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April 18 2008

Using the Google Analytics Dashboard

by MoreVisibility

The Google Analytics Dashboard is the first page that you see when you log-in to your Google Analytics account (well technically it’s the second page, as the first page lists all of your profiles). The Dashboard is the “homepage” of your Google Analytics account, and there’s quite a bit that you can do with it.

The Date Range Tool:

Starting from the top of the page, the first thing that you can control is the Date-Range Tool (or as a Google Engineer told me, the Date-Range “Slider”). That date that you see on your dashboard is the default setting for all Google Analytics profiles – the last 30 days. Clicking on the Date-Range Tool activates the menu:

Google Analytics Date-Range Tool / Slider

From here, you can do a few different things. You can click on any individual day in the calendar, to be able to view data for just that single day; you can click on any one of those “half-circle” tabs next to each week to view data for each individual week; or, you can click on the name of any month to view data for that entire month’s time. To choose a specific date-range, click on the first day of your desired date-range, and then click on the last day of your desired date-range. When you’re finished, you can click on the top-right corner of the date-range tool (either on the date itself or the arrow pointing down) to close the menu.

You can also compare any date to a previous date range that is equal in length to what you have selected. First, select your desired date-range. Then, from the drop-down menu under where it says “Comparison”, choose “Date Range”, and you will see the previous date-range become highlighted in bright green. Click on the “Apply” button directly underneath the drop-down menu to enable the date range comparison. Look at what happens to the items on your dashboard:

Google Analytics Dashboard with Date-Range Comparison

How fancy! Now, every element of your dashboard, and every element of every other report in Google Analytics, will have this Date-Range comparison enabled. To disable it, simply click into the Date-Range Tool, change from “Date Range” to “Site” in the Comparison drop-down menu, and click on the “Apply” button. You should be back to a single date-range view.

Finally, you can click on the “Timeline” tab within the Date-Range Tool menu to see a trending graph view of the calendar function. You can drag the window back and forth, and you can contract or expand the window by click-and-dragging one of the two silver buttons on either side of the window. It’s a fancier version of the standard calendar view – I’m a boring guy, so I prefer the regular calendar table :).

Export / Email Options:

Your dashboard can be exported to a PDF or an XML file format. All you have to do is click on the “Export” button, which is located towards the top-left of your Dashboard. Once you click on the “Export” button, a sub-menu appears with your two options (Note: for every other report in Google Analytics, you can export in a PDF, XML, CSV, or a TSV file format).

Clicking on the “Email” Button will send you to the Email Management screen, where you can send the report to yourself and other email addresses; enter in a custom Subject and Description Line; and choose the file format which you would like to receive your Dashboard. Or, you can click on the “Schedule” Tab, and have your Dashboard automatically emailed to you daily, weekly, monthly, or quarterly. You can also choose to enable an automatic date-range comparison in your scheduled report from this tab as well.

If you receive your report in a PDF file format, Google Analytics will not only send you the dashboard, but it will also send you each individual report that you have on your Dashboard at that time (Keep Reading for more on that).

The Trending Graph:

Google Analytics Trending Graph

Directly below both the Date-Range Tool and the Export / Email Options, you will see the Trending Graph (how can you miss it? :)) , which is available in almost every report in Google Analytics. With the Trending Graph, you can do a few different things. First, each point on the Trending Graph corresponds to one day – mousing-over any point will display a mini-window with that day’s date, and the number of Visits that occurred on that date. To change what the trending graph is graphing by, click on either “Week” or “Month” towards the right-hand side of the graph, and it will update accordingly.

Now, see where it says “Visits” to the far right of the graph? Click on that little arrow that’s pointing down to enable the Graph Mode menu:

Google Analytics Graph Mode Options

From here, you can change which metric the trending graph is displaying simply by selecting any one of those six metrics listed. The link in the middle, “Compare Two Metrics”, allows you to do just that – compare two different metrics at the same time. The second metric will be represented by an orange-colored line in the trending graph. You can also click on the link to the right, “Compare to Site”, to compare any metric for one individual page or one set of pages against the entire site. This comes in handy when you’re looking at one page, or a group of pages, and want to see how they are doing in comparison to everything (as a whole).

