Website Data Most Nonprofits Should Be Tracking

Website Data Nonprofits Should Track

Most nonprofits know they need to be using website data in some way.  But when it comes to actually putting it to good use, knowing how to avoid getting buried in the vast ocean of data you collect is crucial.

In this post we’ll quickly highlight the role website data should play in your nonprofit.  We’ll then move into three concrete pieces of website data your nonprofit should be tracking.

Website Data Should Support Website Goals

It’s important to start any discussion on using website data by first talking about website goals.  That is, what specific actions are you looking for your website visitors to take?

Strong website goals should be:

  • Specific – Website goals should be concrete, tied to individual actions (such as signing up to volunteer or making a donation).
  • Measurable – Website goals must be measureable so you can gauge your progress towards success.
  • Tied to Organizational Goals – Website goals should serve to further the mission of your organization in some way.

Before you start building your website, it’s important to determine what website success will mean for your nonprofit.  This will not only serve as a roadmap, but will also help you determine what website data you should be tracking.  You can also determine what website success will look like after you’ve built your website, but it may require you to adjust the site a bit.

Once you’ve outlined these website goals, configure your website analytics tool to measure when a visitor successfully completes a goal.  If you’re using Google Analytics, here’s how to set up website goal tracking.  Doing so will open up a world of data that would otherwise be unavailable.

Specific Website Data You Should Track

While some of the website data your nonprofit should focus on will vary based on your situation, the following three metrics are pretty broadly applicable to most organizations.

For the following recommendations, I’m using Google Analytics because it’s so widely used (and because I love it).

1. Landing Pages that Lead to the Most Conversions

First, two quick definitions:

  • Landing Page – The first page a website visitor lands on when visiting your website.
  • Conversion – A successful completion of a website goal (such as making a donation or signing up to volunteer).

The whole point of your website is to help your organization.  Looking at which landing pages are ultimately leading to the most conversions will show you which pages on your website are doing just that.

Perhaps visitors that land on an emotional blog post about a member of your community end up making donations far more frequently than visitors that land on your About page.  Knowing that, you can focus on driving more traffic to this blog post in an effort to boost your online fundraising efforts.

Steps to Measure in Google Analytics

If you’ve configured Google Analytics to track goals (as mentioned above), viewing this data is pretty simple.

  1. Click the “Advanced Segments” button in the upper left
    Visits with Conversions in Google Analytics
  2. Select “Visits with Conversions” from the list of Default Segments and click “Apply”
  3. In the left sidebar, click Content > Site Content > Landing Pages
    Website Data Landing Pages in Google Analytics

That’s it.  The report shows the number of visits that started at each landing page and ended up converting.  You’ve now got a list of which landing pages on your website led to the most conversions.

2. Traffic Sources that Lead to the Most Conversions

When looking at your conversions (defined above in case you missed it), it can also be helpful to look at which traffic sources are driving the most visitors that ultimately convert.

When viewing your website data in Google Analytics, you’ll likely encounter the following four traffic sources:

  • Search Traffic – Visitors that arrive on your website by typing a phrase into a search engine and clicking a link in the search results.
  • Referral Traffic – Visitors that arrive on your website by clicking a link on another website.  Examples of referral traffic would be visitors from articles written about you or links to your website in social media.
  • Direct Traffic – Visitors that arrive on your website by typing your URL directly into their browser.  Direct traffic also includes visitors who bookmark a page on your website in their browser and later use that bookmark to revisit your site.
  • Campaign Traffic – Visitors that arrive on your website by clicking a link that has been tagged as part of a campaign.  Such links are commonly found in email newsletters.

Knowing what traffic sources are leading to the most conversions will help you know where to focus your efforts.  Sure, you could spend all day posting updates on Facebook, but if search traffic is converting much more frequently you may want to rethink your focus.

Steps to Measure in Google Analytics

As mentioned previously, if you’ve configured Google Analytics to track your website goals, it’s pretty easy to see this data.

  1. Click the “Advanced Segments” button in the upper left
  2. Select “Visits with Conversions” from the list of Default Segments and click “Apply”
  3. In the left sidebar, click Traffic Sources > Overview
    Website Data Traffic Sources Overview in Google Analytics

Now you can see which traffic sources are sending the most visits that include a conversion to your website.  You can see where to focus more attention and if your online promotional efforts are paying off.

