Annotations in Google Analytics

What kind of sorcery is this?

Years ago I discovered a nifty feature, which has been part of Google Analytics for quite some time. I came about it when I was trying to make some detective work for a customer. You know, the classic question: “Why did our traffic suddenly drop/peak”? This is a question I often hear from our customers. The question itself is often times easy to answer when digging around. For me, there is a solution there is much easier: Use Annotations. However, it does require whoever is working with Google Analytics, either in an agency or on the client side to be, firstly, aware, and secondly willing to incorporate some order in their work. The first part is, of course, to learn that the feature exists. The second part though can be for some, a change in habits, and may imply more work and first, but less in the future.

Annotations in Google Analytics

In short. Annotations in Google Analytics is a feature that enables us to create annotations/comments on the trend in Google Analytics. What does that even mean? It means that we can create an annotation on a given date, as “reminder” of what happened on that day, and of course why our data looks the way it does. So if you are like me, a person who wants to keep things tidy in boxes, start using this. This will create a trace of comments that fast gives you an overview of what happened throughout the year.

When to use it?

Regardless if you are working on the client side, or in an agency, this feature will create transparency and in my experience ease communication quite a bit.

Using annotations is a way for users to keep track of where there are online changes such as:

  • Launched a new online campaign
  • New content has been added to the website
  • A technical problem has occurred on the website
  • A new newsletter has been sent out.

This is just some of the use cases. There are loads of these.

If you are on the agency side, be aware that this is the customer’s data, and using annotations will be visible for the customer, unless you make it private. I am not saying this that agencies are keeping any secrets for the customer, however, when looking at data, we do have different glasses on, and therefore what we communicate in these annotations might differ a lot. That said, the use of too many of these might have the opposite effect on the communication if there are many comments on one instant. Therefore, keep it short and concise, and write in a language that all levels of the organization are able to decode.

How to create an annotation in Google Analytics

  1. Click on the grey arrow below the trend graph.
  2. Click on the button: “Create new annotation”
  3. Fill out the correct date to which you want to annotate something.  Be aware of the annotation should be visible to all or only the user which you are logged in with!
  4. You will now see a little icon. This means that the annotation has been added, and can now be viewed according to the above configuration.

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