Analytics can be a real bugbear. Most of the time, they tick away happily in the background of the site, content to be ignored until it’s time to run through your monthly or quarterly report. When you’re using a program like Google Analytics, which replies on a coded connection between your site and an external bit of software, that set-and-forget functionality can be dangerous, especially if you’re only working with your analytics annually, as is the case for many busy small business owners. If something goes wrong, you might not know it until you login and find that the site hasn’t been capturing data for six months.
As a web company who handles analytics reporting for a number of companies, we absolutely, positively, cannot afford to let a break in Google Analytics sneak up on us. Enter: custom alerts.
What’s a Custom Alert?
A custom alert is exactly what it sounds like: an alert emailed to you when something happens in your analytics data that you have told Google Analytics you want to know about. For example, you might want to know if your traffic suddenly spikes or nosedives, or if it suddenly looks like you have no traffic at all.
How do I set those up?
- Go to Google Analytics Admin > View > Custom Alerts.
- Click “Add New.”
- Fill out the fields and save.
But what should I pay attention to?
This depends on your site and what you care about, but here are a few ideas that we think are generally useful.
Google Analytics has stopped capturing data.
- Period: Day
- This applies to: All Data.
- Alert me when: Pageviews – is less than – 1
This will let you know the next day if there is no data coming in from your site.
My traffic has gone crazy!
- Period: Week
- This applies to: All Data
- Alert me when: Pageviews – % decreases by more than – 10
This will let you know if your traffic for one week has dropped by 10% or more. If your site tends to fluctuate by more than 10%, you can up the percentage, by try to use the lowest number that will be meaningful so you catch a problem early without generating a ton of false alarms.