Google Analytics brings a variety of useful reports to your fingertips, and one report you shouldn’t overlook is the Behavior Flow Report. Here’s how to use it to learn more about your website visitors.
Analytics | Feb 25
Maham S. Chappal on October 22, 2020 (last modified on January 14, 2021) • 17 minute read
Data is essential for businesses to thrive and grow.
According to a Mckinsey Global Institute, data-driven businesses are 23 times more likely to acquire customers and 19 times more likely to be profitable.
But, with a plethora of data available via Google Analytics, tracking and analyzing all of it can be a daunting task. Not only is it a time-consuming process, but a lot of that data is completely useless for your business goals.
So what’s the best way to make the most out of Google Analytics data without losing your mind in the process?
Creating and using custom reports.
And that is precisely what we’re going to discuss in this guide. Learn the following,
So if you’re tired of wading through tons and tons of Google Analytics data, read on.
If you’re new to Google Analytics Reporting, you’re probably wondering what a custom report is.
There are 3 types of reports in Google Analytics – Custom reports, Standard reports, and Saved reports. According to Google, a Custom Report is a report that you create according to your preferences. You pick the dimensions (City and Browser, for example) and metrics (Sessions, Pageviews, and Bounce Rate, for example) and decide how they should be displayed.
Since there’s a lot of data available to businesses, picking and choosing the data that matters most to your business and customizing it to be displayed in a custom report is very convenient. It helps to cut through all the noise and just focus on data that’s most important for your business and marketing goals.
Editor’s Note: Want to view your important website engagement metrics at one glance? Use this free Google Analytics Website Engagement dashboard template to track your most important website engagement metrics, including average time on page, bounce rate, average session duration, the number of unique visitors to your website, and % returning visitors and goal conversion rate.
Most businesses prefer custom reports over standard reports in Google Analytics. According to a recently conducted survey, a whopping 73.4% of respondents said they preferred creating custom reports.
Related content: The 10 Most-Tracked Google Analytics Metrics [Original Data]
“To create useful custom reports, you have to think about the questions you are interested in. With the right questions in mind, you will no longer spend hours with unguided searching in Google Analytics.” Says Bernadett Dioszegi of Bannersnack.
Google Analytics reports depend on your business and website goals and the different data you’re looking to collect and analyze. As Charlie Tatum of Online Optimism shares, “In addition to looking at overall website analytics, I find it beneficial to create a filtered report that looks only at the traffic and performance of blog posts. Because these posts serve a different function than service or other pillar pages, it’s important and useful to look at page views, time spent on page, and conversions driven by blog views. This helps our team grow our content strategy and make changes regularly.”
However, a basic report definitely needs to have customer acquisition metrics, behavioral metrics, and result metrics—a complete picture of what’s happening on your website.
You can also combine custom reports with other sources of information like SEO, eCommerce, etc. As Andreas Cederblad of Ngine Group AB says, “We try to involve, ToMoBeFeBeBa and Ds (Top, middle, bottom of the funnel and Front/backend and for other business analysts and data scientist), as well.”
Creating a custom report in Google Analytics is really simple.
Your Custom Report is complete. You can now track and analyze this data through Google Analytics.
To make it easier for you, Google also has a Google Solutions Gallery where you can choose from several crowd-sourced custom reports and dashboards.
With so much analytics data available at your fingertips, you need to ensure you’re focusing on the data that matters most to your business. Cutting through all the unnecessary noise on Google Analytics is imperative.
And the best way to do that is by creating custom reports of crucial metrics.
We asked 28 marketing professionals and Google Analytics users the best ways to use custom reports, and here’s what they said.
“We use a custom report to show visits from individual companies. We do this by using Custom Dimension data provided by ZoomInfo (required a paid contract).
The report of these Custom Dimensions lets us see how many times users from Amazon, PayPal, Blackberry, and others visit our website.
Once the custom dimension is added to your GA account, you can filter all traffic by that dimension to see all the standard GA metrics from each company: sessions, users, session duration, referral sources, etc.” TJ Kelly of FansRaise says.
“This report tells our team what time most of our customers are online. This is very helpful to us because it helps us determine the best time to post on social media or post about a sale.” Explains Taylor Roberts of Movers Chicago.
Breadnbeyond’s Andre Oentoro agrees and says, “I created a custom report which I called ‘Hours & Days Traffic Report.’ It helps me to investigate what visitors are doing on our websites by hour of the day and day of the week. In other words, it makes it easier for me to determine when your traffic time periods are high and low. The hour of the day custom report gives us an insight into the best time to post new content. Meanwhile, we use the day of the week analytics data to determine when to make content updates and improvements (especially for the days that have low traffic) to reach out to more traffic.”
“For our eCommerce clients, we might create a custom report with custom metrics that show the number of times a pop-up banner (like a promotion banner – 20% off for email) appeared vs. how many times that pop-up was completed (converted).
This way, we can test different pop-up promotions to see what’s more effective (a $ amount off versus a % off).” Shares Jason Berkowitz of Break The Web.
