10 kick-ass features in Google Analytics v5

Ian Lurie

It’s no secret I’m a Google Analytics fan. But Google Analytics version 5, coming soon to a browser near you, addresses some major shortcomings. Here are ten features you’ll want to check out, the moment they’re available:

1: Multi-touch attribution

Important note: This is a separate beta and is rolling out on its own. So you may have access to Google Analytics v5, but not to multi-touch attribution. Go here if you want to sign up for the beta.

This is the big one. The brass ring. The Big Woo. You can now track how different channels, like organic search and pay-per-click marketing, contribute to each conversion on your site. Until now, you could use first- or last-click attribution.

If you don’t know what this means, and the implications for marketing, read my 2-part post about attribution.

A simple example: I can do a quick Venn diagram showing how much different marketing types contribute to each other:

Multi-touch attribution in Google Analytics V5

Why it’s good. You can finally show how SEO, PPC and other marketing efforts contribute to sales, leads and other stuff. SEOs will love it because they can show how SEO, which is often a first- or second-click driver, contributes to sales previously attributed 100% to PPC, which is often a last-click driver. And PPC-ers will love it because they can recommend increased budgets if/when PPC is assisting other channels.

Why it’s bad. It might make your brain hurt. Could force managers to learn math.

2: Create multiple dashboards

In the previous version, Google Analytics had a single dashboard. Now, you can create lots of dashboards. For example, you might show different data to different parts of your team, or create a dashboard that focuses on a single channel:

Custom dashboard creation in Google Analytics v5

Why it’s good. You can customize Google Analytics for different clients/stakeholders.

Why it’s bad. Choice is not always a good thing. By the time you’ve created your 99th dashboard, you may want to kill Google.

3: Easier advanced filtering

Everyone should be using this feature, all the time. You can quickly add an advanced filter to any report:

Google Analytics v5 Advanced Filters

Why it’s good. Zooming in on specific issues, keywords and other datapoints has never been easier.

Why it’s bad. May cause folks to use advanced filters as a shortcut, when custom reports will be more efficient long-term.

4: Site performance measurement

Add one line of code to your site and you can track the average load time, page by page:


google analytics v5 speed report

Why it’s good. I’m obsessed with site speed. I care about this stuff. Seeing it in a report is a good thing.

Why it’s bad. I’m not convinced of its accuracy yet. Time will tell.

5: More keyboard-friendly navigation

We have a lot of clients, and that means a lot of sites. Clicking through 10 pages of domain names was… annoying. Now, I can just type in the domain and zap, there’s my site:

Keyboard nav in Google Analytics v5

That’s just one example. The reports search box has a nice type-ahead function.

Why it’s good. Keeps me from going insane.

Why it’s bad. No downside I can think of, actually.

6: Navigation that actually makes sense

Much of the navigation in Google Analytics v5 actually makes sense, and no longer makes me feel like I’m navigating through a chimp-infested jungle.

For example, click the little settings button on any page and you get (gasp) access to all profile-level settings: Advanced segments, Annotations, etc.:

Google analytics navigation

Why it’s good. Fewer clicks is always good.

Why it’s bad. It’s yet another change to Google Analytics’ navigation structure.

7: Event-based goals

Strictly nerd stuff here, but I love the fact that I can now set up a goal based on a previously-defined event. For example, I can now set a goal that fires when someone watches an entire video.

You could do this before with some javascript craziness, but now you can simply repurpose events as goals. It’s a big timesaver.

Why it’s good. It just is, ok?

Why it’s bad. It’s really, really hard to explain the difference between goals, events and pageviews to most clients. The reason—the distinction doesn’t really make sense.

8: New custom report types

You can now apply filters to custom reports, then save that as a new custom report:

You can also place multiple tabs in a custom report (which may have been available in v4, but I never noticed). And you can create a so-called ‘flat table report’, which then lets you drill down on multiple dimensions, metrics, combinations of both, etc. Want to see which operating system + search engine combination drives the most traffic? Go for it:

Google analytics custom reporting - flat tables

Why it’s good. This report type gives you more database-style access to Google Analytics.

Why it’s bad. Will further bury people overwhelmed by the amount of data and number of options.

9: Keyword clouds

Before you barf on your monitor at the mention of a keyword cloud, read a little further: Google Analytics v5 lets you create a keyword cloud based on visits, of course, but you can also create one based on, say, bounce rate, or average time on site:

Keyword cloud report in Google Analytics v5

Why it’s good. Create fast, easy visualizations for the c-suite, for yourself, or just for fun.

Why it’s bad. Doesn’t let you use metrics like conversion rate (yet).

