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Dialing In the Right Google Analytics Settings

Google Analytics is one of the most powerful tools a nonprofit (or anyone) can use for tracking and monitoring digital analytics and online marketing efforts, and even better… it’s free!

Nonprofits can benefit enormously from using the free tools available to them in Google Analytics and use that data to improve their online marketing efforts.  Alas, that’s not how it usually works.  It’s all too common to set up your account, generate the tracking code and slap it into the backend of your website.  Sound familiar?  Just a few more steps will provide you the data you really need to provide an accurate picture of your organization’s digital analytics.

1. Know Your Account Structure & Set Up Different Views

I had been using Google Analytics to monitor online activity for a nonprofit for several years.  I thought I had most of the important stuff down pat.  Then I completed the GA Digital Analytics Fundamentals course and certification last fall.  One of the biggest light bulb moments for me was a deeper understanding of how the account structure works.

  • Accounts – the highest level and the access point
  • Properties – within each account, you can have one or more properties where you collect data. Each property has its own tracking ID, typically an account will have one property per website, blog, or other online space
  • Views – for each property, can can create multiple views of your data

Create three views to protect and manage your data – an unfiltered view, a master view with all of your settings applied, and a test view to experiment with your configuration before applying changes to your master view.

2. Filters Are Your Friends

If you don’t setup filters on a view, Google Analytics will capture everything, including data that might be irrelevant.  We are just as shocked as you are.  Do you really want to include visits to your website by your staff? Maybe you want to only look at traffic from within the geographic area you work in.  Or maybe you’re seeing the same page showing up multiple times in reports with uppercase and lowercase page names.  Applying filters can fix all of these and help transform the data you’re capturing into data that’s useful to achieving your goals.

3. Most Nonprofits Need Cross Domain Tracking

Many of our clients have a main domain name where their website lives, and a separate secure domain that powers their donation forms, event registrations, surveys etc. Let’s imagine that you have a WordPress website and you use Blackbaud’s Luminate Online for online marketing tools.  This means that your donation forms, email sign up forms and other information-capturing elements registrations live on a separate secure domain.

Google Analytics requires that you make some important adjustments to your tracking code to be able to track visitors as they move from the non-secure domain (your main website pages) to the secure domain (where your forms live).  Setting up cross domain tracking will let your analytics data see what content and marketing efforts are driving people to take action and make donations on your site.

Some organizations choose to create a separate property for their secure domain, but we think cross domain tracking using the same property is a better way to manage your analytics.  The setup requires that you have a basic knowledge of HTML and JavaScript, or you can work with a web developer to do this.

With all of this free analytics power it’s easy for the accidental techie to feel intimidated by Google Analytics.  It’s also easy for you to get started with these small steps to make sure your data is working for you (and not the other way around)!

Need help setting up your Google Analytics in the most useful way? Get in touch with us.

Leave a comment below and let us know what questions you have about using Google Analytics to improve your nonprofit website.


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