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There Are No Annotations in GA4 – But Here Are Best Solutions

Brian Bojan Dordevic
About The Author

Brian Decoded

President at Alpha Efficiency

Join me at the forefront of web design and digital marketing innovation. I am obsessed with web design, business philosophy and marketing performance.
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If you’re like many business owners I’ve talked to recently, you’re navigating the shift from Universal Analytics to GA4 with a mix of curiosity and uneasiness. You’ve got used to the quirks and features of Universal Analytics. And among those features, you found the annotation functionality a real game-changer. Many have ignored this minor feature, but you realized annotations were invaluable. They helped you connect the dots and understand how various factors work together to affect your business.

And now, there seems to be no way to add annotations in GA4. All of a sudden, keeping track of different marketing activities, seasonal trends, and changes feels much more challenging.

I completely understand how you feel. As a digital marketing agency owner, it was quite a blow when I started with GA4 and noticed the absence of the annotations feature. This tool was invaluable for me. I used it to keep track of the various marketing campaigns we managed, to record the changes on our clients’ websites, and to note the impacts of various events on their performance. It was like suddenly losing my digital notebook. But instead of giving up, I took it as a challenge to find ways around this. 

And I’ve discovered two simple ways to keep using annotations in GA4. You can still use your magic marker to make sense of all your data. I’ll show you how in this article.

But even if you’re not quite sure what GA4 annotations are used for, don’t stop reading. I’ll explain why annotations are so helpful and give you five ideas on how to use them to make your job easier and your business more successful.

Table of Contents:
Annotations in GA4.

What Are Google Analytics Annotations?

At the beginning of the day, you log into your Google Analytics dashboard. You’re quickly checking the basic stats. You’re interested in the number of new users, how many sessions were conducted, and maybe you’re curious about the GA4 bounce rate. These are all crucial data points, no doubt. But what if you could add a dash of context to these numbers?

Google Analytics Annotations are like tiny sticky notes attached to your data. They don’t add statistical value – you won’t see changes in your traffic, bounce rates, or conversions because of them. However, what they do add is invaluable – context. With annotations, you can add notes that help you remember what was happening at a particular time.

Notice a sudden spike in website traffic on a particular day? Oh, GA4 annotations tell you that you had launched an email campaign that day. Now it makes sense. You now know your campaign was successful in driving traffic.

As you can see, the annotations help you connect the dots. They make it easier to understand the story your data is telling.

Unfortunately, there are no built-in annotations in GA4. But stick with me, as I’m about to show you two solutions you can use to create GA4 annotations. Trust me; it will work equally well as it used to in Universal Analytics.

Best Solutions For Creating GA4 Annotations (Until Google Hopefully Adds Them To The Platform)

I can imagine your disappointment if you’ve just migrated from Universal Analytics to GA4 and found that the in-built annotations tool is missing. After all, we just talked about how annotations work as a life-saver, helping you keep track of all site activities and changes that could affect your business performance.

But although GA4 doesn’t have a built-in feature for annotations (this might change in the future), there are still ways around it. I have figured out two simple and effective solutions to this challenge. To create your annotations in GA4, you can use either:

  • A 3rd party Chrome extension
  • Google Sheets for storing your annotations

In the following sections, I’ll guide you through each of these solutions, so you can continue adding those essential context notes to your data and start truly enjoying all the Google Analytics 4 benefits. Let’s dive in!

Use 3rd Party Chrome Extension

A popular freemium solution for adding annotations in GA4 is using a 3rd party Chrome extension named “Automated Google Analytics Annotations GA4-UA“. As the name suggests, this extension automates the annotation feature, allowing you to carry over your notes from Universal Analytics to GA4.

The process of using this extension is straightforward:

  1. First, install the extension on your Google Chrome browser.
  2. Next, create an account on the GAannotations platform.
  3. Upon installing the extension, you’ll see its icon at the top right of your browser when viewing a Google Analytics report. If you can’t find the icon, click on the Chrome extensions puzzle icon and pin the extension.
  4. Now, log in to the extension using your GAannotations account credentials.
  5. Once logged in, go to your Google Analytics reports. You’ll notice little red dots above the Google Analytics graph. Click on any of them to view the details of the corresponding annotation.

With this tool, you can also get automated annotations for useful indicators such as website monitoring, news alerts, holidays, WordPress Core updates, Google Algorithm updates, and even weather changes and weather alerts. This eliminates a lot of manual work and gives you more time to focus on core tasks.

However, before installing this extension, I strongly advise you to check the privacy practices and decide if these suit you.

Use Google Sheets To Store Your Annotations

If you don’t like dealing with extensions or feel concerned about privacy policies, using Google Sheets to store your GA4 annotations can be an ideal solution. This method doesn’t just put all your annotations in one place; it also enables easy integration with other data visualization tools like Google Data Studio or Tableau, enhancing the utility of your annotations.

The beauty of this method lies in its flexibility. Your Google Sheets document can have as many or as few columns as you need. At the very least, you should include a column for the event date and the annotation itself. But depending on your needs, you can also add additional columns for categories, specific events, and even extra comments.

I like having the following categories in Google Sheets:

  1. Event date: This is where you record the date of the event that prompted the annotation.
  2. Category: This can include labels such as Website changes, SEO, Market News, Ads & Campaigns, Other, etc. This helps you quickly understand the context of the annotation.
  3. Event: Here, you provide a brief description of the event that took place.
  4. Additional Comments: This optional column is where you can include any extra details or observations about the event.

Although it might seem less shiny than other solutions, I love Google Sheets because it lets me quickly sort, filter, and analyze my annotations. Even without direct integration into GA4, this is a convenient solution for annotation management.

