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Custom reports are perhaps the most useful feature in Google Analytics, as they enable you to find the data and presentation that best suits your business goals. 

I'm no big Google Analytics expert, instead I've picked it up and figured things out as I've gone along, mainly with the aim of understanding our users' behaviour and improving this blog. 

I explain more of my approach to measuring and optimising this blog here, but I wanted to provide a beginner's guide to creating custom reports.

If this is too basic for you, or I've made any glaring errors, please forgive me (and put me right in the comments), but I hope this will be useful for you.

So here's how to create a basic custom report from scratch...

Getting started

First of all, open up Google Analytics and head for the customisation tab. 

Then select '+ new custom report' from the top navigation menu: 

You'll then see a screen which looks like the one below. At this point it can look a bit confusing, and I do wonder whether Google could provide more information at this stage to help newbies.

However, it perhaps looks more complicated than it is.  

Dimensions and metrics

Let me explain the various options: 

  • Report tab. This allows you to have multiple tabs on one report to flick through. For example, this 'time of day' report from Dan Barker has different tabs to allow you to flick between four different metrics:

  • Type. This is pretty self-explanatory, and just allows you to change the view of the final report. Here, I'm going for 'explorer', as this produces a useful trends chart as well as a table showing data underneath. 
  • Metric group. Here's where you select what you want to look at. This could be number of clicks on a PPC ad, pageviews, unique visitors, conversions and so on. You can select more than one here so you can flick between them on the finished report. 
  • Dimension drilldown. This allows you to drill down into more specific data. For example, after selecting pageviews in the metrics group, I can then select country/territory as a dimension so I can view pageviews from each different country. 
  • Filters. This allows you to restrict the report to a subset of the total data. So, to continue with the previous example, i could add a filter so I only see pageviews from different countries from mobile users.

    There are plenty of filters, and you can save and preview the report at any time, before going back to make edits, so there's plenty of scope for experimentation here. 

Creating a custom report

There are some pretty complex custom reports, created by experienced analytics professionals, which can look overwhelming, though I've found it useful to download them, press to edit them, and see how they work, or at least how parts of them do. 

For the moment though, it's best to start simple, and create a basic report, which you can then add layers to. 

So, let's create a report that shows traffic and conversions by channel, a useful one for ecommerce sites. 

First of all, name the report and tab(s), then select the various metric groups you want to see. Here, I've selected visits, bounce rate, avg time on page, revenue and average order value.

For dimensions, I've added 'source/medium' as this shows the source of the traffic which enters the site, which will be shown alongside the metrics in the finished report. 

Here, I haven't added a filter, but you could drill down and show these metrics and channels according to which country visitors are from, which device they are using, which browser, and so on. 

This is what custom reports are for, they enable you to create reports according to your needs. 

Then just press save and the report should look something like this: 

Since we're a publisher, and we've created various custom variables and campaigns, you may see different traffic sources, but the general look should be the same. 

The next thing to do is to interpret the stats, perhaps looking for any unusual patterns.

For example, you may find that bounce rates from email traffic are higher than other channels. This could indicate a problem, perhaps landing pages aren't mobile-optimised for example. 

This also allows you to see which channels are performing best. If email id doing particularly well, then maybe this justifies greater spend. 

The beauty of custom reports is that, once you have this basic report, you can interrogate the data in different ways that suit your business goals.

For example, you can filter by country to see where your conversions are coming from, or by device to see how mobile is performing compared to desktop. 

For more inspiration, here are a few collections of custom reports and dashboards:

Graham Charlton

Published 27 November, 2013 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

2565 more posts from this author

Comments (14)

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Philip Storey

Philip Storey, Founder & Principal Consultant at Enchant AgencySmall Business

Really nice, helpful guide, and I'm sure a lot of small and medium size companies would find this to be very useful.

Email marketers: there's a lot of reporting that you can carry out in G.A, and most don't. Take advantage of this!

about 3 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

Thanks Philip.

about 3 years ago

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web design company london

I am using Google Analytic it's help me to getting report about site view,visitor,unique vistor right also got information about custom report thanks .

about 3 years ago

Nick Standen

Nick Standen, Experience manager at Legal & GeneralEnterprise

Hi Graham,
Really helpful article. Just wondering why some of the images you pull in on your article are located on i.imgur.com ?? I see this happening on frequently on econsultancy articles. All we actually we see is a blank space.

Working in a large organisation, a lot of web content gets Websensed due to the nature of some of the content on those sites, as is the case with i.imgur.com .

I've tried contacting Econsultancy a couple of times about this in the past but with no luck. We have a platinum account with you and get good use from your blog articles, but it's quite frustrating when it comes to articles that are particularly relevant or interesting to us and we can't see the images you make reference to.

If you could ask for this to be addressed at eConsultancy, we'd be really grateful.
Cheers
Nick

about 3 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

Hi Nick,

Sorry to hear that. We use imgur for screenshots as the process is much faster, but if this is a problem for users we may need a rethink.

I'll change the host on the images in this article so you can see them properly.

about 3 years ago

Nick Standen

Nick Standen, Experience manager at Legal & GeneralEnterprise

Thanks Graham, that's great news. Much appreciated.

about 3 years ago

Nick Standen

Nick Standen, Experience manager at Legal & GeneralEnterprise

We can see them now Graham. Brilliant! If you can put the word around to the other blog authors that will really help us, and potentially any other organisations facing these Websense issues.
Thanks again.

about 3 years ago

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Nick Stamoulis

I remember the first time I went to set up a customized report in GA--it can be very intimidating! But once you understand how to format that basic report you can really get creative with it. I also found this great site (http://www.customreportsharing.com/) where people upload instructions of how to create different reports.

about 3 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

@Nick, we do try to host when we can, but it isn't always possible, so we and guest bloggers do have to use imgur and other image hosts at times.

We also embed tweets and various videos, so I can't avoid all of these potential problems.

about 3 years ago

Chris Lake

Chris Lake, CEO at Empirical Proof

@Nick - As Graham says we are looking at other ways of adding images to the site, but Imgur is a great image host with some excellent tools, and ultimately Websense is always going to get in the way if your company uses it.

For example, if you block YouTube, then a post that contains 20 YouTube videos isn't going to work for you. There are no workarounds for that.

So it's tricky, but point noted and we shall discuss internally.

about 3 years ago

Peter O'Neill

Peter O'Neill, Founder & Lead Consultant at L3 Analytics

As a quick tip on creating your own GA custom reports, work from the bottom of the screen up. So first create any filters, define what data will/won't be included within the report. Then the dimensions, the rows of data that will be displayed. Next is the metrics, that actual numbers you need to see. Finally name your metric groups, report tabs and custom report.

I find this helps to get the report right, follows your actual structure of thinking closer.

about 3 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

Thanks Peter, great tip.

Seems I've been doing it backwards ;)

about 3 years ago

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Joven Serdenola

Hello Graham,

Greetings of the day.

What to do with tracking code on? Will we incorporate that into our website kindly enlighten us.

Cheers,

Joven

about 3 years ago

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Joven Serdenola

Hello Graham,

I mean the script after I got the Tracking ID, script will be incorporate in the website to serve as a link to google analytics?

Kindly let us know.

Joven

about 3 years ago

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