I'm often surprised by the number of Google Analytics accounts I come across that don't contain any annotations, even though they can provide insights into a range of questions arising from your data.
In this post, I’ll outline what annotations are, how to implement them and some scenarios they can be used in.
What Are Annotations in Google Analytics?
Annotations are like sticky notes which allow you to apply customised information to the Google Analytics reporting interface. This enables you to mark important events which may impact your website traffic, positively or negatively.
The Benefits of Using Annotations
Without annotations, it can be difficult to attribute changes in analytics data to a particular event, which leads to guess work. Also, because annotations can be made public, they can be viewed by anyone with access to the profile, so they can be used to keep multiple parties well informed.
When Should You Consider Adding Annotations?
There are many events which can impact your site’s traffic and activity. Here are just a few recommendations of events to annotate:
- A redesign or re-launch of your website
- Specific marketing campaigns you’re running on or offline
- Any technical issues or website outages
- The publication of any industry or hot topic news items
- A change in any analytics goals or events
- When emails newsletters, direct mail or press releases are sent out
- Marketing campaigns that are aggressively leveraged via social media channels
How to Create an Annotation
Adding annotations is easy. Simply navigate to any over-time graph report and click the little tab with the small arrow, shown in the image below.
Once clicked, the option to “Create new annotation” will appear. Enter the date of the event you wish to annotate and add a relevant note. You can choose whether the annotation is private, or visible to others who have access to the profile within Analytics. Annotations are automatically attributed to the account holder that created them.
Once you’ve hit save, the annotation will be marked with a small speech box on the timeline within analytics. Click the speech box to view, edit or delete the annotation.
Adding Annotations for Future Events
Annotations are great for retrospectively making sense of your data but you can also use them proactively, as highlighted in this post from Kissmetrics. This involves monitoring the specific metrics an annotated event may affect. For example, an email campaign will have an influence on sessions, bounce rate, return visits and potentially goals or conversions.
You can create annotations for future events using the view column in the analytics admin area. Then you can plot annotations for upcoming events which are likely to impact your traffic.
If you ever struggle to explain new trends within your analytics data and find yourself wondering if an outside event or action had something to do with it, then annotations can help. By adding annotations to your analytics data, you can attach notes to specific dates and share important information with others too.