Analytics Annotations: Data in Context

By Tony Park | Apr 18, 2017
More Articles by Tony


Don’t Get Confused by the Past

Usually, the simplest solutions are the best solutions. As digital marketers, we are constantly seeking the newest tool or playing with the latest features from our favorite platforms. Like toddlers, we are constantly dropping one toy only to pick up another and amid our experimentation, we may forget what we did…and when. Many months down the road we look at long-term data and wonder what happened in March 2015 to cause such a huge spike in traffic and proceed to spend hours sifting through old files and emails to hopefully find an answer. Well my friends, Google Analytics Annotations has you covered.

With Annotations, you can mark any event at any date, taking the guesswork out of causality. Annotations allow us to make notes directly in the reporting interface, so you can spot important events and see what may have affected your data in seemingly inexplicable ways. This way, we don’t have to worry about not being able to explain jumps in the data to your boss or clients.

Much like the simplicity of the idea, creating annotations is easy:

  • Just go to any report and click the down arrow on the tab at the bottom and click “Create New Annotation”.

analytics annotations

  • Write a description of the event and note the date. Do not write a description that is ambiguous or unclear; you want to provide as much detail as possible. You can also choose if you’d like the annotation to be private or public.

analytics annotations

  • That’s it! Once your annotation is created, you should see a small text bubble at the bottom. To get more details, click the “down arrow tab” again to view other annotations that have been created. These notes will be on any report in Analytics, making it easy to explain fluctuations from any data perspective.

analytics annotations

Put Data into Context with Analytics Annotations

The primary purpose of annotations is to alleviate confusion when analyzing long-term data trends. Sometimes, events that happen externally or beyond our organization’s control do not leave an internal, electronic trail. One example may be that an influential celebrity spoke positively about your product on a late-night talk show, which was brought to your organization’s attention the next day. Using an Annotation in this instance would be a good idea. It would be difficult to find this information internally in the future.

You will also be able to see how events like this directly affect website traffic, which gives the organization information it needs to make strategic marketing decisions outside of the digital realm. Now that you know that events like this cause X amount of traffic, the organization can decide if this type of promotion is worth the investment.

When activities are planned by the marketing department, Annotations provide even more insight into ROI. Unlike our other example, the organization knows how much it spent on a televised promotion or an influential sponsor. Now, you can view how much traffic these promotions brought to the website or how many organic conversions were reported, making it easy to calculate ROI.

Again, Analytics Annotations can give marketers insight when otherwise not possible. This simple and useful tool bridges the gap between events that happen outside of your business’s control or promotions that do not live in the digital space and informative Google Analytics data. Use Annotations to clear up the confusion and make more strategic decisions for your business’s future.

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