Google Analytics Mini-Lesson: Customize Your Reports

Wanna Learn Web Analytics?

If you've spent any time peeking around in Google Analytics, you might have found a few useful nuggets of information about your website audience.  Google Analytics ("GA") is a great (free!) tool for measuring who comes to your site, where they come from, and what they do while visiting.  All valuable stuff, right?

If you're a complete newbie to GA, that's cool!  Please don't fret, my friend.  Sure, it takes a little time to learn the ropes in GA.  But there's good news: it's a pretty well-documented platform.  You can find detailed answers to common GA questions right here, direct from Google.  

...Of course, if that dry, technical jargon of the Google troubleshooting forum leaves you as glazed-over as a Krispy Kreme Cruller, then I suggest you take a look at some of my free (and, dare I say, fun) GA mini-lessons.  

Today's mini-lesson (below) assumes you've got a Google Analytics account and have already successfully installed the tracking code on your website.  If you're not quite there yet, never fear. Read this "getting started" mini-lesson.

Ok- Now For Today's Mini-Lesson...

THIS Google Analytics mini-lesson is all about customization.  

[NOTE: Today's mini-lesson includes a FREEBIE download of one of my own personal Google Analytics Custom Report templates. This Custom Report shows social media traffic to your website - but broken down to give you all sorts of magical ah-ha insights. I reference this Custom Report as an example a lil' further down in this post. You can go ahead and download it now- as a freebie- HERE].

Now, back to today's customization lesson.  :)

When you first log into your Google Analytics account, you'll see a few main categories of reports along the left-hand side of the screen:

The categories we see here are Dashboards, Shortcuts, Intelligence Events, Real-Time, Audience, Acquisition, Behavior, and Conversions.  (The ones I've bolded are the report sets I tend to use most often).  If you click on each category, you'll see a drop-down of report options to view.

I really encourage you to click around that beige left-hand menu and see which reports spark an interest for you.  These default reports offer you some really useful ways to examine your website's traffic.

But beyond those default reports, there are couple quick-and-easy ways to add another layer of customization

Custom Segments

The first trick I can teach you is to customize a GA default report using Segments.

To do this, first pull up a report you're kinda sorta interested in.  Think of this report as that guy you were buddies with in high school- he was really fun, y'all had plenty of similar interests, but he never quite made it out of the friend zone. There was just something about him that kept you from seeing him as Mr. Right.  ;)

For me, my Not-Quite-Mr-Right report can be found under Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels.  This report shows me my website traffic, broken down by the different channels that drove the traffic.  (In other words- how did my visitors reach my site?)  Default traffic channels GA lists here include:

  • Organic Search: Traffic from people who searched for something on a search engine (like Google) and then clicked on one of the non-advertisement listings
  • Direct: Traffic from people who navigated to my site on their own, perhaps clicking on a saved browser bookmark or entering the URL directly into the browser
  • Referral: Traffic from people who clicked on links from other websites pointing to my website
  • Social: Traffic from people who clicked on links from a social media platform (like Facebook or Twitter) pointing to my website
  • Paid Search: Traffic from people who clicked on ads to my website that I've placed on search engines or other websites
  • Email: Traffic from people who clicked on links inside email messages pointing to my website

And by default, GA includes some interesting performance metrics along the top of the report table. Sessions, New Users (as opposed to return visitors), Average Session Duration, Goal Completions, etc.  See what the default report table looks like here: 

That's quite a few metrics, mind you.  Good stuff.  

But sometimes I'm interested in only looking at data for traffic from a particular geographic area.  In this example, I'm going to segment my report to only show traffic from users in California.

One great way to achieve this customization is to apply what's called a Segment to this report view.  Here's how:

Check out this screenshot of my Not-Quite-Mr-Right report screen:  (Click to enlarge image)


See the area I've highlighted there? The box at the top of the report graph that says "Add segment"? That's the ticket.  From your account, click there.

Then you'll see a host of options (see my screenshot just below).  There are plenty of pre-made segments listed here that you might find useful.  (For example, you might only be interested in looking at traffic from mobile devices. If so, score! Mobile traffic is already a pre-made segment for ya).  

But the geographic filter I want isn't pre-made, so I'm gonna whip it up myself.  

First, click "New Segment":


Next, under the Demographics category of metrics and dimensions available, I scroll down to Location.  I click on the drop-down menu for my options.  I don't want to segment my report by Continent, but rather by State (which Google Analytics refers to as Region).  


Then I complete the rule by typing in "California."  (The state automatically pops up as an option as I'm typing...handy dandy).


Finally, I name my new segment and click Save.


Now check out my new, segmented report below.  It shows me which channels brought in traffic to my website and what they did - but only for users from California.   

[Lovesick sigh]... Finally, Mr. Right. 



Secondary Dimensions

Here's a slightly different scenario. Say I'm still interested in my Channels report- but I want to see the data for mobile users versus desktop users.

