Paid search and Google Analytics work hand in hand in so many ways (including right there in the AdWords interface).  This month’s series week is all about how you can make the most of Analytics in your account, whether that’s with content experiments, event tracking or custom reportingWe’re going to find all of the ways that you can get even more insight into the clicks that you’re paying to get.

Today’s series post is all about custom reports in Google Analytics. Custom reports are great for creating new views for your data and segmenting it into something meaningful. While the default views are OK, you have to keep in mind it was designed for the largest group possible. All of the data is already available in Analytics and many have us have found ways to get these insights. But doing a lot of sorting and clicking is tiresome and makes you less likely to check in regularly. Custom reports move you beyond the constant filtering and clicking to give you what you need off that bat.

Getting Started

Custom reports are very easy to set up. Look at the top menu bar in Analytics. Right next to reporting will be a tab for “customization”.

Click on that button and it will drop you into this menu. Let’s go ahead and open a new report. By clicking the “+New Custom Report Button”. Technically you are done now and this walk through is over. Pat yourself on the back and see you next time.

You didn’t think I would leave you hanging like that, did you?

So here we are at the creation page, with all the possibilities at our fingertips.

Go ahead and give it a nice descriptive title. It’ll make it easier to remember what it is later.

Lets stick to a single tab for now. Now you have to select from a few different “types”. These are pretty straightforward.

  • Explorer – This contains multiple tables that you can drill down through through the clickable rows.
  • Flat Table – Kind of like a spreadsheet just the data in two dimensions making it a simple and easy to export solution.
  • Map Overlay – Puts the data on a map, such as number of clicks by country.

Dimensions Versus Metrics

There are some long explanations out there about what the differences are. The easiest way to think of it is; dimensions are categorical and metrics are quantifiable. The dimensions describe and segment by types of things, metrics are just numbers. Think of it this way, the dimension for match types describe if it was exact, broad, or phrase. You can’t really do anything such as add them together. On the other hand clicks or revenue are metrics, you can take those numbers and manipulate them and get and understanding of how much.

What Can I Do With These?

Let’s look at a quick example of how easy it is to create reports.

Match Type Break Down

This is a quick example of something applicable to paid search. We have three match types and each drives traffic. When building out keywords intent is a big consideration. Why not go back and take a look at how these match types actually perform?

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Metrics Across Sources

Go ahead and take a look at how metrics compare across the different types of traffic.

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We only hit the surface here, play around with the settings building these reports around your goals. All these options create a vast sea of opportunities for analyzing data. This allows you to define what you want from analytics and finding real value for your business and client. It also allows you to be creative in your analysis finding new ways to assess traffic and value. Taking it to the extreme you can really express yourself creatively, possibly even leading to self-actualization. If you get that far, go you. The rest of us mortals will just keep using it as a tool.

If you would like this data on a regular basis go ahead and sign up to e-mail the reports. You can click the button and set up a schedule for regular reporting, straight to your inbox. If you have been caught by the social bug, you can even e-mail to others or share these reports with your coworkers, friends, or anyone who wants a copy for themselves.

Need More Report Ideas?

Google Solutions is underused as a resource in general. Both of the examples I listed above are included in the solutions gallery or have much larger robust versions. Go to the gallery, select a platform and select the solution, objective, and marketing function. You’ll find out when you check out the page you can also get custom dashboards and segments appropriate for any type of objective and any marketing function.

Things to Keep in Mind

Always set up your reports so that you get something useful from them. Otherwise you aren’t doing any better than the standard reports. Just like analyzing your PPC account, make sure you take all relevant metrics and dimensions into consideration.

Avinash Kaushik breaks it down nicely in one of his posts on custom reports from Occam’s Razor.  When selecting metrics, you need to compare the initial interation, things like CTR and bounce rate. Next you need metrics that define the how the searcher uses the data, such as number of page views or average time on site. Finally, you need the results. What outcomes occurred? Was there an increase in revenue, more sign ups or call ins? This was just a snippet, I’d recommend you read the entire article here. You might as well bookmark his site while you are at it.

“Of course, everyone knows that.” While it seems obvious, we often forget the little things. I’m not questioning your intelligence, but it is easy to throw a report together and have nothing to show for it. You have to take a longer view from entrance to exit as well as take a look at how the site performs overall across all traffic types.

One example Avinash gives in the previous post is bounce rate. This is an easy metric to silo away to the web design team. After all they made the pages. Those of us in paid search just get people there through the ads.

Despite the protests above, this is a metric everyone should be looking at. If the bounce rate is low for organic but high for paid search, the SEM team needs to dive in and do some analysis as to why they can’t keep these visitors on page. Of course it could go the other way showing that other marketing efforts were not amounting too much.

One real takeaway here is not to play the blame game with these reports but to use the data to find out where you stand overall. If you find certain keywords drive a lot of the organic traffic, establish a strategy for including those in your PPC strategy. Likewise if you see poor performance in your PPC campaigns try and find what everyone else is doing and upping their performance.


I hope this posts helps you in making use of custom reports. We covered quite a bit today so feel free to take a break and watch some cat videos before you dive into the reports. Just remember if you put in the work up front, you’ll have much more time to catch up on the cat videos in the future.

If you’ve been using custom reports what are some of the most creative reports you have come up with? If you are now planning to start using custom reports, what do you have planned?