A Google Analytics Wishlist
22/11/2011 | Written by | Categories: Analytics Tools

Image of 3D man reading a long list

Google is clearly investing heavily in Google Analytics right now based on the constant stream of new features (e.g.Multi Channel Funnels, Real-time, Flow Visualisation, etc).  However, while new tools are fun to play with, there are still areas where they can enhance their existing tool in ways they will be incredibly valuable to users.

The ten suggestions below are based on my own experience.  I am not making the obvious suggestions like more custom variables, faster processing or data upload functionality.  And some points within this list would only benefit a minority of users.  But they would fix some of those pain points that people do encounter from time to time.  So, in no particular order, here is the L3 Analytics wishlist for Google Analytics.

Definition of a Standard Week

Google analytics defines a week as running from Sunday to Saturday.  This impacts the data reported when shifting to viewing or exporting data by week.  But many companies use a different definition for their week, quite commonly Monday to Sunday and a previous employer of mine even used Friday to Thursday.  A great enhancement to Google Analytics would be the ability to define the standard week as part of the configuration for an account.

While making this adjustment, a feature lost in the change from old to new version of GA was a shortcut to select an entire week with a single click.  Please reinstate this button, it made life so much easier.

The week selector buttons in the old version of Google Analytics

Enhancements to Dashboards

I have started to use the new GA dashboards extensively and recommend to clients as the place to start with Google Analytics.  While they don’t provide the exact content and layout I would like for a dashboard, they add value for any user.

Define Date Range within Dashboard Widgets

The biggest frustration I am currently experiencing is the inability to define the date range for each dashboard widget. For an overview of performance, I like to look at data from 13 weeks down to the day/week within a single dashboard.  Some data points needs to be compared against a previous period – but not all of them.

This would all be possible if Google added functionality to allow the user to specify the date range for each widget.  It would require choosing whether the normal date range selector can be applied to this dashboard or not but this is a satisfactory trade-off in my mind to being able to choose (for example) to see a weekly performance report for the week ending 20th Nov.

New Dashboard Widget

The approach within Google Analytics of selecting one of four dashboard widgets for the dashboard is great but it could do with more widgets.  I have a basic template I use for my Excel dashboards including what could be referred to as a dashboard widget.  This data table allows you to select up to three metrics and compare performance for the current period against a previous period.  I believe it would be a very valuable inclusion in the list of widgets.

The L3 Analytics dashboard widget

Dashboard Segmentation

It is great that you can apply any segment to dashboards but this is complicated for many users of Google Analytics.  New functionality would be for a widget that allows the creation of a limited set of segments that appear as a drop-down at the top of the dashboard.  These could be default or custom segments but the predefined list is all that is available for this dashboard.  This limitation would enhance the usability of GA for less experienced/confident users as they are not overwhelmed by options.

Ensure GA v5 matches old GA Version

Google needs to ensure that nothing is lost for users through switching to the new version of Google Analytics.  A recent announcement was that functionality for exporting to PDFs and scheduling emails would be added to GA v5 soon.

My biggest frustrations with GA v5 have been experienced while configuring accounts.  I don’t know why (and it appears to have got better recently) but I still get occasional error messages where filters or profile changes don’t save.  Configuring accounts using GA v5 MUST be more reliable before the old version is switched off.

Management of Segments

This is currently quite difficult in the new version of all segments for a login appear for all profiles controlled through that login.  This is unnecessary as many segments are only relevant to a single account or profile.  The solution appears to be a folder system for grouping segments and/or a segment order selector.  Whatever the solution, it just needs to be easier to find segments you need to apply.

It would also be very useful if it was easier to share segments between users of an account.  This could be a feature for Administrators where they could define a segment (or custom report) as global for all users of that account.

Specific reports for page level custom variables

I have previously suggested this enhancement to Google Analytics within my post on Page Level Custom Variables.  I believe reports created just for page custom variables and included within the Content section of the menu.  These would contain different metrics to the reports for visit and visitor level custom variables (which are fine located under Demographics).

Global vs Local configuration for Custom Reports

Custom Reports are very powerful in Google Analytics but they would be better if filters were not applied throughout the entire report.  It depends on the purpose of the custom report as whether the defined Dimensions, Metrics and/or Filters should stay consistent or differ between the tabs for this Custom Report. For example, you might want a custom report where each tab is used for a different medium, where the metrics stay the same but the dimensions and filters need to vary.

Each of the three options (Dimensions, Metrics and Filters) should have an option to select whether configuration is global (applies to all tabs for that custom report) or local (applies to only that tab).

Creating a Traffic Sources custom report

Selector for using Regular Expressions in Filters

The integration of Regular Expressions within Google Analytics is a great feature for advanced users of GA and I find myself using regular expression more than normal searches when using the inline filters.  This was the default setting in the old version of GA but now I need to select advanced filters in order to use regex.

I do agree that the default setting for using filters should be for normal searching so that less advanced users do not encounter issues when they innocently use a regex wildcard.  But I believe a setting should be introduced, whether a tick box next to the filter or a configuration option for each user, that allows the user to switch to regex being the default setting for filters.

