Reporting Basics for New (or Overwhelmed) Marketers

April 11, 2017

When your boss asks you to create a report that shows how your marketing efforts contribute to the business' core objectives, don't panic. Use this article and case study of Canada-based marketing agency, Cheeky Monkey Media, as a guide for creating comprehensive monthly reports that prove the success of your marketing.

We’ve all been in the scenario below.

Your boss asks for a report that explains how your website and marketing initiatives are performing. She wants the status report monthly but advises that you don’t spend too much time creating it.

The company also wants to cut costs. You can’t rely on a fancy reporting tool; so instead, you look to Google Analytics, an amazing tool that tells you a lot of important information. You could spend all day, every day in Analytics and still not run out of things to measure and track. However, this isn’t an option.

So, what steps should you take to prepare a low cost, monthly report without spending an entire week on the project?

If the scenario sounds familiar, don’t despair.

We walk you through all the steps necessary to measure your marketing efforts and to create a comprehensive monthly status report.

  1. Define marketing success in the context of your business objectives. 
  2. Identify your main indicator of success. 
  3. Set and measure secondary indicators of success. 
  4. Track and report KPIs using Google Data Studio. 

Define Success for Web & Marketing Initiatives

Accurate goal setting is crucial to producing a useful monthly status report.

Remember to discuss and agree on goals with your boss and formally record them so you both stay on the same page from month-to-month.

As the marketing specialist at Cheeky Monkey Media, a solutions based marketing agency that builds brand success, not just websites, I regularly write blogs for our website, and I’m always thrilled when people come to our site to read them. But, while blogging is important for a business website, my boss doesn’t really care about blog traffic, and why should he?

Our website’s job, first and foremost, is to encourage visitors to click “contact us” to request a quote for a project. So, for us, success means increasing the amount of leads acquired through our website, either with the “contact us” form or our [email protected] email.

Therefore, while I may be proud of the number of blogs I publish every month and the amount of traffic they attract, everything I include in a report needs to show how my marketing and design efforts for our website contribute to more leads.

Identify the Main Indicator of Success

Determine which key performance indicators (KPIs) demonstrate progress toward your business’ core objectives and track them using Google Analytics. KPIs are measurable metrics that illustrate how your marketing efforts positively (or negatively) affect your business objectives.

Remember that your main KPI will vary based on your organization’s objectives. For example, an e-commerce website’s main KPI may be revenue, while a business services website, like Cheeky Monkey Media’s, main KPI may be qualified leads.

First, in Google Analytics, on the left-hand sidebar menu, select “Conversions,” “Goals,” and then “Goal URLs.”

steps to identify a KPI in Google Analytics

For Cheeky Monkey Media, the goal URL is /thank-you, which signals a lead submitted a contact form.

Second, to track website users that contact you over email, select “Behavior,” “Events,” and “Top Event” in the left-hand side bar of Google Analytics. Then, on the main page, below the graph, select “Event Label” and “Secondary dimension: Shared URL.”

Tracking events in Google Analytics

For Cheeky Monkey Media, I look for references to [email protected], which is the general email address leads use to contact our team.

A Cautionary Note About Tracking Leads

If you use your website to collect leads, you need to think about what makes a good lead. For example, our website gets five-to-ten times more leads than I actually count.

A best practice is to identify qualified leads and manually record them in another database, such as an Excel spreadsheet or Google Sheets.

Set Secondary Measurable Indicators

How you measure secondary KPIs, or the measurable indicators that serve as a foundation for your main KPI, depends on the activities used to support your overarching business objective.

To make the concept of secondary KPIs less abstract, consider the following scenario. As the marketing specialist at Cheeky Monkey Media, my priorities revolve around the first two stages of a three-stage growth strategy: attract and convert. Therefore, when I create a report for my boss, I want to show that my efforts attract site visitors and lead to conversions – get visitors to contact us through our form or over email.

Given my focus on attraction and conversion, what should I measure as my secondary KPIs?

Theoretically, the more traffic I get to the website, the greater the opportunity for conversion. So, my secondary KPI would be new site visitors. The additional two or three KPIs that I track will depend on my current marketing initiatives and the goals associated with them.

For example, lately, Cheeky Monkey Media has invested in a PPC campaign, social media campaigns, and guest blogging initiatives. My report should address whether these initiatives bring more traffic to our site and correspond with an increase in leads.

Given my focus on PPC, social media, and guest blogging, I’d track the following:

  • An increase in direct traffic from PPC efforts, measured by organic referral traffic.
  • An increase in social network traffic, (which is different from social traffic and social referral traffic), measured by network referral traffic.
  • An increase in (non-social) referral traffic, measured by channel referrals.

How to Measure Organic, Network & Channel Referral Traffic in Google Analytics

1. Organic Traffic from PPC: "Acquisition," "All Traffic," "Channels," and "Paid Search"

measuring organic traffic in google analytics

The results show me specific keywords users click as a result of the PPC campaign. If I wanted to get even more in depth, I would go to "Google Search Console," "Search Traffic," "Search Analytics."

2. Social Network Traffic: "Acquisition," "Social," and "Network Referrals" 

tracking social network traffic in google analytics

3. Non-Social Referral Traffic: "Acquisition," "All Traffic," "Channels," and "Referral"

tracking non-social referral traffic in google analytics

Track KPIs & Report Progress Using Google Data Studio

Now that you know what to measure and why, use Google Data Studio to create reports that update automatically on a monthly basis, in order to avoid having to pull information from Google Analytics manually every month.

