Unlock Actionable Insights with Google Analytics Custom Reports

Google Analytics is a powerhouse tool for measuring and analyzing website performance. However, with the sheer volume of data available, it can be overwhelming to surface the insights you need to make informed decisions. That‘s where custom reports come in.

Custom reports allow you to tailor your Google Analytics data to your exact specifications, so you can focus on the metrics and dimensions that matter most to your business. Instead of wading through irrelevant numbers, you can create reports that align with your unique objectives and KPIs.

Think of it like building your own dashboard for your car. While the default gauges provide essential information, adding custom dials for metrics like fuel efficiency and tire pressure can help you optimize your vehicle‘s performance. The same concept applies to your website analytics.

"Custom reports allow you to pull out exactly what you need from Google Analytics to demonstrate the value of your work and make data-driven decisions for your business." – Dana DiTomaso, President & Partner at Kick Point

Why Use Custom Reports?

Still not convinced? Here are some powerful reasons to leverage custom reports in Google Analytics:

  1. Tailor data to your business: Every website has different goals, audiences, and KPIs. Custom reports let you zoom in on the metrics that matter most to your unique context.

  2. Consolidate important data in one place: By combining related metrics and dimensions in a single report, you can uncover correlations and quickly spot trends without having to navigate multiple screens.

  3. Save time on recurring reporting: Custom reports can be saved and shared with your team, so you don‘t have to recreate the wheel every time you need to pull the same data set. You can even automate report delivery to stakeholders on a regular schedule.

  4. Gain a competitive edge: Chances are, your competitors are using the default Google Analytics reports. By creating custom reports specific to your business needs, you can uncover valuable insights they might be missing.

How to Create a Custom Report in Google Analytics

Ready to start building? Follow these steps to create your first custom report:

  1. Log into Google Analytics and navigate to the Customization tab in the left-hand menu.

  2. Click on "Custom Reports" and then "+ New Custom Report."

  3. Give your report a name that reflects the data you plan to include. For example, "Blog Post Engagement" or "Mobile Traffic Breakdown."

  4. Choose your report type. There are four options:

    • Explorer: This is the standard custom report format, with a line graph of your selected metrics over time and a table of dimension values below. (Recommended for most users.)
    • Flat Table: Displays metrics and dimensions in a simple table view without a graph.
    • Map Overlay: Plots dimension values on a map. Useful for visualizing geographic data.
    • Funnel: Creates a funnel visualization for analyzing conversion paths. Requires configuring goal funnels in advance.
  5. Define your dimension drilldowns. These are the attributes you want to use to segment and analyze your data. Examples include page title, traffic source, device category, and user type. You can add multiple drilldowns to create a hierarchy, like Country > Region > City.

  6. Choose the metrics to include in the report. These are the quantitative measurements you want to evaluate, such as page views, bounce rate, conversion rate, or average order value. Consider which metrics are most relevant to your analysis goals.

Some common metrics to consider:

  • Sessions: The number of unique visits to your website
  • Users: The number of unique individuals who visited your website
  • Bounce Rate: The percentage of single-page visits (i.e. visits in which the user left without interacting with the page)
  • Average Session Duration: The average length of a session in seconds
  • Goal Completions: The number of times a specific goal was completed, such as filling out a form or making a purchase
  • Page Views: The total number of pages viewed
  • Pages/Session: The average number of pages viewed per session
  1. (Optional) Set filters to include or exclude data based on specific criteria. For example, you might filter for organic traffic only, or exclude visits from a particular country.

  2. Customize your report layout by dragging and dropping the dimension drilldowns and metrics to change the order in which they appear.

  3. Click Save and view your report!

Custom Report Example: Blog Post Engagement

Let‘s walk through a specific example to solidify these concepts. Say you want to evaluate which blog posts are generating the most engagement on your website. Here‘s how you could set up a custom report:

  1. Name: "Blog Post Engagement"

  2. Report Type: Explorer

  3. Dimension Drilldowns:

    • Page Title
    • Source/Medium
  4. Metrics:

    • Unique Page views
    • Avg. Time on Page
    • Bounce Rate
  5. Filters:

    • Include only pages containing "/blog" in the page path
    • Exclude visits where source contains "internal"
  6. Save and analyze!

Here‘s what the final report might look like:

Custom Report Example

From this report, you can quickly identify which blog posts have the highest engagement (lower bounce rate, higher time on page) and what channels are driving that quality traffic. You might uncover that certain topics or formats resonate better with your audience, or that social media drives more engaged visitors than search.

These insights can then inform your content strategy – focus on creating more posts similar to your top performers and double down on promotion in the most effective channels.

Advanced Custom Reporting Tips

Once you‘ve nailed the basics, there are many ways to level-up your custom reporting skills. Here are a few advanced techniques to explore:

Create Multi-Tab Reports

Have several related data points you want to analyze together? Instead of creating separate reports, you can add multiple tabs to a single custom report to build a comprehensive dashboard.

For instance, if you‘re analyzing your ecommerce sales funnel, you might create a report with tabs for:

  1. Product Page Views
  2. Add to Cart Rate
  3. Checkout Abandonment
  4. Purchase Confirmation

Viewing these metrics side-by-side can help you identify leaks in the funnel and prioritize areas for optimization.

