Birgit has invited a colleague, Yesenia Sotelo who does specific training in Google Analytics.
Birgit begins by explaining to us how to get into Google Analytics and how to get it working on our websites.
Yesenia Sotelo & Jim O’Reilley discuss some important questions and clearly explain what our listeners need to know. There is important information here for those who run campaigns, such as #GivingTuesday.
Yesenia Sotelo is a web developer and nonprofit nerd. She has been building and growing nonprofit websites since 2001. As the founder of SmartCause Digital, she serves as an approachable, expert resource that can answer all your questions about web technology, strategies for online fundraising, data security and anything that could affect your organization’s online presence.
Yesenia is a regular speaker at conferences, ie WordCamp Chicago, or NTEN’s Nonprofit Technology Conference. In 2015 she and I became NTENy Award Buddies. We have been conversing and sharing each other’s posts on Twitter for a long time now. And I am very, very happy that she has agreed to be our first guest on our new podcast.
Discussed Links and Resources on Google Analytics and more
Get in touch with Yesenia Sotelo, SmartCause Digital
NTEN Online Courses w/ Yesenia Sotelo
WordPress Plugins to connect to Google Analytics
- Monster Insights by Chris Christoff & Syed Balkhi
- Yoast SEO by Joost de Valk
- WP Google Analytics Events
NPTech Projects META
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Listen to Episode #4: Episode #4: Nonprofit SEO Technology in the 21st Century (Part I)
Transcript on Google Analytics for Nonprofits
Jim O’Reilley: Hi, and welcome to the fifth episode of our podcast series. Today is all about Google Analytics. I’m your host, Jim O’Reilley, and I’m joined by Birgit Pauli-Haack. We are among the founders of NPTechProjects. We are honored to have as our subject matter expert on our show, Yesenia Sotelo. Birgit, would you please introduce our guest.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yes, yes, I’m so excited. Yesenia Sotelo is a web developer and nonprofit nerd, my tribe. She has been building and growing nonprofit websites since 2001. As the founder of SmartCause Digital, she serves as an approachable, expert resource that can answer all your questions about web technologies, strategies for online fundraising, data security, and anything that could affect your organization’s online presence. Yesenia is a regular speaker at conferences like WordCamp Chicago or NTEN’s Nonprofit Technology conference.
In 2015, she and I became NTENy Award Buddies. We have been conversing and sharing each other’s posts on Twitter for a long time now. I’m very, very happy that she has agreed to be our first guest on our new podcast. Welcome Yesenia. Thank you so much for being here with us today.
Yesenia Sotelo: Thank you for the honor. I’m so excited to be your first guest, and to talk about Google Analytics, which is one of my favorite, favorite subjects.
Google Analytics helps you monitor and analyze the traffic on your website
Jim O’Reilley: Today, we’re talking about Google Analytics, a service Google provides for free that helps you monitor and analyze the traffic on your website. Before we discuss with Yesenia the various metrics you can find and how not to get overwhelmed by all the data, let’s start at the beginning. Birgit, would you please tell us about how to gain access to Google Analytics for a website.
Connecting Your Google Account, Analytics and Your Website.
Birgit Pauli-Ha: I’d love to. You head over to Google.com/analytics. A-N-A-L-Y-T-I-C-S. Google.com/analytics, and click on the signup button. If you don’t have a Google account, guess what? You need one. Then you have to set up a property, which is the analytics base for your website. It’ll give you an UA ID and a tracking code. UA stands for universal analytics. This ID you either use in the setting section of your website or provide it to your web developer so she can install it on your website. Depending on your content management system, there are also plugins available that will need this UA identifier, and then it will put the tracking code on every single page of your website automatically, so now Google monitors and collects information off your site traffic.
You can also ask your web developer to do all the setup for you, including creating the Google account, and then ask her for the access credentials. Yes, another item for your growing password file. We have links to a tutorial on how to set up your Google Analytics account on property in the show notes. There, you will also find links to the WordPress plugins we use with our clients and to connect to their sites to Google Analytics.
What are Sesssions?
