I’ve had a number of MRG grantee groups in the MIC Project ask for communications coaching to talk about how to use their website statistics via Google Analytics. I highly recommend this tool, and it’s great that groups are looking at their web metrics. But most groups have so little time to spend on this, and there’s an almost dizzying amount of information in there, with many deep levels of detail.

I have found myself making similar suggestions: if you don’t have a lot of time, visit often, but look at fewer things… which raises the question, “well, which things should we focus on?”

There’s plenty of great material out there on Google Analytics, but very little of it is hands-on material written specifically for grassroots social change groups without a marketing/communications department. So, I’ve created a short video (22 minutes — and believe me, that is short on this topic). I’ve placed some highlights from my script below as text. In the video, I use examples from MRG’s Analytics account, so that you can see exactly what I’m talking about.

Note: I wrote this as a beginner’s guide on Google Analytics, but you will still need to know how to access your dashboard. I suggest expanding the video to full screen for the best experience (using the full screen button below the video image).

Some highlights from the video:

Plan to create a habit. You can learn to work with Google Analytics by doing it regularly every week. Keep your focus on looking at patterns in your visitors’ behavior. Don’t focus on what one web visitor in Utah is doing — look for groups of users and what they are doing. The more we develop habits of paying attention to how people respond to what we are saying, the more effective we can become as communicators.

Start by reminding yourself who your key audiences are. Think about what questions they have that your site can answer, or what tasks might bring them to your site. Keep these groups of users primary in your mind as you look at your stats. Kivi Leroux Miller has a great post on thinking about your website visitors and what is bringing them to your website. I refer to one of our key audiences in examples in the video.

Five Useful Analytics

You’ll always start on your dashboard, which I encourage you to customize with the reports you’ll focus on weekly.

The default time period, shown on the upper right, is the previous thirty days. Keep this time period the same and get used to measuring your stats based on it.

  1. Unique Visitors — Google Analytics uses cookies to count not only visits but how many different individuals are involved. A staffer who has the site as a home page may rack up 20-100 visits in a month, but they’ll show up as one “unique visitor,” which won’t skew the stats. Set a benchmark for this metric and track your progress on it over time.
  2. Bounce Rate — You want to take a look at your site’s bounce rate overall, which you can see on the dashboard. Bounce rate shows the percentage of visitors who have a single-page visit. It’s perfectly reasonable for a site to have an overall bounce rate between 40% and 60% — for one thing, your website isn’t supposed to be like the Hotel California (“you can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave”). People are going to come, look and leave. Plus, there are plenty of times that you can answer the question of a key audience member by sending them back off the site right away. Bounce rates get even more useful as we look further inside the stats. This is a great video just on bounce rates.
  3. Traffic Sources/Keywords — Your analytics can tell you what percentage of your traffic is coming from searches versus from the emails you send, and your top referring websites. Top referring sites can give you a look at whether your attempts to drive traffic to the site (via Facebook, for example) are successful. Then take a look: are you attracting search engine traffic with keywords besides your group’s name? Here’s a chance to see what search terms are bringing visitors to your site, and see if you need to make changes so that words related to your issue are bringing you traffic. I have a post about optimizing your site for search engines and human visitors.Take a look at these stats carefully though, so that you don’t get sucked into worrying about a small segment of your site visitors.
  4. Content — Looking at your most popular content (pages) is useful, and gets even more useful when you combine it with bounce rates. Your most popular pages should be the pages that answer the questions of your key audiences. Then the bounce rates that go with them should match up with the tasks/questions your visitors are interested in (as in, if the goal is to send people away, you should see a higher bounce rate — if it’s to drive them to other pages on your site, you want a lower bounce rate).
  5. The Map — For plenty of groups, this is optional, but a sense of where your visitors are located can be useful if any of your key audiences are geographically-based.

There’s much more detail in the video — these are just highlights. Watching the video will put them in context. And in the video I show how to add these reports to your dashboard, so that you zero in on the right things during your weekly five-minute visit.

Keep in mind that five minutes a week is not enough time to do detailed analysis, or to look at serious changes to your content or your site. It’s just enough for you to learn your way around, start thinking about user patterns and your key audiences, and make tweaks to your site to improve your user experience.

If you would like to see a more advanced online screencast down the road, make a comment below or send me a message.

Enjoy your analytics!

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