While you can design and distribute Google Analytics dashboards from the service itself it has its limitations especially when it comes to the ease of access for everyone, managing special views and the real time update needs of the management. Since the Analytics API have been around there was a possibility of building custom dashboards, but it was not the simplest experience up to know. The challenge was sorted out by Google itself through introduction the Google Analytics Spreadsheet Add-on.
The basic set up
On Google Analytics’ Youtube channel there are two videos published, which I brought to you here at the Easy Marketing Math blog. The first one just below explains the basic workings of the add-on. It is not yet about building a dashboard, but more about the basics of how to access your data through the API using the spreadsheet add-on and how to configure a basic report. While it is best you are not afraid of some technical terms, I see some room for improvement still when it comes to ease of understanding metrics, the wizard and report set up is pretty straightforward and you can learn the ins-and-outs by a bit of tinkering.
The second video of 15 minutes awesome details the dashboard creation process. I like the fact that it is taking the approach of comparing KPIs year on year, week on week to see how things are moving in comparison. It also shows how multiple reports can be combined to deliver visual information.
For adding real power to this dashboard approach, the video introduces the concept of automatic data refresh. It is a great feature as once you set up the dashboard there is no, or very minimal, maintenance work to be done here. Data and charts can refresh hourly, weekly, daily or monthly. The only minor drawback here is that the refresh interval will be the same for all reports. I don’t think you would need different refresh intervals per report, but who knows.
Last but not least, google spreadsheets come with the option of embedding your charts. The video brings the example through Google sites, but in all honesty the exact same approach can be taken with any website or CMS driven portal, so you can put out a nice visual dashboard and prompt management and users to that and support a self service approach, taking off the burden of distributing the dashboard or managing and teaching access to an Analytics property.
The approach taken by Google is very powerful, especially the notion that even smaller companies need simple and accessible, but still custom made reporting and this is exactly what has been made available. This dashboard solution might not fit everyone, but it is simple, easy and ensures that you can filter the relevant information to your users with minimal maintenance requirements.
In case you have happened to make one dashboard and it is available for the public eye, please do share in the comments!