Increased web traffic is critical to your organization, right? After all, don’t more website visitors mean more people reached for the Kingdom?
Let’s talk analytics. (Don’t tune me out yet; analytics isn’t that awful!) I’m a fan of using Google Analytics to uncover how people interact with websites and mobile apps. The data Google Analytics presents can reveal much about a Christian organization’s digital marketing strategy and help Christian corporations, non-profits and ministries make better business and marketing decisions.
But some organizations tend to look just at web traffic numbers and not much else. For example, I’ve known some marketing directors who log into Google Analytics, stop at the Audience Overview metrics shown upon login, take them at face value and log out. These metrics show web traffic numbers for the last 30 days—displayed by total number of sessions (period of times in which visitors have interacted with a website), pageviews (total number of website pages viewed within a specified period of time), and total number of users (number of website visitors, categorized either as a new visitor or a returning visitor).
What really matters isn’t increased web traffic. What really matters is where that traffic comes from and what those people are doing on your website.
Some people will get to your site and quickly leave. This is called a bounce. Others will take some time and look around. Both types of web visitors count toward your overall web traffic.
What you really want is for visitors to take action on your site—whether that’s registering for an event, signing up for an email list, downloading a podcast, listening to a sermon or even buying from you. This is called a conversion. When a web visitor converts, they are more likely to walk through your doors, become a member, become a donor, or if you’re a commerce company, become a returning customer.
Digging deeper into Google Analytics can reveal much more about the effectiveness of a Christian organization’s digital marketing strategy. You can uncover how people got to your website and what people are doing on your website. Then adjust your marketing strategy and outreach efforts from there.
If you don’t already have Google Analytics installed, you should do that now. Here are the steps to take.
Though there are many important metrics to analyze, below are 5 super important things Google Analytics reveals about Christian digital marketing strategy:
1. Which digital channel drives more website visitors. Rather than guessing if people are going to your site from Twitter, email or by searching Bing, you can tell for sure. Log into your Google Analytics account and make sure you’re on the Reporting tab. Navigate to Acquisition → Overview and scroll down. This will give you a quick snapshot of which of your digital channels is driving the most traffic to your site.
From this screen grab, you can see that Organic Search (visitors who get to your website after searching in Google, Bing or another search engine) is the top channel that drove traffic to this website for the time period viewed. Look to the right and you can see that Organic Search also had the lowest bounce rate of all other channels for this website. In other words, people searched in Google, got to this website and spent time looking through the site.
Social, on the other hand, didn’t yield as many visitors for this time period. And those visitors tended to bounce away rather than go deeper into the site. Does that mean the social channel was ineffective? No, not really. It likely means that social followers did what this organization asked them to do: click on the link being shared in social and read the corresponding web page (or post).
It’s also possible this organization asked people in social media to sign up for something or download a sermon, for example. That would only require a visitor to visit one web page to do those things. In other words, website visitors may have converted and also bounced. The conversion is the key. If this organization has a marketing goal of getting people to share content from its website in social media, then I would look at the organization’s social metrics and see if website visitors also shared content.
By default, Google Analytics will show you data from the last 30 days. But you can change this to see what’s been happening on your site for the last year, two years, longer or even just a day ago. For example, if you conducted a one-day social media campaign, it may be helpful just to view the impact it had on your web traffic just for that day. If you conducted a week-long event, you’ll get better data if you adjust the dates in Google Analytics for the dates of the event.
2. Which digital channel drives more website conversions. From the Audience Overview tab, I think it’s also helpful to compare how website visitors were acquired, whether or not they bounced from the site and whether or not they converted. Here is an example:
From this screen grab, Direct (people who typed in the URL directly) drew most of the traffic here, but the bounce rate is higher (81.9%) and conversion rate is lower (2.59%). Yet web traffic from email is lower, bounce rate is lower (44.4%) and conversion rate is higher (5.56%).
So which channel is more effective for conversion?
Direct actually has the better conversion rate given the number of sessions generated by that channel. People probably went to the home page, signed up for something, then left (which is why the bounce rate is higher).
Email, on the other hand, seems to be better at getting people to spend a little more time on the website. Even though the conversion rate is higher at 5.56%, given the percentage of traffic coming from email, the number of people signing up after coming to the site from email is much lower than the 2.59% of people who signed up after coming to the site directly. As you would expect. If they are already getting the email, then there’s really no reason for them to sign up again.
The point is: Don’t look at numbers and take them at face value. Dig in and figure out what really happened.
3. Which pages are most visited on your site. Knowing which of your pages people are visiting the most can tell you what people want and also how well you’re promoting that page in your content marketing. Go to Behavior → Site Content → Content Drilldown.
This will show your most popular pages in descending order. Your home page (indicated by /) will typically always be the most visited page.
If you go down one level to Landing Pages, you can see which pages visitors enter your site through. Here’s where you can tell if your content marketing efforts are impacting where visitors enter your site: Select “Secondary dimension:” and then from the drop down menu, select “Behavior” then “Source/Medium.” This will tell you which source sent traffic to each landing page, whether it’s a search engine, Facebook, email, Twitter, another website or something else.
So if you want more web traffic from Facebook, then you may need to tweak your Facebook marketing. If you want more traffic from search engines, then you may need to work on SEO (search engine optimization).
4. Which platforms people use to access your website. It’s really important to look at the platforms website visitors use to interact with your website. You need to know this so you can optimize your website for all types of devices and operating systems. If much of your visitors are viewing your website on their iPhone, but you don’t have a mobile website, they probably won’t get a very good experience, and they’ll leave. Google also doesn’t like this, and they could drop your site in their rankings. Conversely, if your website is highly optimized for mobile, and your visitors are mostly interacting with your website during church services (say, to access sermon notes), then they’ll have a great experience, and you’ll be rewarded for that in rankings.
Go to Audience → Technology → Browser & OS and then also Audience → Mobile → Overview to see which operating systems and device type your visitors are using to interact with your site.
5. Which pages visitors see as exit signs to leave your website. It’s important to know if you’re seeing big drop offs in the number of people leaving your website at certain pages. If they are going to important landing pages on your website, but not converting or not going further into your site, then consider what you can do to with that page to keep them moving through your site or persuade them to convert.
Go to Behavior → Behavior Flow and you can see how visitors are flowing through your website. We discussed earlier that “/” indicates the home page. You’ll almost always see big drop offs (indicated by the red down arrows) on that page. A lot of people will just want to get a quick glance at what your organization is about. But if you also aren’t seeing lots of other people flowing to other pages, then consider what’s happening with your home page that’s causing people to bounce away. Is there a call to action on your home page? What are you asking visitors to do? Is your home page simply just information, and visitors really have no need to dig deeper into your website?
If important landing pages aren’t persuading people to convert (you’d see them then flow to another page, like a “/thank-you/” page for example, after signing up for your email list), and you’re seeing lots of drop offs instead for that page, then take a close look at that page. Do you need to make the call to action on that page clearer to them? Do you need to add a very clear pop up that appears just before a visitor leaves the site, asking them download your latest ebook? Is something broken on that page that’s causing people to bounce away? You may just need small adjustments on important pages to keep visitors engaged, converting or flowing through the rest of your site.
So there you have 5 super important things Google Analytics can reveal about your Christian organization’s digital marketing strategy.
That wasn’t so terrible, right? A good analytics talk can do a person good every now and then. 🙂 Especially when it comes to gauging how effective your digital strategy is—from content to social to website optimization to email to PR and more.
What are your thoughts? What tools or metrics does your organization use to gauge success? Please comment or share on Facebook or Twitter (and use #GetFoundGiveHope so I can respond). Thanks for hanging with me!