By Peter Prestipino, Editor-In-Chief
There's a lot going on at a website at any given time, but it's not always easy to identify the most "meaningful" events - those which truly matter to the success of an enterprise - without some form of alert or notification system in place. The alternative is to analyze website performance manually. This can not only be time consuming, but is also a practice that is prone to errors.
Without the ability to accurately understand what's happening (e.g. increases in conversion or decreases in referral traffic) it is impossible to eliminate issues or virtual roadblocks and optimize the elements of a digital property (website or application) for continued success. Alert systems offer a controlled and customized view into the data that matters to one's digital initiatives and it's something that all 'Net professionals should develop or gain access to - and soon.
The following is a quick guide to setting up a powerful alert and notification system through Google Analytics (GA) - the Web world's most popular analytics system today (BuiltWith, in fact, reports that 53 percent of the top 10,000 websites use the system). Since GA is by far the leading website analytics system right now, it only makes sense to start there.
ACCESS ALERTS IN GA
Within Google Analytics, there are two types of "intelligence events," - Automatic Alerts and Custom Alerts - which can be set up for monitoring (these events are also reported daily, weekly and monthly). The intelligence events can be accessed within the left-hand sidebar of Google Analytics.
Automatic alerts are those that Google has already preconfigured to help websites track major changes in traffic patterns. They are, of course, quite useful. Those responsible for tracking website performance, however, should also know about custom alerts, which make it possible to create notifications on changes in metrics that the brand itself deems most meaningful. Unlike automatic alerts, custom alerts can be sent to an email address or be delivered by text message when a condition is triggered. It's even possible to create annotations on what caused an alert to be triggered (e.g. a successful email blast or social media promotion).
With some understanding of how and where to access and view alerts through GA, and a commitment to tracking the top priorities within an enterprise, it is time to start turning brand attention to establishing custom alerts that will help a team be more productive and effective.
The following are two alert ideas designed to expose what can be tracked, but there are many, many others. Readers will also find a quick guide to setting up these custom alerts at wsm.co/qgalert.
+ Traffic Increase/Decrease: Knowing is half the battle, right? Set up a custom alert that sends a notification to a team when sessions increase or decrease by a certain percentage. Consider configuring the alert so that it compares traffic from the same day/ week/month in the previous time period.
+ Conversion Rate Drop/Spike: Conversions are arguably the most important metric to monitor so having an alert that provides a notification when something is performing as expected or underperforming will certainly prove useful. With this alert active, brands are able to drill down and understand where in the funnel users are leaving.
The two alerts above should be on every Google Analytics account, but they really only scratch the surface of what is possible. As a website (and audience) grows, managers will find it useful to develop more granular alerts; looking outside of "sessions" alone to gather site-wide intelligence from every corner of the digital enterprise.
Instead of applying conditions to all traffic, for example, consider looking exclusively at a particular user segment, geographic area, campaign or referral source (in relation to traffic increase and decreases, as well as conversion rate drops or spikes). Managers just might be surprised at how different the intelligence gathered is when applying different values and conditions.
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