As part of some research for a screencast on Google Analytics for NTEN, I gave a shout out to folks asking for examples. (BTW, if you are looking to learn more about how to use Google Analytics, I highly recommend the Webinar that NTEN is offering next Wednesday with Avinash Kaushik.)
Laura Whitehead, Chief Officer at South Hams CVS responded with lots to share. Here's how she is using the tool for decision-making. What is amazing is that she has obviously created a data driven culture in her organization. Thank you Laura for sharing your knowledge!
Tell me about your role at the charity
I'm Laura Whitehead, Chief Officer at South Hams CVS (www.southhamscvs.org.uk) which is a charity in South Devon, UK which exists to support local voluntary and community organizations in our locality with a wide range of services and support to help them grow and flourish. We've always prided ourselves in our information services, as we are regularly in contact with over 550 local groups. Many of these groups are small and rurally isolated, so ensuring that we can deliver relevant and timely information to these organizations is key to their wellbeing. One area which we (okay well me especially!) is our website. It's nothing over special, it's branding and image and layout is all in line with our other materials that we produce, but as well as the making and updating of our website we are also keen to keep an eye on how it is being used.
What is your background and experience with Google Analytics?
I am also a website designer and circuit rider, with a keen passion for accessiblity and usability especially in the arena of non-profits being enabled to achieve their aims using technology. So therefore, I am probably a bit unusual, and my staff team do cope well with having a boss that is overtly keen to ensure we are getting it right! This is where Google Analytics helps to play that part! Also, if like me you are involved in looking after many websites, this is where the Goggle Analytics comes in to its own. Not only does it let you analyse more than one site, it also lets you add people to view the details it provides too, which is really useful when working with so many groups, to enable them to take part in what is going on in how their site is working or not as the case may be.
Can you take me through a little tour of how you use Google Analytics?
When you go in to your Google Analytics for your site, you have a summary page known as the Dashboard – which gives you an instant overview of what's going on, where people are viewing from, and how they are getting to you. Here's what our dashboard looks like:
Link to larger image
It has a really useful 'friendly' interface, with menu's as to the types of information that you will want to look for. Instead of the old fashioned 'hit counter' that so many came to love, analytics applications help you to understand that 'quality' is more important than the 'quantity' of the visitors to your site.
You can also find information about where they have come from (maybe not surprising that many of our visitors aren't actually the people we are targeting! But others elsewhere in the country, Europe or even further!), also the browsers they are using, and also if they are still using dial up (are your pages lightweight and fast loading?). By being able to understand your 'customers' of your site it helps you to understand if your site is working as it was intended. On our site we've added general background information for funders and partners, but the most important bits are the resources available for groups and information that they need to help them to decide whether to contact us or not for further advice and support.
So how do you apply the information?
If you spend just a little bit of time digging deeper into it all you can start to get a picture of where people are spending their time on your site, and also if they are only spending just a few seconds and then leaving your site (bouncing!). You can also use the analytics to see the depth of their visit. Looking at statistics coming from just your home/index page doesn't really do much for real reporting at how your site is working.
If they've come to your site from a search engine, there's a strong possibility they may not enter on the home page, but another page on your site. So it's useful as a tool to evaluate if they can not only find their way around, but succeed in finding what they want.
Also, what key words do you use for your site? Are they the keywords that real people using search engines found you by? Using analytics helps you to see the searches that people make (south hams tool hire? That was what one person entered. And you can see why, we mention the words 'South Hams' and mention the word 'tools' in our content too meaning tools to equip groups. We also offer equipment for hire to local groups like OHPS and a badgemaker and so on which appears in our content too.)
Are you aware of all the places that link to your site and why? How people have got to you is always useful to know. Plus it helps you to market yourself with related organisations. All the right people who we know about seem to link to us, and we have visitors come through from those links.
The part which we find most useful as an organisation (and not just me being the over-excited techie here, all my team can understand and absorb this!) is the Site Overlay. It brings up your page and if you look at the image below, you'll see all the links have a little white bar image over them. This shows how many people have clicked into this link from this page. We use this as part of our main tools for monitoring the effectiveness of our site, in conjunction with the bounce rate and exit points of our site.
* Those parts that get used the most – do they need more information adding as site users are obviously searching for more information?
* Why aren't people clicking on the other links? Haven't we made it obvious about what we are talking about? What are we missing here? Is this information actually needed, we thought it was what groups needed, but hey – no-one is using that link ever (well highly unlikely but a scenario to think about!), so maybe we need to re-think the information and knowledge of our organization that we want to deliver out there. (I know so many small organizations who are so excited to have their first ever website and put everything up on their site. Their policies, and lots of other in-formation that isn't possibly really needed or wanted by general viewers!).
The great part of the overlay aspect is you can click on all the links, and keep on going deeper into your site. Then that helps you to map out how people are using the information and where they are going next on your site (keep the bounce and exit thing in the back of your mind here too!). You can start to establish the needs of your users and what they want from you by the way they are using your site.
We have a range of information sheets available on our site. Each of the links to the downloads all have extra analytics tags attached, so we can easily monitor how many of which one is downloaded. That's useful. As part of our funding we have to monitor how many times we're requested for certain information. If we post an information sheet out, we can obviously count that, also look at our display racks in our office, and count those too, now we can also count how many are downloaded from the website. Useful to moni-tor need, and if we are getting it right. If noone downloaded the sheets, maybe they are not up to date, or there wasn't a need for help in that area from our users, and we could assess whether we need to produce information on different topics for example.
Using analytics helps us to see how people got to where they wanted, how long they spent on pages, and also where they left (Entrance and Exit paths help with finding all that out.) Sounds strange, but this is important – ask your self, did they find what they needed, or did they lose interest?
Finally, your visitors. They are the important part in all of this to help you to find out if they are getting what they expected and need. Just to help with your ego boost of informing you if your organisation is getting it right or needing more work with your site, the visitor loyalty bit is good too. I'm not sure who comes back to ours so often but it is good to know someone is.
There's so much you can do with analytics applications. At first they seem abit daunting, but feel confident and have a play with it. They are really simple to incorporate into your site, and even though we only use a small proportion of the abilities available under Google Analytics, and haven't yet used the 'goals' sections and other parts to push our site further (but alas, we aren't a major co-orporation, nor a national charity, we are a small fo-cussed not for profit organisation trying to help enable local groups and communities so are tying our best to aim and cater for that.)