Archive for Google Analytics – Page 2

Enhance your Association’s Google Analytics with Custom Variables

In July we wrote about Google Analytics and how associations can leverage the data collected to learn more about their customers.  Since Google Analytics is free to obtain and easy to install – everyone is using it.  In this post we dive a little deeper into some of the technical background on how Google collects the data and how it can be customized.
All of our clients are using Google Analytics, and most of them have the subdomains feature enabled which allows you collect data from across your domain.  Most clients have a main site for their content and at least one other site that feeds into it, such as their AMS (Association Management Software) which usually provides dynamic data.  In these configurations using the subdomain feature is beneficial in order to gather all the analytics data about web visitors.  The screenshot below from the Google Analytics setup shows how an Admin can enable subdomain tracking.  An example of subdomains using as the primary domain are: and  The JavaScript that is generated for inclusion in your sites will contain the setDomainName property: _gaq.push([‘_setDomainName’, ‘’]);.
Google Analytics provides many data points for analysis, including which web browser the visitor used and the names of the pages visited. This data can be very useful, however combining this data with the demographic information stored in your AMS gives you a more powerful view of how individuals interact with your site.  Fortunately a method is provided to add custom variables into your tracking.  Doing so requires that you push data out (such as member type) so that the Google Analytics’ client-side JavaScript can access the variables.  Your site already has custom variables enabled if you see something like: _setCustomVar(index, name, value, opt_scope) in the Google Analytics tracking code on your site.  The best way to identify if your site has custom variables already is to open your web site in a browser and use the right click View HTML option.  Then scan through or use the find feature to look for the tracking script.  You can create up to 5 custom variables.  The parameters are:

  • Index = the number identifier for the custom variable ranging in value from 1-5
  • Name = the name you would like to specify for the variable, such as Member Type
  • Value = the data element you set for tracking purposes
  • Opt_scope = this parameter is optional and permits you to specify the behavior of the variable to visitor, session or page level

In the Google Analytics platform on the web, sophisticated custom reporting is available.  However, the basic metrics pale in comparison to what you can do by adding your association’s custom variables.  Let’s say, for example, your association added organization type into a custom variable, and in reviewing your data (see chart below) from September, you discovered the organization type of University had 3 spikes in time spent on the site and 1 of them was so substantial it led you to ask more questions about why.  In the end you were able to conclude that the increase was the result of publishing a white paper on the rising costs of education and in digging deeper you found that 90% of your members came to the site to read the paper.  Naturally that is a hot topic – so what if you could get 90% member attendance on a paid webinar to dig deeper into its importance?


Now that you’ve seen how valuable it is to add custom variables into your Google Analytics tracking code for your association, I will step out of the way so you don’t run me over rushing to implement them on your site.

What is the Best Way for an Association or Nonprofit to Analyze Data?


An Association’s Dilemma

At DSK Solutions, we have tackled a variety of problems in the association space. It is clear to us that the best way to help our clients is to help them to discover their own solutions and enable them to use their data as a tool. For example, a recent association client was offering several professional certifications within the financial industry. They had launched a new training product designed to help their members better prepare for an exam. However, even though the number of registrations for the exam had increased, sales of the pre-course were flat, and curiously, the pass-fail ratio had worsened. What was going on? They had the raw data conveying the trend but what did it mean?

The Importance of Data Discovery

The anecdote above is an example of the types of problems many of our clients face.  Before implementing a BI project, they tried the traditional methods i.e. allocating even more resources towards marketing, even bigger “spray and pray” campaigns, etc. However, their normal methods were not working! Why?

  1. They had data but were not using it to derive new insights
  2. Their initial assumption about the problem was wrong

Now, the client decided to start using their data. After implementing a business intelligence initiative, the association learned that they had been allocating a disproportionate amount of resources towards marketing to their largest member type- Associates. With the new data discovery, they could see there was a new trend of test-takers with .edu email addresses. The association hypothesized that college student members had been taking the exam prematurely in attempts to bolster their resumes. However, because the exam covered out-of-the-classroom material such as client-facing etiquette and legal regulations, the new demographic was less successful at passing this crucial exam.

Responding to Data

In response to their new insight, the association reallocated their resources towards developing a college level pre-certification and corresponding study guide to complement their already growing college engagement program. This was incredibly successful with their college members and also helped transition their student members into associate members.
This kind of discovery does not have to come through painful trial and error. Data discovery, using interactive business intelligence, will rapidly provide these insights.


Leveraging Google Analytics for Nonprofits and Trade Associations

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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