Multiple Domain Monitoring Dashboard with Google Data Studio

As a marketing technologist, I’m often trying find a dashboard view for my websites where I can also track marketing data. Some of these reports can be fairly comprehensive, especially when I build a dashboard for a single site.

I also have some simple dashboards that allow me to get an instant snapshot for multiple sites. As I write this, I have over 250 websites that I manage with about 2/3 of those being client sites and the rest falling under personal projects.

Managing these sites in general takes a lot of resources, but a I have a solid team behind me. I also automate a lot of my data collection and display.

Today I bring you a simple dashboard built with Google Data Studio for monitoring multiple websites. I have two versions of this dashboard, the first which is a live snapshot of Today, in near real time. The other, is a duplicate of the daily report, but with time frame set to Yesterday’s Full Day data. I’ll address the second report at the end.

Here’s my Daily Domain Report (Client and some URL data has been redacted for privacy):

When building a dashboard with multiple websites, it’s important to slim down the metrics you are analyzing otherwise it is easy to get lost in the weeds with too much data. In my case I consider this a quick gauge on the health of a website (this isn’t a replacement for website uptime/downtime monitoring). I’ll break the three columns of data for you.

Pageview Metrics

Look at the first column of pageview metrics, I track three data points. Today’s Pageviews (with a comparison to yesterday below it). Last 30 Days Pageviews (with comparison to prior 30 days) and Last 30 Days User Sessions (with comparison to prior 30 days). While the comparison of today’s pageviews to yesterday’s pageviews almost always be down (partial day vs. full day) I can be alerted to some major traffic events.

For instance, if it is 1:00pm and the site usually gets 5000 pageviews/day and I’m only at 20 so far today, something very wrong has happened. And conversely, if it reporting much more than it should be at that time of days, I can alert relevant contacts or team members that we may have an immediate/actionable traffic event taking place (is there an opportunity for crafting a quick offer, new blog post, can we generate some PR, etc.).

The Pageviews and Sessions for the last 30 days are there as both a benchmark for user sessions and pageviews (are they increasing or decreasing in overall).

Top Pages Metric

The middle column shows that top traffic pages from Yesterday.

This is primarily a vanity metric on this Daily Domain Dashboard, but occasionally it can provide some actionable data – for instance, are we seeing an internal search result page showing up, is this some we can write an FAQ piece for, or a new blog post. Or if we start to see our custom 404 error page show up, do we have site problems going on. Sometimes, we’ll see that some content pages are receiving more pageviews than our homepage, this is then something we can move in to actionable data. Maybe we will start A/B testing headlines or calls-to-action on these pages. Maybe this is a subject we should expand upon in the future and add it to the content calendar for our content marketing efforts.

Visitor Acquisition Channels

Again, as a marketing technologist, I’m often juggling SEO and PPC efforts. This third column is a snapshot of user acquisition over the last 30 days. This is just gauging the health of a website. We’ll often want to make sure we have a health mix of referral channels, whether it be organic search traffic, social traffic, PPC, etc.

I have played around with the time frame on this chart in the past. Currently it is 30 days for most of our websites. However I may shorten up the time frame on this pie chart if we have launched a new site, started a very large campaign for a client, or onboarded a new client and don’t have a lot of historical data from their existing analytics. In some of those cases, I may drop it to as low as the last seven days.

Multiple Sites Per Page

My personal preference is to display 5 sites per page and no more than 20 sites per dashboard report. 5 per page fills up an 8.5×11 sheet of paper just right and is perfect for reporting. Since we have multiple salespeople and account teams, I tend to group these around the specific sites they are responsible for.

Automating the Reporting

Recently, Google DataStudio added the option to schedule email reports. Before they added that function, I used three different methods to get them. Early on, I or another team member would take 15 minutes out of our day to download them. Then I spent way too much time getting wrapped around the axle trying to automate the process with both AppleScript and Shortcuts. I finally settled on having a virtual assistant (VA) do this daily for around $80 a month. It was well worth the cost. But now we have scheduled email delivery, so that’ where this automation now lies.

Each report can only have a single Schedule delivery option. I like to think we run a very efficient shop and are pretty proactive with our clients. While I could jump in to these reports all day long, I need to keep my attention focused. So I’ll schedule these dashboard to email me (and relevant team members) these dashboard reports every day at 1:00pm. Some of the account staff will look at them and see some actionable information, some don’t. It isn’t designed to be a mandatory task, but when we are onboarding a new project or rolling out a new campaign, we can get some quick trends without having to go out to different analytics sources.

