Adding Business Data to Google Analytics Data

I know the past week has been full of Google Analytics news, but I’m excited to tell you about something one of our team members created: Google Analytics Notes.

For a long time we’ve wanted to add business data to GA to help keep track of marketing activities, industry news and GA configuration changes. These things are critical to know when analyzing data as they add more context and help us understand what’s affecting website performance.

We tried using Google Spreadsheets to store business info but it never worked. People did not take the time to open up a spreadsheet and add information. We figured that adding some type of ‘note’ functionality to GA would be the easiest way to change this behavior. That’s how GA Notes was born.

GA Notes is a Firefox extension that lets you add business data to a profile. Notes appear in a concealable table at the top of every report.

Any GA user who views a profile, and has the Firefox extension, will see the notes entered for the profile. You can add notes, edit notes and delete notes. Notes can also be exported in XML format for archival purposes.

Installation

Installing GA Notes is easy. Just download the following file to your computer:

https://ga-notes.appspot.com/ganotes.xpi

Once downloaded double click on the file. Firefox should open and ask if you want to install the extension. Click install and that’s it. You’re ready to start adding notes to your GA data.

Usage

The extension adds a ‘Show Notes’ button in the GA menu bar. Click on the button to view notes for this profile or to add a note or edit/delete an existing note. It’s not that complicated. :) We wanted to keep this easy and flexible.

How it Works

For those of you that are interested, GA Notes runs on Google’s App Engine. No data is stored on your machine or our servers. It’s stored on Google’s servers. The Firefox extension provides the interface to enter and display data. But all of the processing and data storage happens on App Engine. All data sent to App Engine is encrypted prior to transmission.

In a perfect world we would have added notes to the data-over-time graph at the top of each report. However, we can’t get inside that part of GA using a Firefox extensions (or Greasemonkey script). We thought this was a good compromise. If anyone out there knows how to dig into Flash let us know! :)

Road Map

This is obviously a beta version of the software. We have a number of features that we’re working on and hope to have done soon. These include:

  • Sorting and searching notes by date
  • Excel friendly export
  • An admin flag for notes to separate admin changes to your GA account
  • Some type of alert to show you how many new notes have been added since your last login
  • A more graphical visualization of note

If you have any suggestions or ideas please let us know!

Credit

I don’t have the smarts to build these types of things, I just know enough to be dangerous. Chris, a new member of our team, built GA Notes from the ground up. Thanks Chris for all the hard work.

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    Comments

    1. Marta says

      Hi, it sounds like a great add-on! These are just a few questions I have. First: is it possible to differentiate notes for administrators and users (managed in the User Manager tab)? It is true that it would be useful to share information with clients, but at the same time it could be necessary to share information with colleagues and NOT with clients :)
      On the second hand, I would like to know where those data (the notes) will be stored and who’ll have access – apart of me and users of that profile – to the data…

      Thanks!

    2. Matthew says

      As a consultant I can only admire such a tool. Very often we need explanations to be placed within certain reports so that viewers of it can get a better understanding of what they are looking at. Keep up the great work!

    3. says

      Thanks for the feedback everyone.

      Marta, to answer your questions. Right now you can not differentiate notes for users and admins. That’s something that we’ve been thinking about.

      The data is stored in Google’s App Engine, a development environment hosted on Google’s global network of servers. It’s stored in a flat file, not a database as that would be overkill for this application. The only one who has access to the data for a profile is someone who has the extension installed on their machine.

      Thanks for the comments folks, keep those suggestions coming!

      Justin

    4. Tim Leighton-Boyce says

      This is great, thank you. I’ve relied on shared Google Docs in the past, but it was always hard enough to discipline myself to keep them up to date, let alone get other people to use them.

    5. says

      Now if you could link this to WordPress – it would be amazing.
      every blogger will be able to see how a new published post has influenced his website analytics.

      Great work you guys :)

      (p.s: since you are using wordpress yourself. vs 2.6.1 even, then please add the plugin “subscribe to comments”) – so a commentator like myself could have followed your updates on my Idea.
      Cheers,
      Tal.

    6. Ani López says

      Wow! I was about to write a post commenting the good idea it could be something like this when you have materialized it!
      Thnks a lot.

    7. Chris Shepherd says

      Brilliant add-on. I was just thinking the other day a good way to track changes made to the site, and how this maps to the analytics data.

      I will download and test.

    8. says

      Great!

      I wonder why Google haven’t implemented a similar feature themselves given how easy it would be. I really think that this simple feature helps a lot when analyzing reports.

    9. says

      Greatest idea ever!!

      It won’t let me install it though. I save the file on my computer – but it’s a ZIP file and when I extract it – I am not sure which one to open to install the Notes. I tried to open some:) but it keeps opening them as text.

    10. says

      Justin,

      Fantastic application, I can stop writing these things down in my day timer now.

      Have you thought of making it possible to append the note to more then one profile with out having to switch? You would have to be able to pick and choose which ones, as the note might not apply to all, but probably applies to more than one.

