Why Analytics Annotations Are Important For Online Course Sellers

by | eCourse Growth Strategies

If you’re selling courses online your week may look something like this: You’re in the office Monday morning focusing on refining search terms for your Google AdWords campaign. Tuesday you’re publishing an interview that you conducted last week for your blog. Wednesday you’re recording and publishing a podcast for your website. Wednesday night you log in to Facebook and let the world know about your new podcast. Wanting a little more exposure for all of your hard work you decide to pay Facebook to “boost your post”. Thursday you do a guest post on a related blog. Friday you do a radio interview on a local radio station about the success of your online course. What a week!


Over the weekend you get some time to relax and reflect. It was a busy week but you’re happy with your week’s performance because your current students are happy and your hard work has led to many new course enrollments last week.


So with a little time to reflect, you decide to log in to your Google Analytics account to see what you can find. You look at the data. You see a boost in traffic on Wednesday. But you forget what you did that day that could have caused the jump in traffic. Did you do the interview or blog post that day? Did your online course newsletter go out that day? You can’t remember. Or maybe the boost was caused by something else altogether?




One way to avoid the confusion mentioned above, and find a clear link between cause and effect, is to use Google Analytics “annotations” tool. This tool allows you to create short notes to yourself to help you remember what your activities were for that day and keep track of what impact that particular activity had on your site’s traffic and conversions. For example, let’s look at the following graph:


Google Annotations


You’ll notice around February 11th there was a big jump in traffic. What caused that event? Was it something linked to your marketing efforts for that day, or a just a random increase in activity? Did you start ranking higher for some of your search terms? Did a print media publication mention your online course in a story they were working on about some of the best online courses they’ve discovered?


Using a few tools within your Google Analytics dashboard will help you find the correlation between traffic increases or increases in online course sales, with the activity or event that caused the increase.




To begin, you should be tracking your marketing behavior using “annotations”. Start by clicking on the date you want to add an annotation to. Next click on the small gray arrow in the bottom-middle of the graph. At that point, you can click on “create new annotation”. Now you can type a short annotation (a fancy way of saying “note”) about your activities for that day. In this case, we finalized an interview that was to be published on a related blog.


Google Annotations - Online Course


After you’ve clicked on “save” you can see a list of all of your annotations and a small “annotations box” under the date you’ve added the annotation under. It will look something like this:


online course annotations


Now you can even take this a step further by looking at your “intelligence events” by clicking on the “daily events” sub-menu item. You’ll then be able to see if any of your spikes in traffic line up to any of your custom or default intelligence events for that period.


In this case, we can see that this particular annotation lines up perfectly with an intelligence event. If we click on the orange bar below our chart we’ll see that we had a big jump of 182% increase in traffic from our “referral” source. If we were interested in digging deeper we could then click on “go to report” and figure out which specific referral source sent us the bulk of the new traffic.




In a way annotations allow you to sort of “humanize” your graph and analytics data. It’s easy to look at the above graph and just see a series of ups and downs. However, annotations give you deeper insight into which actions are leading to which outcomes. Which of your marketing “causes” are leading to the most valuable marketing “effects” (course enrollments, newsletter sign-ups, brand awareness, etc.)?

We’ll end with a question. If you’re selling online courses are you using the analytics “annotations” tool? If so, how useful have you found this tool as an eCourse seller?


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