7 Easy Ways to Boost Your Nonprofit Marketing Impact with Google Analytics

Here’s a scenario I hear all the time from nonprofit marketing folks: We know we should be looking at how our website is doing, but we don’t even have the time to figure out how to start.

Instead, many of you persist in building out your site or blog based on what you think your base is interested in or what you think is the way they enter your site. But here’s the problem with that—it’s all about you, and everything you do nonprofit marketing wise has to be about your audience if you want to engage and motivate them to give, volunteer or sign a petition.

The core insights you need to know are how your site users are finding your site (or blog), and how they interact with it. Analytics:

  • Consistently quantify site performance and usage. Remember though, that comparison of findings among sites doesn’t mean a thing, since each site has unique goals and audiences. Focus on tracking metrics on your site over time, from the baseline of right now.
  • Build your understanding of how or if your site or blog is meeting stated objectives critical to achieving communications goals.
  • Suggest approaches for course correction if necessary.

So, I urge you to take one to two hours to set up a website analytics (usage measurement) tool. I recommend Google Analytics to our nonprofit clients, and use it myself, because it is reliable, easy to use, and free but there are other strong tools out there as well.

Getting Started with Website Analytics

When you’re thinking about measuring the impact of your website, start with your desired outcomes rather than scanning the dozens of metrics every analytics program provides. Your goals for your site will highlight the metrics that matter.

Your first steps are to:

  1. Define site goals.
  2. Pinpoint measurable objectives that will demonstrate your moving towards reaching your goals.
  3. Identify, as specifically as possible, the target audiences you need to engage to meet your objectives.

Who Should be Involved
The individual closest to site content and goals should be in charge of website analytics, analyzing them to understand what’s working and what’s not, and making decisions on changes. Google Analytics is quite simple to set up but if you need a bit of help, turn to your organization’s website developer or IT consultant for a brief consult.

Set Up is Quick and Simple
For Google Analytics, set up is four steps away:

  1. Set up an analytics account (you’ll need a Google account, if you don’t have one already, you can create one).
  2. Insert the tracking code that’s generated into every single page on your site and/or post on your blog. (If you need help with this, ask your website developer or IT consultant.)
  3. To track conversions—the page a user gets to only once they’ve taken a key action such as making a donation or providing information to get a free research report—set up goals and insert a unique conversion code on the goal (or “end result”) page such as your donation thank you page. Also, track where these users came from (a page on another site or yours, a Google ad or a link on a colleague organization’s site), at which time of the day, and how long they stayed on your site (this pathway is called the funnel, and can also be tracked by Google Analytics).
  4. Set up a scannable “dashboard” highlighting key stats. I review our dashboards for the Nancy Schwartz & Company and GettingAttention.org sites on a daily basis, and frequently use them to make decisions.
    Google Analytics Dashboard

The 7 Website Usage Metrics You Need to Track

When you’re thinking about measuring the impact of your website, start with your desired outcomes, not with analytic reports. Your goals for your site will pinpoint the metrics that matter.So rather than opening your analytics tool and getting overwhelmed by all the bells and whistles, focus on factors that will help you understand the whys and whats around your desired outcomes. Here are the key analytics for most organizations:

Top Fixed Metrics
1. Keywords — What top 20 words and phrases (keywords) your users enter into Google or other search engines that drive them to your site?

  • Reveals: What people want from your site.
    • For most of the people who come to your site, it’s very hard to understand their intent.
    • But knowing these top search terms is like mind reading.
  • Action Items:
    • Develop more content related to these terms for your site, and increase use of terms (within reason, search engines can smell manipulation from a mile away) within the site. Catering to users builds traffic.
    • Search on Google and Yahoo for your site’s ranking on these terms (where your site stands in the list of search results).
    • If your website doesn’t come up on the first page when you search on these terms, do more search engine optimization (SEO) to move up the list.  (More on SEO in coming months.)
  • Alert:
    • If these terms are not aligned with your organizations focus and/or communications goals, you have a lot of work to do to revise your content to reflect the words and phrases that are central to your organization’s agenda and promote your site to drive interested users your way.

2. Top referring web addresses

  • Reveals: Which websites your users are coming from.
  • Action Items:
    • If you have not initiated a relationship with the top 10 referring sites, do it now. These are your friends.
    • If you see that there are sites that should be sending you traffic but aren’t, contact them to form an alliance and discuss linking to your site.
  • Alert:
    • Included in the data about referring URLs is an even-more-important data sub-set: Referring websites for all users who reach a certain goal, for example, clicking through to an online petition or to a certain number of pages on the site. Make sure you set up such usage patterns as goals, and track them. These sites are your most valuable partners.

