Help, my client doesn't know what Google Analytics reports they need!

Published March 14, 2014

"What analytics should we be looking at?", asked a client recently. I've been asked that question dozens of times, but it still caught me off-guard. I assume when I'm hired for a Google Analytics project, the client knows what information they need & my job is to make the analytics produce it. Now, what do I do?

What Report

Give them something to react to

Luckily I've been doing this a while, so I regained my balance quickly. I've come to realize that clients who ask me this question, do, in fact, know what information they need for business decision making. They are simply not familiar with web analytics, so they don't know how to direct me. The best approach in most cases is to give the client some reports that they can react to. This baseline can begin a productive conversation allowing the client to convey which charts, tables & metrics are relevant to their business.

Know where to start

The important part is knowing where to begin. Burying clients in a blizzard of generic analytics data will not help. Instead, put yourself in the client's shoes and ask yourself "If my job were running this client's business, what data would I want to see?". You don't need to be an expert in the client's area of business - coming up with basic metrics shouldn't be difficult. The more advanced analytics will come later, guided by the client's feedback.

In this case, my client was a news website. So I guessed that they would probably be interested in seeing the most commonly read articles. I also figured that they cared about how frequently visitors returned to their site, so I put together some measures of site loyalty. Lastly, during the hiring process, they talked to me a lot about how important it was that site visitors share articles via their social sharing buttons. So I decided to create a report providing the sharing behavior across various audience segments.

Make friends with the programmers

At an early stage, you'll want to add custom Google Analytics tracking code to your client's site. For example, how was I going to track clicks on this client's social sharing buttons? Google Analytics doesn't do that automatically. I needed the client to add some JavaScript code to these buttons to fire off some events. Good thing I made friends with the programmers!

I quickly wrote a half-page specification explaining how & why we needed to add some JavaScript to the social sharing buttons to fire Google Analytics events. I emailed this to one of the JavaScript developers (after checking with his manager) - within a few days, the code was up on the site & social sharing events were showing up in Google Analytics.

Meet face to face

Try to present your first reports in a face-to-face meeting, or at least with screen sharing & a video conference. This makes it easier for you to get feedback & will help the client begin to clarify their requirements. In this case when I met with the client, they were disappointed to see how little sharing was happening. We discussed this & I learned that visitors needed to register with the site before they could share. For business reasons, having registered users was extremely important, so it was being used as a gate to open up sharing & a variety of other features.

For some reason, not a lot of visitors were registering. As a result, they were unable to share easily. At this point, the client asked me if Google Analytics could help them to figure out why visitors were not registering. I suggested setting up virtual pageviews & funnel tracking around the registration process to figure out where visitors were dropping out. They liked this idea & began telling me about all of the other things that were important to track.

Continue refining the reports

After providing your initial reports, you will usually find that the client will jump back into the driver's seat. They will begin to understand how Google Analytics can help them improve their business. They will start telling you what they need reported, rather than asking you what they should be looking at. To keep this goodness going, set up a weekly reporting process. Each week, review the reports & get feedback for improvements. Never send reports to a client without having at least a short meeting to discuss them. You & the client get more out of the discussion than you do from just producing unexplained reports.

Consider automation

After some time, a basic set of reports will stabilize as being core to the weekly reporting process. Consider automating these with Megalytic. That will save you a lot of cutting/pasting & importing/exporting. Automation will let you focus on the new stuff & continuing to innovate with your client.


When the client first came to you, you talked up the value of Google Analytics. You emphasized the importance of seeing where your traffic was coming from. You went on and on about how Google Analytics can show traffic sources to pinpoint whether people came from search, social media or a specific site referral, and how valuable this data was. You sold them on it, so much so that your client looked forward to receiving that first report, the magical day when they would finally understand where visitors were coming from.
But then the report came, and it looked like this:



It showed that 10% of your client’s traffic came from “(direct)/(none)”. What does this label mean? How do you explain Direct traffic to your client? Better yet, how do you explain “none”?
Let’s take a closer look at understanding Direct traffic in Google Analytics and how we can address it with clients.
Digital marketers spend a lot of time focused on PPC and SEO campaigns in order to drive desirable traffic to a website. The phrases we’re ranking for and bidding on get meticulous attention, so much so that we often forget about some of the other ways that visitors find us.

We put a tremendous amount of the effort we put into reviewing organic search data and PPC campaign performance in analytics. But how closely do we monitor referral reports?

If that’s not a channel you review regularly, you may be missing out on seeing traffic that is coming directly from links you’ve obtained around the web, local business listings, news mentions, and more. Many times, links are only considered as a means to an end, a metric that Google uses in determining how to rank sites in the SERPs (search engine results pages). But the fact is, many of a site’s links may be directly contributing to its traffic.

In this article, we’ll review how to look at referral reports in Google Analytics, and some of the many ways to use that data to better inform your web marketing decisions.


Remember how your mom told you not to stand too close to the television because it might hurt your eyes?

The same rules can apply to data. If you’re too close, you may miss the patterns and trends that are crucial to understanding your website’s performance. You can’t judge a site’s performance looking at data in the bubble of a single day, you must consider any day’s traffic compared to the days before and after.

Google Analytics makes it fairly easy to analyze trends over long periods of time. But it also allows you to stand right in front of that TV, to look at more granular levels of time, right down to the hour.
There’s a better way to get that close to the data, without burning your retinas. We’ll cover how to analyze traffic effectively in today’s post.