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The Nonprofit's Guide to Google Analytics Dashboards

WebsitesData & Relationship Management

Kayla MatthewsBy: Kayla Matthews

Are you using Google Analytics to track the performance of your nonprofit website? Great! 

Are you using Google Analytics simply because you’ve heard you’re supposed to? Not so great. If you don’t have a deep understanding of what you’re looking for and why, you’re likely wasting your time. 

The first step to making analytics work for you is to think back to your organization’s mission and goals. How might you measure the effectiveness of your website in helping you achieve your mission? By figuring out what kind of data you need, you can determine a set of relevant metrics.

Once you know what you want to track, building a custom intelligence dashboard in Google Analytics can be a powerful way to track and monitor your organization’s successes and areas for potential improvements. Dashboards provide snapshots of need-to-know metrics related to your business. They also usually include features that allow you to dive deeper into the statistics and study them.

Below, we’ll look at some best practices for creating effective custom dashboards.

Become Familiar With the Basic Metrics First

When you log in to the Google Analytics dashboard, you’ll see some basic data there without even setting anything up. 

There are some particularly important metrics, such as Pages Per Visit, Average Visit Duration and Bounce Rate. You’re doing well when the first two go up because it means people usually look at numerous pages when they visit your nonprofit site, and that they find enough interesting content to make them stay a while. 

Basic metrics

Bounce rate is a metric that should ideally decrease over time. Having a high bounce rate (over 75%) means that people are only going to one page on your site and then leaving shortly after that. 

When looking at these straightforward metrics, be sure to find the menu in the top right corner that allows you to change the timeframe of the data. That’ll be particularly useful when implementing something new on your website and determining how well it’s working.

It’s also necessary to look at the Most Viewed and Most Exited pages. Those are your top performing and worst-performing areas of the website, respectively. 

To check out those metrics, look for the drop-down menu on the left-hand side. Then choose Behavior, then Site Content. Look at All Pages first for an overview. Alternatively, Content Drilldown, under the Reporting tab, shows highly trafficked pages by category. 

User behaviour

After getting details about which pages have the worst performance record, compare their content, loading times and functionality with the pages that are doing well. See if you can spot differences in the content on the two kinds of pages, and pinpoint what’s causing some pages to falter. Slow loading times, lengthy headlines or irrelevant information could be to blame. 

Once you figure out some of the likely problems, make small improvements to the site. Then, keep an eye on Google Analytics to see if the statistics get better than they were before you made the changes. 

Create a Custom Dashboard With Metrics Relevant to Your Nonprofit

Because Google Analytics is such a powerful tool, it’s necessary to not only look at the data it provides, but also to tweak the settings and see what matters most. You’ll do that by setting up a custom dashboard.

Initially, this may seem like a superfluous step, especially if you only have limited familiarity with what’s trackable through Google Analytics. But remember: a customized dashboard is a more impactful one that’s easier to interpret.

Get started by going to the Reporting section of the Google Analytics dashboard. Then, look for Dashboards. Click it, and select New Dashboard. 

Custom Dashboard

You’ll immediately get a prompt about what you’d like the dashboard to show via a customized widget. The Metric widget is a good starting point. After selecting it, you’ll see several drop-down lists that let you customize the metric type and how the data displays to you. 

Be aware that certain types of charts within Google Analytics have limitations. For example, a pie chart only shows six slices, but a bar graph displays up to ten entries. 

The Customize Dashboard option in the upper right is also useful. It lets you pick a different layout that may be more user-friendly depending on your purposes.

Custom Widget

Think About Which Metrics Indicate Progress or Room for Improvement 

Now that you’ve learned about some basic metrics and how to set up the Google Analytics dashboard, it’s time to wrap up by realizing things you can learn through the tool that paint a picture of your organization’s health.

For example, there are nonprofit-specific metrics, such as awareness level and donation frequency. Perhaps your organization has set a goal to raise community awareness by a targeted amount this year. 

If there is a greater number of site visits after launching a supporting campaign, it indicates you may be achieving your aim. You can also learn the method through which most people land on your site — such as after conducting Google searches.

Furthermore, maybe Google Analytics also shows that your organization’s donation page is a poor performer relative to the other parts of the site. Numerous things could be causing that outcome, but you now have a good reason to start focusing on making enhancements that lead to more and larger donations. 

Consider running A/B tests that involve using two different versions of a page and seeing which one performs better. 

When taking this approach, don’t go overboard and change a lot of things about the page. Then, it’ll be difficult or impossible to figure out what’s working well. Instead, edit just one part of a page, such as a donation button or a headline. Use information gleaned from Google Analytics to find out if you’re getting closer to an objective. 

Again,  it’s not sufficient to merely study metrics because you think that’s the right thing to do. Instead, you must link the data to the things your organization has set out to accomplish. 

Remember, data-informed decision making is a constant process. Test, tweak, and repeat! 

About the author

Kayla Matthews writes about fundraising and technology for sites like Nonprofit Hub and Volunteer Match. Read more posts by Kayla on her on her tech website,