Why Custom Reporting Is Important

Showing the impact of your efforts in an easy-to-understand report is essential for client communications. Unfortunately, the pre-configured reports in Google Analytics don’t always provide a clear view of the impact of your efforts.

Custom reports allow you to create a more precise view of website activity arising from your efforts. They give you more flexibility in terms of choosing your dimensions and metrics as well as more flexibility in terms of reporting navigation and complexity.

What You’ll Walk Away With

By the end of this lesson, you’ll know:

  • How to create and edit custom reports in Google Analytics
  • How to share custom reports in Google Analytics

Defining Custom Reporting

A custom report is a user-created report featuring any combination of dimensions and metrics. The custom reports in Google Analytics draw their data from a website’s online (or offline) data sets.

Getting Started

How To Create Custom Reports

Custom reports are found in the “Customization” tab found in every Google Analytics account. From this screen, you can manage existing custom reports and create new ones.

Creating A New Custom Report

You can create new custom reports by clicking “New Custom Report” while on the customization tab. Pretty intuitive so far, right? Next, you get to build the report. And there are tons of options to choose from. We’ll briefly cover the different options available, but we’ll primarily point you towards the most frequently used building blocks for custom reports.

Choosing Report Type

ExplorerYou’ll be using this type of custom report 90% of the time. It creates a data table that allows you to include a bunch of metrics and dimensions in the report. Plus, it includes a nice big line graph. The main advantage of the explorer report type is the ability to explore or drill down into your data (e.g. click on a single page URL and view additional information confined to that URL, like the browser types used when accessing the page).

Flat Table: This report type provides you with a data table that uses a single primary dimension and a single group of metrics. This is useful for simple reports.

Map Overlay: This report type visualizes your data as a color-coordinated map. While often impressive looking at first glance, it’s not as efficient in communicating information as the previous two reports. But if you’re reporting to somebody who doesn’t like reading reports, this one will make them smile. 

Selecting Metrics

Recalling one of our earlier lessons, metrics are the numbers you want to report on: pageviews, avg. time on page, goal completions, etc. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of metrics to choose from, so we’ll confine our discussion to those most frequently used.

Important Metrics

  • Sessions
  • Pageviews
  • Goal completions (sitewide and for specific Goals)
  • Goal conversion rate (sitewide and for specific Goals)
  • Avg. time on page
  • Bounce rate
  • Exit rate

Selecting Dimensions

Going back again to our earlier lesson, recall that dimensions are how you categorize the numbers you want to report on— URLs, page titles, browser types,  etc. Yet again, there are dozens more dimensions than you’ll need; we’ll stick with the most important ones for this lesson.

Important Dimensions

  • Source
  • Medium
  • Traffic type
  • Page
  • Landing page
  • City
  • Event category
  • Browser version

Adding Filters

As you should recall from a previous lesson, filters prevent specified types of web data from showing up in your reports.

You can use filters to zero in on a certain type of data in an individual report (e.g. only include traffic type exactly matches organic). You can also use filters to remove a certain type of data (e.g. exclude city exactly matching your hometown).

For example, if you wanted to know how Things by Bean was performing without search engine traffic, you could exclude traffic type exactly matching “organic” and then run your report.

Tabbing Reports

You can expand the range of data to include by adding tabs to the report. Doing this allows you to:

  • Use multiple report types
  • Keep metric groups more easily organized
  • Reorganize dimension drilldowns

To add a tab to a report, click on “+add report tab” found at the top of the page when you’re creating or editing a custom report. From there, it’s the same process as building out a new report.

Basic Building Blocks for a Custom Report

Listed below are the building blocks for a basic custom report.

  • Type: Explorer
  • Metrics: Sessions, goal conversion rate, pageviews, avg. time on page, bounce rate
  • Dimensions: Page, source/medium, city, hour
  • Filters: Include traffic type exactly matching organic

Use these settings to create your own report. You can also use this pre-built custom report into your own Analytics profile and edit it to your heart’s content. Note: to use the pre-built report, you need to access the hyperlink while logged into the account you use to view your Analytics profile.

Organizing Your Custom Reports

If your account has a lot of custom reports (or you plan on creating a lot) you can organize them with categories. Essentially folders, you can name your categories whatever you want and file your reports accordingly. You can create categories by clicking the “+ New Category” button while on the “Customization” screen.

