How to Set Up a Killer Google Analytics Dashboard
Information overload: The condition when a marketer has so much information they can no longer manage or interpret it easily, causing them to basically go numb to their analytics reports. Secondary conditions include ignoring marketing data entirely, making poor decisions, and getting generally disappointing results.
You might not know it to look at them, but many CMOs and Marketing Managers have a terrible condition.
They’re suffering from severe information overload.
And I’m just talking about analytics. Many of us are overwhelmed with analytics reports before we ever look at email or social media.
- 53% of marketing executives feel “overwhelmed” by the amount of data produced by their marketing technologies.
- 67% of those execs say they have to look at too many different dashboards and reports to get insight.
Unfortunately, having too much information and too many reports is almost inevitable for marketers.
Here’s why: Almost all marketing programs start with a basic patchwork of technology solutions. An email service provider, a pay-per-click account or two. A social media tool. A landing page tool. A link-building program.
As the company grows, it tends to add more martech. Our “marketing stack” gets taller and taller, adding more reports all the time.
This patchwork martech can seem like the least expensive way to go for a while … until it starts incurring other costs.
Even if you’re early on in the process and still trying to be a martech minimalist, different people are always going to want different information.
Exhibit A of this is when a marketing person puts a report in front of a CEO and starts touting all the great things they’ve done. The CEO appreciates the work, of course. But they really only want to know one thing: Is there a positive ROI, or not?
It’s beyond the scope of one blog post to help you with every possible marketing report available, but if we had to zero in on one tool, Google Analytics would be a good start. And so this post aims to simplify your Analytics reporting, and give you an easy, free way to let every member of your team get exactly the data they want ― and nothing more.
As you probably know, Google Analytics is very widely used. In fact, 54.3% of all websites have it installed. And, among sites that use any analytics package, 83.4% use Analytics.
How to create a custom Google Analytics Dashboard
Creating a Google Analytics Dashboard is actually very easy. You can do it in less than a dozen clicks. So let’s walk through creating a brand new dashboard, including how to send an email to one of your co-workers, and how to schedule later emails so they’ll go out whenever you want them to be sent.
- Log into your Google Analytics account.
- Go to the site profile that you want to create the dashboard for.
- Click on the “Customization” navigation link in the upper left-hand column. This will expand the navigation to show four new options.
- At the top of the list, find the link for dashboards.
- Click that “Dashboards” link to see this page (minus the red arrow, of course):
- Click the red “CREATE” button to make a new dashboard.
- You’ll see this pop-up window:
- You have two options now ― to create an entirely new dashboard from scratch, or to see if someone else has already created a template of a dashboard that you might want to use.
- Just so you know how to find these later, let’s try the pre-existing template option first. For that, click the “Import from Gallery” button.
You’ll see this next:
These are all the analytics dashboards that people have created and then decided to share with the world. If you’ve come across some of the “10 Best Analytics Dashboard” type articles, this is often where you’ll find them.
As you’ll notice, you can sort and filter the options by several parameters. They’re also rated, which is helpful.
- To add one of these to your account, just click the “Import” button just below the dashboard you want to use.
You’ll see something like this:
- See where the red arrow is pointing? Use that pull-down menu to select the site you want to add this dashboard to.
Once you click the “CREATE” button, you’ll see the new dashboard, active in your account, with your site’s Analytics data filling out all widgets.
Cool, right? And not terribly hard, either. It’s taken us about ten clicks to get this far.
Word to the wise: If you’re an SEO agency or a consultant, creating a few dashboards for your clients or as promotional tools for your business might be a good idea. They could be the data wonk’s version of guest blog posts ― useful content available to anyone, offered as a way to demonstrate your expertise.
But you don’t have to just use other people’s dashboards. You can create your own for your company, or for specific people, departments, or teams in your organization.
To create a custom dashboard from scratch, let’s:
- go back to the main view of your analytics account;
- find the site you want to create the dashboard for; and
- go to the new dashboard page.
But this time, instead of selecting “Import from Gallery,” you’re going to name your new dashboard and then click “Create Dashboard.” (Notice also how we’re starting with a “Blank Canvas” instead of a “Starter Dashboard.”)
Here’s what you’ll see next:
You’re immediately being asked to add a widget to this new dashboard. “Widgets” are what Google calls the individual boxes of data that make up dashboards.
For our example, I’m going to start with a time-on-page widget for this dashboard about content engagement. To do that I just:
- named the widget;
- chose which data format I wanted the widget to use;
- picked which time frame I wanted to pull from;
- picked the metric itself from Google’s rather long list of options; and
- clicked “Save.”
And voila ― it’s a Google Analytics dashboard!
Okay … maybe not a fully fleshed-out dashboard. So let’s spiff this up a bit.
If you click “Customize Dashboard,” you’ll be able to structure the columns of your dashboard almost any way you want.
Some people recommend using each column for a different type of metric, or a different phase of your sales funnel. So, for example, Column A on the left would be acquisition information, Column B would be engagement information, Column C would be conversion information, and Column D would be retention information.
Here’s what it looks like if I choose a two-column view, and add another widget:
How to automatically send Google Analytics Dashboard reports to your co-workers
Now, if I want to send a report like this to anyone via email, I can do that by clicking the “Email” link in the navigation links row just below the title of the dashboard. That will create a pop-up that looks like this:
The example above is all filled out, complete with a subject line, a message, and a recipient. It’s scheduled to go out every Wednesday.
And you’re done. No more creating reports over and over. No more testing people’s patience by making them wade through Analytics data they don’t need.
The Google Analytics dashboard is a fantastic tool. Used well, it can save you a lot of time and move you closer to becoming a truly data-driven marketer.
But it does have limitations.
The primary limitation has to be that it’s not possible to track people individually, particularly if you want to observe how they behave over a course of time, like through their buyer’s journey. For that, you’ll need a CRM or marketing automation platform (or both).
But if you’re okay with tracking how groups of people behave, and looking for trends in how they respond to specific digital assets and actions, Google Analytics is great.
And now that you know how to slice and dice the reports so everyone can see the information they want, Analytics should be even more useful to you.
Back to you
Are you using Google Analytics dashboards? Do you have different ones for different user profiles at your company? Which dashboard is your favorite? Leave a comment to tell us what you think.