How to Use Dashboards in Google Analytics

Over the last few posts, I wrote an introduction to Google Analytics and UTM’s and a guide to tracking conversions. Those guides will help you get all of your data set up and tracking your users, but you probably want to know what you should be looking at when browsing through your Google Analytics. There are hundreds of pages and sets of data inside your analytics which can be overwhelming. You could spend hours going through it all and still not be sure what is going on. Luckily, there is a feature that makes things much easier. This feature is called dashboards.

What are Dashboards in Google Analytics?

Google Analytics Default Dashboard

Dashboards are simple pages that include several different graphs and sets of data that correspond to each other. Usually a dashboard will be built around a particular focus. For example, you may have an eCommerce dashboard that shows all the important data sets concerning what affects purchases on your site. Another example would be a content marketing dashboard that helps you see what pages and posts get most traffic from what sources and which convert better.

By utilizing dashboards, you can see all the relevant data from Google Analytics in a meaningful way. Click To Tweet

By utilizing dashboards, you can easily see all the relevant data you need in a meaningful way without having to hunt through all the pages yourself. Each set of data and graphs are referred to as a “widget”. For example, on a content marketing dashboard, you may have a widget that shows the posts with the highest bounce rate so you can see what posts you may want to improve. You may also include a widget that shows the campaigns from a particular social network that convert the best. Let’s take a look at an example dashboard.

Google Analytics Example Dashboard

In the image above, we have an example dashboard with some widgets that are relevant to tracking eCommerce. In the top left, we have the “Transactions by Source” widget. This widget is listing the top sources of traffic sorted by the revenue brought in. At a quick glance, we can see which sources may be sending more converting users. The next widget shows us the pages that have the highest amount of exits so we can see pages that we may want to improve. The pie graphs on the right show us the percentages of the medium that users are coming to the site through. Finally, we have two example line graphs. One keeps track of revenue and the other tracks users and sessions. There are hundreds of different widgets that you could use and they will differ depending on the type of data that you want or need to keep track of.

How to Set Up Dashboards

When you log in to Google Analytics, you will find the Dashboards along the left navigation like in the image below.

Google Analytics Dashboard Link

Your site will already have an example dashboard called “My Dashboard” which has some example widgets to get you started. However, you will probably want to create different dashboards focusing on different sets of data. For example, you may have an eCommerce dashboard, a social media tracking dashboard, an email marketing dashboard, and others. When you first start out, you will likely be unsure where to begin and what types of widgets you want to use. Fortunately there is a dashboard gallery where you can import many different examples to get going.

To import a dashboard from the gallery, begin by clicking the “New Dashboard” link like in the image above. From there you will see a window appear where you can select to create a brand new dashboard. In the bottom right will be a button labelled “Import from Gallery”.

Google Analytics New Dashboard Popup

Clicking that button will open a new popup that will list hundreds of dashboard examples to choose from. Browse through the list to find ones that sound relevant to you. You can always modify the dashboard in the future. For my example, I will be choosing one titled “Site Performance Dashboard”. Once you choose one, click the “Import” button underneath it.

Google Analytics Importing Site Performance Dashboard

Once the dashboard is imported, you will be redirected to your new dashboard. Browse through all of your widgets to see what the data says and how useful it is to you. You may come across a widget that needs to be modified or deleted. To do so, you can click on one of the icons in the top right corner of the widget which appears when you hover over it.

Google Analytics Dashboard Widget

Clicking the edit icon will open a new popup that will allow you to modify the title, type, and data sets of the widget. Take some time to see how each of the widgets in your new dashboard are set up so you can begin to see how these different settings can be tweaked to get the exact data sets and displays that are most helpful for you.

Google Analytics Dashboard Widget Settings

Make Your Life Easier By Having the Dashboards Emailed to You

For dashboards to be beneficial, you have to get in the habit of checking them once they’re set up. Google Analytics has options to export or email you the dashboard. Along the top of the dashboard you will find options for sharing, emailing, and exporting.

Google Analytics Email Dashboard Settings

Using the email option, you can set up the dashboard to be emailed to you daily, weekly, monthly, or quarterly so you can review it. Normally I suggest getting the dashboard emailed to you weekly. Not much will happen each day to receive it daily. You will end up over-analyzing and spending a lot more time with it. However, you don’t usually want to wait a month to review the data in case something major changes that may affect your traffic.

What’s Next?

Now that you have your UTM’s set up, tracking your eCommerce and conversions, and have your dashboards set up, it’s time to start using this data to improve your site’s traffic and conversions. The best strategy is to focus on one thing at a time and make small testable changes. For example, you could start with trying to improve the amount of traffic that comes from social media, so you would want to test different posts and tweets and different times which you can now track using UTM’s. Or you may want to improve your conversion rates, so you would use an A/B testing service to test different call to actions, headlines, and more.

In future posts, I will go over more topics for Google Analytics such as filters as well as strategies for improving your conversions. Be sure to subscribe to my newsletter to be the first to know when the posts are published!

