Life as a blogger is hectic. We’re working on a dozen things at any one time, ploughing through to do lists, writing, publishing, networking, promoting, tweaking WordPress… the list goes on. We work like this to try to make positive gains for our blogs.
But when you’re frantically ticking off the growth activities on your checklist, how do you know what’s making a difference?
If you’re using Google Analytics to track visitor numbers, bounce rates and page views… good on you. Having a GA account and looking at it regularly is a vital step. And yet… you’re losing valuable insights about why your stats might be changing in a positive or a negative way if you’re not using Google Analytics annotations.
The following post explains why.
What are Google Analytics Annotations?
They’re such a small thing really. Google Analytics annotations are so small, they’re almost invisible compared to the other valuable data views that call our attention as soon as we log in.
Annotations don’t add statistical value to the data you see either. They don’t tell you how much things changed or how many things occurred on your blog on a given day. However, they provide an invaluable context for you to analyze your data. They can help you understand the potential effects of your activities, or the activities of other agents.
So what are they?
Google Analytics annotations are a way for you to add comments about events that occur or activities you perform on a specific date.
If you make a major update to your homepage, you can add an annotation and assign it to the day you made it directly in Analytics. When a Google algorithm is released, you can add an annotation for the date it stared.
The beauty of annotations is you can use them to gain a more rounded understanding of how events affect changes in traffic or engagement on your blog.
You would typically create an annotation whenever:
- You make noteworthy changes such as a theme overhaul, navigation reorganization or layout change.
- Search engines release an algorithm update.
- You start a marketing campaign or some other promotion.
- You want to benchmark a period for testing purposes.
Annotations help you understand why you’re experiencing peaks or troughs in traffic. They help you see why your visitors are behaving differently, since they align events and activities against a specific date. If you log a note against a date, you can see quite quickly if changes or events have played a part in changing visitor stats.
Here’s how you set them up…
Adding Annotations in Google Analytics
When you login to GA and look at your reporting views, you’ll see a screen like the one below:
The arrow in the image above points to the date the Explorer chart shows. Beneath it is a tiny dropdown arrow. If you click this it opens any existing annotations you have and gives you the option to create a new one.
When you click “+Create new annotation” Analytics opens up an area for you to add a new note.
Click the date field to select a specific date to which you wish to assign a particular note. Then type in the text field a brief description of what you want to make a note of.
When you’re done, click save. You’ve just made a note of an event in Google Analytics and logged it against a specific date!
After you make and save annotations in Google Analytics, you’ll see markers for every note you’ve added for the selected date range.
Clicking on the dropdown beneath the Explorer area opens up your annotations area. This shows you all the notes you have made for the selected period.
You can edit any notes you’ve made to add more detail. Alternatively you can delete them if they’re no longer required. Each note can be shared with anyone who has access to the account, or you can opt to make them private so only you can see them.
The Real Benefit of Annotations in Google Analytics
As you add more annotations into Analytics, you begin to build up a picture of how events impact visits and engagement. In my experience it’s worth adding annotation for anything that might impact your blog traffic. It doesn’t matter if it’s things you changed or if it’s events beyond your control.
Oftentimes people make notes for:
- Public holidays.
- Political or economic events.
- Search engine updates.
- Changes to your blog.
- Marketing campaigns.
You can, and should, add anything that might affect your blog’s performance.
The real benefit of using annotations is that even seemingly inconsequential events or changes can be tracked back in the past to understand root cause.
When looking at a short date range, annotation can help you attribute imperceptible changes in traffic volumes to a specific date in the past when you spot a trend. They also save you days of head scratching to understand what caused a change in your stats.
Learn how to find broken links in Google Analytics
- Annotations are a way for you to add short notes about events and activities occurring on a given date directly in Google Analytics.
- They help you to link changes in your GA stats to specific events in time.
- Annotations help you understand changes in Analytics reports, which is helpful in troubleshooting problems or understanding how and why things have improved.
- You can use annotations for anything that might affect visitor numbers or engagement on your blog.
- If you add annotations into GA, over time it’ll help explain the full story of why your blog traffic and engagement has changed.
That’s it for now!
Please leave a comment below if you’d like to know anything else about annotations or if you’d like to add to this discussion.