Recently, I became “Academy Certified” when I completed the first of the Google Analytics Academy courses. Google modifies their analytics services on a continual basis, so it’s very important for the crew here at Visceral to stay proficient in the technical implementation of analytics and the strategy for why and how it can be used to each organization’s specific needs.
The analytics space is vast, and even when you narrow it down to just Google Analytics, there is still a n enormous amount of information to digest. In this post, you’ll get an overview of what Google Analytics is, why it’s important for you as a nonprofit and 5 ways for nonprofits to get the most out of the service. Let’s start with the basics:
What is Google Analytics?
- It is the most widely implemented website analytics service there is.
- It’s free for basic service, which is usually sufficient for most websites, but there is a paid premium version available.
- It’s easy to set up and use. The tutorials and training are very helpful to get you started and proficient.
- It helps you understand user behavior and needs on your website by collecting statistics on a website’s (or app’s) traffic, traffic sources, conversions and sales.
Why is it important?
- Analytics and tracking is not just about “selling”. It’s about conversions and that means that as a nonprofit, you can use it to track your user engagement whether it be via donations, email sign ups or event sign ups. Through tracking, you’ll be able to have a clear view of what works and what doesn’t.
- You parse out information on users and your website to fine tune your tactics and optimize your audience engagement.
- You can make informed decisions on where your staff should be spending their time. Resource capacity is always an issue at your organization, right? Well, with analytics you can see if a certain blog author is getting more page views and choose to engage that author on a more regular basis. When you know what works and doesn’t and have the information to the back that up, you can make a case for anything!
How can nonprofit organizations use Google Analytics to measure user engagement?
1. Create Actionable Goals and KPIs
Think big! The process of understanding your online goals and KPIs (key performance indicators) can help re-affirm your organization’s missions and objectives. Analytics gives you access to data that can empower you. Without proper goals and KPIs though, that data might as well be yesterday’s coffee brew.
- What is your organization’s mission and objective? Does our website clearly convey your organization’s goals?
- Why do you have a website and what do you want people to do on your site? What actions are your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) – donations, newsletter sign ups?
- How can you use the metrics in analytics (traffic, pageviews, downloads, form submissions) to verify that your website is achieving your KPIs and giving you a proper ROI (return on investment)?
2. Refine Your Content
With analytics, you can see what content is most and least read and how much time users are spending with your content and if they are sharing content through share plug-ins on your site. Note: The social plug-in analytics require a qualified developer to set up. Doing so allows you to:
- Measure the effectiveness of what you’re already doing.
- Keep a healthy editorial strategy for your site. Your site is your publishing tool, and you should be constantly asking yourself if the information on there is the best it can be for your audiences.
- Identify new content opportunities and test new content types. Think beyond copy, imagery, videos and infographics.
3. Analyze your Online Audience
Determine who is coming to your site (demographics), where they come from (traffic sources and keyword searches), what browsers or devices they use (technology), or what content they find interesting (content priority). Why is this information ESPECIALLY important to you as a nonprofit organization? The more you can learn about the demographic of people behind your cause and know what regions are supporting you most, the more you can tailor and direct communications toward these groups.
- What are the main reasons that users are coming to your site? For information? To donate? To sign up or volunteer?
- Measure the engagement of your website visitors through content views and time on site.
- Isolate your most valuable user segments on your website by viewing demographic information and cross analyzing it by key engagement metrics such as time on site and sharing.
- Ensure that budgets are allocated to the best-performing channels.
4. Understand User Behavior and Engagement
You can learn a lot about the pathways that users take when interacting with your website.
- With analytics you can see user entry points and exit points. This allows you to see the user journey and determine if there are points in that journey that you might be able to optimize toward a specific action (like a donation or a sign up).
- Know how users are finding you. Through keyword search information, Google will show you what users who got to your site from Google searched for to get there. Knowing this information is great because you can then optimize your website content for those keywords. You can also consider developing an AdWords campaign based on this information. Check out Google AdWords for nonprofits immediately if you haven’t already!
5. Diagnose Issues
It would be great if we could put up a website and hope that it works perfectly all the time. But the reality is that we constantly need to test, analyze and refine our online tools if we want to optimize them for our goals. Analytics allows you to diagnose specific issues on your sites. For example, you can:
- Determine why users are leaving your site by looking at exit points.
- Identify dead links, and redirection needs.
- Draw conclusions about what users are looking for and what content additions would be most valuable.
View our previous blog post for technical information on how analytics actually works and visit Google Analytics Academy for course information.
Other Bonus Resources from Google