It's time to stop thinking of your webstats as, well, webstats. If you've put your organisation on the web, then webstats are just stats... stats about you, your supporters, your service users and your cause.

They can give you insights that can make a real difference to your organisation.

We can see what’s popular and what’s not, what section of a support guide is the most popular, what people are searching for most on your site, and even what town or city they’re in.

Learning how to work with this information can give you real intelligence to improve your comms, and also provide a big boost to your impact statistics and funder reports. After all, someone accessing a support resource online is just as good as them taking a copy of the leaflet from the library.

Here’s 5 important questions every non-profit needs answers to, and how your web statistics can give you the answers.

If you don’t have web analytics, Google provides a free service (called Google Analytics, funnily enough). If you don’t have the technical expertise to set this up,get in touch with us. We’re installing it for free for socially motivated organisations.

How are people finding you?

Looking at how people are finding you online can give you an insight into how popular you are, how you measure up to the competition, and what your service users and supporters know and trust you for best. Not just online, but more generally too.

There’s three places your website visitors can come from:

  • Direct: typing your web address in their web browser.
  • Search engines: like Google, Yahoo and Bing.
  • Referring sites: by clicking on a link to your site from another website.

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Your web analytics tool will tell you how many people came from each, and what the proportions of traffic are, like in the pie chart above from Google Analytics.

If you do a lot of offline marketing, printing your web address on leaflets, posters or TV ads, you’ll find you get lots of direct traffic.

If you’re well regarded by other people, organisations and perhaps the media, you’ll find lots of referring site traffic. Social media success also boosts referred users as links on people’s Twitter feeds or Facebook walls are counted just like a link from The Guardian’s website.

You can see a list of all the sites that point to yours, and how many people they send your way. Look at this list and think about how you can get more links on the kinds of sites that send the most traffic. Also, are there any gaps? Perhaps you’re doing great on national newspaper websites, but you’re seeing no traffic from social media sites, indicating people just aren’t talking about your organisation online.

If you, or the things you write about, are things people seek out and want to know more about, you’ll find you get lots of search engine traffic, of which there are two kinds.

Branded search traffic means visits from people typing in your organisation name or acronym into Google (or any search engine). Whilst this is great, and shows people know or are hearing about your brand, it’s not developing new awareness.

Unbranded search traffic means visits from people searching for information on a topic. This is the best kind of traffic, as it connects people looking for support information, or to take action, on your cause and connects them to your brand.

If you’re seeing very little unbranded traffic then it’s a sign that your organisation might be internally focused, and talk more about itself than the cause it works towards in its marketing and comms. It’s also likely your competitors are benefiting from lots of new awareness whilst your audience remains more static.

Who's finding you?

Lots of traffic is great. But are all these thousands of people in your target audience, are they who you’re funded to support, are they potential supporters?

The most dramatic thing your web stats can tell you is where in the country the majority of the interest in your organisation is. Google Analytics has a map overlay feature, which shows the distribution of visits across the country. It can’t figure it out for every visitor, but it can enough times to give you a good picture of how concentrated interest is in your organisation, and if you’re locally focused, London centric, or fully National.

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If your audience is mostly professional, you might find they’re browsing from work throughout the day, and that your traffic is dead on weekends. Google Analytics makes this easy to see with it’s graph by time feature below.

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Also, just the simple act of looking at what search terms are leading people to your site, and what pages people are looking at the most gives big clues not just about the situation of the person, but what they’re thinking about, interested in or worried about at the point of contact.

Lastly, don’t forget to look outside your analytics. If your website has a comment form or an e-mail address on it, then it’s likely you’re getting direct contact with some of your visitors. What are they saying? What are they asking?

Also, you may find that people are discussing your organisation and website on sites like Facebook, Twitter or even their own blogs. Searching for your organisation name and web address on these sites and reading the profiles of those discussing you can give you a big insight into their interests and other concerns.

Are you interesting?

Speaking of interests, the biggest factor on your success online is probably your ability to say things people want to know.

