Analytic Tools – Understanding the Impact Referrals

Data, data, data. It’s all about data. But understanding your data is not always easy. For example, if want to know what exactly spiked traffic to your website — or better yet, sales! — you can sometime trace that back to a discrete event or marketing effort. But more often than not, it is difficult to draw direct inferences to the spikes and troughs on your Google Analytics data charts. Of course understanding that information is the key to making smart, data-driven decision that can make or break your business.

Knowing what your data is trying to tell you is made even more difficult when your in-person and offline marketing efforts come into play. Was it the billboard that attracted new customers or was it referrals? Its really much harder than it ought to be to know that information.

The older version of Google Analytics — the so-called Universal Analytics — provided users a way to make notes or annotations on their charts so that they could remember when they launched an Ads campaign, started a new ShareSomeFriends campaign, posted something viral-worthy on social-media, or sent out the a successful promo email. But even then, the way that it was displayed and the need to log into your Google Analytics chart to make those annotations was so burdensome that even the most savvy marketers gave up. For the marketers like myself relied upon annotations to understand what my data better, the recent news that Google is ENDING Universal Analytics and forcing everyone to upgrade to GA4 was a bit disturbing.

Like many changes in life that we are reluctant to take at first, it turns out that an Analytics upgrade may actually help out after all. That’s because a much improved solution for Google Analytics annotations in GA4 is provided by a company called GAannotations that has allayed my fears. Why? Two reasons will suffice: First, they provide a way to automate annotations when a promo email is sent or when social media posts appear. Second, the annotations appear clearly on your Google charts — they are easy to see, almost like a sticky note. They also have a Chrome Extension that allows you to add GA4 annotations directly from the browser. This is super helpful for offline efforts. For example, the day we start a new in-person referral campaign, we can make an annotation using the extension and bingo – it appears on my Google Analytics page.

Data is critical. But understanding your data is even more critical. Happy that someone bested Google’s own methods and provided a great solution for online and offline marketing efforts.