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5 Hidden Google Analytics Reporting Features You Should be Using

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5 Hidden Google Analytics Reporting Features You Should be Using

Katie Cunningham
5 Hidden Google Analytics Reporting Features You Should be Using

Over 30 million websites use Google Analytics. Many of us spend time using the tool every single day. But, did you know there are powerful built-in reporting features and regularly appearing new features you may have missed?

Being aware of all the helpful features at your fingertips could make your work more efficient, and help you find opportunities to dig deeper into your data. (And, it won’t hurt to show your boss what you can do either!)

I will cover 5 potentially unknown features in Google Analytics, how to use them, examples, and my personal opinion on their limitations. This won’t be a completely comprehensive post but is meant to open the door for discussion or potential use cases.

Most of these require common knowledge of dimensions and metrics in analytics. Take the time to learn about these in the Google Analytics training materials if you need a refresher.

If you have any comments, questions, or if there is anything I have missed, please leave a note in the comment section below.

Hidden Feature #1: Sort Type 

Purpose 

Sort Type’s best purpose is finding top growth, or drop-offs, in metrics on specific pages, devices, campaigns, sources or other dimensions.

Where It Is Found

At the top of the traditional tables features within most audience, acquisition, and behavior reports.

sort by

How to Use 

The default sort feature sorts highest to lowest, or lowest to highest if you double click, based on which column you have selected.

If you select the Sort Type drop-down, you can switch to Absolute Change or Weighted Change.

sort by dropdown

Absolute change will sort your data by the total amount of change instead of the percentage. This is great to see what actually grew the most within the platform, instead of what is the highest percentage of growth.

Weighted Change only applies to bounce rate. This will change the sort to automatically display the rows with the most statistically significant bounce rates to the top. This is great to rule out bounce rate outliers, and dig into what pages truly matter the most.

Example of Use

Say you want to find the top three organic landing pages by largest revenue growth year over year to identify what is contributing to your organic revenue growth. Take these steps:

  1. Navigate to Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels > Organic Search > Landing Pages
  2. Update comparison date range to desired dates
  3. Sort by Revenue Highest to Lowest
  4. Change Sort Type to Absolute Change

sort by revenue

Limitations

  • Weighted sort is only available for bounce rate.
  • There is no ability to sort by percentage change.

Hidden Feature #2: Plot Rows  

Purpose

The best purpose for using Plot Rows is to quickly visualize time series data for selected dimensions, without filtering or exporting to a data visualization tool.

Where It Is Found

At the top of the traditional tables features within most audience, acquisition, and behavior reports.

plot rows

How to Use

Plot Rows gives you the ability to select specific rows within the data and plot them on the top time-series chart as their own data series.

Select desired rows then click Plot Rows:

plot-rows-example.png

Your result will look something like this.

plot rows chart

Note that selecting two rows to plot will result in two lines instead of one combined line.

two plot rows

Change the chart data type by selecting desired metrics at the top of the chart.

Tip: You can export this data into Excel and build a better-looking chart to improve your deliverables and reports.

Example of Use

You are pulling a report for a client, and want to see what trends they have experienced throughout the year for a specific shopping campaign revenue versus total revenue.

  1. Navigate to Acquisition > Campaigns
  2. Select Desired Campaign 
  3. Select Plot Rows
  4. Change Chart Data Type to Revenue

plot rows by revenue

Limitations

  • Plotting rows keeps the total sessions on the chart instead of creating a new chart with only the data selected. Sometimes selecting a specific dimension value offers much better visuals than the Plot Rows feature
  • I would love to see a built-in functionality to select two rows and show the combined value in the chart instead of multiple lines. For now, I will stick to writing regex to create those charts.

Hidden Feature #3: Term Clouds

Purpose

You have probably heard of word clouds, but did you know Google Analytics has a built-in functionality called Term Clouds?

This feature takes your current dimension values for a selected metrics and turns them into a word cloud.

It is best used for visualizing top keywords in an AdWords campaign, or keywords from Google Search Console, based on key metrics. This works with other dimensions but is not quite as useful as keywords.

Where it’s Found

You can find Term Clouds at the top of the traditional tables features within most acquisition reports.

term cloud

How to Use 

Go to the keyword report for either AdWords or organic - organic can be either in the channel report or in the Google Search Console report.

Select the term cloud report and adjust to show more rows and increase date ranges to give the term cloud more data. Change the report metrics if you would like.

adwords-keywords-analytics.png

Regular and advanced filtering down will help dig into specific data and adjust the cloud as needed.

Example of Use

You are auditing AdWords performance for a specific product campaign over the last 90 days. You want to identify top revenue terms and visualize them for the rest of your marketing team.