Secondary dimensions are useful here, and you can add them to almost every basic report in Google Analytics with just a few clicks.  Here's how.

Find the report you're interested in. Just above the top of your table, find the drop-don menu called "Secondary dimension." Click it, girl.

Next, browse through your options OR just start typing what you're looking for.

I'm interested in breaking this stuff down by device type: mobile or tablet.

If you're not sure what the heck is the difference between, say "Device Category" and "Mobile Device Info"...well, first of all, you ain't the only one, honey. I still find random nuggets of new-ness in here from time to time.  Anyway- just hover over those little question marks for some helpful definitions.

BAM. The table (below) is just what I'm looking for - Mr. Right.

This tells me that the combination of channels sending me the most traffic is people searching for shit on their computers.  (As opposed to, say, people on Facebook on their phones). 

As a marketer, I might use this information to prioritize which content I develop next, depending on the biggest chunk of my audience and how they like to consume my content.


Create A Custom Report From Scratch

[NOTE: You can download the Google Analytics Custom Report template I use as an example in the following section. Automatically import the report template into YOUR own GA account with the click of your mouse. Get the freebie HERE].

Your third option is to go hog-wild and make your own COMPLETELY customized report. These reports appear under a separate "tab" of your Google Analytics account, aptly named "Customization":


To start, click the option to add a "New Custom Report":

Just how customized can one of these reports get, you ask? Feast your eyes on this example...options galore:

This is the setup interface of one of my own custom reports. Notice a few things.

1. You can add multiple tabs to your report.  In this example, I've added a tab for Social Media Platforms (by US state), a tab for Devices (mobile or tablet or desktop), and a tab for Landing Page (which is the page a user "lands" on when they first start a session on my site).  

Here's how you may add tabs in the setup interface, followed by a shot of what those tabs will look like in your final custom report:

2. Here's another cool feature. You can choose your own performance metrics. Whatever you're interested in tracking for this report, add those metrics in the report setup area with the blue drop-down boxes. You have almost the entire library of performance metrics at your disposal here. Go crazy if you want.

In my sample report, I added some metrics I refer to as "performance basics." This set of metrics tells me a little about how many users or traffic I've acquired, how they behaved while on my website, and whether they converted (that is, if they completed some action I'm interested in- e.g. an email signup).

Here's how you can add metrics in the setup interface (by clicking "+ add metric" and making your choice), followed by a shot of where those metrics will appear in your final custom report:


3. The next major component of a custom report includes your dimensions.  These are the factors that run down the left side of your table. 

In my sample report, let's take a look at my first tab, "Social Platform / Geo."  In the setup interface of the report, the dimensions appear in the section with the green drop-downs.  I've selected "Social Network" as my main dimension, and "Region" is "nested" underneath:

What does this "nesting" effect look like on the actual report?  Take a look below.  First, you see the data for the main dimension (Social Network).  Then, if you click on one of those social networks, you'll see it broken down by the nested dimension (Region - aka: state).

Now I'm going to click on "LinkedIn"...and this next screenshot shows that most of my visitors coming from LinkedIn are in California, which is different from some of my other social media networks like Twitter.  And useful information. ;)

4. Ok- last thing you should know about Custom Reports.  It's about filers.

Filters allow you to, well, filter your entire report based on a ton of dimension values.  

Like, in this sample report, I'm really only interested in looking at data for people who reached my site through social media platforms.  (And remember- one of my tabs includes information about my visitors' mobile devices, and another tab includes info about landing pages...If I don't include a social media filter, then I'm gonna be looking at data for the devices and landing pages of errrybody who came to my site, regardless of whether they came via social media.  Filter needed, fo sho!

I'm also only interested in US traffic- not international traffic (of which I have a teeny bit, and I'd like to filter it out here).  

So I need to set up two filters:

Wanna Download This EXACT Custom Report?

If you've got a Google Analytics account, and you're interested in using my social media custom report from this article on YOUR traffic data -- then GOOD NEWS, FRIEND! I love to share!

I'll email you a quick-and-easy link that will instantly import MY personal Social Media Custom Report into YOUR Google Analytics account. Then you can analyze away, no setup time required on your end.


Your Turn...

You can gain A LOT of clarity by using these customization techniques in your Google Analytics account.  Sometimes, it's overwhelming to figure out (and remember!) which default reports you need to view to get all the critical info for your specific business.  If that's the case, it can save you time and grief in the long run by going ahead and setting up your own from-scratch Custom Report.  Choose ONLY the metrics and dimensions YOU wanna look at everyday.

...Or just grab MY sample custom report (totally free!) right HERE.

Got some great customization stories? Got QUESTIONS? Lemme know in the comments below or over on Facebook!  I'm here to help. :)


BTW- If you liked this article, please consider sharing it with your friends or your audience of like-minded savvies! I would so appreciate it. Your friends will dig it. You'll look like a hero. We'll ALL be better off.  ;)  Just give a little tickle to those buttons below. Thanks, friend!