Is your business drowning in too much Analytics data?

Find out how to set up and use a custom real-time Google Analytics dashboard. Ian Howie takes us through the process.

Google Analytics provides a wealth of data to any website owner. However, it’s not always easy to find the data that’s most useful to you, so a custom Analytics dashboard can save you time and focus your attention on the details that you really need to think about. Here’s an example of how that can be put into practice.

Jon runs a successful Internet based business. His website is a valuable source of leads. Jon is running Google AdWords, but his time is limited, so he’s using Google Analytics real-time reports to get important insights.

Some of the insights that Jon has gained from real-time Analytics are:

  • He gets to see if his Google AdWords campaigns are running correctly
  • He can see visitor information such as website browser, how many are first time or new visitors, and the real world locations they are coming from
  • He’s able to compare how PPC is working compared to other channels such as SEO, Display, Social Media, Email, etc.
  • He can spot 404 and other website errors that could be costing him customers
  • He gains an insight into how customers are using his website

While all of this insight is available in the Standard Google Analytics reports, Jon has found that a single custom built real time dashboard report can instantly help to pinpoint areas that need attention.

Custom Google Analytics real-time dashboard

The standard Google Analytics real-time overview report looks like this:

This report tells you the number of visitors, top website referrals, keywords and pages, together with a world map showing where your visitors are from.

However, to get really useful insights into Google AdWords traffic Jon would have to drill much deeper.

What about just one dashboard report that would give an overview with all the detail Jon needs?

For Jon I created a custom real time dashboard that you can install here:

Just click on the link and select the Google Analytics profile you want it to load into.

The Dashboard looks like this:

This Dashboard uses an Acquisition / Behaviour / Conversion (A/B/C) analytics framework.

Each of the three columns focuses on either Acquisition, Behaviour or Conversion.

The Acquisition column

The Acquisition column is the left hand column and focuses on the clicks to your website.

This column is made up of three real time dashboard widgets.

The Active Visitors per channel widget gives an overall view of your marketing channels with the number and percentage of active visitors. This widget instantly lets you see how your PPC is performing against your other marketing efforts.

The Top 10 Keywords shows keywords, by active users and percentage of active users. Unlike Google’s standard real-time report, this report tells you if the keywords were PPC (paid search) or Organic search. Great for instantly comparing the two type of search keywords.

The final Acquisition widget covers website referrals - clicks from ads or links on other websites). It also shows the referral path (the place where your visitor came from), so you can see which page the click or ad was triggered from, allowing you to optimise your links and ads.

The Behaviour column

The Behaviour column is the middle column and focuses on your website visitors.

The first Behaviour widget is the Active Visitors. This widget shows the total number of visitors right now. Under the total you will see a blue and green bar showing you the split between new and returning visitors. Some businesses will want more new visitors, some will want more returning visitors and many will want a mix of the two.

The second widget is the breakdown of Visitors by Web Browser. In Jon’s case you will see a lot of visitors using Safari and Chrome. Different audiences use different web browsers. In Jon’s case he has a number of visitors who are students using Safari or Chrome on a Mac to view his website.

The final widget is a map to show Visitors by Location. The map is extremely useful. For instance, if you see a lot of visitors from say, New York, but don’t see orders from them, a good question is why not? Either you can investigate why and fix that problem, or you can exclude that location from Google AdWords.

The Conversion column

The Conversion column is the right hand column and focuses on your webpages.

There are two widgets for the Conversion column - the Page Timeline and the Active Pages widgets. The timeline will show you how busy your website is over a thirty minute window. This helps you see if your traffic is steady or coming in bursts or coming in at all. If you have a busy website –– but no orders or calls or form completions, then it's time to deep dive into the Google Analytics traffic flow or conversion reports.

The second widget is the current Active Pages widget. If you’re thinking about your conversion rate, the question to ask is "are any of these pages leading your customers down a sales path or are they just bouncing off your site?"

With this report, you can see what channel (PPC, Organic, Referral, Social, Email etc) visitors came from – useful for checking, for example, to see if all your PPC visitors just stay on the landing page. You can tailor this report - for instance you could exclude your homepage or only include pages relevant to your marketing campaign.

Advanced Segments

A huge advantage of using this custom real-time report rather than Google’s standard reports is that you can use Advanced Segments. Advanced Segments allow you to see smaller subsets of the overall traffic. For instance you could choose to only see the PPC traffic, or just traffic that leads to a conversion.

To select an Advanced Segment –– select the drop down next to All Visits (highlighted below).

To select only PPC traffic –– select Paid Search Traffic segment (highlighted below).

Now click on the X on the top right of the All Visits. You will now see only Paid Search Traffic as the segment selected.

Editing the widgets

Another advantage of using custom real-time dashboards is that you can customise each widget.

To edit a widget, put your mouse on the right hand side of each row. You will see a little pencil and a X appear. Click on the pencil to edit the Widget.

When in edit mode you can choose what type of widget you want it to be by clicking on the icon. You can then select the metric (in blue) and configure your dimensions (shown in green).

The simple dashboard that helped Jon with his business can also help you with your business. Real-time analytics can be a powerful tool, helping you steer your thinking and focusing your efforts.

Remember, the template you download is just that. You should customize it to your business and your needs, and it'll become a powerful addition to your analytics toolset.