  1. Navigate to Acquisition > Adwords > Campaigns > Select Campaign > Change Primary Dimension to Keywords
  2. Adjust date range to Last 90 Days
  3. Increase rows to the Max Allowed
  4. Change metric to Revenue

term cloud

Limitations

  • There are not options for customization of colors. Look for other word cloud tools if you want more customization.
  • Term Clouds are not available in site search or behavior reports such as geographic areas or languages. These are missed opportunities to visualize this type of data.

Hidden Feature #4: Secondary Dimensions

Purpose

Use Secondary Dimensions to dig into your metrics with two dimensions instead of one. 

Secondary dimensions are an added layer to the primary dimension. Think of these as a way to ask one more question of the data.

Say you already have your top source report, and know that organic is the top source, but want to know what age range is driving most organic, start by using a secondary dimension of age. 

Where It Is Found  

Below the list of primary dimensions within the report view.

secondary dimensions

How to Use 

Secondary dimensions are relatively easy to add once you understand how they work. Each report in Google Analytics uses a primary dimension. The primary dimension will change based on what report you are in.

Simply navigate to the secondary dimension drop down and select your desired second dimension to add to the report.

secondary dimensions drop down

Once selected, your report will update with something that looks like the following.

secondary dimensions example

Advanced filtering can be used to filter the report by either your primary dimension, secondary dimension, or both. 

channels-analytics.png

Secondary Dimensions can also be used with Pivot Tables, which will be covered next.

Example of Use

Imagine your referral traffic from Facebook has increased lately and you want to see what age range users are within to see if it matches your campaign targets.

  1. Navigate to Acquisition > Referrals > Select Facebook
  2. Click on Secondary Dimension
  3. Select Age

secondary dimension age example

Limitations  

  • Limited data sometimes makes this a useless feature.
  • Using custom segments, large date ranges, or very specific filters and you may run into data sampling.
  • I have run into issues with the data breaking the farther I have dug down. My advice is to double check that it makes sense, and don’t rely on it to always be perfect

Hidden Feature #5: Pivot Tables  

Purpose

Slicing data by two dimensions and rearranging into a new table with up to two metrics shown.

Where It is Found

pivot tables

How to Use

These work similarly to Excel pivot tables (and if you have never used excel pivot tables, go learn them!). Pivot tables give you the ability to view the data by two dimensions visually in a new table format.

Click on the pivot table option, and it will by default be pivoting the data by the same dimension of the main report. This isn’t very useful.

basic pivot table

To update, select a different dimension in the “Pivot By” drop down.

pivot by

The Pivot By dimensions are limited based on what area of analytics you are in. The options under Audience are different than Acquisition. Play around to find the correct mix of dimensions to answer your question.

Next, select the metric or metrics you would like to view in the table.

pivot metrics drop down

Metrics are dependent on which metric view you have selected. To change your options, select a different report in the explorer. Site Usage will change the pivot table to metrics to be Site Usage specific, and so on.

data-sources.png

You'll end up with something that looks like this.

Pivot table channel example

This Pivot Table is starting to get more useful than the starting pivot table, but it can become even more useful if you combine it with secondary dimensions, advanced filtering, or segments. In this example, I already removed campaigns (not set) through filters to remove useless data from the table.

Example of Use

Development is working on improvements for device types and asks for data on how users are engaging cross-device and which browsers are most relevant.

Use pivot tables to display the browsers that your users are utilizing most often on each device type, and how the site engagement varies.

  1. Navigate to Audience > Mobile > Overview
  2. Select the Pivot Table Report
  3. Change Pivot By to Browser
  4. Add a second metric for Average Session Duration

pivot-table-example.png

Limitations 

  • Limited dimensions to pivot by. Tip: You may be able to bypass some of these limitations by using secondary dimensions.
  • Only two metrics are allowed.
  • You cannot apply functions within the pivot table like you would in Excel.

Hopefully, these hidden features can streamline your work in Google Analytics by saving you time and helping you find the story behind the data. If there is anything missing that you absolutely love, or you have questions about these features please leave a comment below!

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As an SEO Manager, Katie leads SEO strategy for a range of B2B and e-commerce clients at Adept Marketing. Using her expertise in Excel and passion for numbers, Katie manages a variety of B2B, E-Commerce, and Healthcare clients.
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Comments

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Mike Hodgdon
Great stuff Katie! Thank you for sharing!
Avinash Chandra
Interesting.
Sujit
GA has a lot more than above but you made out some features which many of us ignore. I liked the Term Cloud and Secondary dimension. Secondary dimension helps a lot but as u said it does come with limitations as in giving exact data.

Thanks for a letting all know some of the important data in GA.
Shivangi Shrivastava
Thank you ! I will definitely try these exciting features.
George
Katie, I know all the images are hard work, but thank you for them. People always say "do this" or "do that" and sometimes it is really hard to find stuff in analytics. I appreciate the detailed breakdown and images.
Xavier Clapin-Pépin
Thank you I have to try these hidden features!
Aleks Ritov
Thanks. I start to use the Plot Rows feature. You can visualize a share of TOP pages in traffic.