Getting Started with Google Analytics

Imagine that your site is getting thousands of visitors per day. Now imagine that about 100 of them are spending money on the site. Obviously, you probably want to get more of the users that are spending money on the site but how do you know where these users are coming from? Or, how do you know what actions they take while on your site before spending money?

What is website analytics?

This is where website analytics comes in. Website analytics collects data about who our site visitors are, where they are coming from, and what they are doing on our sites. We can see where information about our site visitors such as where they are located, the languages they speak, and the devices they used to view your website.

We can also see information about how site visitors got to our site and which pages they spent the most time on. Additionally, we can see what actions they took on the website such as watching a video, signing up for a newsletter, or adding a product to a shopping cart.

Without website analytics, how do you know where your site visitors are coming from and what they are doing? Click To Tweet

By having all this data within one place, we can analyze the different paths visitors take to complete actions on our sites. We can then look into which marketing channels we are using that are the most profitable. This helps us to ensure we are optimizing our marketing to save us time and money.

There are many services out there that offer analytics for your website. Some of the most popular ones include Clicky, MixPanel, Heap Analytics, Fathom Analytics, and Kissmetrics. The most popular service is Google Analytics.

Google Analytics is not only free for most people, but it is also powerful and user-friendly. Even better, you can link it to your Search Console and Google Ads if you use them to add even more information into your reports.

The basics

Before we can get too far with using Google Analytics, there are some terminology and concepts that we want to explore first.

Our first round of definitions correlates to the different levels within your Google Analytics account.

Account

Inside your Google Analytics account, you can have different “accounts” for the different companies or brands that you’re using analytics with. For most people who are only using Google Analytics for their one site, they will only have one account. If you are using Google Analytics with your clients, you may have different accounts for each of your clients.

These accounts are all within your Google Analytics account, so you only have the one login to get into and work with these accounts.

Property

Inside each of the accounts, you can have different properties. These properties are individual sites or apps. For example, if you are using Google Analytics for your own site only, you may have one account with one property in it. If you have multiple websites for your company, you may have several properties within your account.

If you have clients who have multiple sites, you may have different accounts for each client and then different properties within those accounts for each site for that client.

View

Inside each property will be “views”. These views are where the data is actually stored and where you will be reviewing your data. Each “view” is a set of data within a property. For many sites, you only need one main view. However, there may be times where you have a variety of different views to analyze different subsets of data. We will look more into views in a future email.

Our next round of terms focuses on the data that is in Google Analytics.

User

This is a single individual visitor to your website. When a visitor comes to your site for the first time, Google Analytics creates a unique ID for that user and stores a cookie in their browser. If the visitor comes back to your site, Google Analytics will look for the cookie to determine if this is a new or returning user.

Session

This is a single visit by a site visitor. If someone comes to your site and views several pages, that is one session. If the person comes back next week to view some more pages, that would be considered a different session. By default, Google Analytics ends a session after 30 minutes of inactivity. So, if a person browses your site, leaves, and then comes back a few hours later, that would be two different sessions by the same user on that day.

Browsing Your Google Analytics

Now that we have a basic understanding of Google Analytics, let’s take a look through some of the content in the service. First, we can look at the Audience page to see some overview data about our traffic and its visitors.

Google Analytics Audience Overview

On this page, we can see a graph of the number of sessions that the site has had. We can also see the number of users, sessions, page views, pages per session, average session duration, and more.

We can then dive into the Audience section to compare the visitors based on a variety of data such as what language they speak, where they are geographically, what type of device they are using to view your site, and more.

Google Analytics Audience Location

Now, let’s take a look at the Acquisition section. In this section, we can discover where the users are coming from. By default, Google Analytics will break down the channels by search, direct access, social, and referrers as you can see in the image below.

Google Analytics Acquisition Overview

You can then dive into each channel further to learn more about where the users come from in that channel like in this image:

Google Analytics Acquisition Social

Setting up Google Analytics

Now that you know a bit about Google Analytics and what it can do, it is time to get it set up on your website. The first step is to go to Google Analytics and set up your account. You can sign in with your Google account and then you will want to add a property for your website during their guided setup.

If you are using WordPress, there is a really simple plugin called Google Analytics Dashboard for WP that allows you to simply log in with your Google account and then the plugin will automatically set up Google Analytics for your site. It even displays some basic traffic data in your WordPress dashboard so you can easily keep track when you log into your site. This is the plugin I actually use for this site.

If you are not using WordPress, most CMS’s and platforms have a simple process for setting up Google Analytics so be sure to check out your platform’s documentation or reach out to their support. Lastly, Google Analytics will give you some code when you create your account. So, if you know how, you could simply copy and paste their code into your site and not have to worry about any integration tools at all.

What’s Next

Once you have your Google Analytics set up, there are a few more things you can do to better analyze your data. You can track your conversions and create dashboards to quickly see your most important data.

You can also use UTMs to create custom campaigns and get more specific data.

From there, you can track specific user events such as when a user clicks a submit button or downloads a document. If you are interested in learning more, refer to this article on event tracking with onclick.