How To Build Your Own Custom Google Analytics Dashboard

by 14 03/25/2013

You have probably already figured out that I’m a bit of an analytics nut. Not only do I use Google Analytics but I also use several alternatives. I check out analytics blogs and have used custom dashboards and reports.

The one thing I haven’t done – until now – is create my own dashboard. I decided it was time to tackle the elephant in the room – care to join me?

Step 1: Getting Started

I logged into my Analytics account, but the minute I started I hit a snag.

Google’s own guide says to click the home icon to get to the dashboard tool, but that didn’t happen for me. Clicking the home icon gave me an overview of the three sites I manage via Google Analytics. Instead, I clicked on the name of the site I wanted, then went to the ‘My Stuff’ section in the menu on the left. The first sub-section was dashboards and I was ready to get started. I’ve already got quite a few dashboards, but I went to the bottom of that section to click the ‘new dashboard’ button.

GA - Add new dashboard

Step 2: Choose Your Options

Next, I got the option of adding a starter dashboard or starting with a blank canvas.

GA - add dashboard options

I took the second option but here’s how the first one looks if you choose to go for it.

GA starter dashboard

Step 3: Your First Analytics Widget

A blank canvas remains blank until you add some widgets. Clicking the ‘blank canvas’ button takes you to the widget editor so you can do this. There are several display options for your widgets (metrics, pie charts, timelines, tables, geo maps and bar charts).

GA widget types

But in order for your widgets to be useful you have to add some data, so that’s what I did next.

Step 4: Dimensions and Metrics

The widget editor gives you the chance to add dimensions and metrics. A lot of people get confused about the difference between dimensions and metrics (I know I did at first) but Google’s own explanation is pretty clear. Dimensions describe your data while metrics measure it.

Here was my first attempt. I asked Google Analytics to create a pie chart looking at all new visits and finding out how many of them used a specific mobile device to visit the site. Adding the dimensions and metrics automatically populated the widget name area, though I had the option to change this if I wanted. I could also link to external sources (which is what DashboardJunkie does) within the widget.

GA - my first widget

Step 5: Using Filters

Another way to refine Google Analytics data is with filters. I tried this with a pie chart so I could see which mobile devices people use when visiting my site.

GA - mobile pie chart

Pie charts can have between 3 and 6 slices. If I wanted to go further and be more specific about individual makes and models, I’d have to choose another way to display the data.

Step 6: Adding More Widgets

Once I’d added my first widget, I used the ‘Add Widget’ link at the top of the dashboard to add some more.

GA - add widget menu

This returned me to the widget editor. I was also happy to find out that even after creating a widget I could still edit it. All I had to do was hover my mouse near the top of the widget until a pencil icon appeared. This allowed me to change metrics, dimensions and the widget title.

Here’s an example of my new dashboard populated with a number of widgets. You can drag and drop widgets and rearrange them so that you have the most important data you want to monitor at the top of your dashboard.

GA - my first custom dashboard

Step 7: Adding Reports

You can improve your dashboard even further by adding reports. All you have to do is go to the report section of your sidebar, open a report and then click the link that says add to dashboard.

GA - add to dashboard

Then select the dashboard you want to add the information to and it will convert the report into another widget.

GA - add report to dashboard

When I tried it, I got a warning that because of the limitations of the widget not all the report data would be converted, but I still got something useful.

GA - report data added

Step 8: Exporting and Sharing

Once you are happy with your dashboard setup then there are several options for doing more with it. For example, you can click the ‘share’ button to get a link you can give others so they can use this dashboard configuration in their own Google Analytics accounts. Your data stays private.

GA - sharing a dashboard

If someone shares a dashboard configuration with you, you can click the edit button, see what data they used to configure the widget and use this as a starting point for a new widget of your own. I’ve done this with a couple of the widgets I’ve added to other dashboards.

You can also export the data as a PDF for immediate use or have it emailed to your inbox (or anyone else’s) at specified intervals.

Assessing the Process

Overall, I found the process of creating a custom Google Analytics dashboard very easy. According to Google you can currently create up to 20 dashboards (which is great) with up to 12 widgets each (possibly a bit limiting).

While I think the ability to add custom analytics dashboards is a killer feature, there’s still one thing on my wish list (and it’s on Samantha Noble‘s too): the ability to drag and drop widgets between reports and profiles so you don’t have to start from scratch every time. At the moment, you have to use the share link to achieve this, which seems a little clunky.

What’s your experience of creating custom dashboards in Google Analytics?

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About 

Sharon Hurley Hall is a professional writer and blogger. Her career has spanned more than 20 years, including stints as a journalist, academic writer, university lecturer and ghost writer. Connect with Sharon on her website.

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14 COMMENTS

Nate

Thanks for this step-by-step tutorial. I’ve just added my first one and it will be really helpful in creating user-friendly and readable reports for clients.

I appreciate your help and feedback.

March 26, 2013 Reply

    Kathryn Aragon

    That’s awesome, Nate! Kudos to you for getting it done so quickly.

    March 26, 2013 Reply

    Sharon Hurley Hall

    Glad you found it useful, Nate. I found it easy once I got started.

    March 26, 2013 Reply

      Nate

      What are some of the most important metrics you like to track and why?

      March 26, 2013 Reply

        Sharon Hurley Hall

        Two areas I’ve been focusing on are social media (so I can see whether those buttons on my site are doing anything) and mobile. Like most people I’ve seen mobile traffic increase in the last year and I want to be sure my visitors are getting a good experience, so I’m checking on devices and screen size and mobile bounce rate. I haven’t reached any firm conclusions yet.

        March 26, 2013 Reply

Jill Whalen

If you like using custom dashboards, you guys may also be interested in all of the custom dashboards, reports and advanced segments over at CustomReportSharing.com. Tons of free ones there for social media, mobile, SEO, PPC, etc.

March 27, 2013 Reply

طراحی سایت

Thanks, this is a useful article.

June 4, 2014 Reply

Robert Thompson

I would love to set up a custom dashboard. The widgets are especially intriguing. Great article. Thanks.

July 5, 2014 Reply

    Neil Patel

    Robert, glad you found the article helpful. Thanks for the feedback :)

    July 5, 2014 Reply


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