Jim O’Reilley: Yesenia, I’d like to begin with some fairly basic questions in order to get all of our audience onto the same page. First is, what are sessions?
Yesenia Sotelo: When I do trainings, I only focus on a few terms and sessions is one of the, because it’s one of the most important terms. There’s so much information in Google Analytics that to me, there’s no point in trying to learn all of it at once, so I try to start with just a few terms. Sessions represents one person browsing your site. It doesn’t matter how many pages she actually gets to. She can get to one page, she can get to 11 pages, it’s all one session. Her session stays active, she’s only counted once, as long as she’s clicking around your site. If she stops clicking for more than 30 minutes, her session is over according to Google Analytics. She can go away to lunch, come back and start clicking again, and that would probably be another session because she probably takes a lunch longer than 30 minutes.
What are Page Views?
Jim O’Reilley: Thank you. That actually clarifies something for me, because I wasn’t sure there was a difference between sessions and page views, but the way you’ve just described that, there definitely is a difference.
Yesenia Sotelo: Right, and page views, to go into that one, page views is one person looking at one page, one time. When you look in your numbers, page views is always so much bigger than sessions because page views is counted over and over and over again. If she hits “reload” for some reason, another page view. If she clicks on the logo in the header, another page view. Basically, every time she’s clicking it’s another page view, so that number ticks up and up and up.
What is a Bounce Rate?
Jim O’Reilley: Thank you, that really helps. Now we’ll ask the pain question. What is a bounce rate?
Yesenia Sotelo: Yeah, it’s a hard one too. A bounce rate is represented as a percentage when you look in your numbers, and it’s a percentage of people who came to your site, looked at one page, and left. All they did was see one page. It could be the homepage, but it could be any page, it doesn’t matter. The number is usually between 40, 60, 70 percent, all of that is very normal.
Jim O’Reilley: Is there any time that a high bounce rate is okay?
Yesenia Sotelo: Yeah, that’s a great nuance question. There are times when a high bounce rate is okay. It goes on a page by page basis, and it goes back to the goal that you had in mind for that page. Events are very common, and I mean events like offline events like fundraiser galas and run/walk marathon type events. If you have a page for anything like that, you often see a high bounce rate, and there’s lots of reasons why that could be. It could be that you’ve got a page for your fundraiser gala, and then to actually buy a ticket, I have to click and go off to Eventbrite or PayPal or somewhere else, so I’m technically leaving your site and then it looks like I’m bouncing.
It could be that your attendee is going through the informational stage before she decides to buy that ticket, so she might click on the event page just to find out what day it is, where’s the parking, who’s going to be there, how much are the tickets, and she’ll come back later and actually buy the tickets. She might also bounce because she just grabbed some information and left. There are absolutely cases where a high bounce rate is normal and part of the process.
What is a Landing Page?
Jim O’Reilley: Thank you. Except I have to look up what nuance means because I’m not very good on that. Can you tell us what’s a landing page? The secondary piece of this is how you get users to go the landing page you’d like them to go to.
Yesenia Sotelo: A landing page is the first page that a person arrives at when she gets to your site. Again, that could be the home page. A lot of people think about the homepage as like the end all and be all of a website, but it’s just one piece of it. Because a landing page could also be that last article that you tweeted, or it could be the link to the registration page that you sent me via email, or as we’re coming up on year-end, it could be the donate page because you’re sending that to me in many different ways, and that’s where I’m starting. The landing page is just the beginning page she arrives at.
Now, to answer the question of how do we get people to the landing page that we want them to go to, that’s a big question, right? It’s about promotion, and that’s not limited to Google Analytics. It’s about email marketing and tweeting it, posting it on Facebook, printing it on a flyer and putting it up around the neighborhood. I mean there’s so many ways that we can get someone to the page that we had in mind. Because we’re talking about landing pages, it’s very much about that initial ask. Because we’re not asking them to navigate through the website, we’re trying to get them to one place to begin with, so it’s about sending them that URL in the email, in the tweet, in the Facebook post, in the newsletter, whichever method you’re using, start with that URL.
How to Measure Traffic from Social Networks?
