The Google Analytics reports to look at when you only have 15 minutes to spare

best google analytics reports

According to technology survey company W3Techs, Google Analytics (GA) is used by roughly 55% of all websites. But just having GA—or any other analytics tool—installed on your website doesn’t mean you’re reviewing your traffic trends and metrics on a regular basis.

Frankly, it can be overwhelming to log into Analytics and glean meaningful insights from the vast amount of data available. The sheer volume of information can cause data paralysis, a symptom of information overload, that can render powerful tools like GA useless.

Why it’s important to review your data

You probably already know that reviewing your website’s data and trends helps you understand data fluctuations, top referral sources, and basic audience traits such as gender, age, and location. These metrics are easy to obtain via a quick glance, but they barely scratch the surface of the data available to you in your GA account.

Your data can reveal user intent, behavior, and content preferences, help you monitor and optimize campaign performance, and tie conversions and goals back to specific initiatives and content types.

In this post, we’ll review five reports designed to overcome data paralysis. These reports, suitable for marketing managers, sales professionals, and C-level executives, can help you keep tabs on your web traffic quickly while avoiding the data paralysis that’s a result of information overload.

These reports take a bit of setup (we recommend using Google Data Studio (GDS) to create easy-to-update dashboards), but once you’ve created the dashboards, you only need to spend 10-15 minutes a day reviewing the reports. A bonus—GDS reports are easy to share via a web-enabled link and can be updated in real time via drop-down menu.

A word about Google Data Studio: GDS is a free dashboard reporting tool that Google launched in 2016 (it came out of beta in 2018). GDS pulls from multiple data sources such as Google Ads, Google Analytics, and Google Sheets to create simple, easy-to-read visualizations of your data. GDS supports multiple platforms owned by Google and has over 200 integrations with platforms not owned by Google.

Note:  all the data used in the following examples is taken from sample data provided by Google.

Website performance trends report

You can probably answer the question, “How many visitors do you get to your website each month?” off the top of your head, but do you know how the data changed over time? Do you know which channels are driving engagement? How about what countries generate the most traffic and leads (beyond the top three?) A website performance trends report can answer these questions easily and quickly.

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performance trends report
Source: Google Data Studio (using data from Google Analytics)

The above chart is easy to create in GDS simply by customizing a template that’s already provided when you log into the platform. Each field can be changed based on what you’re tracking (e.g., maybe sessions are more valuable to you than users or states more insightful than countries).

Pro tip: it’s helpful to frame each piece of data with a question – e.g., How are site users trending each month? Asking the questions that you want your data to answer is a great way to frame the structure of each dashboard.

User content and device preferences

You probably spend a lot of time creating and amplifying content, but if you’re not monitoring your visitors’ content and device preferences, you may be wasting your time on content that doesn’t resonate with your audience.

A dashboard that focuses on content and user device preferences can help you keep track of what’s working, while also providing inspiration on what content you should create next.

content device preferences report
Source: Google Data Studio (using data from Google Analytics)

The above report shows the top landing pages and exit pages for June 2020. It also shows how users access content (e.g., desktop versus laptop versus mobile) and which mobile brands drive the most traffic (e.g., Apple versus Samsung, etc.)

GDS gives you the ability to filter the results based on segments you create. For example, you can customize the above data so that it only shows content from your blog versus content from your shopping cart pages.

User demographic monitoring

Google Analytics makes it easy to monitor topline user demographics including age and gender. You can also access some basic audience segmentation information that includes the industry sectors that your audience comes from.

user demographics report
Source: Google Data Studio (using data from Google Analytics)

The demographic dashboard, above, provides a quick summary of user age, gender, and market segment for the month of June. It also includes website usage by day of the week (a helpful statistic to have when planning when to publish and amplify content.

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Referrer activity

While the first dashboard includes a chart that shows which channels drive the most engagement (e.g., organic search versus direct traffic), to get a more complete picture of who’s referring visitors to your website, you’ll need a separate dashboard.

referrer report
Source: Google Data Studio (using data from Google Analytics)

The referrer dashboard breaks down the number of users referred in June by source/medium, medium alone, social networks, and sales regions. While this breakdown is still pretty high level, it provides enough information to help you understand where the bulk of your website visitors are coming from.

Note that a “not set” value means that GA hasn’t been configured to track a given metric or there is an issue with the way GA is tagging traffic. If you’re seeing a lot of “not set” qualifiers in your reports, then it’s worthwhile to troubleshoot the issue either directly with Google or via your internal IT team.

Some caveats about the above reports

As noted above, the reports listed in this post were created in Google Data Studio using data pulled from a sample Google Analytics account. There are many more reports available within Google Analytics that can’t be pulled into GDS (for example, Google Ads campaign data and eCommerce data). If your aim is to monitor your Google Ads performance, your best bet is to link Google Ads directly to GDS and create a separate report for that.

The point of the above traffic reports is to have easy-to-read dashboards that provide baseline information about your website traffic quickly. The data shouldn’t be overwhelming. It should tell a story, and it should be easy to share with clients, colleagues and the C-level executives you report to.

Since each website is different and each organization has its own goals and traffic requirements, the dashboards you create will obviously differ a bit from the examples provided here.

Likewise, the traffic goals and the metrics that need to be monitored will differ a lot for B2B websites versus B2C websites. Even so, the basic metrics you can monitor with these dashboards don’t differ all that much from website to website. These dashboards are meant to help you answer high level questions about your website traffic, users, and the content that fuels the most growth and engagement for your organization.

Ryan is President of Strategy and Marketing Services at ElevationB2B. From legacy Fortune 100 institutions to inventive start-ups, Ryan brings extensive experience with a wide range of B2B clients. He skillfully architects and manages the delivery of integrated marketing programs, and believes strongly in strategy, not just tactics, that effectively aligns sales and marketing teams within organizations.

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