Most of us when using Google Analytics are not diving too deep into the stats. We want an overview of how our blogs are doing, and in some cases want quick stats for PRs who are interested in working with us.
That’s where Dashboards can really come in handy. They’re dead easy to set up and are really customisable too. This post is going to look at setting up your first dashboard, some of the widgets that will be most relevant to bloggers, and I’ll also share a ready-made dashboard to get you started.
So, let’s start with the basics…
What are Dashboards?
Put simply, dashboards are a quicker way of getting an overview of the data you want to see on a regular basis. They’re perfect if you only really ever look at a few reports for your stats.
You can take elements from particular reports and add them as widgets to your dashboard, and with the right configuration, they will automatically populate with your data. As with all GA reports, you can adjust the date range and apply Advanced Segments as normal as well.
How do I create one?
First of all, you need to sign in to Google Analytics and select the view you want to add your dashboard to. Once you’ve clicked through, you will always be taken through to the Overview report.
In the left-hand column, you’ll see near the top the Dashboards menu. Click on this to expand it and select + New Dashboard.
You’ll see above, that any new dashboard will appear under ‘Private’ once created. You’ll always find your dashboards here when you log in to GA.
When you click + New Dashboard, you’ll be given two options: Blank Canvas and Starter Dashboard. I personally always select Blank Canvas, but if you want to play around with one that’s already partially made, then click Starter Dashboard.
Before clicking Create Dashboard, be sure to give it a name. You can always rename it later if you’re unsure of what to call it at this stage.
How to create a widget
When you first create a new dashboard, the box to add a new widget will automatically pop up. For subsequent widgets, on your dashboard below the title is a + Add Widget box which will also bring up the above pop up.
Now the dashboard has been created, it’s time to create some widgets! The types of widgets are as followed:
- Metric – this displays a single metric, for example, the total number of Pageviews
- Timeline – these are good for showing trends over time, for example, the number of sessions. You can also apply other data to this to show comparisons, for example, Bounce Rate.
- Geomap – this is used for location-based information, such as an overview of the countries your visitors have come from.
- Table – Tables are great for displaying information such as the top 10 posts. You can add multiple metrics to these such as the number of page views, bounce rate etc.
- Pie – Pie charts display metrics grouped by type – pie charts are especially great for showing user types e.g. new vs returning visitors, or for showing a breakdown of social media traffic sources.
- Bar – Bar chart widgets are one of the most customisable in that you can include quite a lot of data. I have to admit I never use them so I’m not going to explore these too much as they aren’t particularly useful for blogging metrics.
Real-Time (these display real-time data of users that are currently on your site).
- Counter – this shows Active users that are grouped by things such as browser, country etc.
- Timeline – as before, but with real-time data
- Geomap – as before, but with real-time data
- Table – yep, as before but with real-time data
So those are your widget types. Each one serves different purposes and allows you to plug in different data types to display.
So when creating a widget, you’ll be faced with some jargon that may make it a bit confusing to figure out which data you need for that widget…
Metric – these are quantitive measurements, for example, number of sessions or pages per session.
Filter – on some widgets, you can filter data by dimension to only include, or exclude certain data.
Dimension – these describe characteristics of users such as their country or browser
What widgets should I create?
Well, it’s up to you really! Think about what data you look at the most when flicking through reports. I would recommend including the following to start with, but it’s up to you!
- Total number of sessions – this will give you a quick glance at how many sessions the whole blog has had over the date range (Metric widget).
- Top ten pages – this will show you the top-performing pages. If you are confident, you can filter these to show only particular pages (Table widget)
- Sessions by traffic type – shows direct, referral, social and organic traffic broken down by % (Pie Chart)
- Sessions by Country – shows a map of where your traffic is coming from over the world which can also be broken down by region if you only want to monitor traffic in one country (Geomap)
- Sessions by user type – this is the New Vs Returning chart so you can see % of new visitors vs returning (Pie chart)
Useful things to know
Each dashboard can have up to 12 widgets. If you want more than that then you’ll need to create a new dashboard.
They can be shared with others. In fact, here’s a dashboard with the above-recommended widgets, just for you (just make sure to apply it to the correct view if you use it). This does not share my data but will populate the widgets with your own. You can also go in and edit the widgets if you want to change them or add filters.
To share your own, next to + Add Widget is a Share menu. Select Share Template Link and it will give you a URL to share how you wish!
Customise your dashboard layout (number of columns) by clicking Customise Dashboard on the top right underneath the date range. Next to that is Delete dashboard if you wish to remove it.
There we have it! There are loads you can do with dashboards, and it does take some experimentation to get things working. There are also lots of tweaks you can make once you’re more confident using them.