4 Time Saving Tools in Google Analytics

google-analytics-ninja-squirrelOn January 7, 2014, Avinash Kaushik introduced us to the “Reporting Squirrel”.

You don’t want to be a Reporting Squirrel; you want to be an Analysis Ninja!

But, how do you transition from squirrel to ninja?

Work smarter, not harder.

Use these 4 features of Google Analytics to increase the time you have available for analysis by spending less time on data extraction/production tasks.

Flat Table Reporting

If you spend a lot of time pulling data out of Google Analytics to digest into another reporting format, such as Excel, then here is a trick for pulling down a data set already formatted into a table that could save you time.

When you build a Custom Report, within the Customization section of GA, there are three “type” fields:

  • “Explorer” – trended graph on top and a drilldown table below it (typical of the standard reports found in GA)
  • “Map Overlay” – geographic view with map on top and drilldown table below it
  • “Flat Table” –  a table-only formatted report of your data with multiple columns for multiple dimensions


How does Flat Table reporting simplify your life?

When you add multiple Dimensions, they are not part of a drilldown, as with Explorer reports; rather, the dimensions actually refine the rows into smaller segments.

For example, if you are looking to analyze your hourly data (which can be done in very few places in standard reporting) you could configure your Flat Table report with these Dimensions:


The results look a mess in GA; as it is, you can only select one column for ordering:


The trick is to export the data to Excel, apply a Custom Sort across multiple columns, and you will now have a data set of your hourly performance ordered chronologically:


The result:



Another time saving mechanism built into Google Analytics is the Shortcuts option (appears on most standard reports). Shortcuts will save you time by creating links directly to pre-configured reports that you use consistently.

So, if you are pulling the same data sets on a monthly/weekly/daily basis, a Shortcut will “remember” the Segments, Filters, Dimensions, Sort Type and the ascending/descending column for the report you were just viewing.

To create the Shortcut, simply configure the standard report exactly how you like it then click the “Shortcut” button at the top of the report and give it a meaningful name:



Once you have done this, the Shortcut you have just created appears within the left-hand navigation under the “Shortcuts” menu item.

A word of caution with Shortcuts: Once you click into a Shortcut, the Advanced Segments that you have applied within the Shortcut will “stick” if you navigate away from the report. So, always double check your configuration to ensure that you are reviewing the correct data set after you have used your Shortcuts.


Dashboards within Google Analytics are another “set it and forget it” reporting feature similar to the Shortcuts. With up to 12 pre-configurable widgets per Dashboard, you can cram a lot of relevant data all on one screen.

These widgets allow you to create very specific data views that align to your reporting process. You can configure each to display specific Dimensions and Metrics, and apply a filter. This means less time spent on drilling down through several standard reports to locate related data found in different locations of Google Analytics.

Dashboard can also help expedite data sharing across individuals and organizations, as a pre-configured Dashboard is easier to share than multiple standard reports that could include irrelevant data to the analysis or discussion.

There are several widget types to select from and can even be applied to real-time data:


A good example of what a Dashboard can do for your reporting is Justin Cutroni’s Social Media Dashboard. This Dashboard takes a number of social media channel specific data points and displays them all in a single, logically formatted report.


Google Analytics Solutions Gallery

Some of the best and brightest in the Analytics discipline have (for free) created packages of Google Analytics reports and configurations that you can easily import into your account.  This is known as the Google Analytics Solutions Gallery.

Though this is a “cookie cutter” starting point, you can further customize the imported items if you need to. This will save you time in configuring Advanced Segments, Custom reports, and Dashboards. It’s worth the few minutes of time to quickly filter the available solutions and see if there is a pre-existing solution already available before investing the time in configuring your own.

With the solutions, it’s worthwhile to set up a “Solution” view within Google Analytics where you can test out the imported features before pushing them into a production view. This will allow you to understand exactly what the reporting does and if it’s of value to your process.

In Conclusion

If you want to make the move from Reporting Squirrel to Analysis Ninja, the goal should be efficiency in your data production tasks. The least amount of time spent on these tasks will mean more time to add to your analysis of the data.

How else do you speed up your data production? Share your techniques below!

  • John Peterson

    Learnt something new today … will look at GA in different perspective after creating these kind of reports … thanks for sharing these tie saving tips .. I wonder do you compare results from 2 different analytics … like I use gostats and compare the reports I wonder how many marketeers do the same?

    • Hi John! Glad you found this helpful.

      As far as comparing multiple analytics platform data, this isn’t something I practice. Each platform utilizes different attribution models and as a result the numbers never (in my experience) line up. I liken this to if you bought 3 scales to keep track of your weight; one is 5 lbs higher than another, one is 2 lbs lower. So, which do you trust? I would recommend picking one platform that you are most comfortable with (administering and implementing) and meets your reporting needs. Stick with it, build the best possible data set and make your decisions based on that.

      • John Peterson

        The point isn’t to have the data from different systems line up. The reason to have multiple systems is to get different insights, backup, continuity, and more flexibility with how you manage your data. The reason why I compare data is one gives aggregate data and other provides data as it is.

  • great advice, thanks!

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