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Replacing Annotations in GA4

Annotations for GA4

When Google Analytics updated from Universal Analytics to GA4, unfortunately some features were lost, including one of my favorites -- Annotations. Similar to Notes in Google Ads, Annotations provided a simple way for teams accessing Google Analytics to share important notes for collaboration. As changes were made on the website, annotations assisted with correlations that may have caused notable data changes. For example, if a major change was implemented on the website and then traffic drops were noted, an annotation could provide insights into the possible cause being the website change.

Marketing teams and agencies often used Annotations to collaborate, and I personally found them helpful for forensic work. So how can you create Annotations for your team in GA4? Here are three options to consider.

Looker Studio and Google Sheets
Cost: FREE

Hat tip to my friend, Alan K'necht of K'nechtology for this awesome idea! 

  1. Create a shared Google Sheet for your team to denote the annotations.  Ensure that your sheet has at least a column for date and a column for the annotation text.
  2. In Looker Studio, import your Google Sheet as a data source. Additionally, import your GA4 data you'd like to compare as a data source. For example, you may want to start with just observing correlation between overall traffic volume and corresponding annotations by date.
  3. Add a line chart for your GA4 data, such as views. Then add a table for your Google Sheets data.
  4. Add a date range control to the report. Select the line chart, table and date control and group them. This allows the date range control to act as the control for the line chart and table together.
    • If you'd like to filter the data event more, you can add additional controls as well. For example, you may want to filter the GA4 data by medium (which can be especially helpful for troubleshooting SEO/organic search issues). 
  5. I'd also recommend adding a link on the report to the Annotations Google Sheet so that contributors can be reminded of where to add their annotation data.
  6. Share the report with those that need annotations access.

If you're very experienced with Looker Studio, you can even update your tooltips with your annotation data and perform deeper filtering.

Chrome Extensions
Cost: Varies

If you'd rather just purchase an alternative, there are several Chrome extensions that provide annotation as a service.

Google Analytics 4 Annotations - GA4 Notes is a free Chrome extension and works with a corresponding Google Sheet that you provide where you house the annotation data (similar to our Looker Studio solution).

GAannotations has a Chrome extension with a free trial. After the free trial the tool prices start at $49/month.  One of the benefits is that this tool provides annotations for multiple platforms, not just GA4. 


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