How to get the most out of Google Analytics

google analytics for churchesGoogle Analytics is a super-powerful tool that can help churches refine their websites, however most people (me included!) aren’t quite sure how to use it to its full capacity.

For the uninitiated

If you’ve not heard of Google Analytics it’s basicly a free service provided by Google that allows you to track how many people come to your website. In doing that it also manages to capture a whole lot of other information such as, has this person been to your site before, how long they spent on the site, and what pages they looked at etc.

So how can churches better use analytic information?

I’ve got 3 top tips for how your church can better use your analytic information.

1. Using the Visitors Flow tool

The Visitors Flow tool isn’t often used because it looks like a whole bunch of spaghetti all muddled up! But amidst all that detail is information on how people navigate your website which is actually really powerful. Using this tool you could identify

  • common navigation paths that people follow; this could confirm that your site design in working or that you might need to redesign some elements to make them more prominent
  • stumbling blocks where suddenly lots of visitors drop off; for example this could be really important if online giving isn’t taking off like you expected
  • you can also compare the flow path of new visitors compared to returning visitors; this could help identify if newcomers to your church are finding the way to the information they need

For more information on the visitor flow tool check out I recommend checking out this post.

2. Assessing your mobile audience

I wasn’t really fussed about making my church website mobile-friendly until I looked at my Google Analytics. When I checked out my analytics I saw that about 20% of my site visits were on mobile devices I was really suprised, given that I come from a small country town I suspect that many city-based churches would have a much higher proportion. So if a fifth of my visitors are visiting my site on mobile devices then I need to make sure it performs well. A site like www.mobilephoneemulator.com can give you a sneek-peak into how your site performs on mobile devices.

3. Tracking Recency

A major part of a church website is serving church members, so how can you work out if your doing that or not? Well one element that gives you a feel is how frequently people come back to your site; they wouldnt keep coming back if your site was rubbish! So using the Frequency & Recency tool you can see the last time someone came to your site, if its only in the last week or two then obviously people are engaging well with your site, but if they only check out your website once every couple of months it doesnt look like your site is really engaging them. This tool doesn’t tell you what the problem is but it can tell you if an issue exists.

Conclusion

Google Analytics is a very powerful beast and there is loads more that we can all be doing with it but I hope these are a few useful pointers to get you going. For more information on analytics I recommend checking out Avinash Kausik’s blog, he is one of the guru’s on analytics and writes some really great articles on how to best use the information.

Hi my name is Rowan and I attend a small church in regional Australia. I first got into web stuff a few years ago when I had a crack at redeveloping the church website and haven't looked back! You can check out my church at www.alburybiblechurch.com.au

4 Responses to “How to get the most out of Google Analytics”

  1. PaulSteinbrueck Nov 15, 2012 at 11:37 am

    Hey Rowan, thanks for writing today's post! Great advice! I think many of us think we're just to busy to look at analytics regularly, but as you pointed out analytics provide critical information that may help uncover problems preventing people from getting the information they're looking for. On the flip side, can analytics can also provide numerical evidence that you're site is well designed and fulfilling its purpose.

  2. Thanks for the feedback Paul :)
    Qualitative data can be really powerful but we've also got to remember that its only one source of information. Getting quantitative feedback (eg asking people 'what do you think of our site') may tell a different story. The challenge for churches (and webmasters generally) is to work out the best way to get the answers to the questions they have about their website effectiveness! Perhaps I'll write another post on how to gather quantitative feedback :)

  3. Thanks for the mobilephone emulator test. In addition to analytics, I have spent time with google webmaster tools. I think a lot of site owners ignore crawl errors and these should be addressed to improve visitor satisfaction. Crawl errors stem from internal or external broken links. Visitors get Page Not Found, which results in high bounce rates and unhappy visitors.

    When sitemaps are generated and uploaded, new pages are added to the index. Older removed pages still exist to show up and snare a visitor upon searching the index. There may be hundreds of pages indexed especially when you used a canned deployment like OScommerce or wordpress. So you redo the sitemap thinking you overwrite the index. Unfortunately, the answer is NO even though files and directories were already removed.

    Someone may also have linked to your page once upon a time. Your page is no longer there but the link is on his site is. I have discovered untold garbled entries that probably were machine generated. Some writers say old unused entries will disappear on their own. You can grow old waiting. Here's how to discard inactive pages.

    Use the crawl errors list in combination with the URL removal tool under optimization. Go to the Google's not found list. Visit the Page Not Found and copy the URL as is. Check the box for that page to remove it from the errors list. Change over to Remove URLs page. Then paste it into the removal box. I use notepad to record lists of ten or more bad URLs and put them in the removal queue. Since each page has to be handled individually (I tried directory removal without success) the whole process can be painstakingly slow. Timeemits.com is a small site and several hundred bad URLs needed removal.

    Google claims they don't hold crawl errors against your rankings. Ultimately, precious visitors will find your pages lots easier.

    • Thanks for the contribution Clark, spot on. I reckon there is another blog post in how to use webmaster tools because as you rightly point out a lot of us probably set it up initially and then forget about it :)