Creating an Effective Google Analytics Dashboard

April
30
2008

by

As advertised in my last blog post, I wanted to show some ways to create an effective Dashboard in Google Analytics, and some of the things that you can do with it. As inspiration, I’m digging through the archives and I’m sourcing a blog post from my favorite blog author, Avinash Kaushik, titled: “Five Rules for High Impact Web Analytics Dashboards“. (Note: he wrote this blog post 2 months before the current version of Google Analytics was released with its customizable dashboard and fancy AJAX-based functionality).

Adding reports to your dashboard.

As I talked about last week, you can add any report to your dashboard in Google Analytics. All you need to do is click on the silver-colored “Add to Dashboard” button, found on almost every report page toward the top-left of the page. After clicking on that button, you’ll get a message across your screen, indicating that the report has been added to the dashboard. Google Analytics will now show a new one of those moveable report windows to your dashboard.

The very important part to understand here is when adding reports to your dashboard, Google Analytics will “save” the exact report view, tab, and options that you had selected before you clicked on “Add to Dashboard”. This is an unbelievable time saver for even quicker access to the exact information that you need, with the segmenting and drill-down options that you had put together. To access that “saved” information, simply click on the “View Report” link toward the bottom of the new report window, and GA will take you there.

Limit yourself to a maximum of six reports!

Six may seem a lot (or not enough, depending on your situation), but the purpose of a dashboard is to isolate the absolute most important elements for you and your business, so that you can get a quick overview that anyone within your organization can look at and understand. Think of this as the front page of your local newspaper – you have your top stories and teasers to other stories found within the newspaper right on the front page. If you want to keep reading further or dive into an individual section (Business, Sports, Classifieds), you’ll have to open up the paper and go there.

Also, when you export the Google Analytics Dashboard to a PDF file, six reports is the maximum number that you can get to fit on one page.

It’s not just about statistics – it’s also about insights.

A common mistake is that people add reports to their dashboard that are mere statistical figures (Visits, Pageviews, Top Content). Try narrowing down your “statistics only” dashboard reports to about 1, at maximum 2. The other four reports should be items that can give you insights (which can then allow you to take action) on your website, your shopping cart, your landing pages, or your blog. Remember, Google Analytics “saves” the exact current view of your report when you click on the “Add to Dashboard” page, so it’s OK to have your report segmented, with a different view and the Ecommerce or Goal Conversion tab on, excluding a certain keyword or traffic source and sorted by the Revenue Column. There’s no rule against it.

The Dashboard isn’t frozen after you create it.

As item #1 of Avinash’s post tells you, your Dashboard isn’t carved in stone after you create it. You can (and should) continue to modify and tweak it over time, as your business evolves and your needs change. You can also create separate dashboards for different people. You can create a dashboard for your CEO, your Marketing Manager, or the new junior analyst you just hired. Simply create a separate log-in for each person, and have at it. (Google Analytics displays the dashboard based on the user log-in. If you’re logged in as the Administrator of your account, changes you make to the dashboard will not appear to other users when they log-in. Also, every log-in email address must be a Google Account first).

Don’t be afraid of a little date-range comparison!

Comparing your current data to data from a previous date-range can give you an idea on how things are going for you. Have your organic conversions from Yahoo increased over time? Has your Cart Abandonment Rate gone down lately? How did you get so much referring traffic from MySpace this month in comparison to last month? You can start to answer these questions by a simple date-range comparison, which we also talked about in last week’s blog post. Once applied, the items on your dashboard will immediately be refreshed with date-range comparisons and context-oriented figures everywhere!

Just have some fun with it.

Finally, if you haven’t really done anything with your dashboard since opening up your Google Analytics account, just go in there and have some fun. Add some different reports, move them around, delete the ones you don’t like, and play with the date-range feature. Pretend you’re a 9 year old kid with a box of 124 Crayola Crayons and miles and miles of fresh, out-of-the-dryer white tablecloth and go to town on the Dashboard. You may surprise yourself on what information you discover about your website by simply playing with your dashboard.

If you keep your dashboard simple, easy to understand, and full of context and insights, you will have created an effective Google Analytics Dashboard, regardless of your industry or business goals.

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