Five things to do on Google Analytics

Google Analytics

If the thought of deciphering the reams of data on Google Analytics fills you with dread, fear not. Matt Collins (@charitychap), managing director of Platypus Digital, is on hand to help. If you’re only ever going to do five things on Google Analytics, make sure it’s these.  

Google Analytics is a complex beast. More than almost any other tool, it’s packed full of numbers, jargon, pie charts and dashboards, all of which can be more confusing than the enduring popularity of Kasabian.

Once you get into it however, Google Analytics can tell you loads about where your supporters come from and what your service users really want from you. Google Analytics can give you hundreds of metrics, but there’s a very select few that you actually need to get the juiciest bits of information.

Here are five things you should definitely do on Analytics, whether you’re an aficionado or not.

1. Understand why you should bother

No matter what your organisation does, most people new to it will stumble across your website first, usually in their thousands, month after month. Not spending time working out why they are there and how you can help them is like watching thousands of potential customers browse your shop without offering to help a single one. The more you let it happen, the more you lose in potential donations and support.

Analytics will tell you what to do to improve your offer. It can also show you in mind boggling detail how well your social media and emails are performing.

2. Know the basic terminology

Jargon everywhere. Understanding these terms make understanding reports much easier:

  • Bounce rate – the percentage of users who come to your website, and immediately leave, having only looked at the page they landed on. A good, quick measure for how engaging your content is. In the words of the Analytics legend Avinash Kaushik, the user is basically saying: “I came, I puked, I left.”
  • Users – your website visitors, or simply ‘people’.
  • Sessions – think of sessions as a block of time that a user spends on your website, where they might look at a number of different pages.
  • Goals – arguably the most important thing in Analytics, goals are the completion of a useful action on your website by a user, like making a donation or downloading an advice guide.

3. Set up a goal

A good goal to start with is a user making a donation on your website. When you set this up, you can compare how well different channels achieve the goals. Just go to Admin and then select Goals to be guided through the process.

For most goals, add a URL that the user gets to at the end of the process e.g. a dedicated thank-you page for online donations (other goal types are available).

Setting up a goal on Google Analytics

4. Look at the Acquisition overview report

There are lots of overview reports in Analytics, and they give you a good, err, overview of how well your website is performing.

The Acquisition overview report gives you a quick idea of how well your different channels work for you, whether they be social media, email or organic search. It also compares bounce rate, how many are new visitors versus returning visitors, and how well each channel leads to conversions.

Acquisition Overview on Google Analytics

5. Create a dashboard for senior managers

Dashboards make all your numbers look very impressive, which is one of the important functions of Analytics. So create a dashboard with a few vanity metrics (page views is a good one) to show that the digital work you’re doing is actually important.

Set them up so you’re emailed a PDF dashboard once a month, and forward them on to your boss with a few pieces of commentary. You might note a big spike in traffic or a link from the BBC website you didn’t know about. Explain why it was and how you can take advantage of it.

These five things are just for starters – there’s so much more to Analytics. No matter how much you find out, identify a proper action you can take as a result. As Beth Kanter, author of the excellent ‘Measuring the networked nonprofit‘ says, data without action is trivia.

You can follow Matt on Twitter @charitychap

And if you’re interested in guest blogging for us, drop us a line at

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Matt Collins is managing director at digital marketing agency, Platypus Digital, and tweets @charitychap