The Annotations Feature in Google Analytics Is Your Best Friend

Written by Nick Stamoulis

It sometimes feels like one of our SEO clients is dealing with a cursed website. Code has been accidentally deleted or changed (and no one will say they did it), the site has gone down for no apparent reason, the Google Analytics tracking code was removed, hackers have been able to sneak past their firewall, the Googlebot’s IP address was accidentally blocked and more.  Luckily we’ve managed to catch these issues in time before any lasting SEO damage was done but it does make for interesting data when reporting time rolls around. How can we accurately judge the success of their SEO program is every few months a few days’ worth of data is compromised? That’s one reason why it’s so important to use the annotations feature in Google Analytics.

The annotations feature in Google Analytics is one of those little tools you never really think about (or sometimes even know about) until someone point it out to you. (Carrie Hill has a great post on SearchEngineLand where she talks about annotations that got me really thinking about it so thanks Carrie!) The annotations feature is nothing more than a way for you to leave a little note in your Google Analytics account letting you know exactly what day certain things happened that might explain significant drops, rises, or other changes in your traffic.

Take a look at this graph below. It shows some of the organic traffic data from that cursed client. You’ll notice two big drops in traffic, one in March and the other in late June. The first drop is from when their Google Analytics tracking code was accidentally deleted. Their site was still indexed and getting plenty of traffic, Google just wasn’t seeing it! By adding that annotation anyone who ever goes in and looks at the data will understand exactly why that dip is there. It’s not an accurate representation of their website at that time; data is just missing.

The Annotations Feature in Google Analytics Is Your Best Friend

The second drop happened when the Googlebot was accidentally added to a blocked IP address, which ultimately led to the de-indexing of many pages on their website. Luckily we caught it and were able to unblock the IP address, request that Google recrawls the website and we resubmitted the sitemap (just to make sure Google found all the URLs) and the missing pages were added back in after about 24 hours. But again, someone just looking at this data wouldn’t know that and they might think something had gone terribly wrong with the site. The annotations make sure everyone is on the same page.

You can use the annotations feature to also keep track of things like when you increased or decreased your PPC budget, which could have a significant impact on your overall traffic. Dates new pages of content were added, deleted, or reorganized. What was the final launch date of your new site and how do the numbers look before and after that date? By using the annotations feature in Google Analytics you can keep track of everything you are doing, onsite and off, that might be impacting your traffic numbers.

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