The Ultimate Guide to the Google Analytics Dashboard
Ok, so you’ve got your Google Analytics tracking code set up and ready to go, but now what? You should know by now that I don’t leave anyone hanging here at TBG. So here it is, your ultimate guide to the Google Analytics dashboard.
Home is where the heart is as they say. This is where you get an overview of all your stats for the last week. You can change the date range if you want, but it defaults to the last 7 days, not including the current day.
At the top of the Google Analytics Dashboard you’ll get an overview of your audience numbers – users, bounce rate, sessions and average session duration. Below that you’ll see a graph that compares your last week’s users to the number of users for the previous week. So you get a good idea of how your week is going compared to the last week at a glance.
To the right of the audience panel there’s a bright blue panel that shows you real-time statistics for the last half hour. You’ll see the number or current users, a bar chart showing the number of page views, by minute, over the last half hour.
This is probably one the most useful sections of the home screen for me. It’s a composite bar chart, I asked my maths teacher husband for a less technical term and he said there wasn’t one – so I did try. Basically it shows your users for that day on a bar chart, but groups them into different colours depending on how they got to your site – social media, organic search, direct, referral or other. It’s a great way to work out, at a glance, how your users are finding your blog.
You can toggle the graph between another couple of views where it groups the users in more detail of how they got to your blog.
When, where and which device
This is another really useful part of the Google Analytics dashboard. There are 3 separate sections on this row, one that tells you when people are visiting your site, one that tells you where in the world they are – which can help you work out when exactly you should publish your new posts, and the last tells you what kind of devices your readers are using to get to your blog.
Finding the stats that matter
Obviously all your stats matter, but there are some that you’re likely to want to check more often than others. For example, on the first of every month I record the following stats in a spreadsheet, so that I have them close to hand and it makes them easy to perform calculations on like working out my average monthly visitors etc.
- Page Views
- Bounce Rate
- Top Referrer
Most of these stats can be found in the Audience Overview report with a tweak of the date range to suit (details below).
Top referrer can be found in the Referral Traffic report that can be found by click on Acquisitions then Referrals in the left hand menu on the screen. For this bit I like to scroll down to look at the results in the table at the bottom of the screen.
Changing the date range
On the left side of the screen there’s a menu where you can view all these reports in much greater detail. When you look at the more detailed reports you’ll notice a date picker in the top right corner.
You can either choose a date range from the dropdown list which has preset dates like today, yesterday, last 7 days etc. You can also choose to see stats from custom date ranges. For example, when you want to check your stats from the previous month, as I do to record them in a spreadsheet, you’ll want to change the date range to reflect that.
Another really useful section of the Google Analytics dashboard, is the pages report. Here you can see which your most popular pages/posts were for the last week, or whatever time period you’ve selected. It’s always useful to know which pages or blog posts are visited most so you can make sure you keep producing that kind of content for your readers.
Google Analytics let’s you set up your own custom reports and dashboards. Which is really handy if you have a set of stats that you check often, like the monthly stats that I record.
Save, Share and Export Reports
So once you’ve found the data that you’re looking for Google Analytics lets you save, share or even export it. At the top of each report are the buttons that let you do this.
Clicking Save puts a link to a specific report under the customisation option in the left hand sidebar, under custom reports.
Clicking Export lets you export the report in different formats e.g PDF or a CSV file.
Share lets you email a copy of the report as an email attachment and, this is really cool, you can even schedule regular updates.
Edit lets you change the metrics used to populate the report.
When you’re viewing a report, depending on the amount of data needs to analyse, you may only be shown a sample of data when the report first loads. This is so that you can see the stats more quickly. To check whether or not you’re viewing all data or just a sample hover over the green arrow next to the report name.
When you hover over the green arrow a little popup will appear. In there is a drop down list that will let you change the sampling rate. If you’re happy to wait for the report to load then choose greater precision, otherwise you can choose faster response.
This is another jewel in the crown of the Google Analytics dashboard. Not only can you create custom reports, but you can set up custom dashboards too.
Custom dashboards are really useful for grouping together stats that you look up regularly. You can add data to be represented in any way you want this is called a widget.
Sessions – number of user sessions for the selected period
Users – people who had at least one session on the site in the selected time period
Page views – total number of pages (that include the GA tracking ID) that were shown to users. This includes the same person viewing the same page more than once.
Pages/Session – the average number of pages viewed by one user during their session on your site.
Average session duration – the average amount of time users spent on your site during the selected time period.
Bounce rate – the percentage of users who left your site after viewing just one page.
Organic – traffic that comes to your site via a search engine
Referral – traffic that comes to your blog from another site that isn’t a search engine
Email – traffic that comes from clicking links in emails
CPC – views that come from a paid advertising campaigns e.g. Google Adwords
None/Direct – this is views that have come from visitors typing your URL directly into their browser
For more in depth information on how to get the most out of your Google Analytics dashboard you should check out the Google Analytics Academy where they have tutorials for people of all abilities. From beginners to advanced users, you’ll find all the information you need.
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