nicolas leroy

How to (better) track browser usage through Google Analytics

January 06, 2010

Of the importance of browser usage analysis

It is common practice when designing a new site to decide which browsers to target: the product manager must define which browsers are used by the targeted audience, while the development team has to cope with the different behaviors of those browsers.

The support of web standards has greatly simplified web development on modern browsers (like Firefox and Google Chrome); but frontend engineers still have to deal with older browsers (like the infamous Internet Explorer 6) and the associated Javascript or CSS tricks. This situation could significantly increase the development costs.

It is one thing to define the targeted browsers when building a new site; but it is also very important, when maintaining a website over the years, to follow the evolution of browser usage for the same reasons: reach the targeted audience, and optimize development costs.

how many of my users are now using Firefox?”, “Have users using Internet Explorer 6 or 7 migrated to IE8“?… Those are the kind of questions that every site manager should think about on frequent basis, in order to adjust the browser strategy for his site.

The limitations of Google Analytics to follow browser usage

Of course, Google Analytics provide capacities to track browser usage; but it also comes with a major usability flaw. The “browser” report indeed separates browser platforms (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Google Chrome…) and their corresponding versions (6.0, 7.0, 8.0…). That means you can easily get the percentage of your users using Internet Explorer, Firefox or Chrome; but you have no easy way to know the total percentage using Internet Explorer 8.0, Firefox 3.5…

Another “limitation” is that, for some browser platforms, Google Analytics separates all the versions including the patch levels (i.e: Firefox 3.5.4, Firefox 3.5.5, Firefox 3.5.6…). This very detailed view of browser versions makes the analysis of browser usage using Google Analytics far more complicated than it should be.

The Google Analytics browser report:

Browsers - Google Analytics_1262799473892

How Google Analytics filters can help

A way to build a more readable browser report is to use a set of Google Analytics filters to achieve two goals:

Ideally, those filters should be applied on a specific website profile, to avoid erasing the raw data gathered by Google Analytics.

A step-by-step setup guide

The list of filters to create:

Filter name FieldA -> ExtractA
(Visitor Browser Program)
FieldB -> ExtractB
(Visitor Browser Version)
Output To -> Constructor
(Visitor Browser Version)
1.5 browser version (target Firefox) Firefox ^1.5.(.*)|1.5$ 1.5.x
2.0 browser version (target Firefox & Chrome) Firefox|Chrome ^2.0.(.*)|2.0$ 2.0.x
3.0 browser version (target Firefox & Chrome) Firefox|Chrome ^3.0.(.*)|3.0$ 3.0.x
3.5 browser version (target Firefox) Firefox ^3.5.(.*)|3.5$ 3.5.x
3.6 browser version (target Firefox) Firefox ^3.6.(.*)|3.6$ 3.6.x
4.0 browser version (target Firefox & Chrome) Firefox|Chrome ^4.0.(.*)|4.0$ 4.0.x
Safari 4 (target specific webkit versions) Safari ^(526|528|530|531).(.*)$ 4.x
Safari 3 (target specific webkit versions) Safari ^(522|523|525).(.*)$ 3.x
10.0 browser version (target Opera) Opera ^10.(.*)|10$ 10.x
9.8 browser version (target Opera) Opera ^9.8(.*)|9.8$ 9.8.x
9.6 browser version (target Opera) Opera ^9.6(.*)|9.6$ 9.6.x
9.5 browser version (target Opera) Opera ^9.5(.*)|9.5$ 9.5.x
9.2 browser version (target Opera) Opera ^9.2(.*)|9.2$ 9.2.x

The “Edit Filter” page:

Edit Filter - Google Analytics_1262799573228

The new Google Analytics browser report:

Browsers - Google Analytics_1262799533607

Final notes

You may want to adjust the rules for your own needs. There are some useful resources that list all the versions for a given browser and help to define what minor/major versions are. I.E:

The list should be updated before new browser releases become popular, as Google Analytics doesn’t apply filters on previously stored data.

(thanks to Julien Coquet for some Google Analytics tips :) )

11 commentaires

Julien Coquet
on Jan 06, 2010 / 8pm
You're welcome ;-)

on Jan 07, 2010 / 5pm
Awesome, it works

very much thanks for this great tip

[...] clients, in which case, the above sucks. And it’s been broken for awhile. People have posted up various filters and such that you can use to improve the situation, but seriously, that’s an epic waste of [...]

Eric Lussier
on Feb 24, 2012 / 6pm
Awesome trick! I just made a full set of filters and it works perfectly.

I can't believe google doesn't clean it up like this by default.

on Feb 20, 2013 / 9pm
I added some set of filters but it's not showing in my Dashboard. Where can I see the reports or set of filters I have created ?

on Feb 20, 2013 / 9pm
And How can I create Filter for IE9? And '^' what does this symbol mean here ?

on Feb 21, 2013 / 2pm
Hi Abdul,
The filters explained in this article overwrite the default GA report for Browser ; so have a look at your Browser report in GA. Pls consider those filters are not applied on historical data, but only on new data ; it also takes a few hours before data to start appearing in your GA dashboard.

^ means start of the value.


on Feb 21, 2013 / 4pm
Thanks nicolasleroy that really help.
Now it's showing all the versions which I have added. But it's showing all other versions also which I didnt add like
Firefox 19.0, Chrome : 24.0.1312.57 etc.
is it a normal scenario or what ? And also When I click on Browser & OS link which is under Technology Tab it's only shows Firefox, Chrome and IE even though I have added Safari also in my filter and once I clicked on each browser it shows Browser Version is there any Widget in GA where I can view all the information together Browser Name , version etc.

on Feb 21, 2013 / 4pm
Normal scenario, as for now you have pre-filter values & post-filter values that are mixed ; wait to have full days of data.

on Feb 21, 2013 / 6pm
I have different Portals under same host name and both portals used by completely diffetent users.for example
I have create one Account in GA and under this account I have 2 profiles with above Links. So my concern is when user hit First link will it be update the second Link also? because they have same host names and I want to track individually for each Profile traffic, browsers details etc.

on Feb 22, 2013 / 6pm
Nicholas is there any we can track which user logged in by using IE7 or IE6 so we can tell them to change or update the browsers.