3. Pages with the Highest Exit Rate

Maybe you aren’t getting the number of conversions you’d like to see on your website.  In the absence of being able to ask all your visitors why they aren’t making a donation, website data can help illuminate some of the roadblocks your website visitors are encountering.

I know I’ve been throwing out definitions.  Here’s the last one for this post:

  • Exit Rate – The percentage of website visitors that leave from a given page instead of clicking to view another one.

It’s a little confusing, but an example can help.  Let’s say 10 visitors view a specific page of your website.  8 of them leave your website from this page while 2 others go look at more pages.  The exit rate for this page is 80% (since 8 of the 10 visitors left your website from this page).

Looking at exit rates can help you see if certain pages are causing a large percentage of visitors to leave your website.  It’s also a great piece of data to review after you’ve made some changes to your website.  If you’ve done your job, you should see exit rates drop on the key pages of your website.

Steps to Measure in Google Analytics

This one’s really straightforward.  No advanced segments or custom configuration required.

  1. In the left sidebar, click Content > Site Content > Exit Pages
    Website Data Exit Pages Report in Google Analytics

I told you it was straightforward.

You can either look at specific pages that are key to your website goals (like donation pages, volunteer pages, newsletter signup pages, etc.) or sort the data.  I often look at the exit rate for our most viewed pages to see which are prompting visitors to look at more info and which are leading them to leave.

Exit Rate Google Analytics Website Data

This is by no means an exhaustive list of website data you should be using to measure website success.  It’s meant as a starting point to take you past looking merely at the number of visitors to your website.

By focusing on website data that matters, you can use your site as a tool to help your nonprofit do more good in the communities you serve.

How are you using your website data?  What website data do you look at regularly?  I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

Related Reads

Using Advanced Segments in Google Analytics

Using the Landing Pages Report in Google Analytics

Defining Website Success Before You Start Building

Website Goals: Why They Matter and How to Set Helpful Ones

Image courtesy of Lainey Powell, Flickr

David Hartstein is the storyteller and measurement guy at Wired Impact where he routinely reads and writes about nonprofits and web geekery. He used to teach elementary school and often walks around barefoot. You can catch up with David on Twitter at @davharts.

4 Comments on “Website Data Most Nonprofits Should Be Tracking

  1. 1 Nancy Young March 12, 2014

    As the amateur web master for a small non-profit this info is very helpful. With you approval, I would like to reprint this for a handout at a conference I am speaking at in April. Can you provide as a pdf? Thanks!

    1. 2 David Hartstein March 18, 2014

      Hi Nancy. Thanks a lot for the comment! We’d be happy for you to share the post. I don’t have a PDF of it, but feel free to grab the contents of the post here. Also, please copy the URL in case anyone would like to leave a comment or read the original.

  2. 3 Jacob Greene February 12, 2018

    I was wondering, if you were to update this article for 2018, would you include any kind of social media metrics? What kind of social media posts do well for non-profits?

    1. 4 David Hartstein February 14, 2018

      Good question Jacob. I think it’s important to tie social media traffic to your goals as an organization (as it is with any traffic source). The good news is seeing social media traffic has actually gotten easier in Google Analytics since we wrote this post a few years back.

      You can largely follow the steps outlined in “2. Traffic Sources that Lead to the Most Conversions,” but you’ll want to use the “Converters” segment and instead of Traffic Sources > Overview you’ll want to click on Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels. You can then see how many goal completions social media drove to your website.

      If you remove the “Converters” segment from your traffic, you’ll be able to see engagement information for all of your traffic sources, including social media. You can then drill down into your Social traffic by clicking it to see which individual social media channels drove the most quantity and highest quality of traffic.

      In terms of the second part of your question, it’s tough to give a one-size-fits-all answer for what types of social media posts work well for nonprofits. But we’ve actually written about nonprofits and social media quite a bit in the past. I’d encourage you to check out our social media category on our blog. Hopefully those posts will help steer you in the right direction given your mission.

      Hope that helps!

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