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Getting started with Google Analytics data

The free web analytics tool, Google Analytics provides a wealth of information about the behaviour and characteristics of your website visitors. It's encouraging for me to see how many arts organisations have now implemented this tool. The key, however, is to not become overwhelmed by data or find yourself spending hours preparing and delivering meaningless reports to colleagues and management who don't read them or utilise the information.

So how do you get started using Google Analytics data?

The first important step is to decide which questions you want answers to. If you can do that now, then 1. your developers can create the right goal paths for you and 2. you can start by focusing on the reports which provide the right data to answer these questions.

I love the straightforward approach that web analytics expert Avinash Kaushik recommends in his blog post How to excite people about web analytics. Kaushik suggests talking to each key person in your organisation and asking:

  • "Please tell me a little bit about your job?"
  • "What aspects of your life / job touch our website?"
  • "What's one question you wish you could get answered about our website, or what's one thing you could learn from our website Visitors?"

Not only is this a great way to decide which analytics reports to focus on, but it also creates a sense of engagement from your team. As Kaushik says : "Now go back and answer that one solitary question. Don't send a report back. Call them and tell them the answer. They'll be hooked after you do this once or twice."

When leading workshops with arts organisations about Google Analytics, I've had the participants ponder what they would most want to know about their web visitors, and how this could make a difference to their job. Everyone has different deliverables in their jobs and they are all coming at analytics from their own particular angle.

You'll get the most value from Google Analytics if you can focus your efforts on the information that will really make an impact on your results.

Once you know which questions exist, you're in a position to create the right format and delivery mechanisms for the right answers from Google Analytics.


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