If you’ve ever been asked to report on your nonprofit’s digital marketing efforts, you know the panic that comes along with a request like that. What information do they need? Where are you going to get it? How do you best present the information? This post will help you learn how to organize your data, put together website analytics reports and share the findings with your boss or board.

Where to Start

The structure and style of website analytics reports can really be anything you want, and it’s this lack of rules that can make you spin your wheels and throw in way too much data. The best place to start is actually to think about what you want the end result to be.

Maybe you’re hoping to build your case for more marketing time, budget or staff. Or perhaps you want to demonstrate why you need a new website (or that your new website was worth the investment). At the very least, you should plan to show how your website is contributing to key goals, like boosting donations, increasing volunteers or spreading awareness.

Once you have an idea of what you want to accomplish with your website review, continue to refine your approach with the following considerations:

  • Who’s your audience? Consider what they’ll most likely want to know and their comfort with analytics data and terms.
  • What time period are you reviewing? It’s tough to look at more than a year’s worth of data. If you haven’t done website review before, try doing them annually first and then shortening to every 6 months.
  • What marketing goals will you address? Your annual marketing plan should include key goals that you’re working on. Use them to organize your website analytics reports, too.
  • What specific questions do you have for each goal? Looking at each of the goals in your marketing plan, brainstorm a list of questions that could be answered with website data and supporting metrics. For a goal about boosting donations, you might ask “What type of website traffic is most likely to donate?” Keep this list handy.

Gathering Data

Having Google Analytics installed on your nonprofit’s website opens the door to a big world of data. But installing it incorrectly can really limit its value as you start putting together a review. It’s crucial that your account excludes IP addresses from your staff and board (which can skew your traffic data) and that you track goal completions for important website actions, like making a donation or signing up for newsletters. 

Once you’re sure that you have healthy website data, it’s time to think about the types of data you’ll need for your review. Even if you have some experience in Google Analytics, it’s helpful to remind yourself what key website metrics can actually tell you. You can also refer to our articles on measuring marketing results and marketing reports for Boards for ideas about the metrics you can use in your report.

As you get more comfortable with website analytics reports, consider setting up Dashboards in your account to simplify where you look for key metrics.

Find Your Focus Areas

Circle back to the list of questions you brainstormed for each of your goals. Thinking about what you want to get out of the review and your audience, pick 2-3 of the most important questions for each goal. From here on out, your analytics report will work to answer these specific questions. 

We like using a question and answer format because it can keep you focused in a sea of data. And for people that read your report, it offers structure that’s easier to digest than long narratives or complicated visuals. 

Start taking notes on each of your questions as you look in Google Analytics for metrics that will help shape your answers. When you feel ready, answer each question in 1-2 sentences, followed by a short list of relevant data points. See this approach in our example report.

Download Our Analytics Report Template

It really is possible to make an analytics report without losing your mind. Get our example report and customize it to meet your needs. It even includes an optional glossary to help define terms for your audience.

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Present Your Findings

Another benefit of the Q&A approach is that it’s less work for you and your audience to connect the dots between the data and what it means. The same goes for organizing your report around marketing goals—you can shift away from a big list of vanity metrics and focus attention on the actions or events that have (or will) result in positive changes.

As you’ll see in the template offered above, we think it’s best that analytics reports have several key attributes:

  • Structure: Break up your review into digestible pieces based on your goals.
  • Length: Try to keep it under 5 pages, using short paragraphs that are easy to scan.
  • Visuals: Use tables and charts to display larger or more complicated sets of data.
  • Context: Offer comparison points or benchmarks that help your audience understand how a data point relates to the bigger picture (e.g., this is X% greater than the previous 6 months).
  • Support: Add a glossary of helpful terms and definitions at the end of the document for people to refresh their analytics vocabulary.

Encourage Data-Driven Decisions

Not all website analytics reports have to include next steps or recommendations. Sometimes, it’s more of a status update. But if you’d like to suggest some changes based on what you find during the review, the end of your analytics report is a great place to offer actionable ideas. You have the benefit of being backed up by data, and you can demonstrate your ability to use that data to move your mission forward.

For example, if your data shows that emails are the best way to get online donations, you could recommend adding an extra email to each fundraising campaign in the future.

Refresh Your Reports

Compiling website analytics reports isn’t a task that many marketers look forward to. It can be very challenging to distill down the most important information and translate it for others. Using this approach, you can prioritize your goals and set yourself up for effective marketing strategies that are driven by actual data.

Where do you struggle when it comes to putting together analytics reports? Have any advice for nonprofits just getting started with data reviews? Do you have a style or format that works well for your audience? Let’s talk in the comments.