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Google Analytics Annotations - the log that gives your data context

Data without context is just empty data. In other words, your data needs a concrete context if you're going to use it for analysis and execution. And that's where Google Analytics Annotations come in.

When was that?

Have you ever wondered about changes in your traffic that you can't 100% explain - because "there are no updates from Google yet"?

But when you think about it, "there was actually a campaign running" AND "your website also just had a little blip back in January/February (or was it March?)".  

Webamp The team
- Specialist
Last updated: 12. dec. 2022

1) What are Google Analytics Annotations?

Annotations - or annotations in short - is a feature that allows you to note changes or additions to your website - directly in your Google Analytics report. If any notable fluctuations occur, whether positive or negative, you'll be able to quickly see what actually happened on the page during that exact time period. 

And I'm not kidding when I call it the "digital logbook". Because that's what it is, in a nutshell. a logbook that provides context to your data. And who wouldn't want to understand why their website is either performing really well or the opposite - really badly?

2) When will you use them?

  • Marketing campaigns
  • New content
  • New layout design
  • Algorithm updates
  • Direct competitors' offer 
  • General news
  • Other things that can affect your traffic

3) Why you should start using annotations today

What may seem like small, quick changes can potentially make both appropriate and inappropriate fluctuations in your data. That's why it's also important to have an overview of the changes that can have an impact.

Even with big changes like launching a new website, most people think that "I can't possibly forget that". But believe me, it is possible to forget the things that feel like big events or changes - especially if you have to look back several years later and compare your data.

And yes, you can probably find that information somewhere else in your archives. 

But who wants to when you can get it ALL in one place - and get an overview at the same time?

4) Look at your data in retrospect

And the importance of contextualising your data will be particularly relevant when you're comparing results next year. Because if there have been big fluctuations - either positive or negative, you want to be able to analyse or understand your company's either rise or fall.

5) Use them actively as part of your reporting

As I mentioned earlier, annotations are an excellent tool for putting your data into context in retrospect. 

But they can also be a good tool to remember to check for changes right now. Below I've made a small overview of examples of changes or additions worth annotating, as well as what to look out for.

6) Examples of annotations and measurements to watch out for

Annotations Measurements to watch out for
You have sent an email campaign:
  • Number of visitors, bounce rate, conversions.
  • Returning customers in the weeks following.
Your website has been down for a certain period of time:
  • Important when you need to compare visits and conversions the following year.
You have announced a brand new product:
  • Number of views for the product.
  • Number of purchases of the product.
Your company has either received a link from a national newspaper or been on TV (the news, shows etc):
  • Referral traffic.
  • Returning customers in the following weeks and months.
You launch new website:
  • Bounce rate, conversions, visitors (especially mobile).
Your direct competitor has big discounts on his side:
  • Conversions in the following weeks compared to the previous year.
  • Conversions and transactions
  • Returning customers.
You have changed the tracking or contact form.
  • Conversions

7) SO how do you make annotations in GA?

It's actually really really simple - so simple that it almost doesn't make any sense notto make them.

  1. Log in to your Google Analytics account. 
  2. Select a report that shows a timeline.

Click on the small arrow at the bottom to bring up a small drop down.

Google Analytics Annotations - the log that gives your data context

Click on the plus sign in the right corner where it says "create new annotation".

 how do you make annotations in GA?

Choose the date you are making the change and make a short and precise description of the change.

 Why you should start using annotations today

As you can see from the graph in the example, there has been an increase between June and July. And this is exactly where you should be able to go back and see what probably caused it. 

Are there more of you who have access to the Google Analytics account?
Then remember that unless you actively choose to make it private, your annotation will be visible to all users on your account

Want to put your data in context?

I hope you can see the value in Annotations in Google Analytics. If you need help putting your data into context, contact Webamp at today.

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