Understanding Google Analytics’ Data Over Time Report

headline.gifWhile the Google Analytics Help Center is, for the most part, well-written and comprehensive, I’ve gotten a lot of questions in the past about the Analysis Options feature. In case you’re unfamiliar (and if you are, you’re really missing out… this little options.gif button is one of the most powerful features of Google Analytics), I’ll quote from the official source:

The Analysis Options icon provides access to:

  • Data Over Time shows the values for the selected page over a selected date range.
  • Overlay Page loads the Site Overlay report for the selected page.
  • To-date Lifetime Value calculates that page’s values since Analytics tracking began.
  • Cross Segment Performance breaks the page’s data down by the specified variable.

That’s actually the entirety of the article that deals with Analysis Options. That’s it. There’s nothing more. Which is unfortunate, because it’s such a downright effective tool. I get a lot of questions about each Analysis Option, so I’m going to spend some time over the next couple weeks detailing each individual report.

To start with, we’ll go over Data Over Time. Contrary to the explanation given by Google, Data Over Time does more than display values “for the selected page” over time. You can also use it to measure visitor segments, campaign conversion rates, average revenue, and product performance, all over a customized period of time. This is very useful for trending, and for a quick at-a-glance view of your site’s performance over the days and months.

So let’s say I’m interested in finding out how a specific product line has performed over the year to date. I can browse to my E-Commerce Analysis > Product Merchandising > Product Categories report and get a list of all product categories. At the top of my list is my top product line, Cheddar, followed by Brie, Feta, Mozzarella, Fondue, and Gruy