Set goals to achieve the results you want.
I might be addicted to goal setting. I set goals for how many steps I’ll get in each day, how much money I’ll spend each month, how long I can go without eating at my favorite Mexican restaurant (not very long, as it turns out), how many likes I want to get on a Facebook post, how often I should call my parents, and what time I should go to bed by. I find that I do better—live healthier, cheaper, and happier—when I set goals, because then I know what I’m trying to achieve and can make a plan.
One of my big responsibilities in my work is managing websites. Lots of websites. I manage six regularly, and more here and there. And just like everything else in my life, I like to set goals for them. Google Analytics is a key tool that I use to set and monitor those goals.
Google Analytics is a super powerful platform that allows you to learn all kinds of things about your website and the people that visit it. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s free, and Google offers extensive training. In order to get the most out of this powerful tool to optimize your website, though, you’ll want to start setting and tracking goals (and conversions, which are another kind of goal).
A goal or conversion is a trackable action you want a user or group of users to take on your website. There are “hard” conversions and “soft” conversions, and depending on what your big picture goals are, you might set a combination of the two. Hard conversions have really objective outcomes—they’re things like making a donation, registering for an event, or subscribing to your list. With these conversions, you know exactly the benefit you get from each one, and they demonstrate a visitor has a strong intent or interest in your work. Soft conversions have a more secondary value—they’re things like the time a visitor spends on your website, how many pages they visit, or downloading a report.
Each nonprofit’s goals for their website are going to vary widely based on their overall marketing objectives. That also means I can’t write them for you! Here’s what I recommend, though:
- Measure what matters. If it’s not important to you to have a goal for newsletter sign-ups, don’t feel compelled to track it. For many nonprofits, that’s an important metric, but it might not be for you. Spend time thinking about what actions you really care about web visitors taking, and concentrate your goals on those. Your website goals should be tied to your organizational goals.
- Don’t be afraid to experiment. I have written a number of goals that I thought were great, only to find that either the results didn’t really tell me what I wanted to know, or I wasn’t as interested in the results as I thought I’d be. It’s okay to guess and test on the goals you set, and it’s okay to delete them if you’re not getting helpful information from them.
- Setting goals doesn’t help you achieve them—they just tell you where you’re aiming. Once you’ve set your goals, you’ll need to monitor them and make changes to your website and marketing in order to achieve your goals. If you’re not getting a lot of donations through your website, maybe you need to change the prominence of your “Donate” button. If your reports aren’t being downloaded, maybe they’re too hard to find or you’re not making them interesting to visitors. Collecting extra data is only useful if you use it to improve.
There are a ton of resources available to explain the mechanics of setting up goals and conversions, so I won’t go into that here, but I encourage you to get started with goal setting today! Then, once you’re hooked on taking your Google Analytics to the next level, start following Occam’s Razor—a blog all about analytics, written by the brilliant (and entertaining) Avinash Kaushik. Happy goal setting!