      Darcy

    11. says

      Thanks everyone for the great feedback! Glad to hear that you all like this idea. We’re still working to refine it and you ideas will help.

      Darcy: Good idea re: adding the note to multiple profiles. We’ve thought about that but it’s a bit complicated. We’ve put it on the “wishlist” features.

      Dishu: If you’re having trouble try opening the file using Firefox rather than double clicking on it. If it’s being saved as a zip file then there may be something wrong with the way the browser is downloading it. Are you using FF?

      Thanks again,

      Justin

    12. says

      Justin, you’ve got the mime type wrong on the xpi file.
      AddType application/x-xpinstall .xpi

      I’ve toyed with writing something similar as a greasemonkey script, but tied to an RSS feed. I got hung up on getting it onto the graph, though, same as you did. I suppose this is a good first step. Nicely done!

      Joshua

    13. says

      Great idea and implementation.

      Regarding admin use, is there any way to either filter the notes by uri (eg …analytics/settings/… or analytics/reporting)
      or use the same mechanism that identifies notes by profile to do so by profile and URI.

      Regardless, thanks very much.

    14. says

      Hey Brian,

      Thanks so much. I’m a big fan of your social plugin!

      Interesting idea. As of right now, no. We can not sort the notes based on URI. I guess we could tweak the code to look at referral URL when extracting the notes…. But for now we feel that most people will like having all data in on place.

      Keep those ideas coming.

      Justin

    15. says

      This is by far the coolest firefox plugin I have seen in a long time. This is now one of my MUST HAVE add ons along with WASP & Firebug. Keep up the good work.

      If you can figure out how to overlay the notes on the graph to relate notes with peaks visually that would be awesome.

    16. says

      I attended a Google webinar (Google Webmaster Myth Buster on Oct 22) and asked for this specific functionality! Excellent work!! Great minds really do think alike! :)

    17. says

      Thank you for the great tool. Will have to go and try it out. Marta above makes some really valid points about who gets access to what. But until I try it out I wont know. It does makes sense that this should be standard with Analytics.

    18. Cole says

      Justin,

      I echo everyone’s comments of this being a much needed feature, but I am concerned about security. Since the plugin does not require a password, I assume it is simply using my UA# to identify and retrieve the data from Google’s App Engine. While the data is encrypted when sent, this couldn’t stop someone from emulating your plugin, sending my UA#, and accessing my log of notes from Google’s App Engine server. Or am I mistaken? (I hope I am).

    19. Damien says

      Justin,

      I am having problems downloading the file. I am using a Mac. Do you know if this file extension works with Macs?

      Thanks,
      Damien.

    20. says

      Hi Damien,

      The file should work just fine on a Mac. We all use Macs here at EpikOne. Try right-clicking and saving the file to your downloads. Then open it with FireFox.

      Hope that helps.

      Justin

    21. Ricky says

      Excellent script, I love it! Though I would love to see the possibility of entering “alarms” or reminders. That way I can enter a note to myself and set it to remind me in e.g. one week. This would be great for following up on changes that I’ve made earlier on. I can e.g. make changes in bid prices, and then one week later I will get a reminder in GA reminding me to check the effects out of that change etc.

    22. says

      Love GA Notes! however on my new laptop with Firefox 3.0.5 the xpi extension is not recognized. I’ve googled for a solution, and it appears that it might be a mime issue.

      Justin, did you correct the mime type as suggested by Joshua above?

      Thanks,
      Rob

    23. Paul says

      Thank you for the great tool.
      I work in a corporate environment and security is a huge priority. How has access to teh data? Is it possble to change the location of the data stored?

    24. says

      Hi Cole,

      Thanks for the feedback. We’re definitely concerned about security and have made numerous tweaks to reduce the possibility that someone can gain access to the data.

      While I don’t want to say too much about how it works, the plugin does NOT use your UA number to identify your account.

      Thanks so much for the feedback,

      Justin

    25. Emre says

      Hi there!
      what a great tool! I happened to stumble upon your ga extension and it´s just what our agency needed. thanks

    26. miracl says

      I ve been asking google for such a functionnality for a long time :) all they answered me was ‘yeah, why not, we ll think about it’

      Thanks for creating that wonderful and absolutly necessary addon !!!

    Trackbacks

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    4. [...] Adding Business Data to Google Analytics Data“We tried using Google Spreadsheets to store business info but it never worked. People did not take the time to open up a spreadsheet and add information. We figured that adding some type of ‘note’ functionality to GA would be the easiest way to change this behavior. That’s how GA Notes was born.” [...]

    5. [...] Adding Business Data to Google Analytics Data “We tried using Google Spreadsheets to store business info but it never worked. People did not take the time to open up a spreadsheet and add information. We figured that adding some type of ‘note’ functionality to GA would be the easiest way to change this behavior. That’s how GA Notes was born.” [...]

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