A beginners guide to using Google Analytics on your charity website

Google Analytics™ web analytics service helps you to track and analyse how people found your website and what they do once they get there. It’s a vital tool used by millions of websites all over the world.

By paying attention to this data you can improve your charity website content and it’s ranking in the search engines.

This article is a basic guide on:

(I’ll also add some links at the end of the post to more in-depth articles in case you’d like to delve a little deeper in to your analytics.)

Signing up for Google Analytics™

To sign up you’ll need a Google account. (If you have an account for any of the Google products – e.g. Gmail, Blogger, Youtube – you already have a Google account and can log in with this.)

If you don’t have a Google account you can sign up for one when you click the ‘Access Analytics’ button on the Analytics home page.

Setting up a profile for your charity website

Once you’re logged in to Google or have created your new account, you should be sent back to the Analytics sign up page. Click the ‘sign up’ button and fill in the form with your website’s basic data (URL, location).

After that you’ll be given a piece of code to add to your website, usually before the </head> tag.

Installing the tracking code on your charity website

Depending on your skill level, this could be tricky. If in doubt, talk to the person who created your website or consult the help pages of the service you use to administrate your website (e.g webs.com).

If your website is powered using a CMS system (e.g. WordPress)

Some modern CMS systems allow you to edit the design/theme files direct from the admin panel, such as WordPress.

If so, you can paste the Analytics tracking code in to the <head></head> section of your header file, right before the closing </head> tag.

If not, you’ll need to access the file that includes your website’s header in the theme/design of your site, edit the file in a text editor (like Windows Notepad) and upload it to your site using FTP software (or your hosting account’s File Manager).

In WordPress you can edit your header by clicking the ‘Editor’ link in the ‘Appearance’ menu in your admin dashboard, then finding your header file in the list of files on the right of the page. (Note this only applies to self-hosted WordPress installations. WordPress.com website templates can’t be edited in the admin panel)

If your website is made using plain HTML files

You’ll have to paste the code in to the <head></head> section of each of your pages before the closing </head> tag. This is ok if your website only has a small number of pages but will be a big hassle if it’s a large website.

If your website is made using PHP files

Usually you’ll have a separate .php file that contains the header of your website. Add the tracking code in to the <head></head> section right before the closing </head> tag.

If your PHP website doesn’t have a separate .php file for the header content, you’ll have to follow the same method as the HTML files described above.

Looking at the basic data on Google Analytics™ and using it to improve your charity website

There’s a huge amount of data available with Google Analytics, but I’m just going to run through some basics here.

Your Analytics dashboard shows you at a glance:

  • the amount of visits your charity website receives each day
  • the average amount time people spend on your website
  • where your website traffic is coming from (search engines, other websites linking to you, people typing your address straight in to their address bars)
  • which countries your website visitors are from

To take a look at more details, click the ‘Standard Reporting’ link in the orange navigation bar at the top of the page.

On the next page you’ll see some extra details about your visitors and a line chart showing the number of visits your charity website is receiving. This is really useful as you can see how the visits fluctuate over time and see if the number improves as you make changes and add content to your website.

Traffic sources – where your visitors came from

Click the ‘Traffic Sources’ link in the menu on the left and then click ‘Sources’ > ‘All Traffic’. Here you can see a breakdown of the websites where users have clicked a link to your website.

Google itself is usually at the top of this list as the Google search engine provides most websites with a large portion of traffic.

Search Terms – how people found you on the search engines (SEO)

Again, under the ‘Traffic Sources menu, click ‘Search’ > ‘Organic’ and you can see what terms people used on the search engines which led to them to click a link to your site.

It’s particularly useful to pay attention to the search terms people used to find your website.

The columns next to the search terms tell you how long people stayed on your site and how many pages they viewed before leaving. Using this information you can form a good understanding of which pages on your website are of value to your users. If they like what they see they will stick around for a longer time period and read more of your content.

Content – what people looked at on your charity website

Click on the ‘Content’ link in the left hand menu then ‘Site Content’ > ‘Pages’ and you can see specifically which pages people have looked at on your website, how long they looked at them and the percentage of people that decided to leave your site from each page.

If some of your pages have a low ‘Avg. Time on Page’ or a high ‘% Exit’, this may signify that these pages didn’t give the user what they were looking for, so they just gave up and left (internet users are very fickle and it can be hard to keep their attention with so many other millions of web pages out there).

You can use this data to your advantage by going back to these pages and making a few changes to improve the page’s usefulness or design so that they’re more appealing to your readers.

You can also use the content analytics to target any important areas of your site that are being ignored, for example if you have a ‘donate’ page that’s not getting any views or a ‘news’ section that’s not being read, you can make changes to your website to draw people’s attention to these areas.

Once you work out which content on your charity website is the most popular you can put extra focus on adding content of a similar nature, because you know there’s an audience out there for it. This should increase your search engine traffic (plus posting new content to your website regularly is a sure fire way to get more traffic from search engines.)

I hope this article will help you take your first steps in to a more analytical world! If you’ve got any questions feel free to send them to us and we’ll do our best to answer them.

A final thought…

Whilst it can be incredibly useful to know more about your website users, don’t worry if you feel it’s all too complicated for you – if your content is good and you regularly post fresh content that’s relevant to your organisation, your website should do just fine.

Links to articles on other sites you may find useful (more in-depth suggestions for using Analytics):

Note: this article does not include any affiliated links