Winning the Internet

Keep on top of your site w/o logging into Google Analytics

After a great run, the Winning the Internet blog has been retired. However, you can still keep in touch with New Media Mentors here.

Google Analytics is an incredibly powerful tool, but it can also be a real time suck. Because of this, checking up on website performance can fall to the bottom of the to do list. But there’s a better way! A way to keep on top of your site without logging into Google Analytics!

Okay, to be fair, you have to log into Google Analytics once to set everything up, but once is manageable, right?

The secret is a combination of Google Analytics’ Dashboard and Email features. Basically you create a dashboard of reports, then have Google Analytics email that dashboard to you on a schedule. The report that comes through is a very visual pdf. If you set it up right, the pdf should be all you need to look at most of the time, though fear not—there’s a link to your online dashboard and the reports you know and love in case you want to do more digging.

Here’s what the report looks like (click the image to see the whole pdf):

google analytics dashboard report

Here’s how to set it up:

Step 1: Setup your dashboard.
In Google Analytics it’s very easy to create a dashboard—essentially a collection of reports you want to look at regularly. There are two ways to do it but I recommend the first. The first option is to navigate to a report that you look at regularly, then click “Add to dashboard” near the top of the screen.

google analytics add to dashboard

Follow the directions to add the report to your dashboard. If you’re not sure which widget to add, add all options to your dashboard then delete the ones that don’t look useful. (It’s hard to visualize what the reports are going to look like on your dashboard at first, but you’ll get the hang of it.)

google analytics add both widgets

Each widget will have a little bit of data and a link to the complete report that you’re used to looking at. Edit the widgets to make them useful without clicking through to the full report. (Click the pencil in the top right corner of the widget to edit it.) Change the widget title to something that will make sense to you out of context and play around with the type of widget until you get something that you think will be useful out of context.

The other way to add widgets is by navigating to the Dashboard (top of the left hand navigation), then clicking “Add widget.” I recommend this method for advanced users only as it’s hard to figure out exactly which metric you want, etc.

Step 2: Set your dashboard to email to you every week/month/whatever.
Once you’re happy with your dashboard you can set it up so Google Analytics will email it to you on schedule. Make sure you’ve got your dashboard open, then click the “Email” button and follow the directions.

google analytics email feature

You can receive your dashboard daily, weekly, monthly or even quarterly. For most people monthly is appropriate. Make sure you’re realistic about having time to look at the report when you pick your frequency.

That’s it! Just set it and forget it! Well, you know what I mean. 😛


About Melissa Foley

Melissa is the Director of Training and Mentoring for Netroots Foundation and New Media Mentors. She aims to use her MBA + nonprofit background to teach organizations to use new media tools strategically.

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