The ability to create notes in Google Analytics reports has been a long-standing request from GA users. Google recently delivered by introducing Annotations to all GA accounts. This gives users the ability to make and share a record of any events that may impact the reports.
What are Annotations?
Simply put, annotations are short user notes (up to 160 characters) in the interface. They don’t affect the back-end data in any way. Think of them as sticky notes on your reports. After all the data has been processed and pushed into reports, you can attach notes and comments for specific dates.
They are a great way to spot correlations of data with external events.
How to Use Annotations
Annotations can be added from any report in GA. Underneath the line graph at the top of any page is a tab with an arrow. Click this tab to open the annotations interface. If any shared annotations have already been created for any date in your selected date range, you will see them here.
You may also click on a date in the graph. It will bring open a bubble with data about that day and a link.
Click “Create new annotation”. You can select the date by clicking on the date in the graph or by typing it in. Then add a short comment.
By default all annotations are marked as “shared”. This means that they are available to any user that has access to the profile, whether they have user or admin privileges. Marking it as “private” will make it only available to the user login that you used. Naturally, if multiple people use the same login to access the reports, they will all be able to see the annotation.
Annotations may only be edited or deleted by their creators. Not even administrators can change another user’s annotation.
Once an annotation has been created for a date, a small speech bubble appears at the bottom of the graph for that date. Clicking the bubble will open the annotations tab and display the annotations for that date.
When to Use Annotations
Annotations can be used to record anything that happened on a specific date. Ideally, they are used to note when something happened that affected data. These are some sample use cases for annotations.
Record when a marketing campaign launched so that you can more easily coincide spikes in traffic with those campaigns. Note when a campaign changes to see whether there is any discernible change in the reports.
Use annotations for any changes to the site architecture. If the navigation bar or style sheet changed, mark it so that spotting changes in user behavior will be easier. Also use annotations when a site changes to a different CMS.
Be sure to make a record of any major content modifications. The same goes for any changes to the URL structure.
Use annotations to record when A/B or multivariate tests start or end, and when changes are made to them.
Annotations are a good way to mark holidays, anniversaries and other company/industry events. Making a note of these occasions may uncover traffic trends that haven’t been spotted before.
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