Save Time with Google Analytics Shortcuts, Dashboard Widgets, and Report URLs

Take full advantage of Google Analytics built-in bookmarking features truly customize your reporting dashboard with report URLs.

For those of us in the Internet marketing business, and others who run measurement and analytics reports for dozens of websites on a regular basis, the prospect of keeping track of custom reports for each one is daunting one. However, by leveraging Google Analytics shortcuts, dashboards, and URL parameters, you can do so with ease. While there is no substitute for the hard work that goes into creating an insightful, customized report, replicating your report to provide month-over-month or year-over-year comparisons should be a breeze.

It’s hard work sifting through all the data in Google Analytics to generate an insightful report: you have to isolate traffic sources, filter out anomalous data points, and identify the most useful metrics to compare. But once you do find an insightful report, you likely want track its numbers over time. Rather than reinventing the wheel to find that report next month, you can use one of Google’s existing methods to bookmark your report and never duplicate your work again.

We’ll walk you through the process of keeping track of your reports so you can revisit your exact custom report breakdown with the click of a link. We’ll start by briefly explaining the shortcut feature in Google Analytics, and then show you how to become a reporting ninja with Google Analytics dashboard widgets.

GOOGLE ANALYTICS SHORTCUTS

Google Analytics “Shortcut” feature is an efficient way to save your custom reports. To do so, simply click the “Shortcut” button at the top of your screen in Google Analytics. This will add the exact report configuration you’re looking at (including custom filters, advanced segments, secondary dimensions, sort fields, etc.) to the “Shortcuts” section in your left-bar navigation.

THE SHORTCOMINGS OF SHORTCUTS

While Google Analytics reporting “Shortcuts” feature is a great time-saver for accessing a few recurring reports on a regular basis, the feature also has its shortcomings. One is that you can’t group your shortcuts into clusters—they all appear on one big list. And, secondly, you can’t rearrange them once you’ve created them. These might seem like minor inconveniences, but they start to compound when you run dozens of reports a month. It’s not long before these inconveniences turn into inefficiencies which can cost time (read “money”).

This is where Google Analytics dashboard widgets come in handy. Dashboard widgets come with their own quirks and limitations, which I’ll describe below (and explain how to get around them). However, widgets can be grouped into dashboards and rearranged within dashboards, so they are an ideal solution for keeping track of dozens of reports for dozens of different websites.

Using the “Add to Dashboard” button in Google Analytics is similar to the “Shortcut” feature except that you can get a visual snapshot of your reports (a widget) on one of your customizable dashboards. While the visualization is nice, I prefer to use the dashboard widgets as an efficient way to bookmark useful reports and come back to them later. At first, widgets might not seem like anything special, but keep reading to learn how to use them to their full potential.

A BETTER WAY: GOOGLE ANALYTICS DASHBOARD WIDGETS

If you’ve ever used a dashboard widget to bookmark a report, you’ve probably noticed that there’s a loss of information when you access that report again through the link in the widget title. By default, clicking a widget’s link will take you to the same location in Google Analytics that the report is drawn from, but only with the default configuration of that report. If your initial report had a custom primary dimension or secondary dimension, or was sorted by a different column than the default report, that info is lost in the widget link.
Google Analytics Dashboard Widgets | Adpearance Blog

If you add this report to a dashboard, the custom reporting variables (secondary dimension, advanced filters, sort fields, etc.) will not be saved.

Google Analytics Dashboard Widgets | Adpearance Blog

This is what the previous report looks like if accessed through its corresponding dashboard widget.

The remedy to this problem is the “Link to Report or URL” feature in the widget editor. If you want to replicate a report, simply copy its URL, click “Add to Dashboard” and place it on your selected dashboard. Then access the widget editor at upper right corner of your widget, and paste the URL in the “Link to Report or URL” box. (One snag with this approach is that, along with all the other reporting dimensions preserved in the URL, the time period is also preserved; see the note at the end of this post for a quick workaround.*)

Once your widget is on your dashboard, you can change its corresponding URL (and other properties) by clicking the edit button in the upper-right corner.

Simply copy and paste your report URL into the “Link to Report or URL” box at the bottom of the widget editor.

An alternative approach is to simply bookmark the report URL with your favorite bookmarking solution (i.e. browser, text document, Springboard, Evernote, etc.). However, as someone who manages several websites that each has its own custom reports, I find a lot of value in having everything consolidated in the Google Analytics reporting dashboard.

LEVERAGE DASHBOARD WIDGETS FOR OPTIMAL REPORTING EFFICIENCY

If you’re familiar with analytics reporting, you should now see the potential of this approach to bookmarking reports. If you have an aggregate monthly report (with slides in Powerpoint, for example), you can simply bookmark all the reports you need in Google Analytics and arrange them in same order their corresponding slides appear in your presentation. Now, compiling your report every month is as easy as clicking through all your dashboard widgets and pulling the data—no more hunting through the sometimes-poorly-organized Google Analytics navigation menu.

Once you get used to this feature, you will be saving every report you come across in your dashboard widgets. So what are you waiting for? Save time, eliminate frustration, and maximize efficiency by leveraging these pro-tips in your Google Analytics reporting process today.