Six Google Analytics Features That Will Make Your Life Easier as a Growth Hacker As a growth hacker or data analyst, the key is to achieve more in less time with less effort. The ability to quickly turn insights into action plays a vital role in the success of any online business. In the last blog post, I wrote about how to setup goals in Google Analytics dashboard to set goals and goal values. But, I have been wanting to write a complete blog post on the top six Google Analytics features that will make your life easier as a growth hacker. I can guarantee that the chances of you outperforming your competitors will improve a lot by following these actionable tips. Google Analytics Features Here is the list of six google analytics features that will make your life easier as a growth hacker: 1. Custom Alerts It is very important to monitor your site/product performance on a regular basis. This can be quite hard at times when you need to spot huge deviations from one day to the other. The idea of custom alerts is actually very simple, we all have access to a ton of interesting data in our Google Analytics dashboard. Often times the insights that you’re looking for are hidden deep inside the data. In the previous article we talked about goals, the example goal we used was wireframe kit sales. Let’s assume that the conversion rate for our Goal 1 (mobile wireframe kit) went up in the mid of July and it would have alerted us to go back and figure out what did we do that caused that. The interesting thing here is that with these kinds of insights we know what to look for, but we don’t have enough time usually to do all the digging and prodding to find these kinds of insights. Custom alerts works extremely simple and the idea is that you can go into the tool and very easily create an alert to have Google Analytics constantly monitor your streams of data and when the condition for that particular alert is met it will send you an email Let’s get to it then. Start by clicking on “Custom Alerts” in the admin panel. Now in the next screen click on “+New Alert” I will create two alerts here, the first one will notify us every time the traffic sessions increases by more than 200%. For the second one let us setup a more complex alert. In this custom alert we will get a notification everytime we get traffic from facebook and they have created a per visit goal value of $2. Let’s create one more alert for page search traffic from Google, if it starts bouncing at a rate higher than 60% I will get a notification/alert. I would highly recommend that you fiddle around with the settings in the custom alert screen to explore more possibilities for your own product/website. Custom alerts can be categorized as known unknown, so things that we know of, but they are unknown in the sense that we don’t know when they’re happening or if they are happening. So when these things happen is unknown but the fact that these things will happen is known and custom alerts is a great way for you to know that these knowns are actually occurring. 2. Intelligence Events Avinash Kaushik does an amazing job at explaining the intelligence events here in this video He describes Intelligence events as “Data-driven advice by Google Analytics that helps you identify known unknowns and unknown unknowns within your data.” The crux of the problem for a growth hacker is the unknown unknowns. Every day when we go about analyzing web analytics or our business data there are all these unknown unknowns that we don’t know that are happening and in that case, the data that gets put out in front of us is very useless because those things are not very obvious to us. Intelligence Events can be found towards the top of Google Analytics’ left-hand sidebar. There are two kinds of Intelligence Events (often called Analytics Alerts): Automatic Alerts and Custom Alerts. Automatic Alerts are preconfigured for you by Google in order to track significant changes in the traffic patterns on your site, such as bounce rate for all traffic and total sessions. These are great for catching day-to-day anomalies in your data and then honing in to see what caused them, but you have to actually log in to Google Analytics and navigate to the Intelligence Events section in order to keep tabs on them. This is where Custom Alerts become so valuable. 3. Google Analytics Annotations A lot of times when I see Google Analytics accounts of my clients I notice one thing in common, most of them don’t contain any annotations, even though they can play a key role in providing insights into a range of questions arising from your data. Annotations are like sticky notes which allow you to apply customized information to the Google Analytics reporting interface. This allows you to mark important events which may impact your website traffic, positively or negatively. Annotations in Google Analytics help you answer questions like: “Conversions were 40% below our 6-month average during the last weekend. Was there an issue with the technical performance of our website?” or “A 300% spike in our traffic; how did that happen? Oh, because one of the startup magazines in Dubai covered us recently as the top growth hacking agency in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah” It can be difficult to attribute changes in analytics data to a particular event. Also, annotations can be made public, they can be viewed by anyone with access to the profile, so they can be used to keep multiple parties well informed. How to Create an Annotation The first step is to navigate to any of your Google Analytics overview reports and selecting the small arrow in the middle and click on the “create new annotation” link on the right. Now you should be seeing this screen Clicking the “star” will allow you to save this annotation as one of your favorite ones. Choose between shared and private; mostly you would want to select “shared” since your team members might want to have a look at this key data too. In short, if you ever find yourself struggling to explain new trends within your analytics data and find yourself wondering if an outside event or action had something to do with it, then annotations can help. 4. Custom Segments Just like traditional customer segments in the market, Google Analytics segments group visitors who share common interests or characteristics. A lot of these characteristics are collected by default by Google Analytics like details about their browser, screen sizes so the sites they were referred by and the types of pages they view. How to Set Up Custom Segments Head over to Admin Interface. Under Personal Tools and Assets, click on Segments. Click on the red New Segment button. You can set up a segment on a wide range of requirements, based upon your user persona or product/website. 6. Custom Google Analytics Dashboards A lot of our clients are usually using the default Google Analytics dashboard, I highly recommend everyone to use their own custom dashboard. This can be a hassle at times for someone who is not completely aware of Google Analytics dashboards and its features. If you would like to set up your dashboard in Google Analytics, there are two resources you don’t want to miss: Google Analytics Solution Gallery (you can also find custom reports and segments here) Dashboard Junkie This is the “New Google Analytics User Starter Bundle” that I usually recommend most of my clients. Feel free to browse through it. Also, always make sure while experimenting always create a new property of your website under the property section in your admin dashboard. They are a great help in setting up your dashboards in a much quicker way! Once again, you can save a lot of time that you can invest in data analysis and website optimization instead. 6. Regular Expressions (REgEx) Regular expressions are a powerful filtering tool and give you a higher level of control over the data you see in your Google Analytics reports. Here is a short overview for those who are already familiar with them: You can effectively use them for the following: For setting up report filters For setting up goals For defining funnel steps For setting up segments For filtering on and analyzing your data Regex or regular expressions can be used in advanced search, segments, view filters and custom report filters. They are an important tool to be mastered by anyone who needs to do significant work in Google Analytics. Not only will you save time but you will also be able to exercise a greater level of control over data. Spend some time learning about the basic setup of regular expressions and brainstorm ways to use regex in displaying data relevant to the site(s) you work on. Even though I do plan on writing a detailed guide on RegeEx usage in Google Analytics up next. Conclusion To derive key insights from your Google Analytics data a thorough analysis is a must. Always make sure you collect and analyze data that not only matters to the success of your online business but also for the success of your customers as well. Make sure to automate everything you can to get ahead of your competition. Rahul Lakhaney I've worn many hats in my career—sales, UI/UX, client relations, growth hacker, chief technologist and founder. As a result, I have a unique ability to manage multi-disciplinary projects and to navigate complex challenges.