Google Analytics Dashboards

What Are Google Analytics Dashboards? – Digital Marketing Madness

John Maher McDougall InteractiveJohn Maher:  Hi. I’m John Maher, and this is Digital Marketing Madness. This podcast is brought to you by McDougall Interactive. We’re an Internet marketing agency in Danvers, Massachusetts. Today my guest is Meghan Williams. Welcome, Meghan.

Meghan Williams McDougall InteractiveMeghan Williams:  Hi, John.

John Maher McDougall InteractiveJohn:  Today we’re talking about Google Analytics dashboards, and how to set them up. For everyone out there who’s never setup a Google Analytics dashboard, what are they, and what are they good for?

Meghan Williams McDougall InteractiveMeghan:  Google Analytics dashboards are a tool for bookmarking the reports that you find most useful in Google Analytics. Once you set one up, you can check your dashboard anytime; you look at one page and get all the reports that you need right away. Just a little snapshot, to see where you’re at.

If you’re like me, sometimes I stumble across a report when I’m clicking around in Google Analytics and think “This is really useful. This is exactly what I need.” Google Analytics actually has a little button titled “Add to Dashboard,” in the top left hand corner of any report view you’re looking at. You can click that, and it’ll drop it into that dashboard, so you’ll be able to find it again.

John Maher McDougall InteractiveJohn:  It can be a little bit of a maze sometimes, in Google Analytics. It can do so much. There are so many different filters, and things like that, that you can apply to it, that trying to get back to that, “Where’s was that report, that showed me that thing that I wanted to see?”

It can be really hard to get back there, or sometimes you spend 10 minutes applying these different filters, and things like that, to just get to that data that you want to see. You don’t want to have to spend that time all over again, the next time that you want to see that data. You want to be able to just go straight to it.

By adding that to a dashboard, you could just go back to that report much easier.

Meghan Williams McDougall InteractiveMeghan:  Yeah. You can organize your dashboards, to be focused on different areas that you’re emphasizing in your reporting. One dashboard that we’ve created for some of our clients, is our Authority Marketing Dashboard. In this Google Analytics dashboard, we have very specific metrics that are trying to measure how authoritative you are, and your website is.

You could have a social media dashboard, that’s strictly about referral data from your social media channels. You’ve organized a lot of reports into a one screen, and get a snapshot view of what you need to know.

John Maher McDougall InteractiveJohn:  That could be helpful too for reporting, if you have higher ups in your company that need to see certain reports, but not other reports. You can organize a dashboard, so that’s like, “This is just the dashboard that I show to this person on my team, or in my company.” Like you said the social media team leader, or something like that, maybe needs to see only these reports, and they don’t need to see all these other ones so you can organize it, just for that person.


How to Set Up Google Analytics Dashboards

How do you go about setting up, a Google Analytics dashboard? You mentioned going to a report, and then clicking Add to Dashboard. What’s the first step?

Meghan Williams McDougall InteractiveMeghan:  There are a couple of steps involved in it. The good news is it’s not complicated to set one up. It’s pretty easy. The trickier part that I found is what we were just talking about a little bit, which is knowing which metrics and which reports to include on a dashboard. That’s a whole other podcast.

We’ve talked a little bit about that. The bottom line is you should ask your digital marketing agency, what metrics you should be tracking based on what your goals are, and what you should include in your dashboard. Setting up a Google Analytics dashboard, is not complicated.

There’s the way we talked about, and then there’s also when you go into reporting, you click Dashboards, and then click New Dashboard – very easy. You have two options there, a Starter Dashboard, which gives you a readymade Google Analytics generated dashboard.

John Maher McDougall InteractiveJohn:  They have some pre‑made ones that are already setup?

Meghan Williams McDougall InteractiveMeghan:  Yeah. Basic metrics that they think you’ll find useful. That’s a good place to start and just say, “OK. Here’s the bottom line, what I need to know about how my website is performing.”

Your other option would be Blank Canvas. If you click that, a window pops up that lets you set the parameters, for the first chart or graph on your dashboard.

That’s what Google Analytics calls a widget. There are two things that I wanted to tell you about widgets that I learned. The first is that the dashboard will display all the data in all the widgets you create according to the date range that you’ve already set in the top right hand corner.

I’ve made this mistake several times, where I think I’m looking at the right data, and realize I’ve since changed the date in the top right hand corner, and it’s changed some of the dates in my dashboard. Just be aware when you’re creating your widgets, you’re looking at your dashboards, that you’re always checking the date setting up there.

John Maher McDougall InteractiveJohn:  If you have the date set for a particular month, like say last January or something like that, and you set that up as the widget in your dashboard, is it always going to be January’s data that’s in there? You should probably then stick with…when you look in the calendar, or the date range view in Analytics, there are options like the last week, or the last month. Should you try to stick with those?

Meghan Williams McDougall InteractiveMeghan:  I think so, yeah. You want to keep all your reports to be pretty consistent, and not go crazy with the dates. I’ve been confused tones of times about what date range I’m looking at and where I changed it, and how. That can be complicated.

The other thing I wanted to share was that once you create your dashboard, a window will popup called “Add a Widget.” After you’ve created that dashboard, you can add any widget to it anytime by clicking the words in the top left hand corner of the dashboard called “Add Widget.”

The other way is the one we talked about before, which is you’re in Google Analytics looking at a report, and you can just add that to your dashboard. Those are two important points about how to set up your Google Analytics dashboard that I’ve learned. It’s complicated but it’s totally doable.


Best Practices for Using Google Analytics Dashboards

John Maher McDougall InteractiveJohn:  Any other common mistakes that you should avoid when using Analytics dashboards?

Meghan Williams McDougall InteractiveMeghan:  What we talked about before, just be aware of those dates. The way I’ve been using a dashboard, it can change. If you’ve set your date to the top and then you go back into your dashboard, it will read the date from the top right hand corner, you might not realize that you’ve changed it and the numbers could look different, and it’s confusing. That’s a good one to think about.

The other one is to be aware of what filters are in place on your Google Analytics profile. We have some clients that don’t have any filters or they don’t have the right filters. When they come on board with us, we help them get setup with that. You want to filter out your own internal traffic, you want to filter out…try as best as you can to filter out spam traffic.

Once you have those filters in place, your dashboard becomes so much more useful because you’re looking at really good data.

That’s something else you should be aware of. If you dig into your Google Analytics account, and some of the data doesn’t make sense, go up to the admin’s screen and check what filters are there because that could be a part of the problem.

John Maher McDougall InteractiveJohn:  That’s great advice, Meghan. Thanks very much for speaking with me today.

Meghan Williams McDougall InteractiveMeghan:  Thank you very much for having me.

John Maher McDougall InteractiveJohn:  For more information about digital marketing, visit, and subscribe to this podcast on iTunes. Thanks for listening. I’m John Maher, and see you next time, on Digital Marketing Madness.


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