Google Analytics Intelligence: a review and suggested improvements


It’s no secret that everyone in our online marketing team is a major Google Analytics fan – and the fact that I spend more time with GA than I do with some of my closest family is worrying to say the least! So when we get new features to play around with, we all get very excited.

The new Google Intelligence feature looks, at first glance, to be intriguing. The automatic alerts pick out traffic jumps, conversion rate drops, and any other unusual website behaviour that you might otherwise miss. Intelligence has great potential, and will be an absolutely vital tool in the future for pinpointing unusual trends.

That said, the number of useful automatic alerts compared to the number of total alerts is low (I’m not sure that knowing the average time Manchester users spent on site today increased by 10% is going to help me all too much). Google has obviously realised this though and have done something to help you combat it. Each alert is given a ‘significance’, and there is a nice ‘alert sensitivity slider’ which allows you to specify how important an alert needs to be to be shown.

Where this tool will really come into its own in the future is via its custom alerts feature. This allows you to specify a traffic source or medium, and set a metric for the system to watch. For example, we get GA to alert us if revenue from Google drops by 50% day by day.

The problem we have with this at the moment though (and the reason I highlighted how great this tool will be in the future) is that you’re only allowed to choose one dimension, and one metric per alert.

Let’s say we’re running a PPC campaign on a fixed budget using Adwords, and want to know when the campaign switches itself off. We go to create a custom alert, and we specify that this applies to traffic where: “source is Google” and “medium is CPC”. Oh, wait… can’t do that! I can pick either “source is Google” OR “medium is CPC”.

Obviously there are ways around this – we could create a Google CPC-only filtered profile and add the alert on there, but that’s not the point. For this tool to reach its potential we need to be able to specify more conditions in each alert.

Something else that’s missing is the ability to tie alerts in with custom variables. Now that we have multiple custom variables, GA has more scope than ever before. But even better would be the ability to have alerts based on changes in your custom variables.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what I would do with this extra functionality, and have a few alerts that would be great to have running.

PPC based alerts

Let’s face it: we can’t login to every PPC account every day. Having an email alert that lets you know if an account (across Google, Yahoo or MSN/Bing) has problems would be great. There are loads of potential alerts that I’d set up. Here are a few of the more basic ones:

  • An ‘Account [or campaign, or even keyword] offline’ alert
  • A ‘Broken Conversion tracking’ alert  
  • A ‘Content network going insane’ alert (a watch for huge increase in impressions/clicks)

Natural Traffic Alerts

This is another really basic (and rather obvious) one, but if you are working with a client to achieve page one search positions for a certain term, it makes sense to monitor traffic to these terms. An increase in traffic could signify a new page one search position.

I would suggest a weekly alert on this one, as natural traffic (and positions) can change quite frequently.

Affiliate Marketing Alerts:

An alert that I’d love to have slightly more control over is one for brand bidding. Unfortunately, we still find the odd affiliate who thinks program terms are only applied to an affiliate program when an affiliate manager is in the office.

There are two options here:

If you run your own brand PPC campaigns, then it would be sensible to watch for a drop in “campaign” traffic on the brand terms. This would work on Yahoo and MSN CPC as well if they’re tagged correctly.

If you don’t run your own brand PPC campaigns, then you could set an alert on the CPC brand name keyword/s you want to monitor. If you were really clever, you could set one of your custom variables to the affiliate ID – that way you’d be able to figure out who the offending affiliate is (and distribute the appropriate punishment) more easily.

So these are a few ideas… There are absolutely loads more that I can think of, but I just need to wait on the big G to make the changes so I can add more alert conditions!

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