Google Analytics Dashboard Part 1 - Initial Steps

The biggest strength of Google Analytics is the depth and detail of the data it can provide.

The biggest weakness of Google Analytics is the depth and detail of the data it can provide.

Once you start delving into Google Analytics, the easiest task possible is to get totally lost in the data.  Click here, click there, find a fascinating number or graph, marvel at the data portrayal, be amazed that someone from Azerbaijan found your website, then start over again.  Before you know it, the day has gone by, and although it may have been fun playing, you have been anything but productive.  And, odds are, though you have sifted through pages of numbers, facts, and performance measures, you probably have not made a single decision based on the data.  There is just too much to absorb all at once.

Now is to make friends with the Dashboard.  This is the first part of a series of blog entries discussing the Google Analytics Dashboard, complete with some examples, and some limitations.

The Dashboard in Google Analytics is like your executive summary.  This is the place to find all of the important, big picture stuff that is actually going to have an impact.  But before you can measure the important stuff, you first have to determine what is important.  And how do you do this?  Through your organization goals and Key Effectiveness Indicators.
First off, where do you find the Dashboard?  In your Google Analytics, first click on “Home”, then you’ll see “Dashboards” down the side.  Click on Dashboards, and just below it, you’ll see a line that says “+ New Dashboard”.  Click on this, and you’ll be given the option for a “Blank Canvas” or a “Starter Dashboard”.

New Dashboard

For this example, we’ll click on “Starter Dashboard”.  Give it a name, we’ll call it “Download Info Sheet”.  Then click on “Create Dashboard”.  You’ll see that the dashboard is now added to the list at the left.  For our fictional example, we’re going to assume that we have a website with a very important collection of downloads, and it is important to us that visitors download these information sheets.  So that’s why we’ve created a special dashboard just to record some important information about information sheet downloads.

When you first start off, Google has a few basic items already here.  We’re going to start with some of these items, while we delete others.  But the key is that you can customize what you see to reflect what is important to you.  Here is where the customization begins, and Google Analytics makes it pretty easy to add whatever is important, and take away what isn’t.

Google Analytics Settings IconEach item on your dashboard is called a widget.  Notice how every widget on your dashboard has a little spoked wheel on the top right corner.  This is to access the settings for the widget, where you can change what it displayed, where you can filter what is shown, or you can delete the widget entirely.  One of the best moves you can probably make at this point is to delete some of these items.

So, what is the first step?  Try out your delete on these widgets.  Take away all but the “Goal Conversion Rate” and the “Goal Completions and Goal Conversion Rate by Source” widgets.  Remember, this exercise is going to look at your level of success in enticing people to download your information sheet.  While the other widgets give interesting information, they are not pertinent to the question at hand, so we’ll take them out.

In this post, we’ve discussed creating dashboards, and removing non-important information.  In the next post, we’ll talk about goals and events, how to create them, why they are important for Analytics, and how to add them to our dashboard.