If you're sitting under a mountain of data but don't know how to find the required information from within it, it's worthless.
I've always said - "Web analytics is not just about staring at the page views on the dashboard".
Are you doing the SAME?
Unfortunately, large numbers of bloggers simply use their web analytics software as a visit counter.
Almost all of us use Google analytics but only a handful really digs in to find useful insights about the trends and events happening on our blogs.
If you're happy with the default reports provided in your GA account, you're making a big mistake.
Google analytics is quite flexible and can be utilized to mine extremely valuable data for optimizing a blog through various methodologies.
The easiest method to filter useful information from the raw data is to create custom alerts, custom dashboards and custom reports. So, let's get started and see how we can use these three methods to find important trends, events and happenings related to our blog.
Custom Alerts That Makes SenseI've worked with several clients who were using Google analytics alerts in a wrong way. The most common example is comparing the traffic deviation compared to the previous day.
What's wrong with it?
If you look at the traffic pattern in a typical week, you'll notice that it starts to soar up from Monday onwards and subsides down as the weekend arrives.
Now comparing traffic deviation of Saturday and Friday in general makes no sense. In most cases, the volume will be more on Friday than Saturday.
This pattern is repeated again and again unless something unexpected happens.
Here's a better approach to compare such type of traffic deviations. Instead of comparing the deviation with the previous day, do it with the same day in the previous week.
In simple words, you should compare the traffic of Wednesday (current week) against the traffic of the same day (Wednesday) in the previous week.
This gives you a better picture about how your traffic is changing over the weeks in a given month. So let's quickly make a custom alert for the same.
There are two things that must be decided before you create such type of alerts.
- Percentage of deviation to track - You must decide how much change in traffic should be tracked by your custom alert. There's no hard and fast rule for the same but a deviation of 10% is a good starting point. You can fine tune this depending on the intensity of traffic change on your blog.
- Type of deviation to track (positive or negative - or both) - Increase of traffic is always welcomed by all of us. But, monitoring decline of traffic is equally important. Therefore, creating alerts for both deviations is highly recommended.
Custom Alert #1: Increase/decrease in page views (10%) compared to the same day of the last week.
The image shown above includes a simple alert for monitoring the increase in daily page views by over 10% compared to the same day of the last week. A similar alert should be created for monitoring the decrease in traffic. I've taken page views as the metric which can be changed to unique visits too.
Make sure you add your email address where you want to receive the alert. You can make a similar alert for monthly traffic too.
Now let's move on to the next interesting alert. You may or may not use it but it will give a starting point to explore more useful stuff.
Our next custom alert will send you a notification if you get NIL traffic from social media, the very previous day. For new or very low traffic blogs, this custom alert may not be of any value.
But for those blogs who get decent traffic from social media platforms, this alert can be modified and enhanced to get timely notifications about the change in traffic from social media sources.
First, you must create an advanced segment to filter social media traffic from the combined data.
Thereafter, you can easily create the following alert.
Custom Alert #2: NIL traffic from social media!
You can improvise on this alert and can create separate alerts for popular social media platforms. For example, you can set notifications for traffic deviations from Facebook, Google+ and Twitter.
Bloggers who receive very good traffic from these new media platforms must create such type of custom alerts to track deviations in inbound traffic. In fact, I'll suggest you to create a similar custom alert for overall traffic as well. Triggering of that alert will indicate some major problem with your blog.
Let's take one more example that involves goals.
If you do not know how to create and track goals through Google analytics, here's an excellent primer for the same.
Through our custom alert, we'll be monitoring the deviation in goal conversion rate. You can do it on a daily basis, weekly basis or on a monthly basis.
Custom Alert #3: Deviation in goal conversion rate.
For each important goal, you can create separate custom alerts to monitor their performance (at the macro level) without any need to visit the dashboard again and again.
Note: While creating custom alerts, the percentage of deviation should be realistic and should be in accordance with your blog traffic. Otherwise, you may either never receive a notification or your inbox will be flooded with tons of notifications.
Custom Dashboards for Quicker AnalysisNow let's move to the next exciting feature available in Google analytics. We're all familiar with default reporting dashboards in our analytics account.
But, how about making your own custom dashboard?
Through a custom dashboard, you can easily decide what information will be displayed in different sections of the dashboard. This gives you an excellent opportunity to create targeted custom dashboards for quicker and easier analysis of relevant information.
You can easily create your own custom dashboard through 'Reporting → Dashboards → New Dashboard'. Here's the first custom dashboard that every blogger must include in his Google analytics account.
Custom Dashboard #1: Social media analysis at one location.
This useful dashboard is populated with extensive information related to social media actions, events and happenings related to your blog.
Once included in your account, you can visualize and quantify the value of each social media platform very easily. You don't need to make any change in your existing analytics script currently installed on your blog.
This dashboard automatically filters the relevant information and populates different sections with all the goodies needed to make you an analytics ninja.
To use this dashboard, use the link below and it will be automatically imported in your Google analytics account.
Click to import this custom social media dashboard
Next custom dashboard has everything to do with blog optimization. Here optimization means the blog's performance in terms of load times and other similar information.
It's a site performance dashboard giving you several technical details about how well your blog and web server is performing. It's very useful when you're experiencing heavy traffic or your current web server is not giving the desired performance.
Custom Dashboard #2: Site performance dashboard with technical data.
You can see how valuable in this dashboard for monitoring the performance of your blog. This dashboard can help you in identifying problems related to frequent downtime or alarmingly slow load times.
Bloggers who're using a content delivery network will find this custom dashboard extremely useful as it helps in monitoring site performance on a country basis too. Here's the link for this second custom dashboard.
Click to import this custom site performance dashboard
Can you modify and extend this dashboard?
Yes, that can be done easily as Google analytics lets you modify any custom dashboard as many times as you want. I would love to see enhanced implementation of these custom dashboards.
If you can come up with a more useful and better version, do share it with us in the comments below.
Over to YouNow it's you turn to share the goodies you're using within your Google analytics account. Whether it's custom report, advanced segment, custom dashboard or custom alert, I'd love to explore intuitive and useful methodologies you're using to get more out of your analytics account.
If you have any specific question related to the dashboards and alerts presented here, do leave a comment and I'll try my best to resolve the problem.