• Why You Should Use the Annotation Feature in Google Analytics

    We’ve been using the heck out of the annotation feature in Google Analytics, and here’s why: because we can correlate traffic to activity.

    For the most part, it’s going to be your marketing activities. But it could be things like you were on vacation from date A to date B, and maybe that’s why your traffic went down. Or maybe your server was down on Friday morning, and that’s why your traffic came to a screeching halt.

    I’ve also been annotating when we send emails out to our user base as well, even though MailChimp does a good job of tying into Google Analytics – I’d rather just roll over the note on the graph, rather than have to pinpoint the date range, and then go and look at the Visitor Sources.

    annotation feature in google analytics

    To add a note, simply roll over the date you wish to add a note to, and then click the “Create new annotation.” It’s quite simple. Other folks who have access to your account can also add notes, and it will track who said what.  While it does allow you to add multiple notes on a single date, it does not allow you to create a note over a date range.  Bummer.  That would be useful if for instance you did a direct mail drop over a 3 or 4 day period, right?  Maybe they’ll add that later, but for now you just have to hack it by putting a note for “direct mail start” and another note for “direct mail end” or something like that.

    Either way, it’s a pretty cool feature, if I do say so myself.

    4 comments
    Dan York
    Dan York

    Ryan, I definitely agree with you about the value of annotation. I've found it *extremely* useful in helping understand events and what changes they might cause in your stats. Annotation was also useful in helping me know that there was NOT a change - when I first started moving blogs to the GA async tracking code, I annotated the charts with that to see if there was a change. I was pleased to see there wasn't... but the annotation was very useful in helping track that. Thanks for writing the post. Dan

    Clint Watson
    Clint Watson

    I wasn't aware of this feature - it certainly could be extremely useful. But, it would be orders of magnitude more useful if Google would add write capability to their Analytics API - then we (or providers like MailChimp) could automate adding annotations when certain marketing activities happen (ie sending a newsletter, publishing a blog post, changing an adwords campaign, etc). Before you posted this, I was thinking of creating something similar by pulling data from getClicky's api and then automatically correlating it with events in our in-house db (newsletters sent, blog posts published....) I do think this type of correlation makes analytics much more meaningful.

    Ryan Kelly
    Ryan Kelly

    Hi Dan, that's a good idea - I never thought to think that the async code might throw off results - I guess I trust Google too much! I just annotated our charts to show when our ReTargeter campaign started (yesterday), so let me know if you see our ads everywhere!

    Ryan Kelly
    Ryan Kelly

    Clint, This definitely makes GA more useful. They may be a bit slow updating their API since it is a "relatively" new feature. Clicky's API seems much more "open" than Google's, so your idea isn't a bad one. Can't hold your breath waiting for Google :)

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