How To Share Your Custom Reports

Sharing the reports you create is simple. If the party you’re sharing the report with has access to the Analytics view, they’ll be able to see your report from the moment you publish it. Additionally, you can apply the report to all of your Analytics profiles.

To do this, simply create a new report or edit an existing one. At the bottom of the Create/Edit page, there’s a list of Analytics profiles capable of viewing it; select the profiles you want to include.

If you’re sharing the reports with somebody who cannot access the reports in Google Analytics, then you’ll need to export the report as a PDF. The “Export” option is found at the top of the page when viewing the report.


Try This Tracking Exercise

Complete the exercises below before moving on. You’ll gain critical hands-on experience that will help you become the marketer you were meant to be. Plus, it makes completing the quiz at the end of the lesson even easier.

Exercise: Creating a Custom Report

The best way to create a Custom Report is to have a vision for what the finished report will look like. To do this, you can ask yourself these questions:

  • Who is reading the report? Does this individual need high-level information or are they interested in something specific?
  • Who is the subject of the report? Are you reporting on all visitors? Is there a segment of your visitors you should draw attention to?
  • What data do you want to show? Are there particular traffic sources you want emphasize or exclude?
  • Where should the report focus on? Are there particular pages of the site you want to analyze or is it the website as a whole?
  • How long of a time period do you want to capture and/or compare? Does the time period for your report contain enough information to accurately depict trends, rather than temporary fluctuations?
Exercise: Instructions
Follow the instructions on the document linked below.


Why Goals and Events Are Important

Goal and Event tracking are fundamental parts of a Google Analytics installation. Together, Goals and Events map the most important moments on your buyers’ journey.

This is important because knowing where your audience started and stopped during their buying journey is critical for understanding why they started or stopped along their journey.

Armed with this knowledge, you can easily clear any obstacle standing between your audience and your objective.

What You’ll Walk Away With

At the end of this lesson, you’ll know:

  • How to nominate Goals and Events in Google Analytics
  • How to set up Goals and Events in Google Analytics
  • How to troubleshoot Goals and Events in Google Analytics

Defining Goals and Events

Every website has an objective—getting somebody to buy something, fill out a contact form, sign-up for a newsletter, etc. Goals and Events are how you track those objectives.

Goals are used to measure how effective your site is at getting users to complete your target objectives. So each time a user completes your objective (e.g. submits a form), a Goal will fire, logging a conversion in your Google Analytics account.

Events are recorded interactions leading up to a Goal—think of them as milestones. They’re tracked independently from web page level data (e.g. # of clicks a button receives). Events can be used for tracking unrelated to Goals, but those uses are infrequent and often require advanced implementation.

Getting Started

How To Use Goals And Events


Plot important points along the buyer’s journey.

Recall our first lesson, Understanding Intent and the Buyer’s Journey. In that lesson, we talked about the different stages of a buyer’s journey—awareness, consideration, decision, and experience.

Ideally, your website should have one or more objectives for each stage and for your different target audiences.

For example, the ultimate objective during the decision stage for consumers browsing Things by Bean would be completing a purchase. For retailers on Things by Bean, the ultimate objective would be a form submission requesting a wholesale purchase.

After identifying your objectives for each stage of the buying process and audience type, you can create Goals based on the actions that complete the objectives. Then, each time an objective is completed, a Goal (AKA conversion, goal completion, etc.) fires in Google Analytics. In the cases discussed above, we could create Goals for successful purchase completions and form submissions.

Events should be assigned similarly to Goals. Events should reflect the interactions leading up to the completion of an objective. For example, expanding an image for a card may trigger an Event. While this doesn’t equate to a sale, it’s an important interaction along the way to a sale.

Also, two things to note. First, there is a variety of advanced tracking that can be done with Google Analytics Ecommerce tracking. We’ll discuss that in a future lesson. Second, Events can be used for a variety of other purposes (e.g. troubleshooting); goal tracking is simply the most basic use.

Spreadsheet to Map Goals & Events
Here’s a spreadsheet you can use to map out your Goals and Events.
Often, it’s easiest to simply click through each page of your website and jot down the elements and objectives you want to track.

Set Up and Test Your Goals

After mapping your Goals to your website’s objectives, it’s time to set up your Goals.

