How to add annotations in Google Analytics

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Annotations in Google Analytics are a very simple, but very useful way of adding notes to the analytics timeline.

Since coming across annotations many years ago, I use them regularly on my own, and clients’ websites to highlight key actions or occurrences that may affect how the data is interpreted.

They are incredibly helpful for all those times where you ask yourself (or others):

Why is that big spike in traffic there again?

When did we send that email campaign?

When did we launch the new website!?

What is an annotation in Google Analytics?

Annotations are simply a little 160 character, date-stamped text note that appears on the main timeline in the Audience report of Google Analytics.

An annotation is identified by the little conversation bubble on the timeline (at its specified date), and clicking on the small grey down arrow in the centre of the timeline will open the annotations panel to show the details of each annotation.

When should you use annotations?

You can use annotations for absolutely anything, but they are best used as little date-related reminders that may affect the way the Google Analytics data is interpreted.

For example, you may add an annotation for:

  • Launching a key campaign that is expected to increase website traffic
  • Sending an email campaign that links back to the website
  • Commencing or concluding a Google Adwords or Facebook Advertising campaign
  • Performing a major website content overhaul or update
  • Implementing some significant SEO updates
  • Launching a new version, section or page of the website

How to add annotations in Google Analytics

To add annotations to your Google Analytics data timeline:

  1. Log into Google Analytics and visit the Overview page in the main Reporting section (this may be your default upon logging in).
  2. Click on the small arrow in the grey bar beneath the main data timeline.
  3. Click on the “+ Create new annotation” link that appears on the right hand side.
  4. The annotations panel will be revealed.
  5. Select the date for the annotation. This may be in the past, but can only be for the date period that is currently selected (in the calendar in the top right).
  6. Complete the notes field, a simple explanation of the item to be noted.
  7. Select whether the annotation should be Private (for your Google Account login only) or shared (for all Users and Administrators of the Google Analytics profile).
  8. Click “Save” and you’re done!

Please note: due to the main Google Analytics data only updating every 24 hours, you will not be able to select the current day.

In this situation, I suggest you select the most recent day (which will be yesterday) and make a note of the actual date in the notes field. You can always edit the annotation in the future and correct the date.

The annotations will then be highlighted by small conversation bubble icons on the timeline, and full details can be seen by clicking the small arrow in the grey bar to reveal the annotations.

This grey arrow is also used to close and hide this panel.

To edit an existing annotation:

  1. Click on the small arrow in the grey bar beneath the main data timeline.
  2. Click on the annotation you wish to edit.
  3. Make your changes (either text or date).
  4. Click “Save”!

This is a simple tip, but one that I guarantee will save you time trying to recall these instances, as well as highlighting when to start looking for different data activity.

How else would you suggest using Google Analytics annotations?

 

If you would like to learn more about Google Analytics, check out our Google Analytics training courses in Adelaide.

 

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