How To Use Google Analytics Intelligence Events To Make Intelligent Decisions

by 12 12/07/2012

Google Analytics Intelligence Events are one of the most powerful and underutilized tools in Google Analytics.

Allow me to explain what they are and then run through an example of how I use them when running The Daily Egg blog.

What are Google Analytics Intelligence Events?

As we speak, Google Analytics is collecting data about your website.   And, if they detect something out of the ordinary, it will register in your Google Analytics Intelligence Reports.

For example, if your traffic suddenly drops from 2000 Visits per Day to 0 (maybe your server is hacked), this will register in your Google Analytics Intelligence Events Reports and if you have set them up as Custom Events you can even choose to get alerts emailed to you.

You can find your Intelligence Events reports within Google Analytics by selecting HOME and then INTELLIGENCE EVENTS.

Google Analytics Intelligence Events

How does Google Analytics Intelligence Events Work?

I won’t go into the whole standard deviation gobbledygook that makes Intelligence Events work.  Suffice it to say that when unusual things happen with the metrics on your website, it will be in these reports.

If your Bounce Rate from Mobile Devices jumps 30% in one day, that will register.

If sales on a product page increase 75%, that will register.

And Intelligence Events can be as sensitive as you want.  If you only want to see events that are very unusual, you will set the AUTOMATIC ALERT IMPORTANCE to HIGH.   If you want to see events that are even mildly unusual, set the AUTOMATIC ALERT IMPORTANCE to LOW.

For The Daily Egg, I keep the sensitivity level set just left of center.

Automatic Alert Importance in Google Analytics Intelligence Events


The Real Benefit of Intelligence Reports

The best and worst thing about Google Analytics is that there is a mountain of information in there.

Sure, there is tremendous benefit in watching the subtle changes that occur with your website metrics over time.  You can see what I measure on a monthly basis on The Daily Egg in this post.

But what about the day-to-day events that cause big increases or decreases?  Those are very hard to detect.

Intelligence Events points out those day-to-day anomalies and gives you the ability to make better marketing decisions.

Let ‘s take a look at a real-world example from The Daily Egg.

Google Analytics Intelligence Events in Action

On Monday December 3rd, Intelligence Events alerted me to the fact that one of our posts from nearly a month ago received an unusually large amount of traffic.

This happens a lot and every time it happens, I am interested to find the source of that traffic.  Finding the source of the traffic helps me understand why it happened.  If I understand why it happened, I might be able to make it happen again.

Here is what the alert looked like in Intelligence Events:

I clicked on the link to “Go To Report” and hunt down the source of this burst of traffic.

Spike In Traffic

Sure enough, there was a spike in traffic on this post.   Now what are the chances that I would have noticed that this landing page had a traffic increase without Intelligence Events?  Not very good.

Traffic for the week didn’t look out of the ordinary.

Traffic Week

So, I drilled down a bit to find the source of the traffic.  Turns out we got a very nice mention from an industry leading blog — GetElastic.

This link sent a nice burst of traffic and 7 new subscribers to The Daily Egg.  Not too shabby.

Upon visiting the article, I found that GetElastic had improperly attributed the post to the KISS Metrics blog.  So, I dropped a comment thanking them and pointing out the error.

Then, I sent out a tweet to thank them and direct others to the article.

Get Elastic Tweet

Rarely does a week go by that I don’t find something extremely insightful within Google Analytics Intelligence Events.

What about you?  What are you learning for Intelligence Events?


Russ Henneberry is the Editorial Director at Digital Marketer. He's worked on digital marketing projects for companies like CrazyEgg, and Network Solutions. You can connect with Russ on Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ or on his blog.

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It’s also worth considering setting up some Google Custom Alerts baselined against average site activity for metrics that are highly relevant to your business. It’s a great way of spotting and attributing out of the norm behaviour.

December 7, 2012 Reply

Will Hanke

Thanks for the explanation, Russ. This is great, especially for large sites such as CE or ecommerce sites that would maybe otherwise miss these sorts of things. Following up with the ‘thanks’ tweet was brilliant (and a lesson for another day).

December 7, 2012 Reply

    Russ Henneberry

    I’m glad you brought this up Will. I agree. Google Analytics Intelligence Events is best used for sites that have both enough traffic and enough Google Analytics history (at least a few months) for Analytics to get the baseline.

    Google Analytics will try its best with any data that it has, but you will get some funny alerts when you don’t have much traffic or very little history.

    Thanks for adding this!

    December 7, 2012 Reply

Eric Fettman

Very nice post, Russ. Intelligence Events are indeed a very useful but underutilized feature of GA.

Along the lines of Jack’s comment, Custom Events are a great complement to the default events that are generated automatically, and they offer the important feature of email (or also text in US) notifications.

For that reason, I like to use Custom Events more for KPI-type of events (like a 10% increase or decrease in conversions for my primary goal) and the built-in Intelligence Events for anomalies that I might not otherwise notice.

We all just need to remember that, because the automatic Intelligence Events aren’t pushed out as alerts, you have to remember to check them yourselves. Like so many other things in analytics, Intelligence Events are no good without process and discipline! :-)

December 7, 2012 Reply

Luiz Marques

I had used Intelligence on the past but tried it again because of your article. Looks like it got much better, and there were several interesting events for my sites. Thanks!

December 17, 2012 Reply

Debbie Smith

What date range are they measuring themselves against? e.g if I am looking at a monthly page view drop for October 2014, is that against October 2013 or September 2014

November 4, 2014 Reply

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