Clues to how successful you are at doing this come from Site Usage information in your analytics, example from Google below…

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The total number of visits gives you an instant view of your popularity. Having tens of thousands of users a week is no good if they’re just giving your site a cursory glance, though.

Pages per visit gives you a count of the average number of pages viewed by each visitor. Higher counts are generally a good thing, particularly when combined with a good average time on site, shown in minutes/seconds, as this shows they weren’t just clicking around lost, but actively reading the content.

If you’re mis-selling yourself online, or your webpages are just plain ugly and confusing, you’re going to see a high bounce rate. This is the percentage of people that land on your website, then leave again without going any further. Anything over 50% is generally a cause for concern.

People love to share things they find interesting, so also look to social media sites and blogs to find mentions of your organisation or content. The benefit here is that they’re often tied to comments, and user biographies, which can give you further insights into your demographic.

If you have a search box on your website, this can provide a neat way to see what people think is lacking on your website. Google Analytics can track what people are searching for on your website. Usually this is because they’re struggling to find something they’d expect to be there, or they’d really want to read. Just looking through this and writing the appropriate content to fill the gaps is time very well spent.

Are you building relationships?

People don’t marry on the first date. If you’re going to get the most out of your audience, it’s crucial to build trust and engagement over time.

Analytics shows you if the same people are returning to your website, and which pages they thought deserved a second look.

Looking at the site usage stats above, you’ll see an indicator called % New Visits. What counts as good depends on what you’re aiming at, new awareness or strong relationships. In the main, though, the lower the percentage of new visits the more people are coming back for more.

You can also see how often visitors are coming back each month, generally speaking, the more frequently you publish new content, the more frequent you’ll see your visitors returning to check for new content.

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Keeping them coming back is just the first step, though.

Asking your repeat visitors to take gradually more valuable actions in support of your organisation or cause has to be the holy grail of online engagement.

Are people taking action?

Hopefully you’ve already got systems in place that let you know when someone donates on your website, signs up to your newsletter or applies to be a volunteer. Analytics can take this a step further though.

The first thing to do is work out your conversion rate. This is easy. All you’ve got to do is take the number of visitors to your site, and divide it by the number people you know have taken some action on your website that month. So, let’s say you had 10,000 visitors, and 100 people donated, volunteered, wrote to their MP, or signed up for updates then you’re conversion rate is 100 / 10,000 = 1%.

The question now is, what’s different about this 1% of your audience to the rest? Google analytics can give you some strong clues.

Using a mix of the techniques described above, you can see where in the country these people are based, what time of day they tend to visit, if they come from a particular website or search engine term and most importantly, what did they read on your website that convinced them to bite the bullet and take action?

This information gives a crucial insight into which of your marketing messages have impact.

If you’re feeling extra geeky, setting up Goals in Google Analytics is a way to generate even more data about your converts. Including how you might be losing some of them before the get to click that crucial ‘Confirm Donation’ button using funnel visualisation (below).

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It’ll also show you the most popular things people looked at before being moved to click donate, or sign up for the newsletter, using the ‘reverse goal path’ feature’.

Things to do

Sometimes running a non-profit campaign can feel like feeling around in the dark. Web analytics can help turn the light on, by giving you clues about the who, what, where and why’s that people are interested in your organisation or cause.

If you want to get started, here’s some things to do. If this sounds a little out of your comfort zone, we offer free support and advice to help socially motivated organisations make the most of the web, so don’t hesitate to get in touch today.

  • Install Google Analytics or a similar tool and check it at least once per month.
  • Check your bounce rate, if it’s looking too high then try and get an outside opinion of why that might be.
  • Look at who your audience is, and decide where you need to develop it.
  • Fill in the blanks with new content, targeted at missing audience groups.
  • Examine what’s working, and keep repeating it to generate more traffic.
  • Spread the insights you discover from your webstats to the rest of your organisation, as they can use this to tailor offline activity too.

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Reason Digital News