3. Top 10 pages visited (a.k.a. content popularity)

  • Reveals: Why users are coming to your site.
    • May validate your goals and expectations, or not!
  • Action Items:
    • Milk those top 10 pages, making sure you link out from other pages in your site to what you consider your key content from those pages.
    • Look at conversion rates on these pages. If they’re not good (2% or more), then adjust the graphic and/or narrative elements on the conversion (e.g. subscribing to emails, downloading or contacting you via an email link or form).
    • Create more content and functionality around what is drawing users’ attention.
    • Evaluate if what you are trying to draw attention to is what users are looking at.
  • Alert:
    • If your site users aren’t getting to the pages most vital to your nonprofit marketing success, revise the content, SEO elements and/or site architecture for those pages. Also, link to them from your most-visited pages.

4. Percentage of site visitors who visit the home page

  • Usually Reveals: Why you shouldn’t put so much focus, and dependence, onto home page use.
    • Most users will enter the site via a search engine or another site, directly to an internal page.
  • Action Items:
    • Knowing home page usage levels enables you to better calibrate the resources dedicated to your homepage versus most-used internal pages.
    • In many cases, sites spend far too much effort on their home page and far too little on popular internal pages.

5. Site bounce rate

  • Reveals: The number of visitors who stay on your site just a few seconds, so weren’t engaged.
    • 35-50% is the norm.
  • Action Items:
    • Before you can put this info to use, you have to figure out how long a user has to be on your site to be considered engaged.
    • To get a sense of this, ask a few people to run through a typical scenario on your site (making an online donation or finding program information), and time it.
    • See guidance from web usability guru Jakob Nielsen, Reduce Bounce Rates: Fight for the Second Click.
    • Dig deeper to identify which referring keywords and inbound links (web addresses linking to your site) generate traffic with high bounce rates. This is traffic you don’t want.
      • De-emphasize these keywords in site content and tags.
      • Visit these referring sites to ensure you’re linked to in a way that accurately reflects your site content. If not, request a correction, providing a more effective blurb to make it easy to change.

6. Conversion Rate (goals and funnel)

  • Reveals: The percentage of site users who “convert” by subscribing to e-alerts, making a donation or however else you measure conversion. For example, you can track how many users reach your donation page and what percentage of them makes a donation.
  • Reveals: Which marketing channel (your organization’s e-news, links from colleague organizations or the Google Ads you just launched last month) produces the majority of your conversions, enabling you to focus on those and cutting the non-performers.
    • 2% is the standard conversion rate.
    • The “conversion funnel” report (in Google analytics) reveals what pathways to and through your site are most likely to lead users to conversion.

7. Most Frequently Searched for Keywords (assuming your site has a site search tool)

  • Reveals: What users are looking for within your organization’s site.
  • Action Item:
    • Make keywords more prominent in core content elements (home page, headlines, sub-heads and site menu) and title tags.

Top Trending Metrics
Don’t forget to note how usage is growing over time—month over month, year over year—in these data points.

  • Unique visitors.
  • Repeat visitors.
  • Pages per visit.
  • Conversions, including:
    • File downloads.
    • Online donations.
    • E-newsletter sign-ups.
    • Inquiries (via email/form).
  • Time visitors spend on the site (although far less relevant now that browsers enable users to keep multiple windows/sites open concurrently.)

How are you using web analytics to strengthen your nonprofit marketing impact?

What are the top website usage metrics your organization focuses on to understand your audience and improve your site? And what’s your process for putting those insights to work?

Please leave a comment below today so I can share your expertise with the Getting Attention community.

Can Social Networking Sites – like MySpace & FaceBook – Deliver for Nonprofits? (Case Study)

I recently read about the amazing primary victory by Peter Franchot, a candidate for Maryland Comptroller. It was amazing because the victory was generated primarily via volunteers recruited, motivated and managed through social networking sites – MySpace and Facebook to be specific.

What’s compelling about the Franchot campaign is the warp speed – only four weeks – with which 23-year-old organizer Jacob Colker recruited 80% of the entire volunteer base (by searching for college students in the region whose profiles indicated a poli sci major and liberal perspective) and put them to work making 15,000 phone calls and dropping 50,000 pieces of campaign literature. Pretty incredible, very inexpensive, very easy and very likely to have implications for your nonprofit.

Colker, who learned his social-networking tricks of the trade promoting his band, speaks here on how nonprofits can put these tools to work to increase visibility, raise awareness about time-sensitive issues (great for advocacy), and solicit donations and volunteers:

GA: What social networking sites have the greatest potential for nonprofits seeking supporters, donors or volunteers, and why?