Annotations in GA4 Will Make Your Life Easier – Here Are 5 Ideas For Using Them

When you’re managing lots of tasks at once, like I do running my Chicago web design agency, it can be tricky to remember every detail. Humans are not machines. We tend to forget stuff. I like to think of GA4 annotations as little memory helpers, jotting down key events for me and my employees.

In this section, I’m going to share five handy ways that you can use GA4 annotations in your own work. These tips are based on my real-life experiences, but they’re designed to be helpful for anyone, no matter what kind of business you’re in.

Track How Your New Marketing Campaigns Impact Your Business Performance

Running a new marketing campaign is always an exciting endeavor. You’ve got your message polished, your design looks fantastic, and now you’re ready to send it out into the world. But how will you know if it’s working? Here’s where GA4 annotations can become your secret weapon.

A while back, I launched a new email campaign for a client, offering an exciting new product line. We were all curious to see how it would impact the website traffic and sales. As a marketing manager, I know how critical monitoring these changes in real-time is. But instead of frantically refreshing the GA4 dashboard every five minutes, I set an annotation on the campaign’s start date.

As the campaign rolled out, I could see its impact directly on the traffic report. A peak started appearing, coinciding with our email campaign’s launch. By using the annotation, I was able to connect this surge in traffic directly with our campaign. There was no need for guesswork. And it wasn’t just me who benefited from this – the whole team could see the result of our combined efforts. It was a real morale boost!

This tactic works for all kinds of campaigns, not just email campaigns. For instance, if you’re using Google Ads, you can take full advantage of the GA4 Google Ads integration by using annotations too. It will help you keep track of your advertising campaigns more easily and see how they affect your business performance over the long run.

See How Changes To Your Website Influence Performance

Remember, any website change, big or small, can affect your performance. It might be a total website overhaul, a content change, or a tweak in your checkout process. I strongly recommend marking these changes with annotations. It will allow you to keep an eye on how they influence your website’s performance.

Even minor adjustments can significantly impact website performance. For example, after installing a new WordPress ADA compliance plugin for a client, we observed a substantial increase in the time users spent on the website. We knew the plugin was a positive change because it made the site more accessible, but we didn’t realize just how much it would influence user behavior.

By adding an annotation to the date when we installed the plugin, we could clearly connect the increase in user engagement with the website’s improved accessibility. It gave us evidence to show the client that the change was beneficial and also served as a reminder to consider accessibility in future projects.

So, whether you’re looking for a way to track content change detection or see how a new blog exit pop-up affects your bounce rate, GA4 annotations can give you the insights you need. They’re your secret tool for understanding how changes to your website influence performance.

See If Website Issues Affected Your Online Presence

No matter how much you invest in your website, it will have bad days. You might encounter a server issue or website downtime, or you may even face cybersecurity threats. While these issues are usually temporary, they can still affect your website’s performance and overall online presence.

Each time your website experiences an issue, you will likely see changes in your metrics. But if you don’t mark down when these problems occurred, you might find yourself wondering why your numbers have suddenly dropped. You might spend unnecessary time and effort trying to find non-existing problems in your marketing campaigns.

So, if your website is going through a rough patch, remember to note it down with annotations in GA4. It might not seem like a big deal at the moment, but these site notes can save you and your team a lot of head-scratching someday.

Creating annotations for public holidays.

Create Annotations For Public Holidays and Seasonal Events

Sometimes, the world around us impacts our website’s performance more than we think. Seasonal events and public holidays can significantly influence our search traffic and user behavior on our websites. This is especially true if your business caters to specific niches that such events could influence.

Think about it like this: If you run an eCommerce company selling swimwear, you can expect a surge in traffic during the summer months. Similarly, if your website focuses on selling holiday decorations, you’ll likely see a spike in activity around Christmas time. Even public holidays like Labor Day or the Fourth of July can have an impact, as they might change people’s online behavior.

So, don’t forget to make notes of these public holidays and seasonal events. They might be the missing piece of the puzzle when trying to understand your website’s performance trends. With annotations in GA4, you can capture these events and use them to enrich your understanding of your data. Also, make sure to understand how GA4 audiences work and how you can use them to track user behavior on your website more effectively.

Find Out How Market News Affect Your Business

No matter how hard you try to control everything related to your business, it’s impossible to escape the wave of hot market news. Often, these events sneak up on us, causing unexpected changes in web traffic, engagement, or sales. Both positive and negative changes. With GA4 annotations, you can keep track of these external events and analyze their influence on your performance.

Think about it – did a competitor just launch a new product that directly competes with yours? That could lead to a temporary dip in your sales. Or maybe a major industry conference is happening, which results in an unexpected surge in your website traffic. Mark these events with annotations in your GA4. This way, you will build a historical context that helps you understand your data better. You’ll be better prepared for similar future events.

Final Thoughts

Google Analytics 4 is still evolving. Currently, it doesn’t include an in-built annotations feature, but this might change in the future. However, you don’t have to wait. Viable solutions are available, like using a 3rd party Chrome extension and Google Sheets. 

I see many business owners struggling with the GA4 transition. They see this new platform as the enemy. And it’s indeed very different from the Universal Analytics we all loved. But I see GA4 as an opportunity to get insights and drive business growth like never before.

By learning how to take full advantage of this platform early on, you will get ahead of your competitors. And as an experienced Google Analytics consultant, I can help you with that.

If you’re ready to get ahead and start driving real profits, don’t hesitate to schedule a call with me. Let’s grab this huge opportunity together!

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