One of Google Analytics’ under-appreciated features is Custom Alerts, which allows you to receive a notification from Google any time certain metrics fluctuate beyond the bounds you set. Custom Alerts is a great way to avoid this:
In this case, we can see that no conversions have been recorded at all for several days. This kind of thing happens frequently, in part because there are so many potential causes: changes to the website’s goal URL, the addition of a filter to a GA profile, the removal of the GA tracking code, etc. Without custom alerts, you’re only able to detect these kinds of issues as frequently as you log in, which may not be every day. By setting up custom alerts, you’ll be able to diagnose and address these issues much more quickly. Let’s take a look at a few of the most useful custom alerts.
Custom Alert #1: Goal Conversion Rate Decreases
As you can see below, Google Analytics gives you several ways to set up your alerts. In this case, I like to use the “% changes by” condition so that if my goal conversion rate decreases by more than 80%, I get an email. It’s possible that my site could just be having a bad day, but an 80% drop in conversion rate is a pretty good sign that I need to investigate what’s going on. To set up this alert, click on “Intelligence” in your reports navigation menu. Then, find the “Create a Custom Alert” link.
Next, you’ll be taken to the alert setup wizard, which is awfully similar to the advanced segmentation wizard (which you should all become familiar with!). Choose the segment of traffic to which you want to apply the alert, and then set your conditions. Here’s how to set up our first alert.
First, we need a name for the alert. Next, we choose the profiles for which the alert will be set. Then, we choose between making this a daily, weekly, or monthly alert; for this alert, daily is the most useful. Then, importantly, we need to make sure we check the box that says “Email me when this alert is triggered.”
Next, you’ll set the various conditions for your alert. For this alert, we’ll want to make sure the alert applies to all traffic. We choose “Goal Conversion” rate as our metric, “% decreases by more than” as our condition, 80% as our value, and the previous day as the comparison value.
Press “Create Alert” and you’re all set! Now that you know how to set up custom alerts, let’s run through some more alerts that are frequently useful.
Custom Alert #2: Revenue Decreases
If you’re an e-commerce site, you should have revenue tracking set up as well as “static” goals like contact forms, etc. Setting up our first goal won’t tell you when your actual revenue is fluctuating; you’ll need to set up a similar alert, but with revenue as your key metric.
Custom Alert #3: Traffic Decreases
Hopefully, if your website is down for an extended period, you won’t need Google Analytics to tell you about it. However, setting up alerts based on traffic decreases is a great way to be alerted when something has gone wrong with your Google Analytics implementation. The following scenario happens regularly: a website update is pushed out, and your GA tags are adversely affected somewhere along the way. Although your site doesn’t go down, you see your visit metrics flat-line. To minimize the time for which you’re affected by issues with your GA implementation, set up an alert based on visits decreasing by more than, say, 60%.
Custom Alert #4: SEO Metrics
If you’re like most organizations, organic search traffic is probably something you care about quite a bit. Want an easy way to keep track of how visible your site is across the various engines? Set up a weekly or monthly alert based on organic traffic only (rather than all traffic). Try one alert for decreases of more than 20%, and one for increases of more than 20%.
Custom Alert #5: Monitoring Brand Terms
Measuring response to branding efforts can be difficult, but one good approach is simply to measure how searches on your brand terms change over time. This is super easy with Custom Alerts. Set up a weekly or monthly alert that’s based only on the specific keywords you care about, and have Google send you an email if your metrics go up or down 20% week-to-week or month-to-month.
We hope these ideas for Custom Alerts will be useful for you, and that they get you thinking about what other kinds of metrics could be helpful for your organization. To get more analytics tips and tricks, subscribe to our RSS feed, and don’t forget to follow us on Twitter.