Creating Reports for Big Picture Executives

Published October 22, 2014
You’ve spent hours putting together an incredibly in-depth analytics report. Page after page, you carefully laid out details like where users came from, how they navigated the site, which sources converted, how organic traffic is trending, etc. You proudly send the report off to the CEO, anticipating positive feedback on your thorough analysis and presentation.
Days later, you get a brief email reply: “I don’t have time to read all this. Just give me the big picture.”
Don’t get frustrated. There isn’t time. You need to rework the report from the ground up, this time only showing a few of the most important statistics.

big picture postit


Likely, we’ve all dealt with the boss or client who only cares about seeing high-level results. He or she works an extremely busy day, juggling meetings, calls and emails, with minimal time for reading reports.

So, how do you determine what “big picture” stats to include in a report for this person? You don’t want to hand over a bunch of PDF screenshots from Google Analytics with endless columns and graphs that will only serve to confuse.

First, take the time to understand what’s important to the executive receiving your report. For the sake of this article, let’s say you’re talking to the CEO, but the tips and tactics hold true for any busy executive within your organization or a client’s.

Have a Meeting

Before you prepare your first analytics report, schedule a meeting with the CEO to determine what stats he or she considers most important. If you cannot get on their calendar, meet with a direct report who knows the CEO’s priorities.

Discuss the primary goals for the business, since those goals should ultimately translate into the goals you track in analytics.

Examples of business goals may include:

  • Increasing revenue from an online store
  • Filling up seats for events
  • Signing customers onto ongoing service plans

Determine Top Level Metrics

After discussing business goals with the CEO, start thinking about what metrics you can pull from analytics to best track those goals. Remember that he or she will not want to review pages and pages of spreadsheets, so stick to a few top level metrics, and categorize them in a way that relates to the business objectives discussed in your meeting.

  • How many people are coming to our site? Show the trend in number of users visiting the site.
  • How are they finding us? Show the website’s top traffic sources.
  • How many leads are we getting? Show completions and conversion rate for a goal that defines qualified leads.
  • Where are they coming from? Show top geographic locations of users.

Build the Report

Once you have determined the metrics you want to include, get to work building the report. If you use a reporting platform like Megalytic, you can easily build a template that incorporates your key metrics. Make sure you keep the CEO’s high-level approach and limited time in mind when building the report, using the following guidelines.

Keep it Brief

Just because you can collect the information, doesn’t mean you need to show it. For example, don’t show a list of all 5,000 organic search keywords that brought people to the site over the past month. While you should be reviewing that data in depth for your own work, stick to the top 20 for your executive reader. This person trusts you to take care of the granular details, so do so and only present them with what they need to know. Stick to a report that, when printed out, remains under five pages.

Widgets from a tool like Megalytic allow you to display analytics data in a more concise, customizable format than you can get directly in Google Analytics. In addition, you can choose to show only the most important metrics to show your CEO.

For example, he or she may not care about understanding the nuances of bounce rate, average time on site, and other engagement statistics. However, Megalytic’s “engaged sessions” metric helps you see non-bounce sessions that spent a minimum specified amount of time on your site.

The “Engagement by Channel” widget helps show an overview of engaged sessions by Channel Groupings from Google Analytics.

megalytic's engagement by channel widget showing a bar chart

In this example, we’ve chosen to show “Engaged Sessions” for the metric and set the Engagement Threshold to 60 seconds, to count only non-bounce sessions over 60 seconds. We can then use this widget to show a high-level view of valuable users who spent significant time going through the site.

Use Visuals

Visuals such as graphs and maps help to communicate the big picture, especially when someone does not want to pore over tables full of numbers. For instance, Megalytic’s Traffic by Geography widget lets you immediately see the top regions from which people are visiting your site.

In this example, you can see with a quick look that California and New York rank as the top states for traffic. From this data, the CEO can judge if the website is reaching enough people in the intended markets, as well as identify regions where the site’s marketing may need to be increased.

megalytic widget showing google analytics traffic by geographic region

In addition, show simple graphs along with statistics such as volume of sessions and goal completions. In the example below, we’re using the “Multiple Goals” widget to show a simple breakdown of the major goals for this site, choosing to display a “Table Graph” along with the data.

selecting the table graph format in a megalytic widget

Now, you can see the relative volume of goal completions by comparing the bars in the left hand column. In this example, we see that people are much more likely to reach out via a general Contact page than to utilize the Schedule a Visit form elsewhere on the site.

display google analytics data for multiple goals within a single megalytic widget

Explain Metrics

While you don’t need to include pages of explanatory text for a busy CEO, you should take the time to include short descriptions of key metrics that may be unfamiliar. In addition, call out key insights, and explain how the data relates directly to business goals. For example, don’t just show a list of conversions. Explain how the conversions represent leads, newsletter signups, event registrations, etc., which fit into the marketing funnel to ultimately contribute to revenue.

In Megalytic, you can easily add a Notes widget to include commentary in relevant places throughout a report. This is incredibly helpful for providing the context behind the numbers.


When preparing a report for a “big picture” executive such as a CEO, make sure you start by understanding the top-level company goals and how those are measured by web analytics metrics. Determine the bare minimum set of metrics you can report that measure the website’s contributions to achieving those goals. Finally, assemble those metrics into a concise report including charts and graphs with short text explanations that the CEO can read quickly to determine if the website is meeting the company’s objectives.


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.