How I Arrived at these Conclusions & Recommendations
I analyze dozens of nonprofit organization’s Google Analytics accounts through my clients and students. Every quarter, I get together with my clients for in-depth conversations about their digital outreach strategy and website analytics. While creating this article, I combine data with the insights from these in-depth conversations.
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Want More Articles About Website Analytics?
Check out the previous articles in this annual series:
- 10 Stats You Should Know About Nonprofit Websites in 2017
- 10 Stats You Should Know About Nonprofit Websites in 2016
- 10 Stats You Should Know About Nonprofit Websites in 2015
10 Stats You Should Know About Nonprofit Websites in 2018
1. Your Stats Are Completely Unique
Many of the stats and trends mentioned in this article may apply to your nonprofit website. But I’ve never worked with an organization that checks off every single item on this list.
Each organization’s stats are a unique combination, with different challenges and opportunities. Actually, this unique profile is what keeps my job interesting!
ACTION: Use this list as a guideline and inspiration to dive deeper in your specific Google Analytics account. Need help getting setup with Google Analytics? Start with my free mini-course!
2. Instagram is Sending Your Website More Traffic Than Ever
Throughout the second half of 2017, I noticed Instagram sending more traffic to nonprofit websites. One organization in particular had great success using Instagram stories to generate interest in an in-person fundraising event.
(Instagram traffic in early 2017 vs late 2017)
(Instagram traffic in early 2017 vs late 2017)
ACTION: Experiment with Instagram, especially the Stories feature
3. But Social Media Visitors are Converting at the Lowest Rates
Whether the conversion rate relates to fundraising, advocacy or email subscriptions, social media visitors are converting at lower rates than visitors coming from search, referrals, direct, and even paid advertising.
(Conversion rates across channels, site #1)
(Conversion rates across channels, site #2)
So, what’s going on with social media visitors?
Are nonprofits not explicitly asking social media visitors to take an action?
Are social media visitors not ready to make a donation, contact their legislator, sign up for email, etc?
The only advice I can give to every nonprofit, based on what I’m seeing in nonprofit website analytics reports:
ACTION: Re-examine your social media outreach strategy and desired outcomes
4. Return Visitors are Converting at Higher Rates than You Think
I was surprised when I uncovered this stat: return visitors are more likely than new visitors to complete your ask, even for introductory offers, such as signing up for email alerts.
I expected this to be true for larger asks, such as making an online donation.
But I was surprised to see that it also applies to initial asks, such as signing up for email or gaining access to exclusive resources.
ACTION: Keep offering introductory opportunities, such as “sign up for email”, even when it feels redundant
5. A Large Slice of Search Engine Visitors Already Know Your Organization
I have several clients whose audiences pull up Google to find the organization website, even though they know the URL and have previously visited the site. This trend continued to strengthen throughout the past year.
What’s the explanation? It could be older audiences who use Google as their starting point for all internet browsing. It could also be the behavior that our mobile devices encourage, with a search tool available from every screen.
ACTION: Search engine optimization (SEO) is a great way to reach new audiences, but also keep in mind how you can use SEO to improve the browsing experience for your existing audiences
6. On December 31st, You’re Sending Fundraising Emails, But Your Donors are Using Google to Find Your Donate Page
Even on December 31st, when you’re busy sending out “last call” fundraising emails and blasting your social media accounts with calls-to-action, your donor is using Google to find your website...
And then making her online donation!
ACTION: Make sure your Donate page gets some SEO love. Need help with SEO? Make sure you’re on my email list and look for an upcoming SEO training!
7. HTTPS is Still Worth Your Effort
After a couple of years of reminders during our Quarterly Website Strategy Sessions, most of my clients are using HTTPS for their website.
The Google search algorithm favors sites that use HTTPS. If you’re not yet using HTTPS for your nonprofit website, read my HTTPS article to understand why it’s important and for tips to get started.
For my clients who switched in 2016, and especially those with large websites, the effect was a significant increase in search engine visitors.
A couple of my clients with smaller websites switched to HTTPS in fall 2017, and their search engine traffic saw a small spike within weeks.
I expect HTTPS to continue to improve these nonprofit websites’ search engine rankings over the first few months of 2018.
ACTION: If you don’t have one yet, get thee an SSL certificate for your nonprofit website!
8. With Google Ads, the Risk Can Be Worth the Reward
Online advertising via Google AdWords is a fantastic way to drive more traffic to your nonprofit website.
You will pay a small price with an overall decrease in average session duration and an overall increase in bounce rate. Visitors that find your site via an online ad will likely spend very little time on your site and bounce at high rates.
But, as long as you are using the ads to achieve a specific outcome, such as adding subscribers to your email list, the reward is worth the risk!
ACTION: Funnel your visitors from online ads to a specific call-to-action, such as signing up for email updates
9. Your Website Redesign Might Hurt Your Traffic, Unless You Take Action
As if you didn’t have enough anxiety about the upcoming website redesign project, now there’s another potential side effect: a significant loss of search engine traffic.
I have worked with a couple of nonprofits (*after* they redesigned their website) that experienced a dip in search engine traffic in the months after their new website launch.
There’s no easy explanation for these dips in search engine traffic. One organization moved from an open source content management system to a proprietary content management system. Another organization used WordPress for both the old and new website.
ACTION: As a nonprofit communications professional, it’s important that you care enough about SEO to advocate for it as part of your nonprofit website design project!
10. Campaigns Require Good Data Hygiene
I refer to the Campaigns feature in Google Analytics as the Most Powerful Tool You’re Not Using. I love it so.
During our Quarterly Website Strategy Sessions, I make sure my clients are using Campaigns to measure and improve their desired outcomes.
The beauty of the Campaigns feature is you can mold it to fit your specific outreach strategy and measure your specific outcomes.
But with great power, comes great responsibility. The ever-moldable Campaigns feature can quickly become the equivalent of a data junk drawer.
Take a look at this:
This organization implemented Campaigns, but was not consistent when labeling their Campaigns, Sources, Mediums, etc. The result was a large slice of “Other” traffic that doesn’t provide the insight the organization seeks.
ACTION: Check out my Complete Google Analytics Toolkit course to learn how to implement Campaigns the right way
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