Periscopix

If you're not living on the edge, then you're taking up too much space.” Stephen Hunt

Scarlett Long

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Layout

The first thing you'll notice is that the look and feel are quite different. The site is now tabbed into three sections: Dashboard, My Site and Custom Reports.

The majority of your time will be spent in the My Site section. Here is where you will find the reports for viewing your data.

All the links to various sections are smaller and neater, perhaps freeing up space for future features.

All settings such as profiles and filters are behind the gear icon in the top right corner. You have a drop-down next to that to let you quickly and easily switch between profiles.

Conversions

Google have changed the previously separate Goals and E-Commerce reports to bundle them together into a new Conversions report.

These will give you the same reports as previously, but with a slightly simpler selection of options to choose from.

On the front page of a section you can now see a selection of the reports available to you. In the current version you then select "view full report" to drill down into more detail. In the new version you see one report at a time, with a selector.

On the goals overview page that means choosing between "goal URLs" or "source/medium" to view the mini version of the report.

You can then still choose "view full report" to see more, where you will see the exact same report in either the current version or the new version, with the new layout making it a bit easier to find certain features.

Reports

The neatness has been improved. Different overall metrics are now separated into little boxes, with a small notch to show which one is being charted. You can then see the options just above the chart to change graph type or compare metrics. These were previously found in little icons to the top right of the chart and didn't mean much unless you'd had a play with them before.

You will see links above the table to show you exactly what dimensions you're viewing, and suggestions for others or the full list.

In a bar at the top of the table are buttons to change particular aspects.

Secondary Dimension is now more obvious to be able to segment your table. The advanced filter from the bottom of the table has been moved to the top and is now called Search. This isn't really a search as you or I would understand it, but still a filter. However I think the terminology was getting confused with advanced filters applying to tables, segments applying to views, and filters applying to profiles.

You can now also page back and forth between rows from the top of the table. This is particularly useful for those on smaller screens like laptops.

Traffic Sources

GA's integration with AdWords gets slightly tighter here. You now have just two sections for traffic sources: Incoming Sources and AdWords. The already excellent AdWords report is now more prominent and crucial if you're driving traffic to your site via PPC.

The incoming sources report is still split between direct, referrals and search. Search is broken down into Organic or Paid. To compare between the two you'll need to look at the overview and add a secondary dimension of keyword.

Most of what you'll find in this report is very similar to what you can see in the current version.

Dashboards

Google have revamped their dashboards to try to provide better functionality.

These have always been a weak area for GA, and I don't see the new features as being a particularly great step up. The main advantage is that you can now choose the visualisation type for each metric you want to see.

You can add and edit widgets on the new dashboard.

A widget lets you select a visualisation type, metric, and dimension. By putting together the best visualisations for each data type (and choosing what is important to you) you can customise the front page to quickly show you the features that are most important to your business.

The major issue with these dashboards still stay: they encourage you to get trapped by red herrings. By not making all kinds of data seem equally important it's easy to get sidetracked. You should never have data simply presented to you in this way, you need to specifically sit down and think about exactly what data you want to see, the best way to see it, and then go looking for it.

The other problem is that all the date ranges are set to whatever date range you're looking at when you log in. Some kinds of data simply don't make sense over the same date ranges as others. You don't need to see geographical data on an hourly basis, but you'd sure want to see email responses broken down that way. If you want to see visits over time you might want to see a long timeline view and a short timeline view, to give you the big picture and the current details.

What we'd like to see is an ability to make GA dashboards that will:

  • Combine data from across profiles, even accounts
  • Let you choose the date range for each chart/table separately
  • Include segments in charts

GA is great for actually digging in and analysing your data, but it's not a well-rounded dashboard. We recommend using a third party provider for this.

Custom Reports

The new custom reports simplify the process of setting up a report with exactly the data you want to see. These can be very powerful tools to get around some of the built-in biases of GA.

For example by default in GA you see goal completions as a conversion rate rather than seeing absolute numbers. This is fine if you're a huge site with dozens or hundreds of conversions per day, but for most this can make life more difficult, especially if you have multiple conversion types with wildly differing values.

So up step custom reports.

The new interface for these let you start by adding a filter if necessary. For example you might specify to only include data where the traffic source was Google and the medium was cpc. This would mean your custom report is only showing you AdWords traffic.

After choosing your filters you create tabs for each section of the report. Each tab can be Explorer type or Table type.

Explorer is a report like you see in normal GA reports. You can specify the metrics you want to see, the dimensions to see them against, and what drill-down dimensions you will see when selecting a top-level dimension.

You can separate the metrics in these tabs into groups, to view important metrics side-by-side.

Table type reports let you set up a much simpler table. Choose a dimension (or two), and choose all the metrics you want to see alongside it. No charts at the top, no drill-downs, and no overall stats.

Table reports are ideal if you want to set up a particular dataset to schedule and send to yourself for use in a spreadsheet or other reporting tool of your own. They remove any extraneous data and give you exactly the breakdowns you want to see.

Exporting

This is the only area that we believe has undergone a significant backward step.

You can no longer choose to export a report as a pdf file. Instead you can now only export the raw data in a spreadsheet format, and package it yourself. If you're used to seeing specific reports presented to you as pdfs then you're out of luck and you're going to have some work to do on your reporting.

The biggest problem with exporting hasn't been improved: hitting export shows you only what's on the screen. If you have 5,000 rows in your table but are only looking at the top 10, then you'll just get 10 rows in your report. Since the maximum rows for a visible table are 500, you'll never be able to see everything on a large site, even by exporting.

The only way around this is the API, so if you need to download full datasets speak to a third party vendor about a tool to let you download your data for reporting purposes.

Like scheduling reports to come to your inbox? You will be alarmed to find this feature absent from V5. Fear not, we have been assured it will be added before full launch.

Conclusion

Overall, Google Analytics V5 is not an entirely new product, it does however represent a victory for logic. Most functionality is improved to allow for more intuitive navigation. The visualisation of some reports is also improved so that non GA-geeks will find data more quickly and easily. In all likelihood some of the biggest improvements will be on non-cosmetic issues that will unfold as we get more accustomed to the new interface.

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