Once you’ve mastered the basic insights offered by your Google Analytics account, it’s time to move to the next step: setting goals.
Defining Your Conversions
Ultimately, after all of that clicking and searching and reading, what you really want is for people to take meaningful action as a result of visiting your website. There’s a special term for this switch from passive to active participant—it’s called a “conversion.” Essentially this refers to how many of your site visitors did something tangible that serves your organization.
Your entire online communication strategy is designed to support these conversions – from social media, to email marketing, to your news or blog posts – so it’s critical that you make it easy to monitor those end results and identify any barriers that might be blocking progress.
Your conversions might include things like:
- Online donations
- Membership applications submitted
- Content shares
- Email subscriptions
- Learning about x topic (spent y min or visited 2+ pages within a key section)
(Note – everything you want to measure must take place within your website domain. If people are sent to your national organization to become a member or donate, you won’t be able to track those conversions within your Analytics account).
One of the most intriguing things about tracking conversions is that you can view both hard results (total donations) AND how many people showed interest in donating but dropped off along the way. You can even see where they dropped off.
This is key to identifying issues in the process—did they get freaked out, lose interest, get confused, get stuck? If you discover that lots of people are dropping off at the same point, you are better able to sleuth out the problem.
See the conversion funnel above. In this particular case no one intending to make a donation abandoned their donation. And nine additional people made a donation as part of an event and were directed to the same thank-you page. The pages included in this goal sequence are:
- Donation page (where you learn why and how to donate)
- Donation form where payment info is entered
- “Thank you for your donation” page
This is why setting up goals is so vital. Not only does it help quantify your impact, it helps you troubleshoot if you’re not getting the results you want.
If people aren’t filling out the initial contact info as part of the donation form, maybe the content of your original donation page isn’t compelling enough. OR if they go all the way to step three and bail, maybe the page that accepts donations doesn’t inspire trust, isn’t themed like your website, or has some technical glitch.
The goal funnel will help you pinpoint if/why visitors may be getting cold feet so you can fix the problem.
How to Set Up Goals
Your desired conversions must be defined as goals within the system. To set up your goals, you must have ‘edit’ privileges within your analytics account.
Log into your account and scroll down your left-hand navigation area in Google Analytics to “Conversions”, and click on Goals -> Overview. There you’ll find a link to set up your goals.
To do this effectively, you need to understand the flow and logic of your site architecture. If your users arrive at the donate page, then click a ‘donate now’ button, then enter their contact information, then are sent to another page to enter their credit card info, and then receive a thank-you message once they’ve completed the donation, you’ve got your full goal sequence. You can copy the URL of each one of those pages and paste it into the goal funnel you’re setting up.
The URL of the thank-you page is what you use to register a completed goal (if it is only displayed when someone donates). All of the previous pages, in sequence, become your funnel. You can then see how many people showed interest in donating versus how many completed the transaction.
A custom campaign is another great tool to track how your various publicity efforts are working. Which efforts are most effective in driving traffic to your site?
Analytics allows you to add parameters to your URLs that can identify where those links are placed within a specific campaign that you’re running. Any time a user clicks on a link, these parameters are then sent to your Analytics report and recorded as part of your campaign.
It’s a great way to track specific strategies and learn what works best.
Honing Your Strategy
All these Google Analytics tools will be most useful if you have a solid online communication strategy, with clearly spelled out goals and objectives. If you don’t, we recommend going back and tending to that first, before you get swept up in analytics.
Data is fun. If you value the insights you can get from it, you’ll be making smarter decisions every day and reaping the benefits in no time.