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What are Annotations in Google Analytics?

Out of all the amazing Google tools you can use to optimize your website, Google Annotations is one of the most underrated.

Annotations are like little post-it notes that you can use to add dates to your Google Analytics reports.

With a Google Annotation, you will have a visual guide to help understand if your site’s traffic has been negatively or positively impacted by events such as changes to the Google algorithm, website issues, and major changes to your site’s design.

This is beneficial not only to sole website owners but for digital marketing agencies.

Not convinced? Keep reading to find out how Google Annotations can improve your business as well as how to set them up (hint: it’s super easy!):

Why Should You Use Google Annotations?

When it comes to tracking data on-site, it’s unlikely that you are going to study data daily unless your site or your client’s site is very large. However, missing out on important changes to a site’s traffic can be detrimental to a site’s performance.

For example, if you decided to redesign a page and it resulted in a dip in traffic, how would you know? Unless you write it down somewhere, these important dates may slip your mind.

With a Google Annotation, you can simply mark the date of the redesign so that you can track any changes from that date. Therefore, you can gauge whether or not the redesign was successful.

Otherwise, Google doesn’t keep track of this information for you. Google can do many things, but it can’t read your mind to determine on what dates significant changes occurred.

Here are some examples of situations that you should document in annotations:

  • New email campaigns
  • Offline advertising campaigns
  • Major site changes (redesign, new content, etc.)
  • Changes to Google Analytics settings
  • Website issues
  • Off-site, real-life items related to your business like closures, weather changes, etc

Basically, any time something may affect performance, write it down.

Why Are Google Annotations Important for Agencies Working With Clients

If you run a digital agency, Google Annotations become even more important. Tracking changes on one site is fairly easy, multiple sites with multiple team members doing tasks make it difficult to manage. Annotations are also a great way for clients to see the work you have done.

Let’s say, for instance, that you go to check on a client’s Google Analytics and notice a huge drop in traffic on one of their top-performing pages. How could this happen?

With Google Annotations, you can more easily determine the cause. 

Likewise, once you use annotations over the course of a few months, you can start to see trends in your clients’ sites’ performance. You can analyze what has worked and what hasn’t.

How to Make a Google Annotation

Creating a Google Annotation is as simple as the premise itself! Here are the instructions for doing so:

  1. Log into your Google Analytics account.
  2. Bring up any report that includes a timeline (such as Audience Overview)
  3. Click on the small tab underneath the timelines.
  4. Click on “+ Create new annotation”
  5. Select the date and enter your note.
  6. Choose private or public under “Visibility”.
  7. Click “Save”.

You can now see a small icon on the timeline indicating there is a note attached to that date when looking at the Google Analytics interface.

If you want to list all of your annotations, click “Annotations” in the administration panel under the “View” column and the heading “Personal Tools & Assets”.

You don’t need administrator rights to add an annotation. You can add one as long as you have basic reading and analysis rights. For this reason, it’s important to consider whether you want your annotations to be private or public.

The default visibility setting is public or shared. So if you don’t want anyone else with access to the analytics to see your annotation, choose “private”.

Monitoring Metrics With Google Annotations

Because Google Annotations help you retroactively monitor your data, you can attribute changes to your site’s traffic to the significant dates you have tagged with an annotation.

To up your analytics game, you can watch for metrics that the annotated event may affect.

For example, you may annotate an email marketing campaign and then closely monitor visits and bounce rates as well as return visits in the following months. 

Or, if your company has been featured on a major site, you can track referral traffic.

Google Annotations – The Possibilities Are Endless!

It’s amazing that such a simple little tool can do so much for your site’s performance and we hope you are convinced to give Google Annotations a try!

But now we want to know: What is your favorite Google Analytics tool?

Share it in the comments!