Google Analytics allows business owners to get consistently accurate and up-to-date information about their digital presence. This tool is infinitely helpful, but new users are often shell-shocked by the massive amount of data it offers.

One way to simplify this process is to use custom Google Analytics Dashboards, which show pre-selected metrics based on specific dates and categories you select. Enough talk; let’s show you how to create a custom dashboard.

Open Google Analytics in your browser. Click Dashboards, then click New Dashboard.

Google Dashboards Image 1-2

Once you’ve clicked +New Dashboard, the pane above will appear. You can then select Blank Canvas or Starter Dashboard.

Starter Dashboard is a great place to start when you don’t really know which metrics you want to display. For today’s purposes, though, we used Blank Canvas.

After you select your dashboard template, you need to name it. This template is for the 30 Lines Band. (Look for our feature-length album coming this holiday.)

Google Dashboard Image 2-2

As soon as you name and create your dashboard, you’ll be prompted to add your first widget. (You can add additional widgets later by clicking the +Add Widget button.)

On the Add a Widget menu, you’ll need to name the widget. We want to find out how many of our sessions (formerly called “visits”) are using the Google Chrome browser, so we named the widget Sessions from Chrome.

Don’t make the name overly complicated. Just use something you’ll understand later.

Next, you’ll choose a Standard or a Real-time widget. Standard widgets display metrics based on a time frame that you set, and almost any data set can be shown here. Real-time widgets show metrics, such as current users, based on the last 30 or 60 seconds.

Real time doesn’t matter for our metric, so we selected Standard.

You can also choose the way you want your data presented visually, whether that’s a number, timeline, map, table, pie, or bar. Just pick the appropriate visual for your needs. We chose Metric.

Google Dashboard Image 3-2

The next step is to select the metric you want to show. In this box, you can search for virtually any metric that Google Analytics offers. We wanted to show Sessions.

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We didn’t want to just show sessions, though. We wanted to show sessions that come from Google Chrome. Thankfully Google Analytics Dashboard offers the ability to filter data. This option can be a little confusing at first, but you’ll get the hang of it in no time.

You just tell the widget to Show/Don’t show a channel Containing/Matching/Beginning/Ending with a specific channel. We wanted to Only show a Browser Containing Chrome.

After you set your data filter, click Save.

Once the filter is set, you can link your widget to a report or relative URL. This can be a PDF, a landing page, or any other relevant page.

Google Dashboard Image 5-2

There you have it. Your first custom widget. (See it in the lower left highlighted box.)

You’re free to create as many widgets as you want with as many filters as you want, but keep in mind that the point of a dashboard is to simplify what you’re looking at.

Another feature worth mentioning is the +Add Segment option. Adding a segment allows you to drill down even further, depending on the criteria you set for the segment.

Google Dashboard Image 6-2

Once you hit +Add Segment, the menu below will appear. We wanted to know not only who’s coming to the site, but who’s coming to it on a mobile device or a tablet. This is a good way to convince the guys upstairs that your outdated site needs to be mobile friendly.

Once you’ve selected the segments you want, just hit Apply.

After you hit Apply, you can see the changes to the widget. There’s also a new segment type right below the All Sessions widget.

The last Google Analytics Dashboard feature I want to point out is the Share option, which allows you to share an individual widget, your board, or a link to your template. You can also email the template or export that moment’s dashboard to PDF.

Keep in mind that sharing the dashboard will move it out of the Private layer and into Shared.

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As you can see, Google Analytics Dashboards give you a much better understanding of your web presence. Ask yourself, “Which metrics really matter to my business?” and make a dashboard to measure them. You can even have multiple dashboards for various organization-wide goals.

I’ve set up an example dashboard that you can plug right into your analytics. Just click this link and select your website in the drop-down menu for access. (Make sure you’re signed into Google.)

I hope this brief introduction to Google Analytics Dashboards has been helpful. If you’ve got a question, feel free to leave it in the comments.

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