Jim O’Reilley: That’s great, thank you for that. A slightly different topic, is there a way to measure visitors who are coming from either Facebook or Twitter or other social media outlets?
Yesenia Sotelo: The good news with this one is by default, Google is doing that for you. There are some other things that a lot of nonprofits want to mention that take a little bit more configuration, but this one is already done for you. If you’re following along with the podcast, or you just want to take notes as we go, when you’re in Google Analytics, and you’re looking in that left hand sidebar, to find your visits from social, you click on “acquisition social overview,” that’s the hierarchy of the menu. That will take you to a list that ranks the social sites in order of how much traffic they’re sending you.
The social sites are decided by Google, so Google’s decided correctly that Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, are also social sites. You might see some other ones in here that you’re like, “What is that?” It’s all generated by Google, and it’s taken care of for you. No matter who you are, if you look in your account, you will 100 percent have this information in there.
Jim O’Reilley: If people like your organization on Facebook or Twitter, does it make a difference in any way?
Yesenia Sotelo: In terms of getting people to the website?
Jim O’Reilley: I’m thinking more in terms of your Google Analytic scores.
Yesenia Sotelo: Google Analytics is tracking traffic that comes to your site, so it’s kind of like a record of things that have already happened. If I like you on Facebook, I’m not getting to your website, so that’s not counted in Google Analytics, I’m following you on Twitter, I’m not getting to your website. However, if I like you … I mean if we think about it a little further down the road, if I like you on Facebook, if I follow you on Twitter, the idea is that I will see your tweets and see your updates, hopefully, knock on wood, for Facebook, and then I will click on those links and get to your website. In the long run, yes, you will get more traffic if people like you and follow you.
How about Mobile Traffic?
Jim O’Reilley: Okay, all right. Thank you. A big question today for everybody is mobile, of course. If I understand it correctly, you can see that there is activity coming to your site from a mobile device. The question would be, if it’s coming from a mobile device by way of Twitter or Facebook, does that show up under Twitter or Facebook, or is just plain vanilla mobile?
Yesenia Sotelo: Well, this is getting super nutty. Facebook and Twitter, those are actually two separate questions because-
Jim O’Reilley: I’m sorry.
Yesenia Sotelo: No, no. It’s cool. Facebook is kind of funny in that they sometimes will use M.Facebook.com or L.Facebook.com as their referring agent, and that’s just a tech terms. Sometimes when you look at Google Analytics, you will see Facebook.com as a referral and then M.Facebook.com and L.Facebook.com. M, as you can imagine, is mobile, and I think L is technically mobile too. They’re kind of being funny in that they’re using different domains and kind of letting us know via that way that some people are using mobile and some people are using Facebook. In fact, most people use their mobile devices to use Facebook, so you can just infer.
Then a much more advanced answer that is awesome and would take us in a whole different path, but I want to let you know about, is segmenting. In Google Analytics, there are built-in segments. It’s advanced but when you’re there, it’s super handy. One of the built-in segments is mobile, so you could see just the mobile data for anything, for like landing pages, just mobile. Sessions, just mobile. You could slice and dice the data that way if you wanted to.
How would do you attributes visits to a particular Campaign, Like #GivingTuesday?
Jim O’Reilley: That’s very helpful. As an aside, we’ve been trying to encourage people to make sure that their websites are optimized for mobile, because there’s such an increasing population using that to access the Internet. Again, I’m going to switch channels a little bit. Tech4Good in Southwest Florida has been spending time helping organizations who wish to prepare for Giving Tuesday. The question is, once the organization has a communications plan for Giving Tuesday, how would you recommend that they prepare to measure or attribute visits to the website as a result of their campaign?
Yesenia Sotelo: I have two answers, one of which, you don’t have to do anything for, and one of which you have to do a little bit of work. The way to do this where you don’t have to do anything would be to use Google’s built-in tool where you can select the day or date or dates. You would know, one, when Giving Tuesday was because it’s the same day for all of us, or you would know what day you sent your email or the day that you were really pushing it or the day you asked the board to send it to their friends, you would know that. You could go into Google Analytics and say, “Just show me Monday and Tuesday,” for example. Those are probably the days you’re going to be doing a lot of your efforts. It’s not a perfect system, because other things were probably happening on Monday and Tuesday, but it’s something you can do without any effort, which is to sort the data and just look at those couple of days.