“I frequently use a custom Hourly Traffic Report in Google Analytics. This custom report lets me determine high-traffic website times for any selected time period and can provide insight into staffing hours for sales teams.
For example, I recently used the report to inform the leadership team of two weeknights that have been consistently busy over the past year so we could potentially stagger shifts during those days to keep the phones manned an extra hour.” Tony Mastri of MARION Marketing Firm says.
Adam Jackson of Big Leap says, “I love to create custom reports to track traffic from social, local, and other listings I control. With the use of UTM parameters, I can pinpoint the success of my efforts much more accurately than automatic reports, and I can track that user behavior in greater detail on my site.
These kinds of reports have helped me determine the true quality of traffic for each separate UTM installation. I have been able to stop or double down on certain marketing efforts.”
Colton De Vos of Resolute Technology Solutions shares that his team uses a ‘Filtered Traffic – Weekly Recap’ custom report. “It contains at a high-level summary of weekly stats for:
This report gives us an ongoing sense of how our digital marketing initiatives are doing and that they are meeting our success metrics.
We can also determine if a particular traffic source, page, or search term has had drastic change – positively or negatively. This acts as the alert to go in and see what has caused the change. Getting this report and investigating the changes on a weekly basis versus a longer timeline allows our team to stay nimble and catch any problem areas or expand on opportunities quickly.” Explains De Vos.
Katheriin Liibert of Outfunnel shares, “I use a super simple saved report to keep an eye on the traffic that our content marketing efforts are bringing. It’s a report that shows all of the google/organic traffic by ‘landing page’ (blog articles), but I’ve excluded other parts of our website, such as the features page, careers, pricing, and our main page outfunnel.com.”
M. Alexander Krzyston of Zorbies says, “We created a custom Store Speed report which shows the page load times of landing pages based on unique pageviews. The reason for this report is to understand what our slowest loading landing pages were so we could focus on optimizing those pages with the highest value. Slow page load times can increase your bounce rate and decrease your conversions. It helps us to prioritize which pages are the most important to optimize first and look into more depth why it might be loading slowly (e.g., having large media files that needed to be compressed).”
Sam Ficek of Nomadic Sam shares, “I have a ‘media referrals’ report that I use to keep track of traffic and conversions that have come from a filtered list of referring domains (Guardian, SMH, news.com.au). Each time we get a new piece of coverage, we add the domain to the regex filter rule. This is one of the ways we can measure the effectiveness of PR activity, and see the data at a glance in one report.”
“The ‘Site Performance Dashboard’ is a useful way to display the performance speeds of your website.
After logging on to a client’s website, you can quickly discover page speed issues on different browsers, countries, and popular pages. By identifying the issues with these filters, it’s easy to target specific issues on a website.
For example, in the screenshot, the Safari browser, as well as average traffic coming from the United States may be having issues, which can be looked into deeper.” Explains Ben McLaughlan of Easy Mode Media.
Luke Fitzgerald of Ding says, “I regularly use a custom 404 page report to determine whether any of our global visitors are hitting 404 pages so we can report back to our technical and UX teams to resolve any issues with dead pages or broken user journeys.
The screengrab below shows what the custom report settings look like within GA, and it takes no more than a minute to configure for your own domain.
You simply enter the title for your 404 page on the ‘page title’ filter. You’ll then get URLs looking something like this in the report: ‘/404.html page=/pageonyourwebsite/&from=https://externalwebsitelinkingtobrokenpage/’
Once that’s configured, it’s worth checking in regularly to ensure no new 404s are cropping up and that the old ones remain fixed, keeping your users happy and avoiding any potential bounces along the way.”
Sasha Matviienko of growth360 agrees and says, “One of the all-time favorite reports we use in Google Analytics, especially for large eCommerce SEO clients is a 404 page report, sent to the team weekly. It helps identify broken pages and pages that users and search engine crawlers are trying to access but can’t.
From there, our SEO team has an option of either setting up a 301 redirect to another relevant page or identifying the source of traffic and reaching out to webmasters to fix the link.”
Swati Chalumuri of hearmefolks.com is a big fan of 404 Pages Report. “The metrics help in weeding out internal links that are broken as well as affiliate URLs that are no longer valid. I find this very important since not every user is conversant with broken links – and the moment they come across the dreaded 404 error, they leave and never come back.” Explains Chalumuri.
“We use Mobile Performance Report because it’s great for understanding how well our site is optimized for the mobile devices and where we need to improve. For instance, if we see that the site is falling at a high bounce rate for android, our team gets busy in fixing the issue and optimizing the site speed.” Says Rioja.
Alex Birkett of Omniscient Digital shares, “I love custom reports and use them all the time. One we always use and set up for our clients is a custom report that ties back conversions to which blog posts the session originated one. This is a very ‘direct response’ form of attribution, which doesn’t always work for content marketing, but since we’re typically creating high intent content and have aligned the post with a suitable offer, the goal is really to drive some form of conversion in that session.”
