As you may know, I was elected the webmaster of iDiversity in September. This position is awesome! I’ve redesigned a website and the logo, and I get to learn/practice webmaster skills that I will hopefully get to put into use in a professional position. What more can you ask from a student organization??
One of those skills is learning how to use Google Analytics. For those of you who don’t know what Google Analytics is, it’s a free service from Google that lets you collect data about how people access and use your site. This doesn’t mean that Google gives you personal information or anything invasive–it just allows the person using the service lots of information they can use to make their website better.
Unfortunately, when the iDiversity President asked me to report on the Google Analytics data, I had no idea what I was looking at or how to use the data I had. I ended up doing some research, and figured out there were some key parts of the data that I could use to improve our website. Here is how I use the data:
1. New vs. Returning Users over different periods of time
iDiversity’s tagline is “We look forward to learning with you!” Our website acts as a place where we can not only share news and events with our members, but also as a virtual learning place. As such, it’s important for our website to attract new users who are interested in diversity and have something to say. Tracking how many new users vs. returning users allows us to see if we’re encouraging repeat visits and if we are actually attracting new people to the site.
2. Track new visitors against significant events
iDiversity hosts a lot of events and manages to publish blog posts about once a month. At the moment, we don’t generate a lot of content, but it’s good to be able to put a concrete number to the content we do create. Tracking website views–especially new visits–allows us to understand how much attention we’re generating with our content. It also gives us another measuring point of success for our blogs and events.
3. Discover visitor paths
Learning how people actually navigate the site and where they navigate away from the site allows us to decide if certain elements of the site are actually needed. For example, we currently have a page that aggregates Google news results for “diversity.” This page does not generate much traffic, so it will be up for a reconsideration discussion. If no one uses a page, there’s no reason for it to exist. Additionally, it’s good to know whether or not people are engaged with our site. If someone briefly visits and leaves–then we’re doing something wrong. Maybe we’re not generating enough content or maybe our navigation isn’t clear.
I’m still learning how to make Google Analytics work for us–but I think I’ve got a pretty good start. You can definitely be sure that there will be more posts on the topic!
If you’d like to start learning how to use Google Analytics, take a look at these articles. I’ve found them to be very useful:
- Using Google Analytics for Improving Library Website Content and Design: A Case Study by Wei Fang
- 11 Google Analytics Tricks to Use for Your Website by Eugene Oprea
- HOW TO USE GOOGLE ANALYTICS, From How to Use Google Analytics by Christopher Butler
Additionally, Google Analytics has an amazing help center that lays out all of the features and gives you instructions and examples of how to use them. The help section focuses more on revenue sites (e.g., online stores or sites that have paid advertising), but can still be helpful for non-profit sites, too!
Does anyone else use Google Analytics? What have you found to be most helpful, or the most confusing?