A few years ago when I was at my first camp, I read about the amazingness that was Google Analytics, and I was ready to jump on the train. I watched a video, I made a code, I sent it to our website developer, and… nothing happened. I didn’t understand what it was doing, and I definitely didn’t understand how to view or analyze the results.
But in my brief hiatus from camping, I worked for three months at a digital marketing firm. I learned a lot about Google Analytics, and now I’m ready to share it with camps.
First things first, what is Google Analytics?
It’s a free service offered by Google that tracks website traffic. When you sign up, you’re prompted to create a piece of code that you put in your website. You then have access to all the data it collects. That’s Google Analytics.
So what does it do?
Google Analytics collects information from each person who visits your site. It collects where they’re coming from (in the world and online), what pages their viewing, how long they’re staying on each page, and more.
And why is it important?
As a post discussed a few weeks ago in Summer Camp Professionals, more and more camps are going toward having their website be their new brochure. People are online registering anyway, so it makes sense that your website would be the face of your camp — your biggest recruitment tool. Because your website is so important, you need to know information about its users to make sure it’s as effective as possible.
Google Analytics gives you that information.
Installing Google Analytics
After you sign in to Google Analytics, you’ll have the ability to create an account for your website. You’ll fill out a form with some basic data, and they’ll give you a tracking ID. As they’ll instruct you afterward, simply take that ID and insert (or have someone insert) it into the coding of your website. You’ll want it on every page.
Collecting the data from your website is the easiest part. After the tracking ID is installed, you can sit back and wait. After a few weeks (I’d probably recommend a month the first time), you can log back into Analytics and learn about your website and your users.
Note: While I don’t recommend getting too much into the data until the code’s been there a month, I do recommend logging in after the first week or so to make sure the code’s been properly installed and is actually collecting data.
Analyzing the Data
What It Says
When you first log in to check your data, you’re greeted with an audience overview that looks like this:
The graph is a visual representation of how many “sessions” you have had each day. You can change it to hourly, daily, weekly, or monthly. Also, above this (out of the shot), you can change the range for the data you see and have it compare to another period.
Below that is a lot of handy data that may not make sense the first time you look at it. Here’s what all those things mean:
- Sessions: A “session” is an experience on your website. “Sessions” is the number of experiences on your website each month.
- Users: A “user” is a person who visits your website. “Users” refer to the number of users who visit your website during the different time.
- It’s important to note that users and sessions are not the same. Sessions will count someone coming from the same computer twice, while users will not.
- Pageviews: A “pageview” occurs when a user views a page. “Pageviews” is the total number of pages users viewed during this period.
- Like sessions, this number will count people twice.
- Pages / Session: This is an average of how many pages are viewed each session.
- Avg. Session Duration: This is the average time a user spends on your website in one session.
- Bounce Rate: The “bounce rate” is the percentage of people who go to your website (through a Facebook link, direct address, search, any medium) and click away after only viewing one page.
- This is the only one of these numbers that you want to be low.
Beyond the first page, there’s other data that can help you assess.
Be sure to enable this when you set up your Google Analytics. If you’ve done that properly, on this page you’ll be able to find out more information about the individuals using your website.
Under technology, you can see what browsers people are using most when they visit your website.
This section allows you to see the percentage of your audience coming from mobile vs. desktop vs. tablet. (This section will also probably prove to you why it’s so important to have a mobile-friendly website.)
Audience: User Flow
Here you’ll find a great visual of where people are going after they land on a certain page.
This will tell you where your users are coming from. The categories are:
- Organic Search
- These people found you through a search engine and clicked onto your website.
- These people clicked on a link to your website.
- These people typed in your website’s name and came directly there.
- These people came from social media.
- Paid Search
- These people saw an ad you ran via Google AdWords and clicked on your site.
Acquisition: All Traffic: Referrals
This section will tell you where your referrals came from. If you recognize the link, great! If not, it’s a good idea to try to get your link removed. Google doesn’t like spammy links.
Behavior: Site Content: All Pages
This page will show you the pageviews, unique pageviews, average time on page, bounce rate, and exit percent for each page on your website.
Several pages mention money made and value. That’s a whole other beast, so look for that in a separate blog or get a head start.
What It Means
Now that you have a lot of data at your fingertips, you need to figure out what it means so that you can use it to make your website function as efficiently as possible.
If this number isn’t where you want it to be, you need to work on your online marketing. You can start with SEO or paid advertising, but when these numbers are low, chances are your website link isn’t getting in front of enough people.
Avg. Session Length/Bounce Rate/Avg. Page Views
These numbers will tell you if you have compelling information on your website. You want your session length and page views to be high and your bounce rate to be low. If the numbers are off, reconsider your website’s look, flow, and mobile-friendliness. Something isn’t making your website worth staying on.
Are you getting in front of the right people? If not, you may need to change your marketing strategy. Maybe you’ll see that you’re getting a lot of grandparents. If they’re converting, great! You’ve just found a new target market. If not, what’s going on with your current marketing that’s appealing more toward an older generation, and how can you target it more to your target audience?
These things give you an idea of what you should cater to and make sure your website looks best on. If you use Google Chrome but a majority of your users use Safari, it may benefit you to try your website on Safari and see what your users see. The same goes for devices.
This page will help you see a visual representation of where people go on your website and where they’re dropping off. You can get an idea of what pages are leading people to click on the “Registration” page and try to emulate its success on other pages.
Knowing where people are coming from is extremely helpful when it comes to marketing online. If your numbers for organic search are low, you know you’re probably not ranking very high for many important keywords. If you have a lot of traffic coming from Facebook, you can consider spending more in Facebook Ads since you know that that medium is successful in bringing people to your site.
Is your yearly fee of $99 on a camp directory worth it? Here you can find out. You can also get an idea of what links are directing the most people to your website and try to get listed on other similar websites.
These are some of the highlights of what Google Analytics can do. For really great digital marketing, it’s important to remember that Google Analytics isn’t just numbers — it’s data that can (and should) shape your marketing strategy. When you really analyze the data, you can start devising great marketing plans.