Tips for Building Your Data Reporting Templates

Published November 28, 2016
When it comes to data-based reporting, templates aren’t just a good practice - they can be a lifesaver! Using repeatable formats with plenty of room for customization is the key to maximum efficiency. In agency life, with a thousand things to do every day, efficiency is everything.
A solid foundation is essential to making templates work. Taking the time to build a strong infrastructure that will serve you and your clients is worth the extra effort at the outset. We’re here to help make that even easier.
So, imagine today is the first day of a new quarter. You need to start cranking out digital marketing reports for all of your clients. But where do you start?
Whether you’re just getting started building reports or have been creating reports for years, we want to share some of our favorite tips on building report templates that highlight your agency’s awesome work. Like everything, the first step is to know your goals, so start by thinking about the data that you need to include in a report.


Conversion Rate by Channel


What Data Do You Need to Show?

Identify what data will best show how well your client’s digital campaign performed over the previous period. Ideally, you should define KPIs (key performance indicators) at the onset of a campaign in collaboration with the client. Establishing these early on helps you to create reports and helps clients know what to expect when receiving them. Of course, clients may not always anticipate all or the most relevant KPIs for inclusion, but that’s where your expertise comes in handy.

First, you should show a summary of website performance on an overall level. Next, think about which channels you’re directly touching as part of your efforts for a client. If you’re managing paid search campaigns as well as an organic search engine optimization plan, you’ll want, at minimum, to use widgets showing performance for each of those channels. Finally, provide a basic breakdown of all channels; for instance, even if you’re not directly managing social media, you should still be aware of spikes in Facebook traffic.

Key performance metrics you want to show for each channel typically fall into traffic, engagement, and conversion categories.

Important traffic metrics include:

  • New Users
  • Sessions
  • Pageviews

Top engagement metrics include:

  • Avg. Session Duration
  • Pages/Session
  • Bounce Rate

Key conversion metrics (ideally tracked both on an overall level and for individual Goals) include:

  • Goal Completions
  • Conversion Rate

If you’re running ad campaigns, you should also show these metrics:

  • Clicks
  • Impressions
  • CTR (clickthrough rate)
  • CPC (average cost per click)
  • Cost
  • Cost/Conversion

While there may be other data worth including associated with offline efforts or ranking reports, these metrics will cover the bulk of how users are reaching and interacting with the site.

Showing Top Level KPIs

The KPI widget in Megalytic provides a simple way to show high level metrics at the top of your report, comparing against the previous period and previous year. Use the Multi-KPI widget to show up to four metrics side by side.

Below is an example of configuring the Multi-KPI widget, in which we’ve selected some traffic-based metrics to put at the top of our report. Within the widget options, use the “Metric” dropdown to select from most metrics available in Google Analytics.


Megalytic Multi-KPI Widget


Next, see the final widget with our metrics chosen. In this case, we’ve chosen to look at quarterly data, but note that you can click the date range at the top to choose from daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, or yearly options.


Completed Multi-KPI in a Megalytic Report


Showing KPIs by Channel

Next, you should show KPIs for top channels that you’re involved in managing. You can easily configure the KPI widget to show data for a specific channel or source using Google Analytics Segments or Megalytic’s built-in filtering function.

For instance, say you want to show KPIs for organic search. Within the widget options, click the “down” arrow symbol on the right of the Segment box. In the dropdown that appears, click on the current Segment name (“All Traffic” by default) and choose the “Organic Traffic” segment from the overlay box that appears. Finally, click Apply to finalize the setup.


Google Analytics Segments in Megalytic


A quick shortcut when showing KPIs for multiple channels is to duplicate the first one and then edit the applied Segment to change the data shown. Once you’ve applied the new Segment, don’t forget to change the widget title so it describes what type of traffic it shows. Click on the title to see a text box and edit away. Here, we’ve labeled the widget so it specifically says “Organic.”


Changing Title of a Megalytic Widget


If you’re showing Paid Search performance, you can show Google Analytics metrics with a regular Multi-KPI widget, but you can also integrate with AdWords to use a widget that pulls stats directly from the ad platform. In fact, this is the only way to show conversions tracked within AdWords itself.

Compare Performance by Channel

Next, you should move beyond KPIs to compare performance among channels. By showing channels side-by-side, you can see which are most effective at driving value for your client’s site.

Whenever possible, focus on showing conversion-related metrics. For instance, in this example we want to break down conversion volume by channel to show how they stack up against each other in driving free trials. We’ll use the Completions by Channel widget. In the widget options, we’ll leave Completions as the metric and choose the Goal we want (in this case, “New Account - Trial,” representing trial signups).


Setting up a Megalytic Conversions Widget


Our final widget shows a pie chart breaking down total Completions by channel. You can choose from different display options, including bar graphs and line charts based on which types of visuals resonate the most with your clients.


Megalytic Chart Showing Conversions by Channel


In addition, be sure to show enough widgets to provide multiple perspectives on data. From the example above, organic search drives, by far, the highest volume of Completions. However, showing conversion rate will point out which channels are most likely to drive conversions (vs. which drive the most conversions).


Conversion Rate by Channel


What Data Don’t You Need to Show?

While you’re considering which data best proves performance, consider what extraneous data you don’t need to show clients. We’re not talking about hiding data that reflects negatively on performance. But too much detail can both distract clients from the ROI metrics they should focus on and confuse people who don’t review web analytics metrics on a day-to-day basis.

For instance, a monthly report probably doesn’t need to break down pageviews for every single page of a 1,000-page site. Instead, the top 10 pages may suffice.

Also, consider the technical level of the clients to whom you’re reporting. A CEO likely wants to focus on top level metrics: How much traffic, how many leads, and how much revenue are your efforts driving, at what cost? Keep KPIs front and center when reporting to someone on this level.

However, a marketing manager may want to focus on more granular details: What geographic regions convert at the highest rate? Which landing page call-to-actions are most effective? How did last month’s TV commercial impact brand searches? Even when putting KPIs at the top for a CEO, fill in more detail further into the report for the staff member who wants more specific information. In every case, consider your audience and use the “Notes” widget to provide additional context that may not be immediately apparent in the data.


Once you’ve added all the widgets that make sense for your client report, you can save a template within Megalytic to use in the future. You can re-use templates both for the same client and for other clients where the same metrics make sense.

Don’t assume that your templates are 100% finalized from the point of creation though. Solicit feedback both from your client and from your team as to additional data you should show, unnecessary metrics you can remove, or widget order to prioritize the most important data. The most important thing though, never settle. Continue to refine your reports as your relationship and work changes over time to continually prove the value of the work you do for clients!


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.