Which Web Metrics to Watch…and Why

by | Oct 8, 2020

The donor journey: acquisition…engagement…conversion…then further engagement. Sounds simple, right?

As we all become increasingly reliant on the web, how do you assess your organization’s performance online? Here are some of the Google Analytics (GA) indicators I find most helpful.


1. Traffic Volume

How many visitors came to your site this past month? How many sessions do they account for? Is this trending up or down? What about the mix of new vs. returning visitors? If your website is your “window to the world,” monitoring traffic volume will help you know who is looking in, i.e., how many prospects are in the pipeline and a little bit about them.

Tip: In GA, basic audience counts can be found in Audience/Overview and new vs. returning in Audience/Behavior. Information about Demographics, Interest, Location and Device also are available under Audience.

2. Traffic Source

Where did those visitors come from? What were they searching for? What drove them to the site? Keeping an eye on the metrics in GA Acquisition can help you close the loop between your marketing efforts and your web activity.

Tip: Check GA Source/Medium report (under Acquisition/All Traffic) for how many users come from each of your primary traffic sources (organic search, social media, referral, email, etc.) and how those segments compare in terms of engagement (pages/session and session duration) and conversion (site goals). You also can use Source/Medium as a secondary dimension to enhance other perspectives, such as looking at differences in traffic patterns for new or returning visitors.


3. Site Content

You invest tremendous time, energy and resources in developing and updating the content of your site. Wouldn’t it be helpful to know what information visitors are seeking, or what they appear to find most useful? There are a number of clues to this in GA Behavior reports.

Tip: In the Content Drilldown report (under Behavior/Site Content), sort on average time on page to see which pages get the most attention (check unique page views, too, to ensure the segment you’re looking at is large enough to matter). Or, conversely, look at the Landing Pages report and sort by Bounce Rate (a higher bounce rate may show that users didn’t find what they were looking for on that page and left the site).

4. User Actions

How visitors interact with your content offers another valuable perspective on your ability to encourage engagement. In addition to page views, the most basic of GA metrics, this might include downloading available resources, clicking on links or buttons for additional information, watching a video, sharing a blog post on social media, etc. However, these interactions only can be recorded if you’ve created an “Event” in your GA account.

Tip: Creating an Event that can be captured by GA likely will require the help of your developer or additional capabilities such as those offered by Google Tag Manager.


5. Defining Success

There’s a fine line between engagement and conversion. Signing up for a newsletter might be an early sign of engagement; making a donation perhaps a full commitment of support. Either could be considered a conversion. Other indicators might include signing a petition or taking some similar advocacy action, scheduling a volunteer assignment, making a reservation for an event and so forth.

Tip: In Google Analytics, there are two possible conversion measurements: e-commerce tracking, if your site is transnational, and the tracking of completed “goals,” which you have the ability to define. There are four basic types of goals: Destination (a specific URL reached, such as a Thank You page), Duration (time on site), Pages per Session (minimum page count visited), or Events, as described above.

And that’s just the beginning! As you begin digging, you’ll discover a lot of additional options — and information — available. Admittedly, it can be a bit intimidating. But the most important step is to just get started. As you spend more time “playing” with the reports, you’ll find your comfort — and capabilities — growing at a surprising rate.

What is your favorite report?

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