The aim of the Google Analytics, game, of course, is to see insights and make changes and recommendations to your website and marketing.
Those recommendations need to be both justified, reported on, and most importantly, correct.
I think we can all agree that reporting on your work is incredibly important for your future success. But sometimes, the reports we try and build, well, suck.
We know they can suck, because we have spent years training, teaching and troubleshooting Google Analytics, and are happy to share some of the things we have learned along that journey.
In our first webinar (*throws confetti*) we covered a few key themes – which you can rewatch here, if you love a good webinar.
Give it a watch to find out how you can get to grips with reporting so that you can create and present a story with your data. In the webinar, we talked about how to plan your reports so you display data in a more straightforward, and more meaningful way.
We also explained why some numbers make your head hurt, and how Google defines certain metrics, so you can make sense of the data too.
And who doesn’t want to be an analytics badass?
We finished our webinar with some sweet advanced tips and techniques to build reports awesome reports in Google Data Studio.
As you are here, you should check out the free ‘Report like a boss’ explainer that you can download for free. Or this cool guide around the difference between a session and a user-based segment, and if you want a handy explainer on segments, we’ve got your back with a little guide on how to use segments in Google Analytics’.
If you liked the section in the webinar about where we talk about linking multichannel funnels assisted conversion data into Data Studio, yeah we wrote some stuff on that as well.
Not forgetting that if you like this sort of stuff, and want to get better at it, we have whole modules in our Online Google Analytics Course on your Admin Setup, Goals, Assisted Conversions, Building Reports. In fact, the course is 10 hours of content, across 17 modules, with a whole bunch of word and excel templates, all for $199.
Even still though, you can lose a lot of time trying to build your dashboards, can’t you? I’ve spent months, maybe even years, ok maybe not years. But, I’ve wasted time over my career building dashboards and worst-case scenarios, and nobody ever reads them. If you listen quietly you can hear the sound of tiny violins.
Aiden has a fun story about this actually, he went to a meeting with a large global agency group, by all accounts a fabulous building, but it had broken air conditioning. Sat in a stuffy room someone said ‘oh just prop the window open with this book.”
Aiden asked what it was – because he’s nosy. The guy said our client analytics reports. We just print it off every month and send it to them because it’s something tangible that they can look at, but nobody ever reads. It’s fine, prop away!
You hear that…that was the sound of my jaw-dropping.
What’s the point of doing that? What a waste.
So, let’s dive into a process to avoid the data vomit and take a moment to plan how you’re going to show your work in a way that will identify insights and answers to questions you have about your marketing and website performance. So, people might actually look at your hard work, and celebrate you accordingly.
We want to help you get to grips with a process that we use so that you can create and present stories with your data.
We start with a set of questions.
What’s the point of the report?
Your goal here is to make decisions based on the report. Not report for the sake of reporting. Tempting as it may be to throw everything together in a dashboard form. Try to remember, what is the whole point of the report? Of course, a big no-no is to pull data together, to make your work feel tangible, and to show that “stuff happened.”
So, what is it that you are trying to say?
What questions are you trying to find an answer to in your business, or for your client?
Is the point of the report to show how well your marketing budget is being spent? How well your campaigns are doing? How much money did the site make this month, and, are we improving from previous months? Etc.
Who’s getting the report?
Just like the idea of having personas. Old skool.
Think about the idea of having reporting personas.
Who’s getting the report? What is it that they want? This will give you an idea of how much information to give those people – and allow you to highlight the metrics that matter to them.
For example, the CFO of a SaaS business may want very high-level metrics; that focus more on the finance side of things. Cost per visitor, cost per acquisition, ROI, churn rate – that kind of thing.
Whereas your VP of Marketing many want to know how many free trials were registered on the website, how many people are upgrading to premium products, that kind of thing – because those metrics are more aligned with their projects and workstreams.
What are the key messages?
You want the reader to look at the report and walk away with your key message. Whilst, of course, making sure that they have the right message too, which is significantly easier when you know who you are reporting to and what the point of the report is in the first place.
How can you make it easy for them to get that message?
User Experience 101. Don’t confuse people, plan how you’re going to show your work, your data, in a way that is as smooth as silk and as easy to read as your A,B, Cs. As a result, those insights and answers will be easier to see and action. It is, after all, part of your job to communicate your findings.
The person looking at the report should very quickly get to their destination, their ‘aha’ moment. To get them there, think about how you can visualize the data in a very simple way, don’t make them think and ask questions, or be unclear about what they are looking at.
Select the right visual style for your message and make each data point clear – by giving each metric or section a heading in plain language.
Never assume that the person knows what they are looking at! Hint: they don’t.
Wireframe the Report
The next step, once you have answered these questions, is not to dive right in and create a dashboard. I’m sure many of you have spent hours, days, weeks, and for some of you, months, creating reporting dashboards. Only to find that they weren’t correct, or someone wanted different information. Or worst crime of all, people didn’t even bother to look at them! That my friends, used to really upset me!
Creating reports can take time, and let’s face it, it’s not exactly the most exciting job in the world – sitting building dashboards.
So, save yourself time and future amends on your wondrous creation by creating a wireframe of your reports, get sign off, then build it. You may have used wireframes to sketch out landing pages, websites, or emails, but imagine how you can use this technique to build out a dashboard.
You can use good old pen and paper, or if you feel like it, use a tool like Figma to create a wireframe of your report.
Let’s walk through our process and see what we come up with for our wireframe.
Q: What’s the point of the report?
A: You want to isolate organic traffic from the website to see how your SEO strategy is working for you.
Q: Who is getting the report?
A: The CEO who has signed off on the budget.
Q: What are the key messages?
A: Which Search Engines are we getting traction with? E.g. Google, Bing, Yahoo. How many users are coming from organic search, which pages they visited, and if they converted or not.
Q: How can we make this easy?
Assuming you are going to build this report in Google Data Studio. Provide headers above each metric and data item. Display the search engines in a pie chart format, for any goals, provide the data as a % point AND the real number of conversions, use a bar chart to show the pages users visit, or heat maps. Add a calendar icon so the reader can change the dates, and an option to switch between reporting views.
Once your wireframe is signed off, then you build it! You are done.
Found this interesting? Enjoyed the webinar? You should totally check out what is in our GA course! Head this way, my analytics friend!