In Google Analytics 4, Custom Alerts are called Custom Insights. The new name is much more than a cosmetic microcopy upgrade. This guide explains how you can create custom alerts in GA4 and integrate them effectively in your website optimization workflow.
What are custom alerts in Google Analytics?
When something unexpected happens on your site, both UA and GA4 can send you an email alert. You can define for which events you want to receive notifications: more or less visitors, higher or lower conversions, a drastic change in traffic source etc.
Sudden changes on your site offer you an opportunity to quickly:
- Detect errors, like when your website goes offline.
- Reveal opportunities, such as a social media post that goes viral and drives tons of traffic to your website.
You do not want to miss out on these events, do you?
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Custom alerts in UA and GA4
In UA, you can find Custom alerts under the Views of your property. Since views no longer exist in GA4, you need to configure and manage your alerts elsewhere.
Before I will get to this, let’s have a look at UA custom alerts
Where can you find custom alerts in UA?
It’s rather easy to set up an alert in Universal Analytics, but don't bother doing it. GA4 will replace UA on the 1st of July 2023. Our free GA migration guide helps you make the transition easy.
In case your UA account has alerts, you can reverse engineer them and implement them in your GA4 account.
To check your custom alerts in UA and their settings, go to Admin > View > Custom Alerts.
Now you have an overview of all custom alerts for the selected view.
When you click on an alert, you see the following fields:
- A descriptive name
- A period
- The option to send an email alert
- The Views associated with this alert
- Alert conditions
The example below is an alert for the moments your traffic increases 100% compared to the same day last week.
If you have set up useful custom alerts in UA, you can implement them in your GA4 account.
It looks different, but again, this is easy to do since GA4 had some pre-filled options you only need to activate.
How to activate suggested custom alerts in GA4?
The path to your custom alerts in GA4 is different from UA. Open the Homepage of your account and scroll down to Insights.
If your GA4 account is new, you won’t see any Insights, but you can click on the blue button to See Suggested Insights.
On the next screen, you can create a Custom Insight from scratch. We have covered GA4 automated insights on our blog, so I won’t repeat the steps here.
If you are new to Google Analytics 4, it’s more interesting (and faster) to activate the Suggested Custom Insights.
You can select and review all the default custom insights. There is no need to switch on your overthink mode at this point.
Choose all possible anomalies:
- Anomaly in daily event count
- Anomaly in daily views
- Anomaly in daily conversions
- Anomaly in daily revenue (for apps and e-commerce sites only)
At this point, you change the emails of the receivers of the notifications.
To do so, click on the Review and Create link next to the Insight of your choice.
In the next screen, scroll down to Manage notifications and fill in the emails of your team members or departments that need to be notified.
Finally, click on the blue button Create selected.
Then, click on Manage at the button that appears at the bottom of the screen.
Change the slider to start receiving email notifications for a custom insight.
Once you are done, you need to wait for Insights to show up in your account.
Remember, we are talking about anomalies.
Google Analytics first needs to understand the normal situation for your website, before it can detect unexpected changes.
GA4 custom insights VS GA3 custom alerts
The new GA version makes it a lot easier to create useful alerts.
I am not referring to the way to set them up, but about the quality and value of custom alerts for your workflow and business.
GA4 has become really good at predictive metrics. The moment there is a mismatch between the reality and forecasts, an anomaly occurs and triggers an Insight, which at its turn can end up in your mailbox.
That used to be different.
Let’s take a look at a UA custom alert for an unexpected decrease in ecommerce conversions.
UA custom alerts require experience as a data analyst, a good understanding of your website and some brain power
You need to answers a lot of questions yourself:
- What is a reasonable threshold percentage for an alert?
- What is a reasonable time period to trigger an alert?
- Which traffic is the most important? Paid, organic?
If you run a big site with many simultaneous campaigns, setting up useful alerts in GA3 can take you hours, if not days.
Custom Insights in GA4 make that a thing of the past.
Set and forget, at least when you are just starting with Insights and alerts.
How to edit a custom insight alert in GA4?
Not all sites use the same KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) to measure success.
It is likely that even the suggested custom insights will not fit your needs completely.
To fine-tune an insight, you can access your Insights dashboard.
You can find View all Insights on the Homepage of your account.
Or on Report Snapshots.
On your Insights dashboard, you then click on the Manage button, which allows you to edit your custom insights.
Then click on the 3 bullets and on Edit.
You can then, for instance, change the conditions that trigger an alert.
Finally, click Save.
That’s all there is to it.
Apart from your phone buzzing in the morning, alerts are cool
To turn them into something useful for your business,, I strongly recommend you apply the following tips.
6 tips to get the most out of GA custom alerts
Now you know what custom alerts in GA4 are and how to set them up, let me give you 6 additional tips to put them at work for you.
Tip 1: Give custom insight alarms a proper name
This is almost too obvious. However, there is a huge chance you will forget to do this when you edit the evaluation frequency of a custom insight.
Tip 2: Only send alert notifications to people who need them
It’s easy and tempting to inform your teams, or customers, about every anomaly that happens on your site.
The downside is that some people won’t know
- what the information even means.
- what they are supposed to do with it.
Those two things are the perfect ingredient for spam mails and will result in inactivity. Therefore, make sure you only send alerts to the right people.
Tip 3: Only create custom insight alerts that match your KPIs and business goals
I advised you to activate all suggested insights when you start with GA4. They will get you up and running fast. Also, it’s easier to edit an insight than to create one from scratch.
But once you get the hang of custom insights and alerts, make sure you align them with your website goals.
Changing the frequency, metrics, percentages can turn useless alerts into key insights for your business.
This brings me to the next tip.
Tip 4: Review your insight alerts periodically
Campaigns start and stop.
Conversions, products and promotions on web shops constantly change.
You have enough reasons to review your alerts on a regular basis..
Reserve 10 minutes per month, or per quarter to guarantee that the right people will stay on top of sudden changes on your site.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Did you actually do something with alerts?
- Did you fix issues that won’t occur again?
- Are the default thresholds and conditions useful to you?
- Do you get too much or too few alerts?
- Did your team receive the notifications?
The next tip is the most important one.
Tip 5: Create an action plan for custom insight alerts
Decide internally what you will do with the insight email notifications.
Receiving email alerts is good. Acting upon them is better.
You can adapt the details of your flow later on, but a good starting point is to agree from the very beginning on the following:
- the person responsible for deciding to act upon anomaly alerts
- who, when, how to follow-up of insights
- how to collect and report insights to customers or stakeholders
In other words: stay alert about alerts.
Tip 6: Non-GA4 notifications and alerts
MY last tip is actually not related to GA custom alerts.
Google Search Console is another free Google tool that gives you insights about your website. It can also send you alerts about e.g. harmful technical issues on your website.
Key takeaways: custom alerts in Google Analytics
- Custom alerts in Universal Analytics and Google Analytics 4 are a handy way to stay on top of anomalies on your website.
- Custom Alerts are called Custom Insights in GA4.
- You can activate suggested custom insights in GA4 to get up and running quickly. Later on, you can edit or remove them.
- Align your custom insight notifications to your business goals.
- Review your alerts regularly to make sure you don’t miss important anomalies.
- Create an internal procedure to make sure your custom insight notifications don’t stay cool data or graphics, but help you prioritize website optimizations.
I hope this information will help you get the most out of GA custom alerts and insights in no time. They are super easy to set up, and can make a vast difference. Now is the perfect time to put the above into practice…