I prefer using Google Data Studio instead of Google Dashboard because it’s free and offers greater flexibility. Google Data Studio allows me to create a full report that includes an explanation of my goals, actions taken, results, and next steps.

The steps below guide you through the process of setting up a Google Data Studio Report and visualizing KPIs.

How to Set Up a Google Data Studio Report

1. Sign up for a free Data Studio account (if you don’t have one already).

2. Create a blank report

3. Name the report. (I called mine “Cheeky Monkey Media - Leads & Acquisition Monthly Report)

4. Create a new data source. You have numerous sources to choose from, but for my purposes, I stick with Google Analytics and Google Sheets.

setting up a Google Data Studio report

5. In Google Data Studio, set a date range by clicking on the calendar icon and then drawing a square where you want the date to show. Adjust the date range in the right-hand side bar.

6. Create a time series chart that shows growth in leads (i.e., contact forms and emails) by clicking on the chart icon and creating a box where you want your chart to live.

create a time chart in Google Data Studio

7. Adjust your data source in Google Sheets in the right-hand side bar. For me, this means tracking leads from website and email.

8. Set time dimensions to month, and include any of the metrics you have in your sheet. I split leads based on whether they come through the contact form (labeled website) or through email (labeled email).

Set time dimensions in Google Data Studio

9. After following these steps, your report will visualize total leads and their sources: website or email.

Visualize total leads and their sources in Google Data Studio

How to Visualize KPIs

Create area graphs to show the source of your leads. I create one for direct and referral traffic and another for social traffic.

1. Select the area chart icon.

2. Draw a box where you want your chart to be. Note that you will need to go back and change your data source to your analytics account, adjust your dimension to month, and set the breakdown dimension to traffic type.

steps to visualize KPIs in Google Data Studio

Troubleshooting: After selecting “dimension,” you may have to select “create a new dimension” and reconnect to Google Analytics.

troubleshooting the process of visualizing KPIs in Google Data Studio

3. Change your metric to “Users.”

Using "metric picker" to select user type in Google Data Studio

4. Set a custom date for three months. Even though you are only reporting for one month, you’ll want to show a trend over time.

5. Set filters, but only exclude one traffic type at a time, instead of selecting all factors you want to filter out. (Selecting all will cause the system to glitch.)

Set filters in Google Data Studio

6. Set up your area chart to track social network traffic by selecting “Traffic Sources” and “Social Network” in the breakdown dimension picker. Then, exclude the social network traffic you do not want to track.

Visualization of social network traffic in google data studio

The resulting data visualization displays trends in social network traffic referral over three months.

Transform Data Visualizations Into a Comprehensive Report

After creating graphs and visuals, remember that the main reason for creating the report is to show trends that illustrate your progress against your objectives.

Don’t send your boss a series of graphs and charts. They may look nice, but they don’t give a full snapshot of the results of your work or reference your core goals. Instead, create a single report.

How to Prepare a Single, Streamlined Report

1. Make a second page in your report.

2. Select all your visuals, and then copy and paste them into the second page.

3. Make a cover page that includes your brand logo, report title, objective, initiatives, and KPIs.

4. On the second page, make space for an executive summary. (Your boss is probably in a hurry and may not have time to read everything.)

Executive summary of a report created in Google Data Studio

5. On the third page, explain the actions you took.

6. On the fourth page, display results related to your main KPI. Since, “Leads” is the most important metric, the one that speaks directly to our overall objective, I focus on that number.

7. On the fifth page, show a breakdown of your secondary KPIs.

8. The last page should include recommendations for the future.

Notes & Final Thoughts

If you think this sounds like a lot of work, you’re not necessarily wrong. There is an initial set-up cost depending on your experience level.

But, with that said, the best part about using Google Data Studio is that after you create a template, you never have to make it again. Instead, adjust the dates and data sources and fill in the correct textual information every month.

You also easily can add and remove information using the same processes as with the charts above – simple and efficient. What more can a busy, overwhelmed marketer ask for?

You didn’t really dig into the nitty gritty though …

You’re right. I didn’t dig too deeply into any of these numbers. This lack of "digging" was intentional. The information I get from this report is enough to tell me what’s working, what isn’t, and what I may need to look into a bit further.

All I need from a report is information to help me decide whether my efforts are working and what steps I need to take next to achieve the main objective. That’s it!

What if I don’t care about leads?

No problem! It’s the same process. If you have a different objective, your KPIs will be different, but the process of,

  1. Defining success
  2. Determining KPIs
  3. Setting-up a report
  4. Turning images and data into information

… stays the same.

And that’s it. This is my process for tracking and setting up monthly reports so that they don’t take me all week and actually give me information that my boss cares about and that I can act on.

Let me know if you find this helpful and what strategies and processes you use that work by emailing [email protected].


Spela Grasic

Spela Grasic, Marketing Specialist at Cheeky Monkey Media - headshot

Spela Grasic is a Marketing Specialist at Cheeky Monkey Media, a solutions-based marketing agency that builds brand success, not just websites. When she isn’t writing extremely long blog posts, she’s playing with her Blue Heeler/Shepherd Cross or curled up on the couch taking a nap.