I love a well-executed custom report. In the succinct words of the wise and mighty Avinash Kaushik, Google Analytics is a “data puke”. At least the Standard Reporting tab is, and if not leveraged properly, the Custom Reports can be as well. The amount of data contained in Google Analytics is overwhelming. There are so. Many. Numbers. And all of those numbers exist completely in a vacuum, and are meaningless unless they’re given context. The last thing that you want to do is overwhelm clients (and yourself!) with data instead of providing a strategy and action items based on meaningful statistics.
Fortunately, you don’t have to be a Google Analytics guru to create a meaningful custom report. Or a Google Analytics ninja. Or whatever the kids are calling it these days. All you need to do is ask the right questions, and use a bit of critical thinking. Which actually takes more effort than you would think – hence the reason that all websites ever aren’t custom-reported up the wazoo. Knowing how to mooch off the Internet is good too – it comes in handy if your custom reports need a bit of spiffing up with some Regular Expressions. (Assuming that you either don’t know how to use Regular Expressions, or that you’re too lazy to translate your needs to Regex. I’m not judging. I’m a combination of both.)
I like knowing that my data has a framework, and that it’s been placed somewhere significant so that it can tell me something interesting that will move my campaigns forward. The data is already there – it’s just a question of aligning it properly so that you understand what it means. As Google Analytics standard reporting is, it won’t do that. It’s just an avalanche of numbers.
The Keyword Analysis report is fairly self-explanatory: it tells you which keywords in your SEO campaign are performing well through which landing page. If all of your keywords are performing well, great – you have what to show your client. (Or your boss, as the case may be.) If your keywords are performing less than well, that’s where your analytical skills come in. Are your keywords lined up with the content of the landing page to which they’re directing traffic? Are there variations of that keyword that are doing better?
The Link Analysis report gives you a good idea of which referral traffic has a high level of engagement with your site once it lands there from the third party source. It’s a great way to find relevant forums and communities to engage with – if the traffic landing on your site from a forum is already engaged, imagine what you can accomplish by increasing the level of your activity there. And reviewing the activity on a forum or community also opens up a whole slew of possible relevant link building sources. The good, organic kind.
The reason I like this report is because not only does it let you know which landing page is sending converting traffic from Google, but it also includes social actions. So even if it doesn’t convert, you know that word’s spreading around the webosphere.
One tip to remember – always check the various elements of your Custom Report when you’re copying a report and make sure to substitute your brand in the field that excludes branded traffic.