How To: Set Up Custom Website Traffic Alerts in Google Analytics

By on 17th March 2023

Reading Time: 6 minutes

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Traffic Alert

In all my time as a Google Analytics consultant, I’ve found one of the most underrated and underused features in Google Analytics is the custom alert.  Over the last 10 years or so I reckon I’ve carried out over 500 website audits, a part of which looks at the site’s current Google Analytics configuration. And in that time I can honestly say that not one of those websites had already implemented custom alerts.

Crazy right? It’s like folk don’t want to know if there website has issues leading to a reported drop in traffic.

What are custom alerts in Google Analytics?

Custom alerts in are email notifications that you can set up to alert you when there are significant changes in your website or app’s performance data. They are triggered when certain metrics, dimensions, or conditions that you specify are met.

Why would you set up custom alerts?

They can help you quickly identify traffic issues and so you can be react quickly and resolve any issues that are affecting your data and reports. With custom alerts, you can monitor a wide range of metrics, including traffic, engagement, conversions, and revenue, among others.

You can set alerts to compare data on a day by day or week by week basis which can highlight a range of issues such as website downtime, broken analytics code, a drop in Google visibility or an issue with paid search meaning ads stop appearing and sending traffic to your site.

How To Set Up Custom Alerts In Google Analytics (Universal)

If you are sticking with Universal Analytics until the bitter end, follow these steps:

  1. Log in to your Google Analytics account and navigate to the view for which you want to create the custom alert.

  2. Click on the “Admin” button at the bottom left corner of the screen:

    GA Custom Alert Step 2

  3. In the “View” column, click on “Custom Alerts”:

    GA Custom Alert Step 3

  4. Click on “New Alert” to start creating your custom alert:

    GA Custom Alert Step 4

  5. In the “Alert Name” field, enter a descriptive name for your alert

  6. Under “Period,” select the time period you want to monitor (e.g., daily, weekly, monthly).

  7. Under “Send Alerts To,” choose the email addresses of the people who should receive the alerts.

  8. Under “Alert Conditions,” choose the metric you want to monitor from the drop-down menu labelled “This Applies To”. You can also set a specific value, a percentage change, or a comparison with another metric.  In some cases, you can compare over a certain time period.   The example below would be set up if you wanted to be alerted when 0 sessions are tracked in a day.   Drastic, but these things happen and generally mean you have website configuration issues you need to fix quickly:

    GA Custom Alert Step 6, 7 & 8

  9. Click “Save Alert” to create your custom alert.

Once your custom alert is set up, you’ll receive an email notification whenever the specified conditions are met:

Custom Alert Email

You can create multiple custom alerts for different metrics or time periods, and you can edit or delete them at any time.

How To Set Up Custom Alerts In GA4

One thing to note is that they aren’t actually called “Custom Alerts” in GA4, they are “Custom Insights”, but for the early adopters amongst us, the steps are as follows:

  1. In your GA4 account navigate to the “Reports Snapshot” menu item within the “Reports” menu:

    GA4 Custom Alert Step 1

  2. From here, select “View All Insights” within the Insights box:

    GA4 Step 2

  3. Click on “Create”

    GA4 Custom Alert Step 3

  4. From here, you have the option to edit an existing alert based on daily anomalies, or, start from scratch:

    GA4 Custom Alert Step 4

  5. Daily anomalies are useful for spotting any technical issues that may arise on your site that prohibits users from either using the site, or being tracked. On the other hand, they will also tell you if you see an unexpected spike. Basically, Google decides if a drop or rise in the metric is deemed a data anomaly and would alert you.

    The alerts I like to set up are for organic drops in traffic, so in the case of these a week on week alert works better. This is because on many websites, traffic will invariably drop off over a weekend, so comparing to the same day last week works better. So, for the purposes of this guide, click “create new”

  6. The first thing to set is “Evaluation Period”, in this case, select “Weekly”:

    GA4 Custom Alert Step 6

  7. By default, the segment is set to “All Users”, to change this click “Change”. You then select the dimensions you want to check on – in this case it’s medium so from the drop down select “First User Medium” and the dimension value of “organic”:

    GA4 Custom Alert Step 7

    You can have up to 5 conditions to get more granular – for example you could also add the First Medium Source and select “bing” (but I doubt you’d ever be alerted)

  8. You then set the conditions on which you should receive the alert, in this case:

    Metric = 1-day total users
    Condition = % decrease more than
    Value = 30
    Comparison period = Previous Week

    GA4 Custom Alert Step 8

    The conditions you can select are:

    – Has anomaly
    – Is less than or equal to
    – Is greater than or equal to
    – % increase more than
    – % decrease more than
    – % change more than

  9. You then give it a helpful name, add a list of email addresses of whom should receive the alert and click create:

    GA4 Custom Alert Step 9

Google Analytics Custom Alerts Examples

there are an infinite (maybe) number of scenarios you might be interested in, such as:

A sudden drop in website traffic from a specific source or channel.
A spike in bounce rate on a particular page or section of the website
A significant decrease in goal conversion rate.
A sudden increase in server errors or 404 errors.
A decrease in revenue or eCommerce transactions.
A sudden surge in direct traffic
A sudden decrease in the number of new users
A spike in cart abandonment rate.
A significant increase in the number of sessions with zero events.
A decrease in ad click-through rate or impressions.
A sudden decrease in page views or engagement.
A decrease in average session duration.
A significant increase in the number of internal site searches.
A spike in exit rate on a particular page or section of the website.
A sudden drop in social media sessions.
A significant increase in the number of spam referrals.
A decrease in mobile site speed or performance.
A significant decrease in the number of sessions from a specific location or device type.
A sudden increase in the number of sessions with high bounce rates.

In Summary

Setting up custom alerts in Google Analytics is a quick and easy process that can provide valuable insights into your website or app’s performance. By monitoring important metrics and being alerted to significant changes, you can stay on top of issues and opportunities and take immediate actions rather than finding out when someone happens to mention something to you.

With custom alerts, you can configure notifications for virtually any insight you need, including traffic, engagement, conversions, revenue, source, country, etc, etc, etc.

I don’t know how folk ever lived without them, I really don’t.

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