COLKER: Myspace.com, Facebook.com, and Care2.com, hands down.

MySpace and Facebook are built around groups. Using them successfully is based on a user’s ability to customize a unique online page that is a direct reflection of his personality. In this virtual world, choosing the color scheme, illustrative material, background music, and page layout is comparable to choosing a hairstyle or outfit in the physical world.

Recent research results tell us that regular users visit MySpace 10 to 20 times daily. Can you identify anything (other than email) that you do that much on a daily basis? This active participation creates a phenomenal opportunity for nonprofits to engage new and loyal audiences. And keep in mind that more than half of MySpace users are over 25.

Your nonprofit can place job listings in the classified ad section, announce upcoming events, post videos (a great channel for advocacy videos), and create your own group. There are over 10,000 nonprofit groups already. Experiment. The risk is low.

Until now, Facebook has maintained an exclusive approach to membership, with users having to attend one of a selection of colleges or universities to view the profiles of others attending the same school. However, Facebook has just opened up to the unaffiliated, and is a great way to reach a targeted audience at a specific school (at this point, most users are still college students) or in a specific location.
Register at Facebook to survey opportunities for your nonprofit.

Care2 represents a newer development in social networking – the niche social network, a vertical specialization representing specific interests. It’s similar to MySpace and Facebook, but with a nonprofit focus. Your nonprofit can use Care2 to create or join cause-focused groups; start, promote and/or sign petitions; share photos; and solicit donations and volunteers.

7,000 new members per day are joining Care2, so it’s growing very quickly. Total users now number 6 1/2 million, far fewer than the “commercial” sites. But remember, these are pre-qualified users, self-identified supporters of nonprofit issues and organizations.

Care2 works with close to 150 different nonprofit organizations, and being the first of its kind, is a pioneering vehicle for nonprofit advocacy via social networking.
Explore Care2’s communities in issue areas from environmental affairs to human rights.

GA: You are renowned for having used the same strategies you used to build your band’s loyal fan base to Franchot’s campaign. Tell me how this worked.

COLKER: Actually, volunteers, like fans, are never truly loyal. They come and go and you have to keep recruiting to maintain your ranks.

Here’s my six-step fan program:

  1. Develop loyalty by showing people that what they are doing is beneficial.
  2. Create accountability for each person. Provide goals, specific expectations, and follow up.
  3. Create incentive, time pressure and rewards.
  4. Reinforce training over and over again.
  5. Reward, thank, reward, and thank again. When you make people feel good, they will stick around. Retention is easier than recruitment.
  6. Include each person’s opinion in decision- making. If people feel that their input is valued, they are more likely to stay loyal and active.

GA: Of course, it’s vital to target the sites that match the demographics for a particular advocacy or volunteer campaign. Who’s using Facebook, MySpace, Care2 and the other main social networking sites?

COLKER: Traditionally, very young, technologically-savvy people use these websites. Recently, older individuals are gravitating to these sites as well.

It all comes back to the group mentality, the ability to customize or personalize a profile, and to share your personality with others. Older individuals are just as likely to want to take advantage of that provided they can get past the learning curve, and their peers are active in the same social network. It does require a critical mass of participation.

Here are some recent user stats:

  • MySpace: Broadest appeal throughout age groups — 58% of users are 25-54, 41% are 35-54.
  • Facebook: Winner in 18-24 niche. Keep your eye on post- college growth.
  • Care2: 6.5 million users, no stats yet.

More info on online community usage.

GA: Now that the election is around the corner, what would you do differently next round?

COLKER: This is actually my second round using social networking sites to push a particular candidate. The first attempt was a failure – I focused only on MySpace. This time around, I tried a host of social networking sites to pinpoint which ones worked best for Franchot.

We didn’t get the volume I was shooting for, but we did get enough to push our candidate over the top.

To provide a frame of reference, a political campaign – like any nonprofit advocacy campaign – is not exclusively about volunteers. It is a coordinated effort integrating fundraising, field, press, events and advertising strategies.

A good field program will bring in from 4 to 12% of overall votes cast for a candidate. I believe that the program we ran for Franchot brought in around 7% or roughly 15,000 votes.

Keep in mind that it’s hard to find volunteers for a “down-ballot” race (a race that is not exactly the most important race in people’s minds), to work in a time period still within the confines of summer vacation (very limited access to students who are traditionally the bread-and-butter volunteers), get them excited and trained, build a willingness to work very hard, and create a desire to return to volunteer day after day. You have to get creative. That’s where online social networking comes in.

GA: Playing the social networking game takes time, and some money. Any guidance for time-strapped nonprofit communicators who now, with the introduction of these social networking tools, have more channels than ever to handle? How should we prioritize?

