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Running a campaign can be overwhelming. Setting goals, creating messaging and designs, planning content on a dozen different channels, setting up proper tracking… And then finally executing. But then what? That’s right: it’s time for marketing analytics. But with so many moving parts, tracking sounds absolutely exhausting. I totally get it! It’s not easy. But using dashboards and custom reports can make managing your data much easier! Custom reporting offers you the data you care about most in one centralized location. Win-win.

Accessing dashboards and custom reports in Google Analytics

Dashboards give you an overview of the reports and metrics you’re most interested in; they let you monitor many metrics at once. Custom reports are reports that you create yourself. You pick the dimensions and metrics and decide how they are displayed. Dashboards and custom reports can both be shared with the rest of your team, so once they’re set up, they make data viewing quick and easy for everyone.

Creating Dashboards

To create your dashboard, log in to Google Analytics, go to Customization – Dashboards, and click the red “create” button. Here, you can choose between a blank canvas (creating a dashboard from scratch) or a starter dashboard (templates that Google has created). For this example, let’s assume you’re creating a custom dashboard.

Dashboard overview in Google Analytics

Now, you can start adding and customizing your widgets, of which you can use twelve. A widget is a “mini report” that can display your metric of choice. They include metrics, timelines, geomaps, tables, pie charts, and bar charts and can be either standard or real-time.

  • Metric: displays a simple numeric representation of a single selected metric.
  • Timeline: displays a graph of the selected metric over time. You can compare this to a secondary metric.
  • Geomap: displays a map of the selected region, with the specified metric plotted on the map.
  • Table: displays up to two metrics describing the selected dimension, laid out in a tabular format.
  • Pie chart: displays the selected metric grouped by a dimension.
  • Bar chart: displays the selected metric grouped by up to two dimensions.

As you select widgets, GA will give you options for dimensions, metrics, and other items depending on the type of widget. Additionally, it will allow you to assign filters to specific widgets so you can include and/or exclude the audience you want. Even more customization is possible; check out the options here.

Sharing Dashboards

Once you have the widgets selected and set up as you need them, you can share your dashboard with your team. (Dashboards are private until you share them, so you can make and correct a couple mistakes before you send it out to everyone. Nobody’s perfect!)

There are several ways to share dashboards. You can share it with the current view, share it as a template, share it in the Solutions Gallery, send it via email, or export it as a PDF.

Sharing dashboards in Google Analytics

It’s important to note some key differences among each of these ways to share dashboards: 

Sharing a dashboard with the current view shares the widgets and data with the recipients, who can then edit/add/remove to the dashboard. However, their edits do not affect your original copy – only their own. Sharing a dashboard as a template shares only the widgets – not the data – with recipients. This means any filters or custom settings you created will not be transferred over. When you share to the Solutions Gallery, only the dashboard configuration is available; your personal and account information will not be attached, nor will your data. Sending dashboards via email is a good option for anyone who may not have access to your GA account, and recurring emails can be scheduled for anyone who wants a weekly report, for example. Lastly, exporting your dashboard as a PDF will extract the information in the dashboard at that time.

Share a Dashboard with the Current View

Ideally, most of your team will have access to your GA account, and you can use the “share with the current view” option. To do so, open the dashboard you’d like to share and go to Share – Share Object. Just like that, a copy of the current dashboard will be available to all users with access to that view. It can be found in Customization – Dashboards – Shared (toward the right side of the screen). Note: to “unshare” a dashboard, you must completely delete it.

To learn more about all the different ways to share dashboards, go here.

Limitations of Dashboards

There are a few limitations to dashboards, but fortunately, most should not be too cumbersome for you to overcome.

  • Any given GA view can contain up to 20 private dashboards per user.
  • Each GA account can contain up to 50 shared dashboards per view.
  • A dashboard can contain up to 12 widgets.
  • You must have edit permission to share dashboards and data with the current view. Users with read permission can still share dashboard templates via a link or in the Solutions Gallery.

With a little planning ahead, the you can avoid the general limitations of dashboards. You can read further about limitations here.

Custom Reports

To get to the real core of true custom reporting, custom reports are the way to go. To create a new custom report, navigate to Customization – Custom Reports and choose “New Custom Report.” Enter a report name and a tab name. Tabs are a way for you to organize the data in a way that makes sense for you. Every custom report has one tab built in, but you can click “add report tab” to include additional tabs in your report as well. (In this example, the tabs are “Location,” “Device,” and “Age.”)

Custom reports tabs in Google Analytics

In each tab, select the type of report you want to use: explorer, flat table, or map overlay. An explorer report is the standard Analytics report. It includes a line graph and a data table that includes dynamic elements like a search/sort option and secondary dimensions. A flat table report is a static, sortable table that displays data in rows. And finally, a map overlay report is a map of the world in which different regions and countries display in darker colors to indicate traffic and engagement volume.

Next, define your dimensions and metrics. Determine with your team exactly what it is that matters for this campaign, and set up as many tabs as you need to track this information easily. Additionally, you can add filters to these tabs to refine your data, and finally, double check the selected view(s). It is typically recommended to use your main view for these reports as well.

Sharing Custom Reports

The final step is to share your custom report with your team. First, navigate to Customization – Custom Reports to view a table listing of all your custom reports. Then, select the “Actions” button for your new report, and choose “Share.” Here, you can choose to share the report via a link or within the Solutions Gallery. Like dashboards, only the configuration information will be passed along – not your data. However, when sharing with members of your team, they will have access to the same data that you do.

To learn more about custom reports and everything else they can do (which is a lot!) go here.

Analytics might seem like a chore just when you launch a campaign and feel like you can breathe again. But, of course, analytics are extremely important. Google Analytics is a great resource, and setting up custom reporting via dashboards and custom reports will save you time down the road. Consult an analytics expert for additional resources or help getting started.

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