We know we’re nerds, but we think it’s super cool that you can use free tools like Google Analytics to measure marketing results and learn about the people who visit your website. Data can be overwhelming. It can be frustrating to figure out, a pain to compile, and easily pushed aside when time-sensitive tasks arrive on the scene. BUT, reviewing and making strategy adjustments based on data is critical to the effectiveness of your digital marketing.
What are your nonprofit’s goals? How is your marketing working to accomplish those goals? Is your plan driving results?
Let’s breakdown three common nonprofit goals from our marketing strategy template—increasing awareness, donations and volunteers. With those end goals in mind, we’ll take a look at where to start with Google Analytics, what metrics to look at, and how to think about analyzing data to determine the results of your marketing campaigns.
Before You Begin
Through this post, I’m using Google Analytics to demonstrate how to look at each metric. It’s a free tool offered through Google that we include for every nonprofit website that we launch on our website platform. The only caveat: if your account was not set up by a professional who knows what they’re doing, it can be a little tricky to make sure that your organization’s most important goals on your website are set up and tracking correctly within your Google Analytics account.
Once you’re tracking the key actions that you’d like visitors to take on your site, like email signups, donations and volunteer form submissions, you’re all set to review and use that data to influence your marketing strategy.
Measure Marketing Results
You want to look at the data that moves your goals forward or holds them up. Below, we’ve taken each goal and broken it down to the most important metric to determine its success, as well as all those supporting metrics that may contribute to that goal’s success.
When you’ve reached this goal for your organization, you’ll see more new users on your website. This means that more people are visiting your site that had not previously visited, and your awareness-building efforts are working. Find this information by going to “Overview” within the “Audience” section of your Google Analytics account.
While seeing an uptick in new visitors is nice, there are a variety of other data points that contribute to that end result. By digging deeper into where traffic comes from and which of your pages are popular, you can draw conclusions about your audience and areas you might focus on to broaden the reach of your awareness efforts.
- Organic search traffic, or traffic from search engines like Google
- Social media traffic
- Email newsletter sign ups or other actions you’d like new visitors to take (these will need to be set up as goals)
- Top landing pages
- Pageviews of your homepage
- Pageviews of other key awareness pages
For example, by looking into organic search traffic, you may see that the number of visitors arriving from search engines has fallen drastically. Since search has worked for you in the past, you might decide to focus more energy and funds on search engine optimization (SEO) research with the goal of pushing key awareness pages back up into the top search results.
On the flip side, you may see that your organic search traffic has increased. By digging into the top landing pages, you see that the source for many of these pages is Google. You might then decide to revisit the page content for these pages to encourage an action that helps your organization open a line of communication with these visitors, such as signing up for your newsletter.
For this goal to be a success, you’ll want to see the number of online donations grow. If the submission of your donate form is set up as a goal within your Google Analytics, you’ll look at goal completions for that goal to get your data. Dig into “Overview” within the “Goals” section of “Conversions” and select the donation goal from the “Goal Option” dropdown to find your number.
Beyond the number of donate form submissions, look at data that tells you more about what visitors do before they submit the form, as well as where people jump ship in your online donation process.
- Donate page performance
- Goal conversion rate
- Goal abandonment rate (found within the overview shown above)
- Source, or where your donors are coming from
- Exit rate on pages with a donate call to action, or pages causing visitors to leave without donating
Looking at your goal conversion rate, you might see that it’s a strong 25%, but the overall number of form submissions is nothing to write home about. To increase the number of submissions, you might focus on driving more people to that page from other popular pages on your site, like your homepage or About page.
On the other hand, if your conversion rate is weak, you might instead focus on streamlining your donation process. Is your abandonment rate high? Could it be because you have too many required fields or don’t follow global giving standards? Focus on making your donation process as easy as possible to encourage more donations.
For this goal, you’ll want to see more visitors submit your interest form for new volunteers. As with donations, look at the goal completions for this form submission to find your number. Go to “Overview” within the “Goals” section of “Conversions” and select the volunteer sign up goal from the “Goal Option” dropdown to find your number.
Similarly to donor data, dig into the supporting metrics surrounding potential volunteers that do or do not submit your volunteer interest form.
- Pageviews of your main volunteer page
- Pageviews of related content, such as specific volunteer opportunity pages
- Goal conversion rate
- Goal abandonment rate (found within the goal overview shown above)
- Source, or how your volunteers are finding you
- Exit rate on pages with a volunteer call to action
- Popular pages prior to submitting a volunteer form
For example, you might notice that social media is a popular source for volunteer signups. Recently you started posting about volunteer opportunities, along with sharing stories and testimonials from volunteers. So this new data is great to see! You can take encouragement and continue focusing on social media to attract new volunteers.
However, if you notice that a specific source, like email traffic, has dropped in volunteer conversions, you may look into why that is. If you’ve let your emails to encourage volunteering fall to the wayside during your busy season, you may want to pick that up again.
Thinking About Data
Learning to measure marketing results is a mindset that you’ll develop over time. The more you do it, the better you’ll get. Look at the data and ask “why is this the case?” and “what might I do to improve that number”. Will it involve jumping down an absurd amount of deceptively deep puddles in search of all of the “but why” questions? Almost definitely, yes.
Questions to Ask
As you measure marketing results through an analytics review, keep in mind that it doesn’t have to be pages and pages of charts and numbers. I find it easiest to start with a question and then go about finding the key metrics that can answer that question. As you’re getting started in the big, wide world of analytics, I pulled together a few questions to start looking for answers in the data that can move your marketing needle.
- Did we accomplish our goal?
- Which strategies focused on that goal were most successful?
- How has this metric changed over time?
- Which strategies were the least successful?
- Is there an opportunity to increase success? Or should we focus efforts elsewhere?
Use the supporting metrics to dig into the whys behind your main goals and strategize a plan that improves numbers all around. To learn more about creating a strategy around your data and goals, check out our marketing strategy tips and template for nonprofits. A good nonprofit marketing strategy looks at the end goal and considers the best method of reaching that goal given all of the contributing factors (often in the form of data!) for your specific nonprofit.
Does your nonprofit use Google Analytics? Are you taking the time to measure marketing results? Do you use the data to adjust your marketing plan on a regular basis? Calling all fellow data nerds to please circle up in the comments below.