10: Little things

  • ‘All visits’ no longer required if you pick 2+ segments.
  • Goal completion URLs appear in the goals section. Previously, Google Analytics only showed the goal name, which could get pretty annoying.
  • Expand the left-side navigation without reloading the page every time. Trivial, I know, but it used to drive me nuts.
  • Embed multiple views in a single custom report.
  • It’d surrre be nice if I could set up a goal funnel based on a series of events. Maybe in version 6?

What I don’t like

I do have some pet peeves:

  1. Google, why do you tease? You release new features to 1% of your user base, then wait 6 months, then release them to another 1%, then… ARRRRGHHH.
  2. Google got rid of the PDF export. Why? Oh, for the love of all that’s good and right in the universe, why?!
  3. Can you please make the on-page analytics work, someday? Or did you delete it out of total frustration?
  4. Intelligence alerts are actually intelligent. If you use ‘em, you know what I mean. If you don’t, don’t worry about it.
  5. The drill-down doesn’t always make sense. If I’m looking at Organic Search Traffic landing pages, and click on a page, I’d expect to see a list of keywords for that page, but I get a one-line report instead. I can select a secondary dimension and get what I want. But why the extra step?

It’s a win

Regardless, Google Analytics version 5 is a huge step up. Multi-channel attribution alone makes it a must-have tool.

Other stuff


Ian Lurie

Ian Lurie is the founder of Portent. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (25 years, if you're counting). Ian's recorded training for Lynda.com, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Smashing Magazine, and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, Seattle Interactive Conference and ad:Tech. He has published several books about business and marketing: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle, The Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies, and Conversation Marketing. Ian is now an independent consultant and continues to work with the Portent team- training the agency group on all things digital. You can find him at www.ianlurie.com

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  1. Good article, Ian.
    One more nomination for the bad/ugly: the display of the percentage difference when doing date-range comparisons has vanished. Hopefully they will bring it back.

  2. @Michael The percentages seem to have disappeared in the last week. Hopefully, yes, they’ll be back.

  3. i found the new dashboard a pain trying to setup scheduled emails but apart from that it looks ok.
    is that a typo – intelligence reports that are actually intelligent as a bad thing?

  4. well done.
    The breakdown on mobile devices is awesome. I found iPad & ipod touch were the biggest rise on my site.

  5. Ian, I don’t have access to GA v5.
    When will they roll it out to everybody, or how can I get an early in?
    You favourite reader,

  6. Nice article… but I cant find this venn diagram for multi channel attribution anywhere?

  7. Great features that I will be looking forward to.
    Version 5 – do we know when to be able to use this version? Being Danish we are probably going to be way behind – but still 😉
    Event based goals is going to be the one i like the mst 😉

  8. It’s too bad you couldn’t walkthrough how to actually use a few of these new features. Google sure as hell isn’t, which is surprising :-S

  9. If I can add Nu-GA’s crippling slowness to the “bad” pile, as well as the dropping of ecommerce conversion rate from a lot of pre-defined reports (such as search terms), which means you a)have to have an end-to-end goal defined and b)have to make a custom report

  10. I don’t like the new Home page.
    The old one has a more compact list and shows statistics. Hope they pull that back in. Even better if you could customise it.
    I do like the search/filter as you type though. Once I realised that, it’s quick to find an account.
    It also has a more intelligent switch between accounts. It stays on the same view and settings, which is nice.

  11. I felt that renaming the Keywords report as Organic or Paid was a big misstep. Less sophisticated users are going to be really confused when they can’t find it.

  12. I’ve only used the Beta version and I thought I was the only one who was upset about the lack of PDF export! At least I’m not the only one now! Quick sidenote, I had to use a screen capture tool to get a picture of the analytics and then piece them together in Photoshop and saved it as a PDF. Hopefully they’ll add the feature back for the finished version. Other than that though, I’m a huge fan of the re-design and the dashboards are a life saver. Anyway, looking forward to getting the fully completed program though. Thanks!

  13. Ian I see that AppSumo have your GA book on offer today – are there plans for you to make amends to it now the new version of GA is out in the Wild, or will I still get value from the principles in the book as it is?

  14. @Mark You could’ve reverted back to the old version (of GA) by clicking the option at the top right-hand side of the screen – its still available, and still allows export via. pdf. But hopefully Google will integrate it into the new version, it caused a huge uproar when people found it wasn’t there!
    Agreed with the other commenter as well, hope On Page analytics makes it across at some point….

  15. @Clare The GA book is very version-independent – you can get a lot out of it regardless. I may update it eventually, but the tools I talk about haven’t changed.

  16. Thanks for the article Ian.
    If we want to quibble a bit, I’d add that I hate that they’ve removed the ability to add any report to the dashboard. Now you have to set things up directly from the dashboard itself.
    But a positive quibble for me is that ‘All visits’ is no longer required if you pick 2+ segments!
    Like you say, all the other good and bad aside, the multi-channel attribution makes the upgrade a HUGE win.

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