How you can use Google Analytics Custom Reports, Custom Alerts, Shortcuts, Cost Data Upload, and Report Automation to implement tracking codes and uncover insights.
Since my last column, my wife and I became proud parents of our first child. Most importantly, everyone is healthy and doing great. But, as any new parent can attest, it has become quite challenging dealing with the newly arisen lack of time. So for this column, let's take a look at a few tools that have been keeping me sane and getting me home before the streetlights come on.
Custom Reports. While Custom Reports aren't new to Google Analytics (GA), they are one of the most underutilized methods of getting the data you need. A large portion of most digital analysts' responsibilities is generating reports for internal teams or clients, and then helping to turn that data into insights. Instead of recreating the wheel every time, take about three minutes and learn how to create and use Custom Reports.
If you're like me, once you've discovered how to use the feature, you'll want to get lost in making custom reports. But what constitutes a great custom report? For that question, I'll defer you to an excellent article from who else but Avinash Kaushik.
Custom Alerts. The web is a very complex place that isn't getting any simpler. Custom Alerts exist to make monitoring of what's important to you easier and less time-consuming. For example, if you frequently update your site and are concerned about removing analytics codes, you can define a custom alert to email you when visits decrease by a certain value or percentage vs. a previous day, week, or month.
While the above example is focused on catching errors that may occur during site updates, you can also look at the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns, such as changes in organic traffic vs. the prior day, week, or month, or changes in conversion rates for specific marketing channels.
If you're interested in learning more about creating Custom Alerts, or want to look at some you may not have thought of, take a look at this article from LunaMetrics, containing over 55 different Custom Alerts.
Shortcuts. A relatively new feature to GA is Shortcuts. Shortcuts allow you to save specific configurations of reports so you can easily replicate the information you want to see.
You may be wondering how Shortcuts differ from Custom Reports. Great question. While Custom Reports allow you to select the different dimensions and metrics and apply a filter to the report, Shortcuts allows you to save additional customizations like advanced segments, secondary dimensions, or advanced filters to standard or custom reports.
For example, I have a client I generate the same report for every week that requires the combination of a Custom Report, Advanced Segment, and an Advanced Filter with a fairly complex Regular Expression. Duplicating this each week would be very time-consuming and I would probably make some manual errors from time to time. By using Shortcuts, I am able to create the report once in GA, save my Shortcut, and then just click and export the report each week. I save time wasted going through the reporting motions, and have more time available to actually analyze their data and make recommendations.
Cost Data Upload. Another new feature to GA is the ability to import click and cost data, similar to what is available in AdWords, into GA. For advertisers running marketing campaigns and using GA, this is pretty groundbreaking stuff. With this update you can start to analyze the effectiveness of campaigns from an ROI standpoint within GA by importing metrics such as cost, average CPC, impressions, etc. from other channels like Bing or Facebook. This means you have the ability to quickly analyze and explore deeper metrics in GA, instead of exporting all of your data, combining the data into pivot tables, and then starting the analysis.
If you are interested in using this feature, here are some companies that offer access, several of which have free trials:
Google Analytics Report Automation. This tool is the most complex of the ones I've mentioned, but it's also the most exciting because it eliminates the barrier for non-technical marketers and analysts to create advanced custom dashboards. Last summer, Google announced the ability to generate custom reports from GA via its API, directly in Google Docs! This provides digital marketers and analysts the ability to quickly create and share custom reports and dashboards that get automatically updated.
There is a little bit of a learning curve to mastering the tool, but by reading this post and watching the video, you should understand how to get started using the tool.
So those are my five favorite time-savers in GA, how about yours? Do you have a fast way of implementing tracking codes or uncovering insights? I'd love to hear your thoughts on what tools/processes you use when analyzing.
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Robert Miller is a Senior Analyst at Search Discovery. He is actively involved in industry organizations, such as the Analysis Exchange and the Digital Analytics Association.
With the Analysis Exchange, he helps non-profits capitalize on their website data, and educates aspiring digital analysts about the foundation of digital analytics, from the implementation of a digital analytics tool to performing analysis and making data-driven recommendations for organizations.