Be Real-World Smart: A Beginner's Advanced Google Analytics Guide

Being book smart is good. The outcome of book smart is rarely better for analytics practitioners then folks trying to learn how to fly an airplane from how-to books.
Hence, I have been obsessed with encouraging you to get actual data to learn from. This is all the way from Aug 2009: Web Analytics Career Advice: Play In The Real World! Or a subsequent post about how to build a successful career: Web Analytics Career Guide: From Zero To Hero In Five Steps. Or compressing my experience into custom reports and advanced segments I’ve shared.
The problem for many new or experienced analysts has been that they either don’t have access to any dataset (newbies) or the data they have access to is finite or from an incomplete or incorrect implementation (experienced). For our Market Motive Analytics training course, we provide students with access to one ecommerce and one non-ecommerce site because they simply can’t learn well enough from my magnificent videos. The problem of course is that not everyone is enrolling our course! :)
All this context is the reason that I am really, really excited the team at Google has decided to make a real-world dataset available to everyone on planet Earth (and to all intelligent life forms in the universe that would like to learn digital analytics).
The data belongs to the Google Merchandise Store, where incredibly people buy Google branded stuff for large sums of money (average order value: $115.67, eat your heart out Amazon!). And, happily, it has almost all of the Google Analytics features implemented correctly. This gives Earth’s residents almost all the reports we would like to look at, and hence do almost all

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Speed, Focus, Smart Insights: 5 Google Analytics Custom Reports FTW!

Standard reports stink. Custom reports rock!
If you are a regular reader of this blog, you are quite familiar with this sentiment. I’ve expressed it often. :)
The primary reason is simple: You are unique. Your business is unique. Why would a report created for everyone work for the special someone that you are?
There are other great reasons as well.
Custom reports allow you to deeply focus (by eliminating the rif-raf metrics and dimensions, they save time and show just what you want). When shared, custom reports allow you to deliver deeper relevance. Custom reports allow you to package up entire datasets for deeper analysis.
I’ve shared a whole bunch of custom reports in the past. You can download them into your Google Analytics account via one click (along with some lovely Advanced Segments and a Dashboard). Just go to the GA Solutions Gallery and click Import: Occam’s Razor Awesomeness.
You can download a bunch more, that are not yet in the bundle above, by following the links at the end of this post. Seven more! The include single custom reports that replace all/most current standard reports in GA on Mobile, Content, Paid Search and Acquisition. Your life will be simpler. Grab the above, then grab the ones at the end of this post.
Today, I want to share a few of my recent favorites that solve day-to-day challenges in clever ways.
But, before we go there I want to share an important concept. Many custom reports are wrong because we mess up the fundamental data model in analytics. We mis-align metrics and dimensions across Users, Session, Hits. If you want to create accurate custom reports (or apply advanced segments), this post is mandatory reading:

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Ten Hidden Gems In Google Analytics: Do Smarter Web Data Analysis!

The 80/20 rule applies to our use of web analytics tools as well. Most of us use just a small amount of power our tools contain.
This hurts my feelings! Ok, not so much hurts my feelings and more that I’m sad you are not taking advantage of all of the features at your disposal to drive smarter decisions by your leadership teams.
Regardless of the tool you have, it is always prudent to take a fresh look at a familiar tool every once in a while and see what you’ve been missing. I recommend that periodically you gather folks around you for lunch, pull up Adobe Analytics on the big screen in the conference room, let each person expose one hidden report or feature. You’ll be surprised at how much you learn, and, like an Easter egg hunt, the whole thing is fun all by itself.
As many of you already have access to Google Analytics, in this post I want to re-introduce some of the features/reports/concepts that most likely fall outside of the normal 20% you use regularly. My hope is to aid in your persistent quest to deliver more impactful IABIs (Insights, Actions the leadership should take, Business Impact).
Some of these hidden gems are small, some big, some you might know and have ignored, and some never crossed your radar. Pop open your GA account in a different tab, or your WebTrends or your WebTrekk or IBM Analytics accounts, and follow along.
But, first… It is important to point out that some things are a bit hidden and not used as much, like the Real Time reports in Google Analytics but I’m not quite filled with grief about them….

Even

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