Google Analytics – Annotations | npENGAGE

Google Analytics – Annotations

By on Oct 24, 2011


This post is the sixth in an ongoing series about Google
Analytics. As we proceed, I’ll share tips on how you can use this tool
to gain more insight into your online marketing.

you’re not yet familiar with Google Analytics, it’s a free tool from
Google that you can add to your site to give you information about how
people are coming to your website and how they behave when they get
there. Read the first post for an overview of the Dashboard or go to my profile to see all of my posts on Google Analytics 

If you’ve been following these Google Analytics posts, you’ve probably come to see website analysis as a sort of sleuthing. You look at a report, notice a pattern or anomaly & try to understand why that is occurring & what you can do about it.

Sometimes you’ll see something out of the ordinary that seems surprising at first, but then makes sense once you use your detective skills to figure out the cause.  Sometimes the cause is obvious, or sometimes it takes a bit of digging around into internal operations like marketing or events, external influences like news articles, or historical website changes.  Things like:

  • A big spike in traffic last week? That was the national news article everyone was so excited about.
  • The change in pageviews last month? That was the homepage redesign that you’ve been preparing for months.
  • The drop in traffic that never recovered? That was when you started filtering out traffic from internal IP addresses.
  • The increase in traffic that wasn’t associated with any events? Your SEO efforts started paying off & you started ranking on page 1 of Google for an important search term.

Whether the answer was obvious or a tough case to crack, it’s likely that it will become a mystery again in another year or two (or maybe in a matter of months).

Did you know that you can make notes right on the graphs in Google Analytics?

Just go into any graph, hover over a date, and click “add new annotation”.

You’ll see a short form

You can make your note private, or make it available to anyone with access to your organization’s analytics account. This can be really helpful if multiple people at your organization are using Google analytics. The marketing person can make notes about campaigns and the web person can make notes about website changes, stopping confusion before it even happens.

Even if you’re the only person at your organization, annotations are often a lot easier than searching through old emails to see why that weird spike happened this time last year.

The annotation is tied to the date, not the graph or metric.  Once you
put an annotation on a date, you will see it on all graphs that cover
that date. So no matter what graph you are looking at, you will be aware
of important events that might have affected the data.

Leave a comment if you have an interesting way that annotations could help you in your work!


Alissa Ruehl has been using Google Analytics since the first weeks it came out as a Google product. Through consulting, webinars, and conferences, she has helped hundreds of people at a variety of organizations and companies navigate Google Analytics and use it to refine their online marketing and website effectiveness. She currently uses her analysis skills as a senior user researcher on the Blackbaud products side, but she loves re-immersing herself the world of website analytics for her monthly Google Analytics blog posts. The only thing Alissa likes talking about more than data is food, but that’s a whole other blog.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *