If I say the word dashboard, you might think of the photo above. It wasn’t always that way.
The first dashboard was really just part of a horse-drawn carriage; a wooden panel added to protect the occupants from mud kicked up by the horse’s hooves. The notion it had anything to do with information was absurd.
When ‘horse-less’ carriages first appeared in the 1890s, the dashboard still served its original purpose. Only after engines were mounted in front of the driver (rather than underneath) did the modern dashboard take shape.
For years the only gauge on a standard automobile dashboard was an ammater — a device that measured the car’s electrical current. Believe it or not, a speedometer was considered an extra. So was a fuel gauge.
The dashboard in today’s car is mostly for aesthetics. It looks impressive and provides a sense of control, but it has little impact on how well our car operates — with the possible exception of the fuel gauge! It’s all that other information (like road signs and traffic signals) that determine if we reach our destination safely.
Compare that kind of dashboard to the cockpit of the Concorde, pictured above.
Overwhelming, isn’t it? Yet to a trained pilot, each indicator provides vital information that is absolutely essential to the safe and efficient operation of the aircraft.
Pilots spend years learning how to interpret and act upon the information those gauges provide. Good thing, too. With a skilled pilot at the controls, information becomes intelligence.
Building a Google dashboard with intelligence
If you have a Google Analytics account, you should think about your Web site dashboard the same way that a pilot thinks about their aircraft. Unfortunately the basic, out-of-the-box Google dashboard looks like this:
Lots of information, but does it tell you if something is working — or going horribly wrong? Nope.
The cure is to build a custom Google dashboard that does. In the next two minutes, we’ll show you how to turn your Web site into a competitive intelligence machine.
Panel One: Site traffic
Site traffic is a “feel good” metric that offers an instant appraisal of your Web site’s value to your business. If you just bought some advertising, posted an update on your LinkedIn page, or hired a firm to improve your site’s SEO then a bump in traffic here means something worked. If not, then it’s time to do something about it.
Panel Two: Metros
Yes, Google can track your visitors by metro. Even without campaign codes attached to your online ads, you can still map where prospects came from. This dashboard also has the competitive advantage of showing you new areas where you might want to market your business.
Panel Three: Online channels
This panel quickly tells you how many visitors came to your site from search engines, social networks, other Web sites, and your company branding. You can ignore the Bounces, as we explained in The Myth of Visitor Engagement.
Panel Four: Keyword discovery
This one panel might be your most important. It shows which phrases your visitors use when they search for your product or service. If visitor keywords match the keywords on your site, your search optimization is working. If not, it’s time to re-invigorate your site content.
Panel Five: Landing pages
The language on your landing pages should focus one or two specific keywords. Only your Home page might have a keyword mash-up. If your traffic is solid and your visitors spend a reasonable amount of time, then your landing pages are doing their job.
Panel Six: Exit pages
Knowing where your visitors leave your site provides intelligence about how well it creates leads. If people exit from the Inquiry page, then you should receive contact requests. If not, then think about ways get them to the Inquiry page. Or, provide a stronger Call-to-Action once they get there.
Why is this important to you?
We live in a world awash with information. To thrive, we must cut through the clutter — and a dashboard is a time-tested way to do that.
It’s not enough to feel like you’re in control, though — and a better Google dashboard using panels like we described can turn Web site data into smart business decisions.