional wisdom.

Drew McManus
Drew McManus
In addition to my consulting business, I'm also the Principal of Venture Industries Online but don’t let that title fool you into thinking I'm just a tech geek. I bring 20+ years of global broad-based arts consulting experience to the table to help clients break the cycle of choosing one-size-fits-none solutions and instead, deliver options allowing them to get ahead of the tech curve instead of trying to catch up by going slower. With the vision of legacy support strategy and the delights of creative insights, my mission is to deliver a sophisticated next generation technology designed especially for the field of performing arts. The first step in that journey began in 2010 when The Venture Platform was released, a purpose-designed managed website development solution designed especially for arts organizations and artists. For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, lead a team of intrepid arts pros to hack the arts, lead an arts business incubator, and love a good coffee drink.
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