Easy ways to start using Google Analytics

By Collin Lessing, JVA Consulting

The Google Analytics team recently released its first volume of the Google Analytics Benchmarking Newsletter. If you’re not familiar with Google Analytics, it’s a free tool offered by Google that allows you to take a close look at your website’s traffic. The newly launched newsletter includes anonymous data from hundreds of thousands of websites that use Google Analytics. The report compares data from November 2009–February 2010 to data from November 2010–February 2011.

The most interesting findings in the report were that pages/visit (the number of pages people click on per visit to a website) were down eight percent and that the average time spent on sites decreased by 26 seconds. The fact that people are spending less time when they visit websites underscores the importance of having succinct, compelling copy on your website. The newsletter is also a reminder of what a useful tool Google Analytics can be for nonprofits. If you’re not currently receiving an analytics report to evaluate your website, ask your webhost if they offer a report, or click here to sign up for Google Analytics. Once you have a report in front of you, here are three easy things you can do to get started:

1.    Google Analytics displays your web traffic on a timeline so that you can look at the number of people who visited your website by week, day or month. The timeline will give you an understanding of when your traffic was at its highest and lowest. This can be an important step in evaluating your organization’s marketing and advertising campaigns. Did your organization purchase ads in a newspaper or on the radio, or did you recently do a direct mail marketing campaign? Was there a traffic increase that corresponded with the timing of these campaigns? If one of your goals was to drive web traffic, you’ll have an idea of how successful your outreach strategy was.
2.    Analytics reports offer ranked lists of the websites that refer traffic to your website. If your website is listed on any community profiles or if you’re using social media as a tool to drive traffic to your website, this will let you see how many people are actually arriving at your site through those links. If you’re not receiving the traffic you hoped for, you may consider reworking your copy on those websites or making your URL easier to find on the page so that you can better take advantage of those opportunities to direct people to your site.
3.    Keywords are the words that people type into search engines to find relevant websites. An analytics report will give you a ranked list of which keywords are leading web users to your website. With search engine optimization (SEO), there needs to be a balance between optimizing your website’s content for search engines while also being faithful to your organization’s marketing message. The keyword list will let you see which keywords are the powerhouses on your website—the ones that people use in search engines and connect them to your website the most often. The list may also point out areas where there’s room for improvement with your keywords. Either way, the report will give you some direction on your keyword strategy, and you’ll have the numbers to back up your argument if you need to make changes to the phrasing of any of your key marketing messages.

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