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The Association’s Guide to Google Analytics — and Beyond - 2/5/2014 -

DJ Muller
Here’s how to look beyond the basic analytics of page views and site visits to find the data you need to shape more effective online communications. The good news? It’s not as hard as you think.

By DJ Muller

Most associations understand the importance their website plays in creating a strong brand and delivering communications to members and other stakeholders.  After all, your website is your single largest communications tool and has a far greater reach than your emails, newsletters, events, and advertising efforts combined.

Frequently though, the staff members of associations and member-based organizations are busy providing services to your members and may not have the expertise to be a full-time website data analyst.

Fortunately, Google Analytics makes measuring traffic on your website easy, and it's free to boot. Still, there can be many different reports and information to review, and most associations don't look beyond the basics of page views, site visits, and time on site.  

And yet, by acting on the data gleaned from your website, you can gain fantastic insight into your site visitors and make better decisions for your communication and marketing efforts going forward.

Here are some key areas your association should be monitoring:
  1. Audience location. Many times, associations are surprised to learn that a high percentage of their website traffic is coming from areas outside the geographic area they serve. The audience location metric can help you determine whether you are reaching your intended audience—or, it can help you realize an audience you should begin targeting. If, for example, you find that site visitors are searching for member businesses in your area or industry, you can develop additional content to keep them engaged and drive more exposure for your members. 

  2. Audience engagement. This report measures how effectively you are capturing and keeping your audience’s attention. You’ll see how much time a viewer spends on each page and how many pages they access. By providing related posts and other calls-to-action on the landing page, you can entice viewers to engage further and click to another page.

  3. Mobile traffic behavior. Mobile-device Internet searches nearly doubled from 2012 to 2013, and mobile Internet use is expected to surpass desktop Internet use in 2014. Plus, Google has warned that sites without easy-to-use mobile sites may fall in its search rankings. Knowing what percentage of your site visitors originate from mobile devices and how those visitors interact with your site can help you create content and a website that is easily viewed on mobile devices.

  4. Traffic sources. People can find your website directly, through social media, links from other website, organic searches, or advertising. Knowing which sources drive the most traffic to your site helps you determine your strengths and opportunities for growth in your web marketing strategy.  

  5. Social media traffic. This is related to traffic sources, but is more granular to help you key in on which social networks are pushing traffic to your website. Traffic from different networks behaves differently as well. For example, according to a HubSpot internal customer study, LinkedIn generated the highest visitor-to-lead conversion rate at 2.74 percent, almost three times higher (277 percent) than Twitter (0.69 percent) and Facebook (0.77 percent). Knowing how visitors from each network interact with your website can help you adjust your social media content strategies.

  6. Site content trends. Measuring the performance for all pages over a period of time will show you trends in your site content. It’s great to know how many page views you had this month, but how does that compare to last month or last year? What adjustments have you made to your site or your content marketing efforts that contributed to change in site traffic or visitor behavior? This is key information to have as you plan additional content for your website.

  7. Page bounce rates. Bounce rate is the percentage of visitors that only view one page before exiting a site. So if the bounce rate for a page is 80 percent, it means that 80 percent of the people that land on that page as an entry to the site will leave before visiting any other page.  The page bounce rate provides the opportunity to pinpoint areas of your site that need improvement. If your online membership application page has a high bounce rate, that could indicate that site visitors find it hard to understand. Transform non-performing pages with calls-to-action, or by improving content and navigation to see how your changes affect that page’s bounce rates in the future.

  8. Site search behavior. The site search usage report shows how many of your site visits include search activity. (Note: To use this feature, you must first set it up in your Google Analytics administration section.) The search terms report will tell you exactly what people seek, in their own words. Use these terms as a starting point for new content. Site search terms can also give you an idea of what to include in your search engine optimization keywords.

  9. Events. The events metric helps determine on-page activities for greater insight into user engagement, and using it can help to drive higher conversions or the actions you want visitors to take. Events metrics help clarify bounce statistics. The visitor may have read all the way through a page and found exactly what he or she needed, or the person may have landed on your page and immediately left.  

  10. Funnel visualization. The Google Analytics funnel visualization metric allows you to measure your strategy’s effectiveness based on specific set goals. For example, you may want a prospective member to read about your organization and its member benefits, and then join. Or, you may want a current member to visit your events page, view your annual conference page, and register. With funnel visualization, you can tell if users are responding according to your goals, and if not, where the process broke down.
Without analytic tools, you have no data to determine whether your marketing messages are on point. Google Analytics can track your marketing effort’s effectiveness and lead to better decisions on how to spend your limited time, resources, and money.

New Version Coming Soon
In October 2013, the Google Analytics team announced that all Google Analytics properties will be automatically upgraded to Google’s new and improved analytics tool, Universal Analytics. Google Analytics gave no deadline, but said that the transition would happen in four phases in the coming months. They are currently in phase one. In the meantime, these tips and information can help you be prepared for getting through the transition with ease.

Download a copy of the free guide, "Top 10 Things You Association Should Measure In Google Analytics” to learn more about how your association can take advantage of these measurement tools. The guide also includes more information about the upgrade to Google’s new Universal Analytics tool.

DJ Muller is president and founder of WebLink International, the creators of WebLink Connect™, an intuitive association management software. Association Media & Publishing thanks him for writing this article designed for our Sidebar readership.


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