Setting Up Your Goals
To set up Goals, you need to navigate to the “Goal” section in Google Analytics. It’s found in the “Admin” section of the site, under the “View” column. Once in the “Goal” section, click “+New Goal”.

Finding the Goals Section

There are several Goal tracking options here. The only option we’re going to discuss is the first one—the Destination Goal.

A Destination Goal is triggered when a user reaches a certain page. Most commonly, it’s the page that shows after somebody completed an objective, so it should be an accurate measurement when you’re trying to determine the effectiveness of your website.

For example, if somebody makes a purchase on Things by Bean, it redirects the buyer to an Order Summary page. We would use the URL for the Order Summary page as the Goal’s destination URL. This way, we’d know precisely how many people successfully submitted an order by looking at the number of Goal completions.

Goal Parameters

You can also assign a value to a Goal, allowing you to easily view and report on transactions from your marketing campaigns.

Goal Value

If you’re able to calculate the estimated value for that Goal (e.g. ~$110  for wholesale card order requests) then you should do that.

Testing Your Goals
Once you’re satisfied the Goal is properly configured, click “Verify this Goal” option at the bottom of the page. This will use data in your Analytics account to determine if the Goal would have fired in the past 7 days.

If you do not have data in your account that would register as a Goal Completion (e.g. nobody has fulfilled Goal criteria since being set up) then clicking on “Verify this Goal” will not work.

Another way to test Goals would be to complete the triggering action (e.g. making a purchase) and wait 24 hours to see if it’s recorded in Google Analytics. It’s important to keep the time lag in mind when QAing and troubleshooting Google Analytics goals.

Set Up and Test Your Events

Events allow you to establish milestones your visitors will pass through on their way to a completing a goal. Measuring those milestones can help you identify where users are struggling to convert.

Setting Up Your Events
Events are set up by adding a small snippet of code to the website element you want to track, such as a button, a link, etc.

This is what the code looks like:

    ga(‘send’, ‘event’, ‘category’, ‘action’, ‘label’, value);

Note: This method is used in Google Universal Analytics. If you’re using an older version, you’ll have to look here for instructions (although they operate very similarly).

When using the code on your site, you’d replace category, action, label, and value with something descriptive.

For example, if Things by Bean wanted to track how many people were clicking on the “Sale” link in their navigation, this is what the code would look like:

    ga(‘send’, ‘event’, ‘button’, ‘click’, ‘nav buttons’, 2);

This syntax classifies the event as being in the “button” category, notes that it involved a click, and includes where the action occurred—in the universal navigation.

We won’t go into detail about how to actually paste the code into your website. Installing the code is CMS dependent so there are too many variables to describe here. If you’re struggling with this, we advise working with a developer. You can also refer to Google’s guide to event tracking for developers.

Testing your Events.
You can find existing Events by looking at the “Events” reports found under “Behavior” in Google Analytics reporting.

If there are no Events showing up in your Google Analytics reports, then that could mean:

  • You don’t have any Events set up on your website
  • The Events are set up but they’re not firing
  • Nobody has triggered an Event yet

The best way to test Events is to use the following process:

  • Right-click on the page and select “Inspect.”
  • Navigate to the “Network” tab and check the “Preserve Log” box.

Preserve Log

  • Complete the action you are trying to track, such as submitting a form or clicking a button.
  • In the “Inspect” window type in “collect,” “pageview,” or “event.” You’ll then see several items under the “Name” section.
Event Tracking Inspect with Collect Filter

Click to enlarge

  • Hover over the items in the “Name” section and search for your event category, action, and label. They should be preceded by “ec” for event category, “ea” for event action, and “el” for event label.

It’s important to note that it’s worthwhile to check your events on a regular basis to ensure that they are tracking correctly. If an event isn’t firing properly, it’s best to contact a developer for support.


Try This Tracking Exercise

Complete the exercises below before moving on. You’ll gain critical hands-on experience that will help you become the marketer you were meant to be. Plus, it makes completing the quiz at the end of the lesson even easier.

Exercise: Mapping A Website’s Goals & Events

Setting up goals and events in Google Analytics is critical for understanding the impact of your marketing efforts. By clearly recording when a visitor completes a desirable action, you can better understand which parts of your campaign are contributing the most to your bottom line results.

Exercise: Instructions & Template
Follow the instructions on the document linked below.