Mira’s Quincy Smith is a big fan of custom blog conversion reports, too. “We sell a few physical products and promote heavily across multiple channels, so attribution is HUGE for us. We’ve invested a lot into our blog over the past year and rely on a custom report to determine not only how much blog traffic is contributing to sales but also which pages are doing the heavy lifting. The report itself isn’t that complicated, but we check it weekly to ensure the amount of money we’re investing in content is driving sales.” Explains Smith.
Jackie Jeffers of Portent Digital Marketing Agency uses custom reports to measure the strength of a client’s brand in search. “We evaluate landing pages, Source / Mediums, and search terms to determine what percentage of a client’s traffic is truly from familiarity with their brand. It really helps us understand which parts of “Direct” traffic are legitimate, and which parts are just traffic that Google isn’t able to classify in other channels.” Says Jeffers.
Mike Pavlak of StashStock uses custom reports for the same purpose.
“One example of a custom report on google analytics that we use is a graph that compares the length of a session on our website between paid and organic searches. We noticed that organic searches have much longer sessions than paid searches. To us, this means that we may need to restructure our landing page to be more informative and user friendly for those who are less familiar with our business. The bright side is that when people look for us, they find us and find what they need from us.” Shares Pavlak.
Melanie Musson of CarInsuranceCompanies.net is a fan of Campaign Cost reports and explains, “It’s important to gain an overview of where your ad campaign investments are focused so that you can eliminate spending where you don’t see rewards and increase spending where your campaigns are doing well.”
Bernadett Dioszegi of Bannersnack recommends business owners and marketers to analyze the visitor acquisition efficiency analysis via Google Analytics.
Dioszegi explains, “In this report, you can find data about the efficiency and performance of each source of traffic. If you click on a specific source/medium, you will be able to see medium and campaign information. In this report, you can find acquisition, behavioral, and result metrics. This report is a great help in analyzing information about the traffic that is most valuable for your business, so it will be so much easier to revise your marketing strategy.”
Diabetes 365’s Matt Schmidt agrees and explains why. “This specific report shows us data such as total sessions, new visitors, and our specific goal conversion rates. You can even organize this by the traffic source and medium. Simply put, it’s a great report for those who really like to look at specifics.”
Editor’s Note: Google Analytics (Acquisition) dashboard template goes deeper into your Sources and reveals which marketing campaigns have been most productive.
“One custom report that our team uses is Events by traffic source. Our team uses numerous custom events (click engagement, scroll rate, contact for submissions). We then layer in the channels so that we can accurately see what channel is providing us with our “soft-conversions” (on a specific page).
This report is invaluable to our team since we can really see where our valuable content is.” Says William Chin of Weedloverz.com.
Akash Makwana of Franking Machine Compare uses custom event reports to label external link clicks. “This gives the business a better idea around how traffic is flowing around the site, where users are engaging the most, and how to shape our traffic better.
We’ve learned how to get a more granular view, and this informs our content strategy for new posts.” Explains Makwana.
Arfa Nazeer of Shemeansblogging uses a custom dashboard for Pinterest referrals for her website. “I can use that dashboard to find out which posts drive traffic from Pinterest. It even shows the live posts from Pinterest. I check that every week to find out the progress of Pinterest traffic and my top pins that drive traffic.
By using this custom dashboard for Pinterest, I have found out what type of content performs well and which type of posts doesn’t do well. This certainly helps me plan my content strategy for Pinterest.” shares Nazeer.
“One custom Google Analytics report that is especially helpful for digital publishers and media brands is a ‘biggest movers’ report to see which pages have seen the most volatility in overall traffic for a given period of time, to help identify site issues, emerging trends, and any ramifications for search algorithm updates and changes.” Explains Matt Arceneaux of TechJunkie.
Catriona Jasica of Top Vouchers Code says, “Our team uses the map overlay custom report type in Google Analytics; by doing so the team is able to learn about the traffic sources, the audience ratio based on genders, the age demographic, and other viable information which helps us to tune up the site according to consumers inherent tastes.”
“My favorite custom report is a custom browser report. Websites lose an insane amount of traffic because not everybody uses Google Chrome or Safari, believe it or not. You can create a report that breaks down traffic per browser and then breaks it down per device (computer, laptop, smartphone, etc.)
This is a very powerful way to use custom reporting in Google analytics. You’ll learn exactly where your traffic is coming from and how you can optimize for it.” Shares Jack Choros of Little Dragon Media.
When you’re just starting out, it’s very tempting to track all the data available to you via Google Analytics. You don’t want to miss out on anything.
However, as time goes by, you start to understand that you’re not using most of that data and are wasting a lot of your precious time analyzing data that doesn’t help you with your business and marketing goals. This is why you need to start creating custom reports. Focus on the data that can help you optimize your business and create better, more targeted strategies.
So if you still haven’t dived into the world of custom reports, now’s the time to do so.
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