Google Analytics has always had some nice reporting capabilities and a good selection of standard reports to choose from. However, to get the most out of the tracking tool you should consider working with custom reports. Standard reporting is a vendor's best guess at what reports they think would be best for your business, and since all businesses are unique with different needs and objectives, this approach does not make much sense.
Sure, you can wade through standard reports to gather all the data needed to make a decision. This data will most likely be scattered all over the place, and as a result, it becomes difficult for you to find any insight upon which to act. Consider this: if it takes you 20 minutes of digging through standard reports to gather all the information you need, then each time you want to analyze that part of your business you would need to spend another 20 minutes getting to that same information. Time is money and it does not come cheaply for most organizations.
Custom reporting gives you the ability to get detailed information in a fraction of the time it would normally take to sort through a handful of standard reports. In addition, because custom reporting is powered by advanced segmentation built on dimensions and metrics, the results can be more closely tailored to fit your business needs. In case you are not already familiar with the terms "dimensions" and "metrics" as they pertain to analytics, dimensions are the attributes of your visitors and the visits they create, such as keywords, traffic sources, language, etc. Metrics are the actual data collected, things like revenue, conversion rate, visits, etc.
The next likely question one might ask is, "What types of custom reports should I create?" The answer to that lies in your desired outcome for your business, and your business goals. Therefore, the types of custom reports you will need are going to revolve around what you are trying to learn about the data being gathered, and how that helps you understand more about making the proper decisions for reaching your goals.
Although I do not want to influence the types of reports you might want to create, one report I like to include for my clients analyzes each of their traffic channels to determine the true quality of traffic arriving at their site from each of those channels. For example, do not just look at visits, page views, or traffic sources, but also include items like value per visit, average order value, product revenue, conversion rate, bounce rate and exit rates, as indicators of how profitable each channel truly is for your business. Remember, not all traffic is created equal. In the simplest terms, there is qualified traffic and there is unqualified traffic. Qualified traffic is that which has a genuine interest in what you offer and is in the market to buy it. Unqualified traffic is quite the opposite and no matter how much unqualified traffic you drive to a website, even one that is set up to convert traffic to sales, it simply will not buy.
With all things considered, custom reporting offers a faster, more effective means of accessing data than standard reporting. It helps you gather more complete and comprehensive information based on multi-dimensional data elements that you can take action on to better your business.
Eric Leuenberger is an ecommerce expert, founder of Ecommerce Amplifier, and owner of Voom Ventures, LLC, whose products and services help stores increase traffic, maximize ROI, decrease expenses, and increase revenue. He can be contacted online at, www.voomventures.com or by phone at 1-866-602-2673.
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