Data analytics can guide a nonprofit through the mire of online interactions, showing what works and what doesn’t for their site and their clients.
LyndalCairns.com has produced a guide that introduces non-technical minded staff to data goal-setting and Google Analytics basics.
1. Don’t sweat the numbers.
Try not to obsess over the number of people coming to your site. There are only so many people who will be interested in what you have to offer.
2. Look for patterns.
Do more people visit on particular days? (For example, at the health agency I worked for this year, there was a spike on STI and HIV info pages late on Sundays as visitors woke up after a big weekend.)
Think about why that is, and perhaps organize your promotion accordingly. Is there a common path that people take through the site? Has interest in a particular page been going up lately?
Most sites have a weekly or daily spike. Find out when yours is and organize your social media and email communications accordingly.
3. Have clear goals.
Do you want more visitors, more visitors from Berkeley, more men, a longer time on the site, more visits to a particular page, more donations or newsletter subscriptions? Think about what you want you want to achieve with your website generally, then you can find data that shows how well it’s going. More on goal-setting for nonprofits here.
4. You can’t mess it up.
You can’t mess anything up. Google Analytics is a voyeur, it has nothing to do with the running of the site. So set up your dashboards however you like, set up your own goals and stalk people as they traverse through the site – it’s your toy.
Log in to Google Analytics (even if you’re already logged in to a Google product, you’ll have to log in again) and choose the site you need.
At the top, you’ll see three buttons: home, standard reporting, custom reporting. You’ll spend most of your time on standard reporting.
You’ll immediately see dates at the top right (which defaults to the past month) and your dashboard in the centre of the screen. This will default to showing you a graph of the past month. Under that, you’ll see a stack of visit information to the left, then demographics, language and some system information on the right.
Don’t worry if you don’t understand something.
Google, being Google, gives you every bit of information anyone could possibly need for anything. Try to focus on your goals and think about what you’re looking for, lest you spend all day trying to understand what you’re looking at.
Click on the dates at top right to change the time period you’re looking at. If you would like to compare two time periods – such as this week compared with last week, click on compare to past, and enter a second set of dates.
In the menu at left, there are five key areas: audience, advertising, traffic sources, content and Click on the dates at top right to change the time period you’re looking at. If you would like to compare two time periods – such as this week compared with last week, click on compare to past, and enter a second set of dates.
In the menu at left, there are five key areas: Click on the dates at top right to change the time period you’re looking at. If you would like to compare two time periods – such as this week compared with last week, click on compare to past, and enter a second set of dates.
If you click on Audience and expand it out, you’ll see demographics (geographic location, which language they have their browser set to); behavior (are they first-time visitors? how many pages did they look at?); technology; mobile; and visitors flow.
Visitors flow gives you a visual of how people are going through your site. It isn’t good for data but it will give you an overall picture and if you see a traffic spike and you’re in a hurry, you can often see at a glance what kind of content people have found.
In this section, you can inspect and review the success of your Adwords campaigns. This is among the most powerful parts of Google’s platform.
In the keywords section, you can cross-reference visitor behavior with the search terms you have bought. You can find out what time of day people are visiting in the day parts sections, and evaluate segmented advertising and A/B testing through the placements and keyword positions sections.
If you don’t have an Adwords account, investigate Google’s generous grants program for nonprofits.
Traffic sources is how people found us.
Overview will give you a neat graph of how much of it was search, referral (where another site has linked to us) and direct traffic (someone typed the address in).
If you click on sources in the left menu, you can break it down further and see where the referrals are coming from, what search terms people used to find us (under search then organic) and some initial social information (though this is a new feature and therefore doesn’t work very well yet).
Note: you’ll usually find high up on the search terms list a listing for (not provided). This happens when someone finds our site using Google search but because they are logged into any Google product, the organization’s privacy settings won’t allow the information to be shared. All you can do is look at the keywords you do have and assume they were similar.
Overview will give you an idea of how many pages people are viewing, and a list of the top ten pages at bottom right (the / one, which is usually the top result, is the homepage).
Under site content, you will see landing pages and exit pages. Landing pages just means someone came straight to a particular page. Exit pages can be interesting too, especially for finding bugs in the site, because it will show you the last page someone looked at before they left.
Events will track other activity like the number of people downloading resources like PDFs and submitting forms.
So earlier, I mentioned you should have clear goals. You don’t have to keep them to yourself and collect data – you can, in fact, tell Google what you want and it will collect the data for you. Here’s how to develop and track analytics goals.