Google Analytics is a fantastic tool. It’s also very complicated and has tons of features, reports, and data. Some extremely useful, some garbage.
Wouldn’t it be great if you could have a helpful assistant looking at the stuff that matters, day and night, and letting you know if something bad happens?
In a way, you can!
Your analytics tools should not be treated as a live stream of a sporting event. You should use it when you’re conducting your periodic reviews, or when you’re hunting for specific improvements. But you shouldn’t be monitoring it to spot, say, a sudden spike in 404 errors, or a sudden failure of the platform the site is on.
When should you use Google Analytics yourself?
- Reviewing your site performance periodically
- Monitoring performance after feature changes
- Conducting advanced drill-downs to find issues
- Segmenting users into useful buckets and analyzing their behavior
When should you automate it?
- Checking if the tracking code is still working
- Checking if the shopping cart has failed
- Quickly discovering organic traffic dips
- Quickly discovering overall traffic dips
- Making sure that your 404 error page isn’t spiking
- Discovering sudden drops in conversion rate
There’s a great feature in Google Analytics for automating important but tedious and boring stuff. It’s under “Customization > Custom Alerts”.
How do I set it up?
Once you’re under Custom Alerts, click on “Manage custom alerts” and then “+ NEW ALERT” to start creating notifications based on your criteria. The setup is relatively painless, but thinking through the top alerts that you need without creating clutter on your email can be daunting when you’re just starting out.
Below I’m including the list of alerts to consider, along with the reasons why and when they would be helpful.
The full article (link at the bottom) shows exactly how to set up each alert, with detailed screenshots. Here, I’m only including one screenshot to show you an example.
Why do I need it?
“There is no traffic” alert
This alert tells you when your site has stopped working, or your analytics scripts stopped firing properly. With any luck, it’s the latter, but you’ll know that there’s something serious to investigate either way.
This is the bare minimum alert that you should have.
“Organic search down” alert
This alert tells you when your site has experienced a 60% drop-off in organic search compared to the week before.
Now, the point of 60% is that it’s usually outside the range of typical search fluctuations. Adjust that value as required, but this should alert you when something drastic has happened to search engine traffic.
“Visit dip” alert
Similar to the previous notification, this will tell you about the overall health for all visitors.
For certain periods throughout the year, this alert will just catch “normal” events – holidays and other seasonal events will create some false positives.
However, when you have a 60% traffic drop (or whichever threshold you want to choose) and it’s business as usual, this alert will be a lifesaver. It’ll let you know that there’s something to investigate that’s causing you to lose most of your usual visits.
“Bounce rate spike” alert
This alert is especially useful when you have a lot of things you’re changing on the site, or when you’re changing something in your digital environment, like a content management or a form provider.
This notification gives you engagement red flags. Something broken at this level needs to go pretty high up on your list of things to fix.
“404 Error page spike” alert
The core idea is that your 404 error pages should be relatively stable. If you see a surge in 404 errors, you may have deleted important pages instead of redirecting them, you may have launched something that causes your site to error out, or some sites may be linking to you in a way that creates errors, and you need to add a 301 site redirect.
“Conversion rate issue” alert
Finally, you need to get alerted when your conversion tanks.
Here’s how you can set it up:
Feel free to adjust the 80% value, and replace “Goal Conversion Rate” with a specific goal, like visitors getting to the “contact us” form, or a “thank you” page after buying something, assuming you’ve set up goals for those items.
The key is to make this alert notify you when your conversions take a serious hit, not when week to week fluctuations are causing mild headaches.
Notifications make you move faster on things that are critical.
You absolutely need to know when these things are happening:
- Your website or your analytics tool stopped functioning
- You received a search engine penalty
- Your overall visits are drastically down
- Something is causing visitors to stop engaging with your site
- Your site’s errors have doubled (or tripled!)
- You stopped getting conversions
Knowing you’ll be notified when important events take place can give you peace of mind. That’s really what alerts offer – the assurance that you won’t miss the big things. Other things can probably wait, but when you see one of those 6 items happening, it’s time to reprioritize and act on the red flags.
PS. Custom dashboards are extremely helpful too. You can set them up to only see at a glance the stuff that matters to you. The article on how to build a Google Data Studio Dashboard is one of the most popular on GrowRevenue. With custom dashboards and custom alerts, you get all the good stuff, without spending hours a day in Google Analytics.