The “Site Usage” Window:

Below the trending graph is the Site Usage window. These six metrics are the very basics of your website’s data. This report window is the only item in the dashboard that you can’t play with (sorry!).

The Report Windows:

Google Analytics Report Window

Finally, below the Site Usage window is each individual report window. By default, Google Analytics gives you four default Report Windows: Visitors Overview, Traffic Sources Overview, Map Overlay, and Content Overview. When you create a Goal within your profile, Google Analytics adds a fifth window, Goals Overview, and when you enable Ecommerce reporting, it adds a sixth window, Ecommerce Overview.

All of these windows (or widgets, or reports) can be moved around to your liking. Simply click-and-drag the gray heading part of the window, and drop it wherever you’d like. You can also close any report window, thereby removing it from your Dashboard, simply by clicking on the gray “X” on the upper-right hand side. Finally, you can click on “View Report” to be taken to that particular report’s main page.

Any report in Google Analytics is available to be added to your dashboard, which will add one of these report windows for you to play with. This, in essence, “saves” your work, because when you click on the “View Report” link, you will be taken to the same report page with your exact same options that you had enabled or disabled when you clicked on the “Add to Dashboard” button.

Look for a follow-up post next week, where I will talk about creating an effective Google Analytics Dashboard, and what you can do with one.

February 12 2008

The Four Views of Google Analytics

by MoreVisibility

Okay, I knew I couldn’t go three posts without talking about Google Analytics in some way, shape, or form. So, I’m not going to fight it – let’s talk about the four main “views” available in regular reports in Google Analytics. The names of the views aren’t official, but they’re what I like to call them.

Toward the right-hand side of most every report in Google Analytics, you’ll see the Views toggle menu – you can click on any one of the four icons to instantly change the view:

GA Views - Toggle Menu

View #1: The Table View

The Table View in Google Analytics

The Table View is the default view for most reports in Google Analytics – so, if you’ve been in GA at all, you should be very familiar with this view. Within all of the reports, Google Analytics emphasizes the importance of displaying several metrics together, so that you aren’t making any snap decisions or quick judgments based upon one individual metric. And, of course, each view comes equipped with Site Usage, Goal Conversion, and when applicable, Ecommerce tabs for your analysis pleasure. In the Table View, you can click on any one of the column headings to sort the table to your liking.

View #2: The Pie Chart View

The Pie Chart View in Google Analytics

The Pie Chart is a standard in any business report, and provides a pretty viewing alternative to any data that you need to present. With the Pie Chart view, you can now change the metric that you’re viewing with the drop down on the left-hand side of the report, and change the metric’s contribution to total metric with the drop-down menu on the right-hand side. Play with this for a bit the next time you’re in Google Analytics.

View #3: The Bar Graph View

The Bar Graph view in Google Analytics

I love Bar Graphs. Specifically, I love vertical Bar Graphs. This report view gives me all I need in that department. It’s an easy-to-use and easy-to-understand view, with the ability to change the individual performance metric on the right-hand side. Anyone in the world can understand that the bigger the bar, the more / higher / worse the line item is.

View #4: The Comparison to Site Average View

The Comparison to Site Average view in Google Analytics

Finally, the most interesting report view in Google Analytics. This shows how each individual line item is performing in comparison to the average of everything on your website combined. This report is great for easily picking out the winners (and the losers) in the group. You will be able to tell which items are bringing your site averages down, and which ones are your rock stars. (Red = Bad, Green = Good…pretty simple I would say). Again, change the metric that you’re using as the comparison with the drop-down menu on the right.

It’s very important that you become comfortable at looking at similar data differently. This will enhance your analysis skills greatly over time, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised how different views can show you different things – from a similar set of data.

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