Save Your Ass With Google Analytics Data Alerts

Let’s face it, we’re all a bit “lazy.” I admit it, I don’t check my website data every day. And when I’m on vacation it can be a bigger challenge.

But that’s OK, I use data alerts to stay on top of my data even if I can’t check analytics every day. Are you using alerts?

If you’ve never used Google Analytics alerts they’re fairly simple to set up. You can find them in the Profile Settings.

There are five things that you need to do to set up an alert:

1. Choose a profile to apply the alert to.
2. Select how often you want to monitor the data (daily, weekly or monthly).
3. Identify the segment of traffic you want to monitor (i.e. which group of visitors, like visitors from a particular campaign or geographic region).
4. Choose what metric you want to monitor (Revenue, Visits, Time on Site, etc.).
5. Set a threshold for the alert meaning how much does the metric need to change to activate this alert (ie increase, decrease, etc.).

Google Analytics Alert Settings

I divide my alerts into two groups: those that insure I have good data and those that measure the performance of the business. This post deals with the former: alerts that will keep your data in tip-top shape.

Alert #1: 10% Daily Traffic Drop

This first alert is simply there to make sure that I’m collecting data. I’ve noticed, for my site, that my traffic usually never drops more than 10% for a given day when measured week-over-week. So if I see a drop of more than 10% I know that something happened and I need to investigate more.

Google Analytics Decrease in Traffic Alert

A 10% traffic drop alert.

Alert #2: Flatline! i.e. No Data

This is a generic alert that identifies when a metric goes to zero. I can’t tell you how many times a client tries to analyze data at the end of a month only to find a data issue. This commonly happens because not every metric is analyzed every day, some metrics are reported monthly.

But I don’t want to wait until the end of the month to find a problem.

So for almost every important metric I will create a daily alert to insure that I’m getting data. Here’s an example alert that monitors an event.

A Google Analytics Alert that monitors an Event

A Google Analytics Alert that monitors an Event

Alert #3: Daily Error Pages

Another metric I like to monitor is error pages, more specifically 404 errors. I want to know if any of my content is generating an error for my readers. So I created a little alert that will alert me when the number of 404 pages is greater than 0.

Google Analytics Daily Error Pages Alert

Monitor 404 pages, and other website errors, with an alert.

Obviously you can change this alert to monitor almost any type of website error, it depends on which errors you are tracking with Google Analytics. The key is that you need to be able to identify your error pages in a Google Analytics report.

As you can see above, my error page has a unique URL (404.html) and a query parameter that identifies the page that was missing. You may need to use a virtual pageview or an event to track your error pages. Once you do you can create an alert.

Alert #4: Non-Domain Traffic aka The Poser Alert

The hostnames report in Google Analytics is a handy little report. It shows the hostname that is in the location bar of the visitor’s browser. On numerous occasions people have ripped off borrowed my content without my permission. They just copied my source code and posted it on their own domain.

I know, classy.

This alert will automatically let me know if my account is getting data from any domain other than my own.

Google Analytics Hostname Alert

The "Poser" Alert will let you know if someone is poaching your content.

In some cases this alert actually detects something good! I regularly see the hostname translate.googleusercontent.com, which is used when people use Google Translate to translate the content on my site.

A note from your data therapist

All of these alerts can help. But you’ll still have inaccuracies in your data. The idea is to keep them to a minimum. If you try to eliminate all errors 100% of the time you won’t do anything else. It’a almost impossible. Do the best you can.

If you do have some data issues, and you will, you’ll have to spend some time resolving them when you do your analysis.

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    Comments

      • says

        @Gerard: Google actually has a number of pre-built alerts for AdWords. But if those do not work for you, then I like to focus on revenue. Are my ads making me money! AdWords bounce rate is another great thing to monitor. Also, if you are managing the campaigns, try creating alerts based on AdGroups. Setting up alerts for AdWords in general is a bit broad.

    1. Valentina says

      Hi Justin,
      I’m lazy too :) and for that reason I’ve started to use GA alerts.
      However, there’s an issue on “% (decrease|increase) by more than” value: when you set a value equal to 10%, as in your example, GA alerts you for a (decrease|increase) of 0,1%.
      Does it happenalso in your example?
      Thanks,
      Vale

    2. says

      Hi Justin,

      You woke me up . . . I check too often all our and our customers accounts. I need to be more efficient, so why not implementing the alerts you mention. However, it’s so interesting to check and follow the metrics but too often also some kind of data pucking. I should know better. THNX for ‘wake up call’.

      -Sander

    3. says

      Very useful – certainly quicker than starting from scratch! Also – does anyone else get errors where GA does not update correctly, and keeps showing ‘Goal 7 Conversions’ even after you have edited it a billion times? Quite frustrating!

    4. says

      Thanks Justin – all good alerts to have in place. One interesting aside, I don’t have the option for mobile alerts that you show in your screengrabs. I’m guessing that this might be because I didn’t set up a mobile phone number in my Google account itself, rather than in GA?

      thanks once again ….

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