I’ve heard quite a bit from clients that it’s hard to keep on top of their reporting. And I can definitely empathize. It’s hard to get into a groove of checking your reports the way you should. And any technology — whether it’s analytics, Twitter, or setting up your way-to-electronic coffee maker — can be more than a little intimidating at first. Even a platform that prides itself in being as intuitive as Google Analytics does.
Additionally, with any analytics platform, you have to adopt a measurement mentality to know where to get the data most useful to you and what to do with that data once you have it in hand. If you’ve set up alerts in Google Analytics, at least an occasional lapse in diligence won’t cause any significant heartache (depending, of course, how much foresight went into your alerts). However, it’s not a good strategy long term. And the longer you go without checking your analytics data, the more threats and opportunities you miss out on.
The key to monitoring with ease lies in dashboards. And as far as dashboards go, there are a couple different ways you can go:
- Invest a little bit of money (about $200 at the time of this writing) in an Excel plugin that creates dashboards you can update by pressing one button in Excel. (I kid you not.)
- Customize your dashboards in Google Analytics, and apply segments to all of your dashboard reports simultaneously.
Create Dashboards with an Excel Plugin for Google Analytics
NextAnalytics for Google Analytics (not an affiliate link) is, hands down, my favorite Google Analytics plugin, and I’ve tried a bunch of them. The thing I really like about the plugin is it provides you with lots of different dashboards you can use for reports. Once you have it plugged into your analytics account, you can just save an Excel file with your favorite dashboards and update them when you want a report. They provide a nice selection of dashboards and add to them on a weekly basis. Furthermore, they will create custom dashboards for you, which I have called upon them to do.
One of my faves is the weekly visitor scorecard (below). It’s optimal for taking quick glances at patterns and comparing them to the previous week and year.
Another one I use quite a bit is the ecommerce scorecard. Dashboards like this one provide great jumping-off points for further data discovery.
I first heard about this plugin from Avinash Kaushik and John Marshall, while taking their Web Analytics Certification program. Unfortunately, it’s PC swim only, and the learning curve is a bit daunting. But their technical support is second to none. And for an entire smogesbord of tools that integrate with Google Analytics, you should check out Google’s Application Gallery.
Customize Dashboards in Google Analytics
Let’s face it: It’s no heavy revvy that the dashboards in Google Analytics lack sex appeal. However, what they lack in form, they make up in function — at least enough function for business owners and managers who just need the basics. To date, I think only a couple of clients have customized their dashboards to reveal the reports that are most important to them. Most have the useless dashboards that come default with a Google Analytics setup. Lame.
Setting up these dashboards couldn’t be easier. Whenever you run a useful report that you would like to monitor, select the option to Add to Dashboard. It’s at the top of every report — along with Export and Email. The cool thing is Google saves that report exactly as you have set it up. So if you have a segment applied to it (e.g., you only want to look at traffic from a particular country or affiliate traffic or transactions more than $200) or if you have applied a filter at the bottom of the report, they will be retained in your dashboard.
Alternatively, you can apply a segment(s) to all of your dashboard reports at one time by selecting it/them from the Advanced Segments drop-down in the top-right corner of your dashboard.
Now delete all the dashboards you don’t need (by clicking the X in the top-right corner of each dashboard item), and fill your dashboard with useful reports.
Of course, if all this dashboard talk bores you because you have a penchant for true ninja analysis, you can read Google Analytics evangelist Avinash Kaushik’s post on action dashboards. But that’s the deep end of the pool. If you haven’t even customized your dashboards, setting them up in Google Analytics would be an excellent starting point.
Do you have a favorite dashboard tool or template that you’d like to share with the class? We’d love to hear about them.