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I’ve always enjoyed working with Google Analytics, mostly because of just how easy it is to use the app, and how much information you can extract out of it if you know where to look. I also like the fact that a number of third-party applications can plug-into your Analytics account, like Trakkboard, a desktop app that I reviewed a while back.
One thing that I’ve always wanted to get working better with Analytics is an automated reporting feature that provides the information that I want and in the format that is easy for whoever needs to see the data, to understand what it means.
I put together the best available method that I knew of a few years ago, using Google Analytics customized reporting, combined with what at least I considered to be a creative use of Gmail filtering to auto-forward reports to whoever needs to see them. This has worked well, but it’s a little clunky and I found it difficult to caress the metrics and dimensions to get what I wanted out of Analytics.
Google Custom Reporting Changes
Recently, Google has made a few changes to Google Analytics custom reporting that has made it much easier to work with. Additionally, I really like how the method to set up automatic emails has changed as well. The entire process is a lot more streamlined and easier to understand.
To get started, click on the “Custom Reporting” tab when you’re in your main Analytics display screen.
Now, you can create all sorts of specialized reports to display the information you want. Later I’ll show you how easy it is to set up individual email schedules for each report. In my case, I want to offer my boss a monthly tally of some traffic statistics, as well as a breakdown of top performing segments within the website. For an example, MUO Directory or MUO Answers (which everyone knows is doing exceedingly well!)
Click on Add New Report, and then on the next screen you’ll configure your report on this one single form. It’s seriously that easy. Type in the report title – in this case it’s the monthly traffic totals – and then start laying out your metrics.
Metrics are the field names that will be in your output report. For example, I want to see total Pageviews for the entire month, so I’ll choose “Pageviews” as a metric.
As you can see here, I’ve also added Unique Pageviews, Visits, and Average Visit Duration. There are a long list of metrics that you can get data for in these reports, just try exploring to see what’s available to you.
Once you save your report, you’ll see the data “view” mode where you can actually view the output of the conditions you’ve set up. In this case it’s relatively simple, the daily totals are listed in table format and as a graphical chart.
I made a mistake though – see it? I put the dimension as “Daily“, so I received daily totals. The dimension is essentially what shows up in the left column of each row – it’s how you want to break down or organize the data. Changing it to “Month of Year” fixed my problem so I could view the data for the month.
You can also add additional tabs to a single report, so long as you aren’t using a filter (I’ll show you filters below). This is another new feature in Custom Reports, and it makes it a lot easier to consolidate similar data or reports in one place. Just click on “add report tab” and a new report tab will appear, with a new report entry form.
So, in this case I’m adding new reports for monthy data, such as monthly traffic using MUO search, or monthly totals for referrals. How do you tally referrals? It’s not too hard, but it boils down to breaking down the data in the form of additional data, rather than a date.
As you can see below, I’m keeping the metrics pretty much the same, but making the dimension “Source” under the “Referrals” category. This will break down the traffic categorized by the referral source of that traffic.
As you can see, this is a nice, clean way to view what wonderful folks are sending you your traffic each month. Print out the report, and make sure to email each of those top referrers your sincere thanks for sending their visitors over to you.
The last thing I want to cover is getting reports that are a little more specific for sections of your site. For example, lets say you have a category of pages within a subdirectory – like MUO Directory for example. The URL for all of those pages have /dir/ in it.
Since this requires a filter, create a brand new report from the main Custom Reports page (not a new tab on your previous report), choose the same metrics, and for dimensions choose Page. You could also use destination page, landing page, or whatever you’re trying to look at. In this case I want to know all traffic going to that particular group of pages.
Halfway down the form, you’ll see a “Filters” area that’s optional. In my example, I’m going to include pages in my report that have the phrase “/dir/” in it, using “Regex” from the dropdown list. Now, my report will only show traffic of pages matching that URL pattern, as shown below.
Sweet, right? This really lets you create some specific reports about the overal traffic throughout the different areas of your site. You see the total pageview count under “Pageviews” above your Page list, and then the table at the bottom breaks it all down by individual pages, so you know what was the most popular.
Now that you’ve set up all of your reports, you want to ship them off to the big boss. Well, no longer do you have to use the creative Google filtering trick that I used when I covered this last. Now you can just click on “Email” at the top of the report page that you’ve created. In the email form, you can define who the report will be sent to, the subject line, what format it’ll be sent (PDF is awesome), and the frequency.
After testing out the email feature, I realized that it does exactly what I was trying to accomplish in my last article, only better and easier because it’s set up in the same place where you’ve configured your reports. It’s flexible and really convenient.
Have you tried the new Custom Reporting feature in Google Analytics? What’s your take – do you like the changes or find them more confusing? Share your own thoughts and opinions in the comments section below.
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