Stronger google analytics

If Your Google Analytics Isn’t Customized, You’re Doing it Wrong

Posted by Wes Mills on June 11, 2014

Google Analytics is a wonderful tool that offers a plethora of data and undoubtedly the most ubiquitous web analytics tool out there. With all of that data, it makes it incredibly easy to lose the signal through the noise — the less important metrics can easily overshadow your actionable insights. If you aren’t using custom segments or reports, you’re losing the signal.

Remember why you have Google Analytics

First and foremost, go back to your roots — remember why you use Google Analytics. It’s to gain actionable insight, measure results, and provide a foundation for future strategies.

Once upon a time, measuring a website’s success in terms of traffic was sufficient. But with mobile exploding and quickly taking over desktop and the data available to measure conversions, just looking at traffic isn’t enough.

Google Analytics offers a platform full of data that allows you to be as creative as you can and view your data in endless amounts of ways. I look at it as a blank canvas waiting for a picture to be painted.

Aggregate data is irrelevant: Advanced segments

Looking for real insights can be the hardest part of an analyst’s job. You have to ask the right questions, look at the right data, and test your hypotheses. Using advanced segments makes this much easier to do.

Advanced segments do exactly as the same would suggest: segment your data. However you could possibly image.

For example, you could have a segment with:

  • Mobile users on iOS devices
  • Have visited more than three times in your set time period
  • Between the ages of 25 and 34

If you’re running paid search campaigns, this is incredibly valuable if you’re testing your ad text and catering to a certain demographic. You can look at things like conversion rates, bounce rate, and other user engagement metrics.

Would you be able to gain this insight without segmenting? Absolutely not.

Why stop there? Because you can have more than one advanced segment filtering your data at one time, you can compare how different segments compare to each other. This is wonderful when looking at conversion data, because you’ll learn which segments are converting.

And if you’re clever, you can use the same data to figure out why.

There’s no “one size fits all” custom segment that will tell you everything you want to know. It starts with thinking about your website goals and objectives, and how you plan to meet them. And they are only as powerful as the reports you run them on. 

Custom reports

If custom reports aren’t a part of your regular website reporting, you’ve been stuck mining through data puke — and missing key metrics and best practices along the way.

The name “Custom reports” makes it sound more complicated than it is. In essence, you’re getting all of the metrics and dimensions from the standard Analytics reports and throwing them into your own spreadsheets. I’ll include a link below where you can download all of the custom reports Google Analytics Experts have put together for us to download.

One of my favorite and most useful reports is one by Avinash Kaushik.

Right here you can see how well each source of traffic performs. It lays out which traffic source and how many goal completions, among other user engagement metrics.

Another favorite report of mine, also by Avinash, is a mobile performance analysis.

Looking at this report can give you valuable insight, such as whether or not your website renders correctly on certain devices.

You can also see conversion data per each mobile operating system. If some mobile devices are converting and some aren’t, this is a great way to begin exploring that issue. It also can allow you to see how different mobile users are converting differently.

Overwhelmed with building your own custom reports? 

The Google Analytics Solutions Gallery has everything you need to get going on customizing Google Analytics. The Solutions Gallery is a crowdsourced website where other savvy Google Analytics users submit their custom reports, segments, and dashboards and allow you to download them for free.

The two I mentioned above can be found here in this download package, among many other valuable things like dashboards and custom segments.

While these are created by experts, there’s no “one size fits all” report that works for everything. Each of these reports can be edited easily and tailored to fit your business objectives. (When opening up the report under the customization tab, the “edit” button can be found just below the name of the report.)

When first diving in, it can be confusing deciphering the differences between metrics and dimensions. If you feel like you may have trouble, this article from Google is incredibly helpful.

Add your segments below

Do you have any custom segments or reports that you use regularly? Throw a link down in the comments below with a description of what it does.

The customization possibilities are endless and it’s wonderful to see how other people are leveraging this tool to work for their business.

If you want to get even more out of Google Analytics and leverage actionable insights that can help your marketing strategy, reach out to us!  

[Image credit: petantik, via Flickr]


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