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Understanding Your Audience, Part 2: Measuring Your Website's Effectiveness

Just a few clicks away is a powerful, free tool that can help you assess the effectiveness of your websitein helping meet your nonprofit's goals. In Part 2 of a series on leveraging Google Analytics, Convio's Alissa Ruehl explains why it's essential to track changes to audience and audience behavior by setting goals around online Key Performance Indicators. "Keep your eyes on the KPIs," she says, and these measurable data points will provide invaluable insight into your online success.

In Part 1 of this series, I pointed out a few of the ways you can use Google Analytics to gain a better understanding of your audience. The next step is to keep track of changes to audience and audience behavior. Your audience can change over time, or change behaviors as they adapt to new technology. Adjustments to your website can affect your visitor behavior as well.

One great way to keep track these elements is to set goals around online Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), measurable data points that give insight into your online success. Some common examples are:

- Number of visitors
- Visit frequency
- Time spent on site
- Page views per visitor
- % of new visits & % of repeat visits
- % of visits from your target geography
- Mailing list signups
- Event registrations
- Donations

One data point will never tell you the whole story.

Sometimes you’ll want more granular KPIs. Rather than simply “donations,” you might choose to separately track general donations and donations to a special fund, giving you two different donation KPIs.

You always want to focus on more than one KPI, because one data point will never tell you the whole story. However, too many will be overwhelming. Typically, you’ll want to get started with 4 to 6 KPIs.

For each data point, ask yourself: How does this affect my organization’s success? 

For example, you may observe an increase in visitors reading about an issue we want to generate awareness around. You have just identified a key metric.

The best insight comes from looking at KPI changes over time, both in the short term and over quarters and years.

Sometimes, you may find your answer to one question references another data point: for example, more visitors means more people will sign up for our event. In that case, you should skip straight to the important metric and use that as a KPI instead.

Finally, create a process to track your KPIs, starting with your initial benchmark and then focusing on changes over time. Monthly reporting is sufficient for most organizations. Another alternative is to track before and after snapshots when major events happen, such as changes to the website or a direct mail drop intended to drive traffic to your site.

Industry benchmarks around your KPIs can be helpful for understanding what you need to improve, but the best insight comes from looking at the changes over time of your own KPIs, both in the short term and over quarters and years.

Alissa Ruehl is a User Researcher for Convio, a leading provider of constituent engagement solutions for nonprofits. Through Convio’s Connection Cafe blog, Alissa helps nonprofit professionals more effectively use Google Analytics to enhance their online marketing efforts. 

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