Why Audience Intent and the Buying Journey Are Important

A buyer’s journey doesn’t always begin with visiting your website.

Sometimes, buyers begin their journey on social media, search engines, or other digital marketing channels. And often, the buyer’s intent to buy is reflected more strongly during different phases of the buying process (i.e. awareness –> consideration –> decision –> experience). Understanding these phases is critical for capturing prospective buyers at every stage of their journey, not just when they’re deciding wher or not to buy.

What You’ll Walk Away With

After completing this lesson, you’ll know:

  • What the buyer’s journey & buying intent are and how they impact your marketing efforts
  • Why researching keyword intent for your audience is critical for any kind of marketing campaign
  • How to improve campaign impact by mapping intent to critical milestones throughout the buyer’s journey
Templates for Content Inventory & Content Audit
Make a copy of the sample deliverables linked below.

Defining Audience Intent and the Buyer’s Journey

Your audience’s “intent” is what they’re trying to accomplish — e.g. buying something, finding specific information, or entertaining themselves.

The process your audience undergoes to complete their online objectives is the buyer’s journey — e.g. researching and confirming flu symptoms before booking an appointment with a doctor.

Your audience’s intentions can shift while accomplishing their objective. For example, a user could enter the buying phase as a result of newfound information that convinces them to seek out a solution to their new problem. To take advantage of these shifts, it’s important for brands to be properly represented through all stages of the buyer’s journey.

Getting Started

How To Map Audience Intent and Understand the Buyer’s Journey

Understanding your visitors’ intent.

Birthday Ideas Query

Consider this search query: “birthday ideas

What is the searcher looking for? What are they hoping to do when they find it? What is the searcher’s intent (and can you offer anything to help them achieve their goal)?

If you sold greeting cards, the intent behind the web search “birthday ideas” would be a bit too vague to tell if that searcher would be interested in your products. While you do sell birthday cards and they are a great idea, you should be more interested in attracting searchers that have more clearly expressed commercial intent to buy your products. For all you know, somebody searching for “birthday ideas” is really looking for “birthday party location ideas”, not “birthday gift ideas”.

Now, let’s compare “birthday ideas” with a search query like “cards for best friend’s birthday.” This kind of query clearly indicates that the searcher needs a card for their friend’s birthday — a product that your website talks about and sells. Therefore, you’d be far more interested in attracting this ready-to-buy searcher and they’d be happy to find you.

In general, you want to focus your marketing efforts on attracting people who are farther along in the buying process. Why? Users spend their money at the end of the journey. Even if you weren’t there every step of the way, you can still help them accomplish their goal successfully

The End of Buyer's Journey
Prioritizing prospects towards the end of the buying journey (i.e. ready to buy) does not mean that some of your content can’t target earlier stages of the buyer’s journey — in fact, a blog post providing 7 reasons why birthday cards are a great idea would be an excellent way to attract people in the awareness stage of their buying decision. And even after they’ve made their buying decision, you can still convince them to be a repeat purchaser or brand evangelist.

Segment your audience into personas.


A persona is a fictional creation that represents a group of users who share a common set of characteristics — most often how they interact with a website, product, or brand and the reasoning behind this behavior.

You can quickly and easily create personas using HubSpot’s web tool.

For example, Mary the Mother might be a persona for a greeting card company. Mary would be a middle-aged mother who frequently buys cards for occasions and non-occasions. She’s one of the card company’s most loyal customers.

From here, you can fill in the rest of Mary’s description using data from consumer insights, demographics, reviews, and any other sources to get a more fully formed picture of Mary the Mother.

Why is having a persona helpful? It allows you to segment and target your campaigns according to your prospective buyers’ traits and motivations. Your creative team can build new content with Mary the Mother clearly in mind, and address her specific hopes and fears. As a result, she’ll be more likely to convert.

Map out the buyer’s journey.


Once you know who might be searching for your content, you need to know how far he or she is in the search.

Generally, you can break the buyer journey into these four stages:

1. Awareness
The initial realization that a problem or opportunity may exist. Most often symptoms of the problem or opportunity surface which lead users to clearly identify the issue they are facing.

E.g. Realizing that a friend’s birthday is coming up and you have nothing planned. This could be reflected in the query “birthday ideas”

2. Consideration
Seeking and evaluating potential methods for dealing with a clearly-defined problem or opportunity. They begin comparing solutions to determine their best course of action

  E.g. Searching “types of birthday cards”

3. Decision
Preparing to make a final decision and then making a selection. The searcher will often begin comparing the advantages and disadvantages of two particular solutions.

