What to do when standard reports aren’t enough

Remember when you first started working with Google Analytics? I bet you got into the interface, started poking around, and thought, “Cool! There’s so much data here, I don’t even know where to start!” It might have seemed like there was nothing the interface didn’t already do. You might have simply been overwhelmed by all the pretty graphs.

But then at some point, the honeymoon period ended, and you found yourself asking a question of your data, and realizing that there’s just not a report for that. Heck, there might not even be data for that. Facepalm.

But there’s good news! For any question you’re asking of your data, there’s most likely a way to configure Analytics to either give you the chart you want with the data you have, or, if you’re not collecting the data yet, get you the data so that you can then get the chart you want. (Any question within reason, of course – obviously Google Analytics is not going to be able to tell you how many of your visitors are wearing blue underwear or what they ate for breakfast this morning)

Odds are, you’re frustrated with your Analytics reporting for one (or more)  of four basic reasons. Figuring out which one can help you identify your next steps.

Potential Reason 1: Your reports are showing you too much

You want to look at a more specific subset of information. Let’s say you don’t want to look at all of the visits from your entire site, you just want to look at visits from iOS devices in the Bay Area.

Solutions to Reason 1:  Filters!

What you need is a filter. A filter shows you a particular subset of your data based upon certain criteria that you define. In Google Analytics, there are three different types of filters based upon how widely you want to apply your filter criteria, ranging from the report-level filter, which only applies the filter to one table or widget, to the profile-level filter, which is applied across your entire profile. Learn more about filters.

Potential Reason 2: You’re seeing all the data you want, just not in the format you want.

The standard reports, for example, have one report area for visits and another report area for conversions. Wouldn’t it be useful to see visits and conversions by source – side by side?

Solution to Reason 2: Customize your reports and dashboards.

Potential Reason 3:  The default dimensions don’t line up with your business objectives.

Let’s say that you don’t want to look at visits segmented by state, you’d rather look at visits segmented by your company’s sales regions, which might involve combinations of different states and metro areas.

Or, to give another example, the default source and medium tracking in Google Analytics might not be telling you the right information about your traffic. You may be running online display ads that are being recorded as “Referral” or “Direct” traffic with the source listed as the website hosting the ad.

Solution to Reason 3: URL tracking parameters or custom variables

The best solution depends upon the nature of the problem. If you want to set up a custom configuration of a dimension related to traffic generation sources, you may want to look into using url parameters to improve tracking. If you want to set up a dimension related to audience demographics, such as custom geography or audience engagement, such as , you may  be better served by implementing custom variables.

Potential Reason 4: You’re not tracking the data

Let’s say you want to know more about how your visitors are interacting with your video content. Which videos are they watching? What fraction of visits contain video views? By default, Google Analytics is simply not set up to tell you that. The cookie doesn’t track video plays. But guess what?

Solution to Reason 4: Event Tracking

You can set it up your Analytics tracking code to track such specific events as video plays, form field completions, and other behaviors. Some people even get really clever track whether or not visitors read pages or just skim them.  Read more about how to set up event tracking.

Did I miss something? Let me know if you don’t think your Google Analytics frustration can be attributed to one of my four reasons.

 

 

 

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