Now if it’s really important to you, and you want to go ahead and get really great, clean data, then you’re going to have to use something called campaigns. That is an aspect of Google Analytics that is incredibly powerful, but as you can imagine, requires you to do something. Depending on the tool you’re using for email marketing, depending on the tool you use for social media, you would have to go into those tools. Not Google Analytics but those external tools, and configure those to send data to Google Analytics, so that when you send your email marketing message on Tuesday morning, all of the links in there are sending data to Google Analytics, so that when you post on Twitter and Facebook on Monday and Tuesday, all of those links have the additional little parameters that are needed, so that when I click on them, Google Analytics knows where I came from.
Because that’s essentially the answer we want is, “If I posted on Facebook and Twitter, and I sent my email marketing, which of those are actually getting people back to the site to actually make donations?” That goes back to campaigns. If you’re using something like MailChimp, which is what I use, there’s a setting in there for Google Analytics, and you just check off some boxes and enter your little number. If you’re using Buffer, which again is something I use, or Hootsuite, which a lot of people use, those tools also support campaigns. A lot of the outreach tools that all of us use are already built for this, but we as the users, have to go in and actually click some, check some boxes and enter some numbers.
Jim O’Reilley: Thank you, and I have to say as an aside to our audience, for those of you that didn’t bother to listen after she said, “You don’t have to do anything,” it was very important information.
Yesenia Sotelo: I always offer the two options because sometimes we just don’t have time. We might want to, but we can’t or we don’t have the time. I also want to give you the other answer because in the long run, we all want to do better, and it’s nice to know where we might be able to invest our time. If this Giving Tuesday does great, you might think to yourself, “Next year I’m going to do campaigns,” and at least now you know about it.
What are the two most difficult concepts for non-technical, nonprofit leaders to understand about Google Analytics?
Jim O’Reilley: Now a kind of an open-ended question, so that you can take us where you’d like to go. What are the two most difficult concepts for non-technical, nonprofit leaders to understand about measuring website visits by way of Google Analytics?
Yesenia Sotelo: That’s a good question, so in addition to talking to people online like I’m doing with you right now, I do a lot of these Google Analytics trainings in person. Because this particular topic is one where I like to be in front of people so I can see when their eyes kind of get glassed over. Because some people in the audience ask a lot of questions, and I can know when they need help, but some people in the audience are a little shyer like I am, and they don’t ask a lot of questions. I can see it in their faces when they’re like, “Oh my god, what is she talking about?” I was just in Madison, Wisconsin, yesterday doing this same training and I got the same question that I always get, which is the one about bounce rate.
You asked it earlier, and even when I explain it as best I can, always someone pipes up and is like, “Can you explain that again?” It’s just, it’s a tough one to understand. It’s complicated, this idea of measuring people leaving the site, so it’s one that I always go back to and that we talk about. I’m glad that you asked the question about nuance. Are there times when their bounce rate can be high? That’s okay, and there are. Overall, it’s something that we should watch, but if for some reason that’s a hard number to understand, don’t worry about it. Sessions and page views are just as important. Then the other term, rather concept, that’s kind of difficult to understand or maybe difficult to accept is a better way of saying it, is the idea that there are no absolutes in this.
People are always, “Is this a good one? Is this a good number? This is our sessions? Is that good?” I’m, “It doesn’t matter.” Every nonprofit I’ve ever worked with, and I work with lots of them, is completely unique in how their analytics are spread and how everything relates to each other. The only thing that matters that I want, hopefully our listeners to take away, is that you should benchmark against your own numbers. You should be tracking your numbers month to month, quarter to quarter, year to year, however it works for your organization. The only thing that should matter is how your numbers are moving against where you’ve been historically, that’s what matters.
Do you have any favorite WordPress plugins that you recommend or install for your nonprofit clients?