Compare Segments

Google Analytics segments allow you to isolate and analyze subsets of your data, such as paid vs. organic traffic or mobile vs. desktop users. Segments can be layered onto custom reports for even more granular insights.

For example, you could create a report comparing engagement metrics for new vs. returning users to understand how familiarity impacts behavior on your site. Or segment by user demographic to identify your most valuable audiences.

Incorporate Custom Metrics & Dimensions

In addition to the standard options, Google Analytics allows you to import custom data points specific to your business, such as:

  • Customer ID
  • Product Category
  • Subscription Plan
  • Content Author

By incorporating these custom dimensions into your reports, you can uncover deeper insights not available in the default reports.

Use Calculated Metrics

Want to analyze ratios or rates not automatically calculated by Google Analytics? Calculated metrics let you create custom formulas from existing metrics.

Some common use cases:

  • Conversion rates (Goal Completions / Sessions)
  • Revenue per user (Revenue / Users)
  • Page views per session (Page Views / Sessions)

You can incorporate calculated metrics into custom reports just like standard metrics.

Apply Report Filters

In addition to view-level filters, you can apply filters at the report level to limit the data included. This is useful when you want to exclude known outliers or analyze a specific subset of traffic.

For instance, if your blog has a few posts that generate significantly more traffic than average, you may want to filter them out of your content engagement report to avoid skewing the data.

Organizing Your Custom Reports

As you start building more custom reports, organization is key to keeping them manageable and accessible. Here are some tips:

  1. Use consistent naming conventions that reflect the purpose of each report.
  2. Group related reports together using folders or naming prefixes (e.g. "Content – Blog Engagement," "Content – Topic Analysis").
  3. Share reports with relevant stakeholders and provide context on how to interpret the data.
  4. Review and update your reports regularly to ensure they remain relevant as your business evolves.

"Your custom reporting strategy is only as good as your ability to translate insights into action. Make sure you have a process in place to regularly review and discuss your reports with key decision-makers." – Jeff Sauer, Founder of Data Driven U

The Impact of Custom Reporting

Still wondering if custom reporting is worth the effort? Consider these statistics:

  • According to a study by Forrester, companies that use advanced analytics are 5x more likely to make faster decisions than their competitors.
  • Google Analytics is used by over 28 million websites, but only a fraction leverage custom reports to their full potential.
  • Businesses that effectively use big data and analytics have been shown to outperform their peers by 20% in every financial category.

In other words, custom reporting is a powerful way to gain a competitive advantage and drive meaningful results for your business.

Custom Reporting in Google Analytics 4

In October 2020, Google released Google Analytics 4 (GA4), the next evolution of its analytics platform. GA4 introduced several new features and changes to reporting, including custom reports.

The good news is, custom reporting is still available in GA4, with even more flexibility than before. Some key differences in GA4 custom reports include:

  • Analysis Hub: In GA4, custom reports are accessed within the Analysis Hub, along with other advanced features like funnel analysis and segment overlap.

  • New Metrics: GA4 includes several new metrics not available in Universal Analytics, such as engaged sessions and event count. However, some metrics have been renamed or replaced, so you‘ll need to update your custom reports accordingly.

  • More Custom Dimensions: While Universal Analytics had a limit of 20 custom dimensions per property, GA4 allows up to 125. This means even more opportunities to track unique data points.

If you‘re migrating to GA4, be sure to review your existing custom reports and rebuild them in the new platform to take advantage of the enhanced capabilities.

Putting Your Custom Reports into Action

Building the report is only half the battle – the real value comes from translating data into insights and taking action to improve your business outcomes.

As you review your custom reports, consider:

  • What patterns or trends emerge from the data?
  • Are there any surprising outliers or anomalies?
  • How do the metrics compare to your goals and benchmarks?
  • What actions can you take based on the insights?

Use your reports to ask better questions about your audience, content, and marketing strategies. Share the insights with your team and stakeholders to keep everyone aligned around data-driven decision making.

"The most effective analytics teams don‘t just deliver data, they deliver actionable recommendations. Custom reports are a powerful tool for uncovering those ‘aha‘ moments that lead to meaningful change." – Krista Seiden, Founder & Principal Consultant of KS Digital

Conclusion

Custom reports are essential for any business looking to maximize the value of their Google Analytics data. By tailoring your reports to your unique needs and goals, you can surface insights that would be buried in the default reports and take action to drive better results.

Building custom reports can seem daunting at first, but the interface is intuitive once you understand the basic components. Start with a clear objective in mind and focus on the most relevant metrics and dimensions first. Over time, you can layer in more advanced analysis techniques to uncover even deeper insights.

The most important thing is to approach custom reporting with a mindset of continuous improvement. Don‘t just build reports for the sake of it – use them to ask better questions, challenge assumptions, and identify opportunities for optimization.

By leveraging the power of custom reports, you‘ll be well on your way to making smarter, data-driven decisions for your website and business. So what are you waiting for? Go start building!