Chapter 7: Get insights quickly with a dashboard
As you saw in the last section, there’s a vast amount of data available in Analytics. Just looking at the most important reports can be quite time-consuming. With shortcuts, you can get to your favorite reports quickly but you still have to sift through a lot of data. Dashboards are a great way to get an instant overview of what’s happening in your store.
Your Analytics account comes with a basic dashboard already set up. Under “My Stuff”, click into “Dashboards” in the report finder and then, within that, “My Dashboard” to see the starter dashboard. This basic, or starter, dashboard is not really that useful for an online store, but it gives you an idea of how dashboards work. I don’t really go in for graphs in my dashboards: I tend to put in individual statistics like visits, revenue, transactions and conversion rate. Then I’ll put in summaries from some of the most important data tables.
How to set up a new dashboard
It’s very simple to set up a dashboard for your store:
- In the report finder, in the dashboards section, click on the link + New Dashboard to get started - see the screenshot above.
- In the pop-up that appears, choose whether you want to start with a blank canvas or a starter dashboard. For our purposes it’s probably better to start with the blank canvas.
- Give your new dashboard a name. The name will appear in the dashboards section of the report finder. Click the Create Dashboard button to continue.
- With that your new dashboard is created, but it has no data, so we need to start adding some in the form of small panels called widgets. A pop-up “Add a Widget” will now be on the screen. You can use this to add six different types of data: metrics (or individual statistics), timelines (like the standard graphs on so many reports), geomaps (world-maps), tables, pie (charts) or bar (charts).
- Let’s start with a simple statistic: revenue. Make sure that “Metric” is selected as the type of widget. Open the dropdown menu “Add a metric”. You can either scroll down till you find “Revenue” or you can type "Revenue" in the search box that appears above the metrics. When you find it, click on “Revenue” to add it. The chosen metric will be inserted as the widget title, but you can change it if you like. Click the Save button to continue.
- The pop-up will disappear to reveal your dashboard below with your new revenue widget. It’s a start, though it looks a little bare. Just below the report name, beside the Advanced Segments button, click on the + Add Widget to add another widget. Repeat the same steps as before but this time adding the individual statistics that are most important for you. I added transactions, ecommerce conversion rate, and visits.
Unless you want very specific data in a widget that you can’t find elsewhere in a report, it’s easier to add widgets from specific reports. To do so, follow the instructions below.
How to add widgets from specific reports
For most of the reports available in Analytics, there are widgets available that you can add to your dashboard. Let’s take the example of the world-map of visits from the Audience > Demographics > Location report and see how it’s done:
- Open up the report of your choice. I chose the Audience > Demographics > Location report.
- Click on the Add to Dashboard button under the report name. It’s with the buttons Advanced Segments, Customize, Email, etc.
- A pop-up “Add to dashboard” will appear. In the dropdown “Select Dashboard”, select the dashboard to which you want to add the widget.
- Below the dropdown, you’ll see a list of widgets that can be added. Check the checkbox on the left to select which widgets to add. For the location report, I added both widgets so that I have a world-map and a table with specific data.
- With a widget selected, if you click on the widget title, you can rename it as you like.
- Click on the Add to Dashboard button to finish.
- Your dashboard will open and your new widgets will have been added.
Go back through your favorite reports and add the widgets that you want to your dashboard.
How to organize and customize your dashboard
Your dashboard probably won’t be exactly as you want it straight away. Some widgets have data that is more important than others, so it’s likely that you’ll want to move widgets around to best represent your business. You may want to edit or delete specific widgets. And you may also want to re-organize the page layout for your dashboard.
Moving a widget
To move a widget, place your mouse pointer over the widget title and drag and drop the widget to where you want it.
Editing a widget
Sometimes you may want to rename a widget or change the metric that is being displayed. To do so, place the mouse over the widget title to reveal the edit icon (it looks like a little pencil). Click the edit icon. A pop-up with the widget settings - the same one that we saw earlier - will now appear. Edit the settings and click on Save to finish.
Deleting a widget
When you placed the mouse pointer over a widget title, you probably noticed that there was an x beside the edit icon. This is the delete icon. Clicking on it will delete the widget.
Customizing your dashboard layout
On your dashboard, just below the date selector, you’ll see a button Customize Dashboard. On clicking this button, a pop-up will appear with a choice of page layouts. You can choose how many columns you want to appear on your dashboard. Personally I like 50% 50%, but it depends a lot on the size of your browser window.
Deleting a dashboard
Below the date selector, you’ll also notice a Delete Dashboard button. Use this if you no longer want the currently viewed dashboard.
How the dashboard looks in the end
Above you can see an example of a dashboard. It's got all the key statistics on one page - not all are shown in the screenshot. Very useful indeed!
Google Analytics has some incredibly useful features for the online merchant. With the data provided in Analytics and the insight you gain from that data, you will be better able to guide your online store to success and go on building on that success.
Just to recap, the important things to remember are to:
- Make sure to fully set up Analytics for your store.
- Create a dashboard for an instant overview of your store.
- Regularly check in on the most important reports for your online stores.
- Use shortcuts to quickly get to your favorite reports.
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