Business Intelligence Analyst, Tailwind
With Google’s recent removal of Automatic Alerts from Google Analytics, we have put together some useful ways to get the most out of the remaining custom alert capabilities within Google Analytics.
What is a Custom Alert?
A custom alert (formerly part of intelligence events) is a flag that you can set up within Google Analytics that emails designated parties when a certain condition is met. These triggers are typically based on site behavior and can use almost any dimension/metric combination that you can think of as criteria.
To create Custom Alerts, go to:
Google Analytics > Admin > View > Personal Tools & Assets > Custom Alerts
One of the most common uses for Google Analytics’ Custom Alerts is to monitor the health of your website. This can be tailored to your individual use case, depending on what matters for your site. At Tailwind, we like to set up a set of standardized Alerts and then include custom events based on our conversion goals and whether we are running any PPC initiatives.
The boilerplate is a set of Custom Alerts that fit many different types of sites. Many of these reflect some of the more useful Automatic Alerts that are being removed. These Alerts account for standard tracking that is included within a simple Google Analytics Tag and focus on monitoring and maintaining the general health of your site.
If total site sessions drop to 0 for any reason, send an alert. This usually indicates a problem with the website or a broken GA tag.
2. If Bounce Rate increases by more than X% (Are we seeing a spike?)
This can be targeted at specific landing pages or used as a site-wide metric with X varying based on the page. Generally, landing page events should have a lower bounce rate threshold than your home page.
3. If Avg. Session Duration Decreases (Are we being botted/spammed?)
Like bounce rate, if Avg. Session Duration is too high, or too low, then you could have an issue with spamming.
4. Server Response Time (Is my site functioning well?)
5. Avg Page Load Time
6. Avg Server connection Time
7. Revenue Monitoring
If you have revenue tracking set up within GA, then it is always beneficial to set up flags for unusual behavior. Often times the first symptom of a major site issue is an overall dip in revenue or conversions.
Monitoring PPC Health:
From a paid media perspective, you should already be receiving alerts from your individual advertising platforms. However, there are some useful ways to track on-site performance of campaigns and identify potential problems before they become widespread issues.
When Traffic from PPC Sources drop by X%
If you are relying on 3rd party managed publishers then you may not always have insight into how they are driving new users to your landing pages. Setting up a dedicated alert for each platform can be useful to keep tabs on their performance and cross check the data they provide.
When Traffic from your main brand Campaign(s) drops by x%
As a general rule, we always want to be capturing traffic from brand keywords. Setting up a custom ‘campaign’ alert can help identify broken links within your ads as well as budget and scheduling problems.
If you are actively using goals within Google Analytics, then you need a dedicated alert for each and every goal as part of a governance plan. Tracking can break at many different points as data is fed into Google Analytics, especially if you are leveraging custom events or if many different users are making changes to your site. A simple goal completion alert at the daily granularity can help you identify tracking issues as they happen. The last thing you want to have is a week or more of data and no corresponding goal data.
What about Identifying Opportunities?
Custom alerts can also be used proactively to alert you to potential opportunities to take the initiative.
The Social Media Firestorm:
Sometimes you set the world on fire. Whether this is good, or bad, tracking each social platform independently can be a bit of a hassle. A custom alert can help manage this by identifying when an individual social platform goes viral. From this point, it is easy to hop into the acquisition tab or your social account and identify the context. You can then take the advantage and start identifying potential follow-up actions.
While a dedicated testing platform is recommended, for simple A/B tests, based on campaign, or content ID, GA custom alerts can be a good way to receive a reminder that your test has hit the desired level of statistical significance. Simply set up an alert for each campaign, event, or ad to remind you when they have all hit their desired number of sessions, goal completions or other key metrics.
It may take a bit of time to set up the events that matter to you, but treat this as an insurance policy. If you rely on GA data for decision making, then that extra bit of trust will go a long way.
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