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5 Key Approaches to Digesting Any Reporting Platform Data

Published: April 22, 2016

Author: Sean Adams

Diving into any new reporting platform (or even a new version of an existing platform) can be an overwhelming experience—where do I find the reports I’m looking for? Where did the datepicker even go!? But once you’re over the initial hump, there are a few tips to keep in mind that will serve you well no matter what platform you’re operating in:

1.  Combine Multiple Dimensions

Most platforms provide a default set of reports that tend to show you a single dimension alongside one or more metrics; for example, a landing page report that shows visits and bounce rate by page. While this is great for a high-level look into which pages (or other dimensions) are the best performers, it can often mislead without the proper context—a specific landing page may be showing an anomalously high bounce rate only for a particular channel that’s driving a large volume of unqualified traffic, and depressing its overall performance despite strength in other channels. Combining dimensions to provide context like this is one of the most effective ways to expand the value of a default report.

2.  Create Calculated Metrics

Similarly, the default metrics included in a platform won’t always serve your needs; when tracking ecommerce revenue, for instance, your platform may not provide comprehensive support for the way in which you capture discounts, tax, and shipping. In cases like these, a calculated metric composed of the underlying component metrics you need is going to be enormously helpful. Unfortunately, some platforms don’t yet allow you to create custom calculated metrics—but in the ones that do (which include most modern analytics platforms), setting these up is a guaranteed win if you’ll be frequently reporting from within the platform.

3.  Set Up Scheduled Reports

Once you’ve started to come to grips with the platform you’re using, and identified or built the reports that provide the most value for you, it’ll be a lot easier to get those reports in your inbox every day/week/month than to log in to the platform every day and track them back down. Depending on your needs, this could be as simple as receiving a summary of your revenue for the past week, or as complex as a robust daily dashboard breaking down your KPIs on a channel-by-channel basis (with additional exports that feed into Excel)… but that flexibility is powerful, and receiving reports right in your inbox allows you to fit monitoring of your data into a workflow that you’re already used to.

4.  Integrate and Extend Where Possible

Your average platform is going to give you a ton of value out of the box—with a tool like Google Analytics, for instance, you can get dozens of metrics and dimensions just by dropping a single block of code onto your site. But where things start to get really interesting is when you take the time to identify opportunities to pull in data from other platforms and extend the data that already exists. Sure, your GA reports are great—but they’ll be even greater when they can also contain information about your Optimizely tests and your organic keyword data from Search Console, or when they organize your pages into Content Groupings that you’ve set up.

5.  Don’t Be Afraid To Break Stuff

The dreaded empty report—perhaps a result of combining dimensions and metrics that just don’t work together. But you’ll never know if you don’t try, and sometimes pulling together data points that wouldn’t seem to fit ends up providing you with a new insight that you hadn’t previously considered. As long as you’re working on a custom report within your own login, and not tweaking administrative settings, you’re unlikely to cause any lasting harm—and it might just help you identify that standout finding!

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