Google Analytics is a free tool that tracks each little interaction that your visitors have with your website. In fact it's the standard measurement tool for around 50 million websites across the world.
In it's most basic form people use Google Analytics to answer the question "how many people visited my website" but you can also use it to tell you what pages people visited, how long they stayed, what device and browser they were using, where in the world they are from and hundreds of other facts.
This is where most people get confused however. There is just too much information in Google Analytics for the average person and it's hard to know exactly where to start. Sometimes Google Analytics just ends up in the "too hard" basket and no one looks beyond the most basic facts.
But tracking how people use your website is vital! Especially if you want to make tweaks to your site or leverage the things that are working best.
"You can't manage what you can't measure" - Peter Drucker.
Wouldn't it be great if you could filter all those statistics into a simple report, a digestible set of meaningful information that could influence your decisions?
This is where a custom Google Analytics Dashboard comes in and I'll show you how to install on in your own Google Analytics account in under a minute.
What is a custom Google Analytics Dashboard?
It's a simple report that you can create for your own website, answering just the most important questions to you in a single glance.
This means that with a click of a button you can have a single report that answers 12 of your most burning questions about your website. (p.s. you can have multiple reports too). Each report is completely customisable, allowing you to choose what information is most relevant to you and your business.
Creating your own Dashboard is simple. After logging into Google Analytics just click on Reporting > Dashboards > New Dashboard.
Then it's just a matter of "adding widgets" and customising each to suit your purpose.
But there's an easier way! You can just import a pre-made Google Analytics Dashboard template that will work immediately with your analytics.
The main benefit here is that someone else has already done the hard work in configuring each "widget" to display the most relevant information for you. And of course I have a Basic RBT Google Analytics Dashboard that I'm super happy for you to use. Just check out the "how to implement this tip" below for steps how to install this dashboard in under a minute.
My Basic RBT Google Analytics Dashboard
Every website project I work on has this Google Analytics Dashboard installed (plus I automate the process so that a PDF version is automatically emailed to the business owner on the first day of each month covering last months web traffic).
Broadly speaking the Dashboard is divided into 3 columns: how did visitors arrive on your website, what did they do when they got there, and who are they (demographics).
The twelve questions that the Basic RBT Google Analytics Dashboard answers are:
- What countries do your website visitors live? (Eg, is most of your traffic coming from Australia, or from other parts of the world). If you run a local shoe shop and you notice that most of your traffic is coming from the UK then you should consider improving your local search engine optimisation to get in front of more locals.
- In what Australian cities do your visitors live? Eg, Melbourne, Sydney, Ballarat, etc. Again, if your visitors aren't local and you especially want local then you should consider changing your local SEO. Note, this data is tracked by IP address, so accuracy is limited (if I'm sitting in Alexandra but I'm using a broadband provider who is based in Melbourne then I may show as a Melbourne visitor). But the information is great as a guide.
- What words did people type into Google to find you? Unfortunately you can get better data for this inside Google Search Console (often you'll see "not provided" as a line here), but it's still a good guide. You may find that most people discover your website by Googling your name, your town, one of your products, etc. This should influence what content you need to write more on in the future.
- What channel people visited your website from. You can easily see here how many people visited your website directly (eg, typed your URL into the address bar), came via Google search, clicked on a link in Facebook, etc. Let's say you put 20 posts in Facebook last month, and 20 in Twitter. This chart will show you which channel is performing better.
- How many people visited your website. This is just a simple number that tracks the number of unique visitors to your website.
- How much web traffic you received each day. Is a timeline chart that looks at the number of visits your website received on a daily basis. Do more of your website visitors come on a weekend, or on a Tuesday? Is there a spike on a certain day because of a PR article you had in the newspaper or an email newsletter that you sent? This helps you understand what you did that drove more traffic (and thus what you should do more of).
- Which pages were most popular. This is a table of the top 10 most visited pages. A page called "/" is your homepage, and every other page should be easy to recognise. Do you need to check the content on a highly visited page is still current? Would you have expected another page to perform better? These are questions that will influence where you invest your time.
- How many people completed my primary goal. Goals are a hidden treasure in Google Analytics, and something I cover in one-on-one consulting with businesses as each goal is tailored to each website. A goal could be 'someone who visited more than 3 pages on my website in one session', or 'someone who bought more than $300 of product on my website' (or any other reasonable statistic). The secret sauce of Google Analytics is then filtering all your data based on your goals (eg, what was the average spend of visitors from Facebook versus visitors who came from LinkedIn... therefore what channel is delivering a better ROI). If you have goals set up then completion rates (each day) will be shown here for your first goal.
- What percentage of your traffic is a returning visitor? In most cases you want your returning traffic to be much higher than your new visitors (which implies that people want to keep coming back to your site).
- What percentage of your traffic viewed your website from a mobile device. This is a simple pie chart that shows desktop, tablet and mobile visitors. It's important to optimise your website for your greatest number of visitors (eg, if 75% of your visitors view your website from a mobile phone then you need to ensure your website is very mobile friendly).
- Which Internet browsers do your visitors use? Again, this will give you information on how you need to optimise your website as all browsers work slightly differently. Although I don't expect you to manage the code on your website it's still important, for example, to see if a large portion of your visitors use Firefox that you have at least looked at your own website in Firefox to ensure you're happy with how it looks/works.
- How old are your website visitors? Website demographics (age, gender, etc) is available to your Google Analytics with a click of a few buttons and the results are sometimes surprising. Are your images and text (and design in general) appropriate for your audience? If the average age of your website visitor is 55yrs then consider content that really resonates with that demographic.
All this information is available to you with a click of a few buttons. Alternatively you can use this Dashboard as a base and customise/configure it better suit the questions you want to ask of your website.
How to Implement this Tip
- Make sure you have Google Analytics installed on your website.
- Make sure you have access (username/password) to a Google Analytics account that is associated with your website's Google Analytics profile.
- Click on this link - http://snip.ly/j1ax6.
- A new page will open and you will be asked to log in to your Google Analytics account (see step 2), and which website you would like to assign the dashboard too (see step 1).
- Done! It's as simple as that.
Examples of Use
A community association was using their website to write valuable opinion pieces for their industry. By paying attention to their analytics they stayed abreast of what articles resonated best with their readers, and which channels their content was being shared more virally in. With this in mind they tailored a new social media strategy that was guaranteed a high impact.