Now, since these reports can be scheduled, this is the reason why I’ll duplicate this Daily Domain Report with a second called Yesterday’s Domain Report. I reset all of Today’s data points to yesterday, save the report and Schedule to my inbox every morning at 8:00am. Then using some inbox automation tools, it will save out the PDF that is delivered with the automated report, save it out to a cloud storage location and rename it with our group code and YYYYMMDD date stamp (for example: GRP1-20200128.pdf) for archiving. It will then remove it from my inbox so I never see it. This is a new workflow and was only made possible by the Scheduled Email function being added. It was too time consuming for us to do this daily and too expensive for a VA to do it.

But now that Schedule Email Delivery function is here, I consider it is a best practice to archive these daily reports – especially with how inexpensive cloud storage is these days. Sure, we haven’t had too many times where we have gone back and looked at these reports because we do have Google Analytics for advanced investigation, but we have referred to these and included them in white papers and our motion graphics guy has also done some cool onion-skin animations of the visitor acquisition pie chart. I may change my mind down the road and only go to weekly or monthly snapshots if it becomes too cumbersome, but for now, we have them available if we need them.

Want to build your own Daily Domain Dashboard like this? All you need is a website with Google Analytics tracking. Jump into Google Data Studio, set up connector to your Google Analytics Account and start adding the boxes. It is pretty intuitive, but I won’t throw you to the wolves just yet. I’ll be back next week showing you step-by-step how I built this report so you can build one yourself.

Don’t Neglect A/B Testing Opportunities

A/B (or split) testing refers the practice of comparing the effectiveness of two versions of a web page. Typically when we talk about A/B testing it’s in the context of a PPC, email, or other campaign designed to drive traffic to those pages. There’s no doubt that this sort of testing can yield valuable results and improve the effectiveness of your campaigns. However, A/B testing outside of a specific campaign can be a valuable tool to improve both the user experience and the content on your site.

I’ll use a example from a website that I manage. I was tasked with the creation of a new section of the website for a new medical service. I’ve done this sort of task many times in the past but this project was unique because this service was available to both men and women but in very different forms. With this in mind, this new section of the website had to appeal to both men and women and encourage them both to engage and click through to other pages to learn more.

I decided that the best way to appeal to the different audiences was to split them up from the beginning. I created a landing page for the new section that immediately made it clear that women should follow one path and men should follow another. My idea was that both groups would really only be interested in what specifically applied to them.

In the interest of ensuring that I was creating the most useful pages possible, I decided to run some A/B tests against a page that took a different approach. On the second page I started off with more generic information about the service. There was an overview and a few paragraphs discussing the key benefits of this new service with the opportunity to dive in to specifics based on gender following up toward the end of the page.

After setting up the testing I sat back and waited for Google to tell me that I was right. 🙂 As it turns out I was completely wrong. The visitors that came to the second page were much more engaged and went on to spend more time on the site and visit more pages than those that landed on the first version. It appeared that the general interest in the technology drew more interest than specific information for the particular user. In the end, being wrong wasn’t a bad thing since I was able to correct my mistakes and develop the most successful page possible.

I went on to test video content and headlines and further optimize this particular section of the website. The end result is content that is more engaging and relevant to the user. This in turn drives more leads and a better return. If I hadn’t done that testing then I never would have known what I was missing.

I would encourage you to not just think about A/B testing when you launch a new campaign. Look for opportunities on your site to improve the user experience and see what you can learn about your customer and how they engage with your site.

How consistent is your public face?

Many businesses have graphic identity guides. Some guides can fill up entire binders going into minute detail on every possible design scenario. These guides are an important piece in consistent branding, however, there can be a gap when it comes to individual ad campaigns.

I’ve recently been noticing inconsistencies in what I’ll call spin-off pieces created by clients (not just my clients, but many businesses). Spin-off pieces are created in-house by client teams and, with the best intentions, are designed to fit with the current ad campaign. These could be things like newsletters, email marketing or employee communications to name a few.

The problem is that without a clear guide for the current campaign, small changes can creep into the designs. Sometimes the wrong weight type is used in the headline or a photo is reversed to better fit a particular application. These initially seem like minor details but soon you have half a dozen pieces that are all slightly different from eachother. These projects typically happen away from the eyes of the agency and the small variations can leave the original campaign diluted.