Jim O’Reilley: Thank you. I think that’s a very important concept for everybody to understand. Do you have any favorite WordPress plugins that you recommend or install for your nonprofit clients?
Yesenia Sotelo: I have two that I love and I’m going to tell you. You’re probably like, “Yeah, I love those too.” Google Analytics by MonsterInsights, that’s the new name of it. That’s the one that I always install and tell everyone to install when it comes to Google Analytics, because it takes care of everything for us. Then Yoast SEO. That’s the other one. I love Yoast SEO because it gives my clients at least a little more granular control over what pages Google can see, how it sees them, what image gets pulled in on a Facebook share or something like that. The interface is pretty easy to understand, and I like that one as well.
Jim O’Reilley: Do you have any predictions for 2017 on what you see going forward with nonprofit technology?
Yesenia Sotelo: I’ve got a couple of answers. One is about Tec-Tec, and one is about things related to tech. When it comes to Tec-Tec, what I see nonprofits both investing in and also, knock on wood again, getting returns on is mobile payments, especially when it comes to events. The gala fundraiser, the run/walk event, other moments when you’re gathering your people in a room together. Investing in the hardware that you might need to accept that mobile payment, because all of us are living that lifestyle now. We’re either using Apple Pay on our phones or Google Wallet, or we’re expecting to be able to swipe a card immediately.
Then the other answer that I know from working with my own clients, who are very similar to the people that you work with in that their smaller to midsize organizations, is that as tricky as it can be sometimes to find the time and the energy to create that original concept, to post on the website, it always pays off. My clients, because we get together every quarter and we look at the numbers for the website, they’re starting to see that whenever they invest time into original content, it pays off in the long run. I think that’s where 2017 is going for them, which is a weird answer, because it’s such a basic answer as in write your content, post it regularly on your website. If that’s all it takes to get great SEO, then actually we’re all better off.
Jim O’Reilley: When it’s true, it’s true.
Yesenia Sotelo: Right.
Birgit Pauli-Ha: If it’s true every year, then it’s true every year. Yesenia, this was great, thank you so much for your time and your help with this. Two more questions. Please tell us how the listeners can get in touch with you. Then the second one is, tell us a little bit more about your upcoming course at NTEN because I believe it’s next week, right?
Yesenia Sotelo: Yeah, those are two great questions. I’ll answer them in that sequence because they’ll logically make sense, and I’ll tell you why. You can find me at SmartCauseDigital, S-M-A-R-T C-A-U-S-E Digital.com. If you are interested in getting a little bit of like an intro Google Analytics course that’s free, SmartCause.Digital.com, I have a free mini-Google Analytics course.
If you need a little more information, as you alluded to, I’m doing two upcoming courses with NTEN, our friends at NTEN, the Nonprofit Technology Network. One is Intro to Google Analytics, and that’s much more flushed out, and one is Advanced Google Analytics. Intro would be, again, if you’re just getting started, that would be great for you. Advanced would be if you really want to work on those campaigns, or if you want to find out how to get, how to be able to track all the PDFs that are downloaded from your site, that would be advanced. Wherever you are in the process, between me and NTEN, we could help you out.
Jim O’Reilley: Thank you once again for both speaking with us, and spending time with us today. It’s been a total joy, and I hope you’ll join us again.
Yesenia Sotelo: Thank you. I look forward to listening to all your future podcasts. Thanks for having me.
Birgit Pauli-Ha: Thank you.
Jim O’Reilley: Before we say goodbye, we hope you’ve enjoyed this podcast. If so, help us to help you by sending comments and questions to our site, NPTechProjects.org/podcast. By doing this and adding reviews on Google Play and iTunes, you’ll help us to know our audience better, and thereby focus our topics more directly to you.
Birgit Pauli-Ha: Next week we’ll be talking about online donation tools and plugins, pros and cons. Considering that online donations are rising more than nine percent, and overall donations only rising two percent, the writing’s on the wall that it will be very important for your fundraising success. This is it for this week. Thank you for listening, and goodbye.
Jim O’Reilley: Goodbye and have a great week.