I’ve been using Google Analytics for about as long as you can use Google Analytics, longer because I used Urchin, setting it up for Shell Canada during one of my co-op work terms. I did a lot of work with Google Analytics while I was at CWT Canada and during that time I finally got around to building a custom dashboard for myself, but I never blogged about it until today.
I’m a minimalist when it comes to dashboards. I’d like all the data to fit above the fold, so you can quickly see what has happened during the timeframe. I actually busted some Google Analytics tracking code during my last WordPress update or more truthfully a feature was removed from a plugin. I eventually diagnosed and fixed the problem by rolling back to an older version of the plugin, but my dashboard was not working perfectly during this period, now everything is well I think and the data pictured below is from the month of July 2015.
The first number in the first column is unique visits. I like to be able to drill down, I suppose I should create three matching custom reports for the missing links, but honestly for my own personal website, I rarely even look at the analytics as not much changes these days. I just don’t have the time, the opportunity or even the desire to post often or even tweak code. My content does well enough in search engines for the most part. Plus I’m in China and even accessing Google Analytics requires a VPN.
Resume Views is actually a Google Analytics Goal. I never had a goal for my website when I put it up. Boris Mann and some others decided all UVIC Computer Science students should put up homepages back in 1995, so I created mine. A lot has happened since 1995 but one thing I’ve had online since that time is my resume and since my career has gone far from perfectly after I did my Sauder MBA, tracking actual resume views seemed like a logical thing to do.
Top 10 Blog Posts is another thing people other than myself seem to be obsessed about. If I wanted to be more popular I’d blog about Justin Bieber or another asinine celebrity. I’ve actually taken down and deleted popular posts because they weren’t representative of what I truly care about or perhaps they were too representative of what I truly care about. Regardless if I just want to know what blog posts are actually being read I can quickly see it. This is achieved by using custom tags and a little bit of RegEx I believe.
Far more interesting to me after I completely redid my taxonomy was which Blog Categories are the most popular. I removed the catch-all topic but clearly my most popular posts are to do with Finance particularly the CFA® program which is ironic considering I did not pass the Level 2 exam and must rewrite. Giving away study materials I spent 100s of hours creating has a lot to do with this, but some of that material is hosted on WordPress.com. Someday soon I may put up more CFA Study Materials, but I may wait until I finally complete the Level 2 exam successfully.
Blog Categories are tracked with custom tags and Yoast’s plugin.
Top 10 Non-blog Pages is everything else on Muschamp.ca. I have a lot of old content, a lot of content no one reads, but every now and then someone finds something and old content will become popular such as a picture I took in Prince George. I’m currently battling the Great Firewall of China, PHP, and lacking documentation to update the code people seem to care about.
Top 5 Quotations Viewed is also amusing to me. I put a lot of work into collecting quotations eventually writing entirely too much PHP and giving the vast majority of it away. This PHP code is now my most popular non-blog content thanks to StackOverflow which is the social network that sends me the most traffic according to Google Analytics. This is a result of a lot of hours spent fighting APIs while unemployed and sitting in a cafe. I really should code up something that will make some money someday but my coding skills get badly neglected then I suffer through a period of fixing something or building something new, then they get neglected again. The CFA program is my number one priority again soon, only a few minor code changes will be completed hopefully possibly even tomorrow if I can get good web access and figure out what the hell is not working.
Lastly is the Top 5 Keywords which used to be a lot more interesting before Google and others started keeping the data for themselves. I use a trick I learned from Avinash I believe to get this little bit of data to display. This is the Top 5 Keywords from the few obscure search engines that don’t encrypt that data now due to privacy concerns (greed). Keyword referrals used to be a source of amusement even embarrassment now it is all about social media shares or even Klout. Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook they all have their own analytics, the only one I look at regularly is Pinterest, as perversely that may be the social network I am most followed on.
If you have questions on Google Analytics custom dashboards you can leave them below. This dashboard won’t work on any other domain because the RegEx is unique to my custom setup. Yoast or Avinash are two of the top people to follow if you’re interested in Google Analytics.
While digging through Google Analytics collecting data for a future blog post I discovered I have two more ‘blog’ specific dashboards. One made by DashboardJunkie and one created by yours truly. At some point I made a special dashboard to see which categories and which posts in those categories were most popular, then I forgot I built it. This might have been an original idea of mine or very possibly I borrowed it from somewhere. If you have put a lot of effort into your taxonomy this supplemental dashboard is a very useful indeed.
The data shown in these last two pictures is from calendar 2015 up until today September 7th for Muskblog. Gee ain’t I popular it seems 19000 unique people came from Google to my blog so far this year.