If you’re here, you’re interested in learning how to create your first custom Google Analytics dashboard (or how to best utilize your current dashboard). Setting up a dashboard is a great way to check in on your website’s key metrics in a timely manner.
Looking through report after report individually to find several different reporting views can be cumbersome. Dashboards consolidate multiple reporting views into one, easy-to-access spot in your reporting tab for quick reference. This allows for quick, day-to-day site metric check-ins without having to spend more time than necessary in Google Analytics.
What Are Google Analytics Dashboards?
Google defines analytics dashboards as:
“A collection of widgets that give you an overview of the reports and metrics you care about most. Dashboards let you monitor many metrics at once, so you can quickly check the health of your accounts or see correlations between different reports. Dashboards are easy to create, customize and share.”
Simply put, dashboards are your one-stop shop for viewing your website's key metrics.
Before we get into the tutorial, it's important to understand some of the elements that make up dashboards.
Depending on how in-depth you’d like to get with your dashboard, you may want to brush up on your regex (regular expressions) although it is not required. Of course, you can always consult a cheat sheet should you need it.
The Dashboard Basics
A dashboard is made up of up to 12 widgets. Google defines widgets as:
“a mini-report, which can display your data in a number of presentation styles, including simple numeric metrics, tables, and charts. You can define widgets within the Dashboard itself as well. Widgets can provide snapshots of and link to standard or custom reports.”
Widgets are the meat of the dashboard. They will provide the actual data that you want to keep tabs on.
There are six different types of widgets:
1. Metric: displays a simple numeric representation of a single selected metric.
- Why use this view? It is good for simple data grabs. For example, pulling only organic traffic metrics.
2. Timeline: displays a graph of the selected metric over time. You can compare this to a secondary metric.
- Why use this view? This view can highlight trending data. For example, pulling site traffic and comparing year over year traffic fluxes.
3. Geomap: displays a map of the selected region, with the specified metric plotted on the map. Hover over the map to see the actual metric values.
- Why use this view? This will help you better understand where your traffic is coming from. You might want to use this for a specific landing page or an entire traffic medium.
4. Table: displays up to 2 metrics describing the selected dimension, laid out in tabular format.
- Why use this view? This is helpful for highlighting multiple metrics. For example, highlighting goal completions and unique sessions for all organic traffic.
5. Pie: displays a pie chart of the selected metric grouped by a dimension. Mouse over a slice to see the specific metric values.
- Why use this view? This view is great for seeing percentages. For example, highlighting web traffic by medium. This may bring to surface that a big chunk of your traffic is only coming from one or two mediums.
6. Bar: displays a bar chart of the selected metric grouped by up to 2 dimensions. Mouse over a slice to see the specific metric values.
- Why use this view? This view is great for comparing month to month and year over year data. For example, comparing all medium traffic in February to all medium traffic in January. You will easily be able to see where gains and drop offs occurred.
Before you begin the process of creating your dashboard, think about what metrics you’d like to keep tabs on. Do you want one big dashboard that highlights many key metrics? Do you want multiple themed dashboards - one for social, one for blogging, etc? This is the most important step as you want to build a powerful dashboard that will ultimately save you time and headaches!
For this tutorial I’ll begin by creating a dashboard that highlights a few key metrics. This would be good for a general overview report. Let’s get to it.
Building Your Dashboard
Now that you understand the basic features of a dashboard, you can set one up to highlight the key metrics you’re interested in. Let’s get to it.
- Log in to your Google Analytics account - http://www.google.com/analytics/
- Click on your reporting tab
- Click on the top left button that reads “Dashboards”
- Click on “New Dashboard”
- Type in your Dashboard title, for this example, I’ll use “Key Metrics”
- You should now see a screen wanting you to create your first widget
SEO Traffic Widget Example
For this first example, I’d like to create a basic widget. I’m going to highlight how much organic traffic my site is getting (great data to keep an eye on if you’re doing SEO work for your website).
- Click on the Standard Metric view
- “Show the following metric” should be set to “Sessions”
- We want to filter the data to only show Organic traffic
Your widget should look like the above example. When ready, click save and let’s move on to our next widget example.
Landing Page Traffic Widget Example
The landing page widget is good for monitoring blog posts, contact pages, register pages, etc. To set it up, simply follow these steps:
- Click on “+ Add Widget”
- Click on the Standard Table view
- Under “Display the following columns”, find Landing Page
- Click on “Sessions” as the metric
- We want to filter the data to only show certain landing pages, so you can either type in certain key phrases for your landing pages like “/products” or you can use a regular expression to get more detailed
In our example, regex is being utilized to only pull session metrics for five specific landing pages.
Once you have entered in the pages you’d like to see metrics for, click save.
We now have a base to our new dashboard! Remember, you can add up to 12 widgets, so experiment with the view that works best for you.
You also have a number of different layout options to choose from, so feel free to test out multiple views.
Utilizing Your Dashboard
There are many ways to use your dashboard efficiently, but here are some ways you can use your newly created dashboard to help you analyze data:
- Quickly compare month to month and year over year data by changing your analytics date range
- Export the dashboard as a pdf and use as a nice monthly or weekly report
- Schedule the report to email to you or someone on your team on a monthly, weekly, or daily basis
- Move your dashboard from private to shared so other users can view the dashboard when they sign in to Google Analytics
- Link your widgets to specific reporting views.
- Using our above widget 1 example, you can link to the organic pageviews report under the Acquisition tab and link that to your dashboard widget. Now, when the dashboard widget is clicked, it will take you specifically to that reporting view for more information.
Now that you know how to set up a dashboard, you are ready to start creating your own. Remember that you can set up multiple views so it is not necessary to cram all of the information you might possibly need into one dashboard.
Experiment with different views and widgets to find the configuration that best fits your reporting needs. There are an endless number of opportunities to analyze your data using dashboards. It’s up to you to determine the best way for you!
About the author
Dan Kipp is the Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager guru at Marcel Digital. He loves traveling, cooking, sports, and spending spare time with friends and family.