Will the client notice the problem? Maybe, maybe not. Will the consumer notice? They probably won’t put a finger on the details but I believe that it does make a difference in brand perception.

The solution isn’t difficult but it does require deliberate action. Agencies and designers need to talk to the client about possible in-house spin-off projects that may borrow from the campaign. If such projects are a possibility then the creative team can develop a simple one page guide that covers basics such as type weights used in copy, tagline placement, color palettes (with color values for print and screen) and any other details specific to the campaign. A brief guide will be simple to follow and will actually make things easier on the client.

However, the responsibility can’t all be left to the creative team. Clients need to be aware that design choices are made for a reason and it’s important to remain consistent throughout communications. Without client buy-in the guides will be ineffective.

As an art director I’d love to be able to sign off on every single piece of communication that a client puts out. Unfortunately that’s not realistic. The next best thing is developing a clear set of guides that can be followed so that future pieces can build on the work of the initial campaign and create a stronger brand.

The Power of Authenticity in Content Marketing

Gone are the days when a simple marketing campaign with a spun message could sell the consumer. Consumers today are looking for a much more sophisticated and high quality marketing strategy before they take the plunge and trust a company. If you want a successful marketing campaign in 2015, you’ll turn the attention away from marketing gimmicks and towards transparency and authenticity.

What Authenticity Means for Your Brand

Authenticity is a difficult feeling to achieve in content marketing, particularly for online businesses. It’s not easy to connect with consumers when you can’t talk to them face to face about your company. However, there are still ways to understand and speak to your audience in a way that inspires connection and brand trust.

Brands have been choosing the authenticity route for years, reaping significant benefits. One recent marketing stunt that has shown a genuine desire for consumer connection is Coca Cola’s Share a Coke campaign, which now includes personalized labels. It gives the feeling that Coca Cola knows your name and wants to share the love with you.

Another great example is the Austrian National Tourist Office, who ran a marketing campaign in which they invited 16 travel bloggers to share a once-in-a-lifetime experience #inAustria. They created a video montage of the experience to showcase the memorable and inspiring event for consumers. The success of the video has been overwhelming, and the Austrian board is experiencing incredible feedback.

Both of these examples clearly show what happens when you choose to deliver authentic content. It allows you to go on a journey and determine exactly who you are as a company and what you have to offer the world. You’ll want to define your purpose, mission, and landmark goals. Once you’ve understood who you are, you can interact with your clients with confidence and kindness.

The result? Powerful relationships between your brand and most loyal customers. Being authentic means looking past the incoming revenue and looking towards the customer experience. If you can create an authentic customer experience, your revenue, customer retention, and brand trust will increase exponentially.

How to Bring Authenticity to Your Content Marketing Strategy

When you seek authenticity and customer connection, you’ll likely need to change several attributes of your strategy. As human beings, one of our main goals is to connect with others and create lasting relationships. Once that relationship is formed, it becomes a mutual agreement of give and take, allowing both to benefit and prosper. The same is said for your content marketing strategy. The more human you can make it, the more you’ll experience benefits. Here are just a few ways that you can create a more genuine content marketing strategy.

  • Be human. To begin with, authenticity in content production means ditching the robotic ways and turning towards more human tendencies. When you write content, you’ll do so with personality. When you create videos, the purpose will be to make human connections rather than convert customers.
  • Tell a story. The human race has been telling stories since the beginning of time, and it is by far the most lucrative form of entertainment – and marketing. Though not every piece of content needs to tell a story, you should have several inspiring pieces that take the reader on a journey.
  • Respond to customers on social media. Social media has more impact on customer relations than you might think, particularly if you’re engaging with them consistently. Customers want to connect with you, which is the reason they comment on and share your content. If you want to make connections, you’ll respond with kind comments, promises to do better, and gratitude. Being truly genuine as you cultivate customer relationships will take you to the top.
  • Treat customers like friends. One of the best ways to add more authenticity to your campaign is to throw out the idea of customer/client relations and introduce the idea of treating customers like friends. Sometimes this means sacrificing a little to create a great experience for the customer, and sometimes it means practicing a little tough love to help the customers learn and grow with your company. As you work to treat your customers like your friends, you’ll see the power of authenticity for yourself.