One thing that can be really frustrating in Google Analytics is when you understand the data that you want to see but when you try to drill down into the data, or create a custom report, you aren’t given the right combination of Metrics and Dimensions that you want. Because a lot of Google Analytics users have experienced this, I thought I’d break down both Dimensions and Metrics within GA, and shed some light onto what can and can’t be done with them.
Dimensions are characteristics or descriptive attributes of an object. Simply put, they describe the data. A few examples of Dimensions are Campaign, City, Browser, Language, Source, and Medium. Dimensions will appear in all of your reports. However, depending on the type of report you are using, you may only see certain ones. Most reports give you the ability to have a Primary and Secondary dimension, which can be found under the Sparkline.
Tip: So you don’t confuse them, Dimensions will always be colored green when you add them or create Custom Reports.
Generally speaking, a Metric is a way to measure your data. A few examples of Metrics in Google Analytics are Unique Visitors, Average Visit Duration, Revenue, and Visits. Metrics can be found in the standard reports above the sparkline and will default depending on the specific report you are in.
Tip: Just like with Dimensions, Metrics will always be colored blue when you add them or create Custom Reports.
Not all Dimensions and Metrics make a valid combination, which is why they don’t appear in Standard Reports. However, you can create a Custom Report, which, depending what you’re trying to do, may let you pair them. But this may appear as “0” for that metric if the combination is not valid.
Google does have a very helpful reference tool that you can access here which will allow you to see what valid combinations are of Dimensions and Metrics.
Today’s blog post is all about creating a Custom Report within the new Google Analytics platform. Keep in mind that the new Google Analytics platform is still in Beta mode, which means that slight changes and modifications may be implemented before the Beta label is taken off.
To get started, log-in to your Google Analytics account and find the Custom Reports tab on the top of the screen. Click on it, and then click on + New Custom Report to get started (see figure below):
On the next screen with a heading of Create Custom Report, you should see four distinct sections, from top to bottom:
1. General Information
All that you need to do here is give your Custom Report a name, as I’ve done in this screen-shot:
You may want to come up with some type of naming convention if you’re planning on creating more than one Custom Report (Something like “Joe’s Reports – Goals and Ecommerce“).
2. Report Content
The way that Google Analytics Custom Reports work is by organizing your desired data within tabs. Each Custom Report can have up to five tabs, but you must have at least one tab. Within each tab, you can have one or more metric groups (more on metric groups in just a little bit).
You can give each tab a name and add a report tab here:
Notice in the above screen-shot that you can select a Type. Custom Reports with Google Analytics have two types: Explorer and Flat Table.
An Explorer Custom Report will structure your report to look like one of the standard Google Analytics reports, where you see metric groups (statistics) and a trending graph across the top of the report, and a table with dimensions and metrics below it. With the Explorer report type, you can create multiple metric groups and up to five dimensions:
A Flat Table Custom Report will structure your report to look like a spreadsheet. There are no metric groups with Flat Table reports, but you can choose up twenty-five individual metrics and up to two dimensions, which makes it perfect for exporting and integrating with a CRM system or an in-house database:
With Custom Reports in Google Analytics, you have the option to filter your reports data to exclude or only include certain criteria. This is the equivalent of applying an Advanced Segment within your Custom Report automatically. For example, if you wanted your Custom Report to only show you traffic from visitors who originated from the United States, you would apply a filter that looks like this:
At the bottom of the Custom Report creation screen, you’re provided the option to apply your Custom Report to other profiles that you have access to. Click on the drop-down menu labeled None to view the profiles to which you have access to apply your Custom Report:
Don’t forget to hit Save to create your Custom Report!
Editing, Sharing and Deleting your Custom Report
When you hit Save, you will be taken to the report that you created. On the left navigation menu, you can click on the Overview report to view a listing of all saved Custom Reports, with options to edit (go back to the Custom Report Creation screen), share (copying an encoded URL that you can email or instant-message to someone) or delete (wiping the slate clean and starting from scratch).
Migrating Custom Reports from the old Google Analytics to the new Google Analytics
Finally, you can import Custom Reports that you’ve created in the old Google Analytics platform. There is a Migrate button directly underneath the listing of your saved Custom Reports:
Walking through the Custom Report creation steps is only the first phase of this effort. What are you going to do with your Custom Report? What insights, analysis, and decisions will you make from the Custom Report that you’ve created? How will use this Custom Report’s data to improve your website and your marketing campaigns? These are the questions that you should ask yourself to truly take advantage of this robust feature of Google Analytics.