The Best Google Analytics Reports You Didn't Know Existed

Google Analytics is a solid cornerstone for any marketing program. Google’s custom reports and dashboards are highly effective in data analysis with the standard reports and dashboards they offer. But deep inside the tree of default GA reports lay numerous classic reports and more advanced reporting modules that Google has rolled out to their users that go virtually undiscovered.
If you’re a frequent Google Analytics user, you’ve probably become very good at creating custom reports and dashboards to visualize the data that’s important to your business. Yet I’m sure you’ve come across roadblocks within GA when it comes to the level of customization you desire. Two frequent frustrations that I’ve heard from clients are:
  1. the type of visualization they want isn’t available 
  2. all of their custom reports look the same 
In many of these cases, I’ve pointed my clients to unique default reports that filled their needs, which they had never used and didn’t even know existed! I imagine there are more out there, like them, who have yet to discover these hidden gems in Google’s reporting. So, here’s my list (in no particular order) of the reports in GA that I don’t think get the love they deserve... 
Interest and Demographic reports 
Where to find it: via the “Audience” section in the sidebar
Interest and Demographic reports give you instant segmentation power over your traffic. I’ve seen clients implement additional solutions to pass information about user affinities, ages, gender, etc. and some of those only work for logged-in users. 
These reports leverage Google’s dominance in the digital marketing space to integrate some additional information about your users Google’s other tracking technologies, such as the Google Display Network. They won’t gather information about all of your users and the segments here are inferred, but the value of this data is still huge. You can learn what your visitors are actually interested in, and get some real insights on whether you’re pulling in the right users.
What turns some clients off from this reporting is the additional privacy needs for the integration between GA and these other technologies (you’ll need to enable “Advertising Features” in GA). Keep in mind however, that the privacy requirements are clearly enumerated, and you’re working with a mature system – Google has refined their privacy considerations over the years. You may have to update your privacy policy, but the data is still anonymous and users are not really exposed to any tracking that’s “brand new.” 
Benchmarking reports 
Where to find it: via the “Audience” section in the sidebar
These reports were added by popular demand from those who want to know about their users, but also want to know about their competitors and how they’re reaching the customers you’re battling to engage. Benchmark reports allow you to choose an industry, region and traffic volume (a proxy for company size) to see data about how users interact with thousands of business’s web properties.
For example, if you’re an up-and-coming bookstore whose next objective is to break into the same space as Borders or Barnes and Noble in the US, you can select the “Book Retailers” vertical, the US, and one of the larger daily session volumes. You’ll be able to see the channels that those companies are using to draw in their users, the locations from which their visitors come and the device types visitors used. You’ll also have access to a palette of metrics that indicate where those companies are finding the most success.
You’ll see an instant color-coded comparison of how you compare to the industry averages. You might realize that your competitors are drawing their most engaged users from tablet visitors. If you’re not tailoring your site experience or marketing efforts for these devices, making some of these shifts could lead to big wins.
Google Analytics Reports - Benchmarking
As a caveat, to view these reports, you’ll also have to pour your account’s data into the pool that Google draws from. Your data will remain anonymous and GA users will not know which companies are opted in. The data in these reports are drawn from other companies who use GA and have opted in, so your business will need to decide if viewing this data, while also adding to it, makes strategic sense for your company.
Search Engine Optimization Reports 
Where to find it: via the “Acquisition” section in the sidebar
It isn’t new information, but several years ago at a peak of public concern over digital privacy, Google (and several other search engines) limited the search keyword information they pass in the open when referring users. However, this data is still available to those who use Google Webmaster Tools (GWT), and GWT data can be passed to your GA profiles.
This setup allows the most granularity if your GA instance uses many properties for each site. One GWT site lines up with one GA property and individual profiles underneath will not be able to easily subdivide the data. With these reports, you can see where your search users come from, what keywords they use most frequently (on Google), and which pages they most frequently land on so you can gauge the effectiveness of your SEO keywords.
Data Hub Activity and Trackbacks 
Where to find it: via the “Acquisition > Social” section in the sidebar
These two reports offer perfect examples of data that I’ve seen third-party social tools vendors use in their pitch to get you to buy their tool. I have had numerous clients unaware that this sort of data is available. To be fair, you won’t have much here if you’re a smaller enterprise, but these reports allow you to leverage activity that happens elsewhere on the web and get personally involved!
The “Data Hub Activity” report allows you to see folks who are talking about your site and linking to your pages on one of the blog/social sites that are part of Google’s data hub partner network, including Google Groups. You can view the actual comments and profiles, and if the post/site allows, you can jump in and respond – to thank users for kind words, answer questions and make amends for negative experiences. This isn’t going to connect to all of the activity on the big social networks like Facebook, but it’s a start.
The trackbacks report shows which blogs and other trackback-enabled sites are linking to your content. As with the data hub activity report, this allows you to view the context in which people are talking about your business. Your social team can jump to these posts and start building relationships with potential thought leaders who are interested in your offerings.
Site Speed and User Timings 
Where to find it: via the “Behavior” section in the sidebar
When we do implementation work for clients, a theme we often see is a disconnect between IT and marketing. IT skepticism and nervousness about large changes (especially via tag management systems) is natural. These GA reports are love letters to your IT team. 
With the page timing reports, you can see how each step of the page load process (DNS request, DOM ready, content loading, server connection, etc.) contributes to the total load time. You can see distributions of your pages’ load times and how user location is affecting load times. You can even break down load time by dozens of dimensions to see if browser, referral location or custom dimensions you’re tracking are correlated with higher or lower load times for given pages. This can be huge for cross-browser troubleshooting.
User Timings are custom actions your IT team can track with GA by making some small code changes. This allows your business to get a view into how quickly users are loading a specific script, image or module, so you can target your optimizations. 
Multi-Channel Funnels 
Where to find it: via the “Conversions” section in the sidebar
GA has some pretty advanced attribution modeling features which allow customizing how you assign credit for conversions. With that said, many of my clients have found these features intimidating. For simpler answers on questions about contributions from multiple sources/referral sites/channels over several sessions, the multi-channel funnels report can be your one-stop shop.  
You can view the sequence of users’ channels that led to a conversion and customize how far you want to look back prior to conversion, as well as break down by the number of steps before users converted.
Using the time lag and path length reports, you can see the patterns that your users follow when they take their time in converting. For more discussion on the possibilities of multi-channel funnels, check out this Stratigent blog on integrating strategic data layers.

If your business needs more guidance on Google Analytics reports or the full power of your analytics tools, or needs to amp up their digital measurement, reach out to us at  

By Tony Cohen
About the Author:

Tony Cohen is a Senior Analyst at Stratigent.

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