Google Analytics: Why Build a Custom Dashboard

Monday, June 1st, 2015

One of the dangers of such a comprehensive data gathering tool as Google Analytics is overwhelming yourself and your clients with useless, excessive information. There are so many metrics to measure with so many possible variations that it is easy to become lost. To help navigate this, GA provides a default dashboard and reports intended to give a general overview of the site, which they do. However general overviews don’t provide the information required to truly understand and optimise your site, and to fully utilise the service you need to get specific.

Custom dashboards allow you to filter the information that comes through, selecting specific metrics and segments of your audience to view so that the data is useful and relevant, and fulfils the specific goal of the dashboard. You can then use these presets to share data quickly and easily. These goals should directly relate to the person that dashboard has been created for – what their interest is and what their desired outcomes are. Therefore before creating a custom dashboard, it is important to ask the following questions:

  • Who is going to see this dashboard?
  • What aspects of the website are they most concerned with?
  • Which metrics will most accurately reflect their success or lack of in this area?

Step-by-Step: Setting Up A Custom Dashboard

Dashboards are found in the left hand menu.dashboard menu The dashboards that you create that can only be seen by yourself and others with access to the Analytics profile will be listed under Private. You can also share dashboards so that other people can see them.

Start a new dashboard by hitting New Dashboard in the left-hand menu bar.

Next, choose to start with a Blank Canvas – a custom report should be 100% personalised for the intended user. Name it after them, so it’s easy for them to locate when they log in.

Now comes the potentially tricky part – deciding which graphs and data to display as Widgets.

dashboard widgets

This is why the above questions are so essential – there is a huge range of widgets to choose from and it’s up to you to determine the best ones. Talk to the intended user and find out what numbers are important to them, and add only what they need. Cluttered dashboards are useless and intimidating. If they begin to want more information, you can always add more widgets later.

For this example, we’ll create a dashboard for the member of our SEO team who is purely responsible for acquiring more visitors. Their job is quantity over quality and not related to conversions or goals.

For this person, the following numbers are important:

  • How many people came to the site
  • How many new visitors came to the site
  • What search term new visitors arrived by
  • Which websites new visitors are coming from

Of course there could be many other possibilities, such as which locations have directed the most traffic and what language they were using, but an ideal dashboard is simple and can be used almost every day to provide a relevant overview into the user’s interest and goals. Further details can be gained through reports and drill-downs, so try to be selective with the widgets you put on your dash.

From here, it is simply a matter of selecting the correct data and filters.

For measuring how many people came to the site, Unique Users is the most accurate statistic for an SEO consultant. We can add this under metrics very simply.

add users widget

Click Save and presto! The Unique Visitors widget appears on your new dash.

You can also mix metrics and dimensions, to further specify your data. For instance, you can find out what device users are viewing the website on:

combine widget

As you can see, we have selected Mobile Device Info as our Dimension and Users as our Metric. You can also add a second Metric if you would like to compare results.

You could also display this as a Pie Chart, particularly if simplicity and readability is valued over detail for that particular user.

Filters can be added to narrow down the data and make it even more valuable for that user – for example, if this SEO agent was purely focused on Australian traffic, a filter could be used to only show Australian numbers.

There are hundreds of combinations possible through different metrics, dimensions and filters and it’s worth taking some time out to just try out a few and see which provide the most relevant information for the dashboard user. You can then simply drag and drop the widgets to arrange them in the best order, usually in order of Overview > Details > Goals/Outcomes.

The key to designing a good dashboard is a balance between relevancy and simplicity; create the specific widgets you need, and nothing more.

Related Posts: Getting Started, An Introduction To Top Reports, Goals and Conversions, In-Page Analysis, Sharing Data, Social Media

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Mark started in the Internet industry in 1994 working with one of Canterbury’s first Internet Service Providers. In 1997 Rocket launched New Zealand Tourism Online and then Avatar Web Promotions in 1998. New Zealand Tourism Online was sold to Telecom Yellow Pages in 2006. Mark enjoys meeting with Avatar’s clients and strategising winning Web solutions. When not at Avatar HQ, Mark’s into playing tennis, going on family camping trips and supporting the private space industry.

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