Winning the Internet

Is your website healthy? 6 key Google Analytics reports

After a great run, the Winning the Internet blog has been retired. However, you can still keep in touch with New Media Mentors here.

Websites are often top of mind for nonprofit professionals. In my experience, people worry that their organization’s site might not be doing what it was meant to do, but don’t really know how to evaluate that or what to do about it.  If this is weighing on you, why not give your site a quick check-up with Google Analytics? Google Analytics is an incredibly powerful tool, and it’s the first place I head when I’m trying to determine how healthy a website is—even if (especially if!) a site is brand new.

I basically poke around and look for anything out of the ordinary that could indicate a problem. Here are six key reports to check out:

1. Audience > Overview

This report allows you to see the number of visits to your website over time. Big changes in traffic patterns can indicate problems. If you see one, think about what could have caused it. For example, a major drop in traffic could be because a big campaign ended, or it could mean that your website is having problems. Develop a theory and if necessary use additional reports to confirm your suspicions. (Ex: If you think it was just a natural drop after a big campaign, look at which pages received the most traffic before and after the drop.)

2. Acquisition > Channels

This report lets you see where your traffic is coming from, rolled up at the channel level. Most organizations will see traffic from the following channels: organic search, direct, referral, social and email. If one of these is missing, ask yourself why that might be. This helped me figure out that one organization did not have Google Analytics tracking code on their action pages (no email traffic), and two others had code on their sites preventing them from being indexed by Google and listed in Google search results (no organic search traffic).

3. Behavior > Behavior Flow

Click on the homepage (often represented in Google Analytics by /) and view only that segment. This shows you how people who land on the homepage navigate your site. Is this what you expected? Are people using the site they way you want them to when they land on the home page? If not, ask yourself why. It could be that people are using the site differently from how you expected, or it could be that there’s an issue with the link/item you expected to be popular.

4. Behavior > Site Content > All Pages

This report shows the most popular pages. Are there any big surprises or disappointments here? If so, develop a theory about why that could be. For example, if you find that very little traffic is going to pages relating to a big campaign you’re pushing, you might want to evaluate what you’ve been doing to direct traffic to those pages. You also might want to check out another report that is similar, but focused on landing pages specifically: Behavior > Site Content > Landing Pages.

5. Behavior > Site Search > Search terms

If you’ve got site search setup properly, this report will show you what people have been searching for on your site. This can give you insight into popular items that are hard to find on your site, etc.

6. Behavior > Site Speed > Page Timings

Take a look at the average load time for the site as a whole. If it’s 5 seconds or less, you’re in good shape. Also sort the data by pageviews to see how quickly your most popular pages are loading. If you’re finding that several pages are taking longer than 5 seconds to load, check out the Behavior > Site Speed > Speed Suggestions report for ways to make your site load faster.

These six reports work well for conducting a quick check-up. If you’re looking for even more info, don’t be afraid to keep digging! Google Analytics is a wealth of information.


About Melissa Foley

Melissa is the Director of Training and Mentoring for Netroots Foundation and New Media Mentors. She aims to use her MBA + nonprofit background to teach organizations to use new media tools strategically.

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