COLKER: I think the first step is to get someone on the job – as a staffer or consultant – whom understands the concept and process of social networking into the mix of your organization.

The second step is trial and error. I have worked on campaigns on both sides of the country, and I can tell you first hand that every region or district is different. Every campaign is different. Tactics that may have worked for your organization once on a particular issue, may not deliver the same outcome under different factors. You have to find what works for your organization, diversifying your investment.

This approach necessitates the third step, which is developing patience. It takes time to build momentum and create a buzz.

GA: Any last tips for nonprofit marketers delving into the world of social networking?

COLKER: I believe that you need patience over all else, and the help of someone savvy with both these technologies and organizing to handle the day-to-day management of social networking initiatives.

Nonprofit Marketing Wisdom Guide (Access Page)

Here it is…
The Nonprofit Marketing Wisdom Guide
Nonprofit Marketing Wisdom Guide
219 nonprofit marketing lessons learned from your colleagues in the field. Use the wisdom in this Guide to achieve stronger results than ever before.
 
 
Access the report by clicking the link above (please wait a moment for download – the file is large), or save it to your computer by right-clicking the link above and selecting “Save Target As” (IE) or “Save Link As” (FireFox). Requires Adobe Reader.

You’ll also start receiving the twice-monthly Getting Attention e-newsletter with tools, templates and in-depth case studies and articles on key nonprofit marketing topics. If you already subscribe, you’ll continue to receive the e-news on the regular schedule.

 


 

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Nancy E. Schwartz
Publisher, Getting Attention Blog & E-Newsletter
President, Nancy Schwartz & Company

Searching Your Nonprofit’s Web Site—A vs. B Makes a Huge Difference

I’m a devoted participant in Anne Holland’s blog, Which Test Won. Participant rather than reader because each week Anne offers up a challenge, asking marketing geeks like us to vote on which version of the landing page design, e-news subscription form or donate here pop-up worked best: A vs. B. These are real-life marketing case studies!

This week’s test pinpoints the best way to design the search box on your nonprofit’s website. Which do you think works best, A vs. B?

Maybe you’re thinking, “Who cares? This is such a tiny difference.” Well, the truth is that tiny differences in layout and design can make a huge difference in your results.

This test was executed by Dell Computers, where the marketers found that version A is far easier and more satisfying to use, resulting in a 7% increase in dollar value of purchases over Version B. As Anne writes, “the winning version of this test omitted the word ‘Search’ in the search bar itself, and added a button with the ‘Search’ call to action. This gives the user more direction and lessens the onus on her to interpret icons, e.g. the magnify glass. Dell used multiple variations for this test, and each variation using the magnify glass icon did not perform as well as the Search Button.”

Think about it, you could generate an increase in donations or memberships this significant with just a tiny change like this one. But you need to test to know what changes to make.

A/B testing is easy to do with digital marketing channels. It’s a doable way to get tangible insights on your network’s wants, habits and preference that are guaranteed to increase your marketing results, including fundraising. And if you’re engaging folks via the web, email and/or mobile, your tools are already in place. I’ll be writing a lot more A/B testing this year.

6 Steps to Showcasing Your Marketing ROI

I was really jolted by this Ask Nancy query I recently received. Jessica (names have been changed to protect the innocent) asks for help with the most challenging (and most critical) step in nonprofit marketing — getting the support of decision makers and colleagues for doing it right.

Q: Help — We’re losing ground past and we need professional marketing help. How do I get the budget and support to get it?
      
My organization has been in existence since the 1960s, longer than any other environmental group in the state. But, like many nonprofits, we’ve never been good at marketing ourselves, and therefore don’t have the membership base we need. As a result, we’re beginning to lose our historical advantage.
       
We clearly need professional marketing help. I’m an implementer, but I’d be far more effective working with a marketing expert who has analyzed our challenges and designed a strategy for me to implement. While leadership recognizes our need for professional marketing help, they are not moving forward in that
direction. Help!
Jessica, Outreach Manager, State Natural Resources Council

Believe me, lack of support isn’t uncommon, especially now when tensions are high and budgets low. Many nonprofit professionals either don’t understand or doubt the value (or, in some cases, the seemliness) of marketing. Others see value in marketing but are in the “just do it” camp, not understanding that professionalism is as essential here as in other fields. It is these organizations that are frequently eclipsed by competitors in membership, fundraising and awareness. As a result, their impact is significantly limited.

Build support for marketing in your org by learning how to showcase your marketing ROI (return on investment). Read my guide to building support for doing marketing right today.

Flickr Photo: William Hartz