13 Sep 2010

Motion Charts: A Hidden Gem in Google Analytics

In my previous blog posts on Google Analytics, I have tried to show some of the simple ways that business owners can use the information available to see what is most relevant to them. How they can calculate their ROI on internet marketing, use site search to better understand their customers ,and evaluate the performance of their website content to make sales .

Unfortunately, all of these previous articles have relied heavily on tables and number crunching to understand your website, which perhaps isn’t everyone’s favorite subject. These rows upon rows of numbers and percentages may be scaring you away from getting highly actionable data to improve your website and marketing efforts.

However, there is a solution, and its name is ‘Motion Charts!’ Motion Charts are a very powerful tool within Google Analytics but unfortunately are pretty well hidden, so t hey don’t get the attention they deserve.

I admit that I don’t use Motion Charts as much as I should do, and tend to just look at the numbers, as this is quickest and easiest for me personally. However, because of the way the charts display their information, even if you are happy with tables of numbers, they can help make new connections between data and spark new ideas for improvements for a website. When people in the office suddenly became interested in what I was doing when they saw Motion Charts on my screen, I knew it was something powerful that could help many business owners.

Like I say, Motion Charts are pretty well hidden inside Analytics, and as the majority of people work their way through the left hand navigation through Visitors, Traffic Sources and Content, so they never even know they are there. Motion Charts aren’t so much a report, but instead a way to display the data. On any report that you are looking at you are given the option at the top of the page to ‘Visualize.’


Once you click to visualize you will be taken to a new screen that looks something like the following. I think you’ll agree it’s already more interesting than endless rows of numbers…


To improve this visualization further, click Play or drag the time slide-bar and you can really see the data come to life!

But what does this all mean and why is it useful? The graph is actually showing you 5 different pieces of data at any one time, all of which are completely customizable. In addition to the time slider and the x and y axis, you also have the color and size of each dot, which in the above example represent bounce rates and new visits respectively.

Being able to see all five pieces of data in one glance can help you see different connections and easily compare one dot to the next in terms of size, color and location on the graph.

So long as you set up the motion charts correctly and know what you’re looking at, these charts can take a lot of the pain out of understanding your Analytics. Depending on what each chart displays, you may be able to quickly diagnose problem areas or keywords of your website without ever having to see a table of numbers.

However, the key is in setting up the motion charts to display the information that is most important, which can be an art in itself. Obviously every website and business is different, but the following are some of the motion chart set ups that I find most useful, as well as what they show and how you can use this information:


X axis; Pages / Visit

Y axis; Visits

Color: Goal Conversion Rate

Size; Bounce Rate


With this motion chart you should be easily able to see which keywords are performing best and worst for your website in terms of bringing sales and visitors to your pages. Small dots will have the lowest bounce rates and are likely to see more pages per visit, so should be located to the right hand side of the graph. Cold blue dots represent those keywords that are not converting to goal completions, whereas the warmer red the dots will be your higher converting, and most valuable keywords. Combine this information with each dots’ vertical placement on the graph and you can get a very good idea of how much good traffic leading to sales each keyword brings.

Top Content

X axis; Unique Pageviews

Y axis; Pageviews

Color: $ Index

Size; Bounce Rate


Much like the previous motion chart, this set up will show you which pieces of content are leading to conversions, and which have high bounce rates, obviously not enticing visitors to spend time on your website. The most viewed pieces of content will in the top right corner of the chart, and less popular content will be in the lower left hand corner. Again, warm and small dots are good, and large blue circles will signal underperforming content. If your business is able to get many small red dots in the top right hand corner of the chart, you know you are onto a very good thing!

All Traffic Sources

X axis; Pages/Visit

Y axis; Visits

Color: Per Visit Goal Value

Size; Bounce Rate


To keep everything logical, I try to leave the colors as representing the value of visitors and the size of each circle being the bounce rate for each motion chart, so you should again be able to find your most value traffic by small red dots on the graph. However, the flexibility of motion charts means that you are by no means restricted to this, I just prefer to keep things organized in this way, as this is the information I find most relevant in improving website conversions.

In addition to this, the Y axis in this example is most important as it shows the number of visits, i.e. the sample size, for the data being represented. A small red dot at the bottom of the graph may show just one visit that converted, but a small red dot at the top of the graph represents high numbers of very good traffic. As with everything in Google Analytics, the information that’s most important and what to look at for each website changes greatly for every business. However, with the visualize button and motion charts, even if you aren’t the best with tables and numbers, you should be able to grasp a better understanding of your traffic and what provides the most value to your bottom line. You can then use this information to know which activities to increase, and which areas or keywords to focus on to maximize profits.


X axis; Pages / Visit

Y axis; Visits

Color: Goal Conversion Rate

Size; Bounce Rate


  • slimlinewarehouse Sep 13, 2010

    Hey great article James.

    I was totally oblivious to motion charts and the visualise button, despite clicking right past it every day. That probably just goes to show that I'm overdue to give myself an anlaytics refresher course… and this article was a great start.

    On thing I'm curious about: Is there a practical reason, or just personal preference that you've set the “dots” on which you really want to focus to be smaller than the others? From an inexperienced eye since there are fewer of them and they're more important, wouldn't it be easier to reverse the sizes?

    Just a thought, I haven't actually played with the animated versions yet… that might change things.

    OK, thanks again, I'm off to play with motion charts.

  • James Constable Sep 14, 2010

    Thanks for the comment! I think a lot of people miss the Visualize button, seeing as it placed all the way up there, its certainly not intuitive!

    As far as I know, when you set the size of the Dots to Bounce Rate, there isn't a way to reverse to sizing. It therefore uses a 100% bounce rate as a large circle, and a 0% bounce rate as small, which is why you cant to either focus on the small dots, or attempt to reduce the bounce rate of the large dots.

    If there is a way to reverse the scale so that low bounce rates are larger, let me know!

  • Dan Soschin Sep 18, 2010

    Fantastic examples. Thanks for sharing. There's a lot of value in these motion charts – but the configuration definitely takes a bit of practice.

  • Mardell Marozzi Dec 08, 2010

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