I won’t spend too much time introducing the feature as the name itself is pretty self-explanatory. In a nutshell, GA custom alerts are notifications sent to you, by email or SMS, when selected metric’s thresholds are triggered. I’ll explain how to set them up in GA further down. I know that some devs might argue that they already do unit and integration tests, that it should be enough to know everything’s working fine. Sadly, this isn’t true. You should absolutely do them, as much as possible. No question. But they won’t assure you nothing will break, ever. And the day something does break, analytics alerts might be the last barrier before disaster. At least, you’ll know way quicker something isn’t right. Yes, but the bad news is: you can only create alerts for yesterday’s data. You can’t set real-time data or even hourly data natively in Google Analytics. Luckily, there are other solutions available to do so, as we’ll see later on.

But first, let’s focus on native GA custom alerts.

You have two ways to create new alerts in Google Analytics.First, in the left menu, click on “Customization” and then click on “Custom Alerts”. Once there, click on “Manage custom alerts” at the top left of the table. This will get you in the admin, in “Custom Alerts” under the view settings (third column in admin). Or, you can go directly to the admin and look for the “Custom Alerts” section.

You can then click on the “+ NEW ALERT” button to create a custom alert.

At the beginning, I will explain on one example what each of these buttons means:

First, the alert’s name is explicit. When you receive it, you know exactly what the problem is!

Second, it’s applied to their MASTER view—the one they use to monitor all traffic and activity. It’s the view they base their business decisions on.

Third, it’s based on a relevant time frame. Notice how it’s set to “Month” here? Personally, I would suggest to opt for a shorter feedback loop so they can react quickly if something breaks on their side. Once per day at the minimum is what I suggest!

Fourth, the alert goes out to all key members: if one of them on vacation, another one will receive the alert.

Fifth, it is scoped to the right traffic source; organic.

Last but definitely not least, it is a trigger that requires ACTION.

So since we know how to set alerts I will give you some of mostly used in practice:

1.No data

2.Site usage

3.E -commerce

4.High error rate

5.Goals

One other note before I start listing them, I will mention various percentages like 10 or 20% for increases or decreases. This is a ballpark, and for each site it will be different. The key is to tailor your site so that these alerts don’t fire for your normal traffic fluctuations, but only send out their alerts when something interesting might be happening. Set them up with a certain percentage, and if they seem to fire all the time, then try bumping the numbers till they make sense

1.NO DATA

This will let you know if you had no visits on a particular day, a great way to let you know that something is wrong with the tracking on your site (or maybe your site itself is down).

all traffic -> Visits -> is less than ->1

2.SITE USAGE

Get a general idea for big changes in your site compared to the previous week, either up or down. Bounce Rates increasing could indicate a content problem on your site, and so on. The idea from these alerts is that you are seeing some sort of general and significant change to the use of the site, which might warrant a closer look at what’s going.


Visits

all traffic -> Visits -> % decreases by more than -> 10% -> same day in the previous week

all traffic -> Visits -> % increases by more than -> 10% -> same day in the previous week

Visitors

all traffic -> Visitors -> % decreases by more than -> 10% -> same day in the previous week

all traffic -> Visitors -> % increases by more than -> 10% -> same day in the previous week


Pageviews

all traffic -> Pageviews -> % decreases by more than -> 10% -> same day in the previous week

all traffic -> Pageviews -> % increases by more than -> 10% -> same day in the previous week

Bounce Rate

all traffic -> Bounce Rate -> % decreases by more than -> 10% -> same day in the previous week

all traffic -> Bounce Rate -> % increases by more than -> 10% -> same day in the previous week


Avg. Visit Duration

all traffic -> Avg. Visit Duration -> % decreases by more than -> 20% -> same day in the previous week

all traffic -> Avg. Visit Duration -> % increases by more than -> 20% -> same day in the previous week

3.E –COMMERCE

Revenue

all traffic -> Revenue -> % decreases by more than -> 10% -> previous week/day

all traffic -> Revenue -> % increases by more than -> 10% -> previous week/day

Transactions

all traffic -> Transactions -> % decreases by more than -> 10% -> previous week/day

all traffic -> Transactions -> % increases by more than -> 10% -> previous week/day

Ecommerce Conversion Rate

all traffic -> Ecommerce Conversion Rate -> % decreases by more than -> 10% -> previous week/day

all traffic -> Ecommerce Conversion Rate -> % increases by more than -> 10% -> previous week/day

Of course, you can set to track absolute values changes instead relative (%)if that better suit to your business.

If you start to archive some alerts, ask yourself why it’s configured in the first place. The thresholds you’ve set on your alerts may also be the problem here. Doing $5,000 in sales in the last day or last hour may not be ideal, but might not the end of the world for you either. So what would be really bad then? $2,000, or maybe even $500?

Typically, you’ll have to adjust your thresholds a bit in the days and weeks after you’ve set up alerts. Every time you receive one without feeling the need to take action, you should go back and move that threshold, or even remove this specific alert altogether.

Ignoring alerts is worse than not having them at all. It’s a false sense of safety.

4.HIGH ERROR

In a perfect world (often referred to as “theory”), we would never have any errors on our sites or apps. A world without 404 or 500 sounds fantastic, right? Well, this doesn’t exist.

Here’s what your newly created /404 alert might look like in GA:

5.GOALS

Track big swings in your goal conversions, decreases and increases. If suddenly a goal conversion drops sharply, there could be reasons for it.

Goal 1 –Conversion Rate Decrease (weekly)

all traffic -> Goal 1 –Conversion Rate -> % decreases by more than -> 20% -> previous week

all traffic -> Goal 1 –Conversion Rate -> % increases by more than -> 20% -> previous week

The bad news is: you can only create alerts for yesterday’s data. You can’t set real-time data or even hourly data natively in Google Analytics. That could be a problem for businesses which generate big amount of revenue on a daily or hourly basis. Luckily, there are other specialized solutions available to do so. You can find them with a little googling. Unfortunately they are not free. Real-time alerts aren’t relevant to all merchants. You need to have a very popular site to find value in real-time monitoring.

References:

Sayf Sharif (24.09.2012) “55+ Google Analytics Custom Alerts – The Check Engine Light For Your Data” Bounteous.com

Jean-Philippe Boily (06.12.2018) “5 Money-Saving Google Analytics Alerts to Set Up” https://snipcart.com/blog/google-analytics-alerts