Google analytics tip: getting started with custom reports

We love Google analytics and think it’s the best thing since the invention of nerd glasses. While it has tons of pre-formatted reports that help us analyze data, even the gurus at Google can’t think of every possible report we may need. That’s where custom reports come in handy.

As you can probably guess, there is no end to the number of custom reports you can create to gain additional insight into your online data. This can be a little overwhelming so we’ll use a simple scenario to help break it down for you.

Custom report scenario

Let’s say you want to know how much you spent on your pay per click (PPC) campaigns, revenue they generated, and the return on investment (ROI) in the same report. In addition, you want to know how many impressions and visits those cost and revenue numbers represent. Plus the bounce rate to judge the quality of those visits.

As the screenshots below show, right now you’d have to view those numbers in two separate tabs under AdWords Campaigns – Site Usage (Visits, Bounce Rate, and Revenue) and Clicks (Visits, Impressions, Cost, and ROI) – then manually cross reference them. Not fun!

GA---AdWords-Campaigns-image

Metrics within Site Usage:

GA---Site-Usage_final

Metrics within Clicks:

GA---Clicks_final

How Google Analytics Builds Custom Reports

Before we go through the steps of creating the custom report, let’s take a minute to go over how Google allows you to build the reports. They use two main variables – dimensions and metrics. Selecting the right combination of dimensions and metrics are key to delivering the exact information you need to make sound business decisions.

Are you nodding in agreement, but still not exactly sure what we mean? Let’s start at the beginning with the definitions from Google’s Dimension and Metrics help page. A dimension is a “descriptive attribute or characteristic of an object that can be given different values” and metrics are “individual elements of a dimension that can be measured as a sum or a ratio.”

Let’s show this in action using our PPC custom report example. We want to simplify how we look at our PPC campaigns. So “campaigns” will be our dimension.

Now we need to answer the “so what?” question. Ultimately, we want to know if our PPC campaigns are worth the money we’re spending. Specifically, we want to know how much we’re spending on our PPC campaigns, how much revenue we’re gaining from them, and the full ROI. We also want to know the number of visits and impressions as well as the bounce rate for the campaigns.

With that in mind, we’ve chosen the following metrics: impressions, visits, bounce rate, cost, revenue, ROI, and bounce rate. Each of these can be quantified with a number such as how many, how much or percentage.

As you’ll see, Google custom reports will show us how each of those metrics perform against our campaigns dimension.

For more information on dimensions and metrics, check out Google’s Dimensions and Metrics Reference page.

Are you still with me? Ok, let’s dive into creating a custom report for our PPC campaigns.

How to

To create a custom report:

  1. Select Customization from the orange nav bar at the top of the AdWords Campaigns Report screen
  2. Click + New Custom Report

GA---Custom-Report-tab-start

  1. Type a name for your custom report
  2. Don’t worry about adding or naming a Report Tab, for this simple report it won’t affect anything. We’ll cover more on this in another blog post.
  3. Click + add metric under Metric Group and enter the metric you want to add in the search box that comes up. Repeat this process for every metric you want to include in your report.

GA---Create-custom-report_steps-3-thru-5v2

Here’s how it looks after adding the metrics we discussed above:

GA---Metric-Group-Complete_final

  1. Click + add dimension under Dimension Drilldowns and enter the dimension variable in the search box as we did with the metric variables. Remember, we decided that “Campaign” was going to be our dimension so we’ve chosen it here.

GA---Campaign-dimension_final

  1. Hit the Save button at the bottom and your report will show up immediately!

Here’s what our finished report looks like:

GA---Finished-PPC-custom-report_final

As you can see, we have our PPC Campaigns (I took a screenshot of only the first two, but the whole list will show up) along with the six metrics we chose.

The takeaways

Creating a custom PPC report allows us to see the most important information to us in one place without clicking through multiple reports. It helps us save time and cut down on mistakes.

You can take this simple custom report example and apply the principles to the needs of your business. Maybe you have custom goals set up and the standard goals reports just aren’t cutting it for you (see “Google analytics tip: go for the gold with goal setting”). Play around with the dimension and metrics variables to create different reports. Experimenting is the best way to discover which reports give you the most actionable information from your Google analytics data.