Making Sense of Google Analytics for Nonprofit Marketers

August 4, 2020
6 minutes

Your relationship with Google Analytics most likely hits one of these two pendulum swings: you're either BFFs or you feel totally overwhelmed by the good GA.

If you’re in the second camp, it’s understandable; Google Analytics is a superpowerful tool that collects a ridiculous amount of information about your website. Using Google Analytics data to inform your nonprofit marketing strategy hinges on knowing what to look for, what it all means, and how to act on GA information.

To help you get started, this post is going to give you the need-to-know basics of Google Analytics.

Google Analytics Dashboard

When you first log into your Google Analytics account, you’ll see a handy overview dashboard. Let’s talk about what each of the metrics on your dashboard means and why they matter for nonprofit marketing.


Users are the unique individuals who visit your website. This metric is useful for nonprofit marketing because it shows you exactly how many people are interacting with your website. When you're trying to improve outcomes like email signups or donations, the volume of users will impact your conversions. Start by taking a baseline measurement so that you can see your conversions improve over time.


The best way to think about sessions is as pageviews. A user can rack up multiple sessions by clicking around your website looking at different pages or blog posts. This metric is useful for nonprofit marketing because it allows you to see the level of interaction users have on your website.

Bounce Rate

Bounce Rate represents users who only visited a single page on your website. They don’t stick around to look at more content and potentially click away quickly. This is an important metric because ideally, you want users to interact with more than one page on your website. If your bounce rate is over 70%, consider what else you can do to keep people on your site longer.

Dig into your analytics further to see which pages have the highest bounce rate, then work on improving those pages with better content and links to other pages on your website so that your users stay engaged.

Session Duration

Session Duration is how long users spent on your website. This metric relates to sessions and your bounce rate. Ideally, you want to keep users on your site for as long as possible. Over time, set a goal to sustain or increase session duration.

If you want more in-depth reporting on these metrics, check out the reports relating to your audience.

Acquisition Reports

Going beyond the homepage dashboard, you should be regularly evaluating Acquisition.

The Acquisition Report will help you understand how people are finding your website. If you find that over a 60-90-day period, the vast majority of your social media traffic comes from Facebook, for example, you'll want to do a bit of experimentation within your social strategy to see if it can further improve your traffic.

Look for trends in your traffic acquisition so you can create an informed strategy. Click on each of the traffic areas for a further breakdown. For instance, clicking on Social will show you a detailed breakdown of which social channels sent what amount of traffic.

Behavior Reports

Now that you see who's on your site and how they got there, mosey over to the Behavior Report, a handy overview of the way users interact with your site, otherwise known as your most popular content. Seeing what users are looking at regularly can help you optimize these pages and posts on your website to maximize email signups and donations, or just increasing the average session duration.

GA Your Way

When you’re ready to customize your Google Analytics experience in a slightly more advanced way, create a custom dashboard to see you the exact information you need without having to go through a bunch of individual reports.

We could link to a tutorial here, but with the landscape of GA changing all the time, it'd be obsolete in a snap. The good thing is that a quick Google search will put up-to-the-minute Google support at the tips of your fingers.

There’s a lot to explore inside Google Analytics. Being well acquainted with the basic terminology as well as the Acquisition and Behavior reports is a great place to start. By regularly looking at this data, you can begin to make smart decisions for nonprofit marketing that pay off for your nonprofit.

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