 E.g. Searching “Hallmark card paper vs. Things by Bean card paper”

4. Experience
What happens after a user has made a selection. The searcher now wants to know how to best utilize his or her product or service.

  E.g. Searching “funny ways to give birthday card”

The length and the complexity of the buying cycle will vary by product or service. For example, users are likely to spend more time researching and considering which car to buy before making a selection than they are on deciding which toothpaste to buy. But make no mistake — the searcher’s journey is dynamic. For example, information learned early on may later be used for subsequent, refined searches.

It’s a good idea to have content that appeals to users in each of the stages in the cycle. Even though developing material targeted toward those in earlier stages likely means fewer immediate conversions, you can nurture those prospects along their buying journeys and be there when they convert later.

Identify your best opportunities.


To effectively plan new content or optimize existing content, you need to know what you already have to work with. To do that, it’s best to take an inventory of your content to find gaps and to identify low-hanging fruit.

Inventorying & Auditing Existing Content Assets

Inventorying existing and upcoming content will help you prioritize marketing efforts with the highest impact. This will often be a balance between:

  1. How far the content is removed from a purchase/sign-up/etc., and
    E.g. An ad directing to a birthday card product page is closer to a purchase than a blog post about 7 ways to give out birthday cards.
  2. How much volume/competition a keyword has.
    E.g. Showing up in search engines for “game of thrones birthday card” is easier than “birthday card.” 

Ideally, you would always create content that appeals to users who are ready to buy and targets low-competition keywords. However, finding this balanced can be challenging in reality; typically, keywords used by a ready-to-buy audience members will be competitive and/or won’t have much volume. So, you simply have to strike the best balance you can

Generate your keyword ideas.

At last! We get to talk about all the ways you can drum up keyword ideas. Only we’re not going to here because we’ll talk about keyword research in-depth in a later lesson.

Instead, we’ll go over the simplest ways to generate keyword ideas and then gauge their potential impact based only on volume.

You can typically categorize queries as one of the following:

  • Informational: Learning about something
  • Navigational: Finding something digitally or physically
  • Transactional: Buying something

Depending on the purpose of your site and content, some types of search queries will be more useful than others (e.g. informational queries are more useful for affiliate sites, less useful for eCommerce).

How to drum up keyword ideas.

  1. Write down 10-20 keywords using nothing more than that big brain inside your head. Focus on terms that reflect the solution or problem your product addresses, in addition to what it actually is. For instance, “need card for friend’s birthday” and “unique birthday cards” would both be relevant queries for our greeting card example.
  2. Use suggestion tools like Übersuggest and Soovle to come up with some additional ideas
  3. Input the keywords into Google’s Keyword Planner
  4. Review Google’s suggested ad group ideas and add more keywords to your list

How to determine keyword volume.

Birthday Cards Keyword Planner

  1. Go to Google’s Keyword Planner
  2. Input the search queries you want to research
  3. Click the “Keyword Ideas” tab and look at the “Avg. monthly searches” for each keyword
    Keyword Competition in Keyword Planner
    The competition metric in Google’s Keyword Planner is a measurement for advertisements. If you’re doing keyword research for SEO, that number has little-to-no significance.

Try These Marketing Exercises

Complete the exercises below before moving on. You’ll gain critical hands-on experience that will help you become the marketer you were meant to be. Plus, it makes completing the quiz at the end of the lesson even easier.

Exercise A: Content Inventory Request

When starting any kind of digital marketing project, it’s important to first understand what you already have to work with. So, by running through a website page-by-page, you’re familiarizing yourself with many of client’s existing assets while also capturing them for later reference in the content inventory.

Exercise A: Instructions & Template
Follow the instructions on the document linked below.

Exercise B: Content Audit Request

Content quality can have a big impact on website performance. An audit helps you synthesize your content inventory findings and begin establishing priorities for your overall digital marketing strategy. Because if people and search engines can’t understand what your website is telling them, then they’re not likely to find your website valuable or perform the actions you’re asking them (e.g. call, buy, subscribe, etc.).

Exercise B: Instructions & Template
Follow the instructions on the document linked below.