What Can Google Analytics Do for Nonprofits and Trade Associations?

To the non-technical, the term analytics can be intimidating. It is simultaneously amorphous while implying abundant pain due to numerically-induced face palming. But really, analytics can be accessible even to the uninitiated. Case in point: Google Analytics. Google Analytics (GA) is a powerful tool that is transforming the way customer relationships are managed online. In the association world, this translates into understanding how members and prospects interact with your online content. Understanding that has enormous implications and allows analysts to draw upon a wealth of information that would otherwise go to waste.

Google Analytics is not only easy to pick up and learn, it provides several powerful tools out-of-the-box. Oh, and the basic package, which provides enough analytic power for most associations and non-profits, is free! Clients often come to DSK seeking guidance on how to better employ GA and include their web data into their overall data strategy.  Although some clients do use GA to analyze blog traffic, there is much more that you can do with it.

For example, we worked with the Association for Financial Professionals (AFP) to develop a solution using Google’s API and XML to combine CRM data with GA data.  AFP wanted to be able to track users who had not created a profile yet to better understand what influences the decision to register on their site. GA enables AFP to extract a cookie from a visitor’s browser and assign an anonymous custom variable to trace their behavior throughout the process. They are now incorporating this data into their data mart to better understand what factors influence their site registration process.  This knowledge is used to increase engagement through offered content and services.

At the most fundamental level, GA delivers information about your website’s visitors. Answering important questions such as:

• Where are your visitors coming from, both in the USA and around the world? How long do they stay on your website?
• What did visitors find interesting about your content and which pages did they spend the most time on?  Have they ever been to your site before?
• What is the bounce rate for each page? (Bounce rate is simply jargon for, did they get to a page on accident and just “bounce” back to the previous page by hitting the back button).

This information can be further segmented into content and traffic source data. Content data simply means what website content is drawing the most attention and possibly generating revenue and visitor interaction (comments, clicks, views, etc.). Traffic source data will tell you how each visitor ended up at your site.

• Did visitors reach your website through a Google search or by clicking an ad you placed on another website?
Did they intentionally come to your website by entering your URL into their browser?

GA will tell you who is visiting your site and what they are doing once they get there. You can then take this information and use it to tailor your future site designs and emphasize what is generating user engagement and taper off what isn’t effective or interesting to users. This process of validated learning allows you to test your initial hypotheses regarding what visitors value and repurpose your content accordingly.

How does this fit into an association’s business intelligence strategy?  Visitors interact with your content and their actions will either validate or invalidate your assumptions about what is valuable about your association and the services you provide. GA will let you know the percentage of people who only view the homepage before exiting. On-page tracking scripts can even tell you how much of each page a visitor views before moving onto another page or leaves your site altogether. This directly translates into member engagement. On-page tracking scripts allow you to see which areas of your site garner the most attention and quantifies that attention span which is veritable evidence that visitors are engaged with your content. This is a tremendous advantage when considering future content development.  How many visitors you actively engage with on your site can be correlated with how many members effectively engage with your content and services.

Google Analytics and Mobile

Mobile devices are everywhere. It’s estimated that more online-content will be accessed via mobile than on desktops by the end of 2013. GA is also able to discern what kind of devices are being used to access your site. How does the mobile user data stack up against the standard visitor data? If mobile users have a drastically higher bounce rate, perhaps your site is not optimized for mobile viewing?

Why should associations be concerned with tracking these wide-ranging data sources? These are hard metrics that enable you to verify assumptions. For example, suppose you have organizations seeking exposure on your site, perhaps through sponsoring an event, but they want to know what your online presence and engagement is like before making the investment. GA will give you the hard data to present to them.

Suppose prospective advertisers want to know how involved your audience is with your site before subscribing to ad-space on your site. GA will be able to validate that you indeed have an audience they can market towards.

GA provides an indispensable service for free. It’s easy to use and the insights born from the data are vastly important. It’s certainly worth exploring and adding into your business intelligence toolbox.

Tableau data visualization software has a native connection available to GA as a data source! Think of the possibilities when you can merge data from your CRM, data mart, membership profiles, and your website usage statistics. Blend these separate data source enables you to create a 360 degree view of your members, what they value, and how to better serve them. Although it may be impossible to fully predict the future – with analytics it is certainly within our means to create it.

Though it’s difficult to fully summarize the value of Google Analytics in a single blog post, I’ve introduced the service and its value to associations. The next step is to ask yourself: “Is our association taking full advantage of the data our website generates? Are we proactively responding by using this data to tailor our content to maximize value for our members?” If you can’t confidently answer yes to either of these questions, perhaps Google Analytics is the tool you’re missing. Contact us and we’ll show you how.

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