New variables for categorising search terms

I have previously written about my approach with categorising organic search terms.  One of these categories should now always be (not provided)…  As described in that blog post, Google could introduce functionality to make this process easier.  This requires two new organic search variables (category and number of search terms) and a easy method of defining the rules for search term categories.

Automatic tracking of downloads, outbound links & mailto links

It was a great announcement by Google on the 18th Nov that they have now incorporated Page Load Speed within the standard GA code, eliminating the need to include a line of code for this.  There is another obvious enhancement they could do that would definitely add value for a lot of website owners.

Top Events report in Google Analytics

Scripts have already been written to automatically track downloads, outbound links and mailto links.  There was a story at one stage that a new version of the GA page tag was spotted incorporating this functionality.  It would be a great advance for Google providing website owners with a new level of detail without the barrier of requiring input from developers.

So please, a solution to automatically track all downloads, outbound links and mailto links would be amazing although the solution should allow for savy GA users to customise the output.

Consistency in Reports

A great feature introduced with GA v5 was that when you switched profiles, the selected report stayed the same including date range and segments applied.  This makes things so much easier for users.

However it doesn’t work if you switch between different types of reports – those contained within Home, Standard Reporting and Custom Reporting.  Hopefully Google is looking to extend this functionality to all reports.

Summary

So there you have it, ten enhancements to Google Analytics.  No new tools like Flow Visualisation, just ways that Google could make it easier for users to get the information they need out of GA to improve their business performance.  What do you think, any more you would like to add to this list?  Are there you want to reinforce for me as an urgently needed feature?  Please add your thoughts.

11 responses to “A Google Analytics Wishlist”

  1. Good post Peter – I agree with all of your requests. A while ago I had started a List.ly with a bunch of GA improvement ideas – some similar to yours, some different. It would be great if we had a way to tell Google what we, as analysts and consultants, would like to see them work on (a bit like Dell idea lab and what other vendors offers).

    Sidenote: I think I’m seeing a glimpse of http://gaAddons.com in your capture of events 🙂
    Did you know you can get free examples of download, outbound & mailto code at http://jsfiddle.net/shamel67/VzbPw/ – I’m just about to write a series of blog post to give more details and instructions.

    • Peter O'Neill says:

      Thanks Stephane. I had forgotten all about that list, had previously added a couple of suggestions. Maybe with Justin joining GA, he will set up some sort of crowd sourced feedback. And yes, I am using the gaAddons free code from jsfiddle – made my life a lot easier with that. Would still like to see GA incorporate that by default though.

  2. […] Read the original here:  A Google Analytics Wishlist […]

  3. Hi,
    You can define your week by using GA in another language , try english UK ,you should have week starting on monday.
    With new GA in french weeks start on monday

    • Peter O'Neill says:

      @ Benoit – thanks for that. Are you saying the standard week varies depending on which language you choose? That’s weird. But I only speak English (Australian…), can’t choose a different language just for the standard week setting…

      • Louise says:

        I totally agree why did they upgrade so much and take out ‘downgrade’ the ability to select an entire week with one click?

        @ Peter O’Neill it’s true using UK English will set the week to start at Monday

        • Peter O'Neill says:

          @Louise They may not have realised it was being used widely (they might be correct) or they might not have been able to fit the little button on the calendar. I have no idea, just would like the functionality returned.

          Ahh – I never know that trick with UK English vs US English. However that just changes the layout of the calendar, the actual week when switching from daily to weekly data is still Sun to Sat with either language. Unless the data begins to be processed differently when a different language has been selected?

  4. Jiri Brazda says:

    Good ones! About 2 years ago I put together a website for everybody to join in with their ideas and some of them have already been implemented, some unfortunately have not.

    However, every good vendor should listen to its user community. Google does this through research they target at specific users but doesn’t seem to be willing to listen and maybe more importantly engage in public about its future product development.

    http://google-analytics.ideascale.com/

    • Very interesting list Jiri – maybe we could team up the three of us to revive yours or mine?
      In some cases, it doesn’t matter if Google solve it or not, sometimes we could find ways to work around the constraint and find a solution together.

      • Peter O'Neill says:

        @Jiri @Stephane thanks for your feedback and a central location for feedback to Google would be great. I probably should have searched for the ones you both had already set up but just followed on from my summary of new GA features post. Ideal would be a forum set up by Google that we know they do review and occasionly respond to with updates as to when they make changes based on the feedback. The issue would be a long stream of people using this as a place to submit bugs or ask questions which Google just wouldn’t have the time to respond to. But I think it needs someone at their end to own this.

  5. Steve Billbury says:

    Still in 2013 there’s no solution to the “start day” of the week problem. It really is pretty incredible that they haven’t changed this yet given the amount of money that’s gone into google analytics.

    Hundreds of millions of companies out there run figures from a Monday to a Sunday (the week does start on a Monday after all) yet they have to go through a cumbersome process to accommodate google’s frankly odd decision to force everyone to use a Sunday-Saturday week.

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