Google Analytics has a bevy of tools that will help you refine and adapt your church website to be an extension of mission instead of another brochure.
But it's so confusing
We understand. There's a lot of data, but we'll cover the basics so you don't get overwhelmed. Let's focus on what's most important. In addition, if you haven't logged into Google Analytics in a while, you'll notice they now have tutorial videos for each major section.
Google Analytics for church ministry
1. Audience Overview: When you log into your analytics account, you get the fancy graph chart with plotted points each day with the number of "sessions" your website had that day. Sessions are the number of times a visitor engaged on your website. If a user (think visitor) started on your website, then stopped, but picked back up again, those would register as two sessions, but one user. If you're not liking what you see, don't stress too much about the chart. You want to look at the longer trends. Are sessions slowly declining? What are the peak days for larger traffic spikes?
Built into the overview are pageviews, pages per session and average session duration. Those titles are self explanatory. "Bounce rate" can be an odd term. Bounce rate is a percentage and tells how many people are leaving your site after just one page view. Low bounce rates mean people are staying on your site longer. This usually correlates to an increase in pages per session and pageviews.
Keep in mind that bounce rates for landing pages may be high. A landing page is where users "land" when they click on a link to your website. They may be responding to a promotion through social media or email. This website behavior is by design and should not be cause for concern. If you have an informative homepage, the user may see what he or she needs and click out, leading to a high number of bounces. If you have a two- or three-part article series, you want a low bounce rate on the page for part one. This means they clicked on the link to the next part. Think about these scenarios and what makes sense in terms of the actual outcome.
In this audience overview image, you can see that this website gets a good number of daily sessions, but they are often singular visits (bounce rate is about 80%). That means 20% visited at least two pages. This offsets the average page per session to about 1.5.
2. Segments are found in the reporting tab and are groupings you create within the account. If you want your church website to bring in new visitors, build segments to track the behaviors of new visitors on your website. With segmented data, you can accurately report what new, returning or mobile visitors are doing on your site. If one segment is checking out certain pages while ignoring others, you should research to discover why. In addition, put more focus on the pages people care about. You can design the content on more popular pages to move various segments deeper into your site.
3. In-Page Analytics is a "Behavior" report that shows you a visual of what people are clicking on. Much like a "heatmap" for your website, it will show you the various clicks that are made throughout your website. If you want to make sure some of your segments are clicking on that "new to the church" graphic, you will see a percentage graphic associated with that graphic and other links on that page. It's helpful to see what links or portions of a page are hot (i.e. where people are clicking).
Use In-Page Analytics to help you set up the layout of your website. For example, when you are promoting a sermon series or a newsletter sign-up, first locate areas on which people are focusing the most. Next, consider moving your sermon series or sign-up graphics close to these hot zones.
Use the In-Page Analytics report in church committees, so people not familiar with the terms and ratios can get a clear visual of what's happening.
4. Behavior Flow is another "Behavior" report that visualizes the path users traveled from one Page or Event to the next. Click on the "Behavior Flow" report and view, through a little flow chart graphic, what visitors are clicking on during their first and second interactions. The Behavior Flow will indicate when people drop off and who continues. This knowledge will help you set up links, graphics and calls to action that will direct people to the places of greatest interest. Implementing these techniques will create a positive user experience and translate into a perceived positive experience when visiting your church in real life.
5. Traffic source dimensions are in multiple reports and show you which sites are sending you traffic. Each section uses different filters to organize the traffic-source data. For example, in the "real time" section of Google Analytics, the traffic sources report tells what websites are sending traffic currently. This data helps church leaders figure out where to spend their time gaining more site traffic. If Facebook is a big generator, for example, spend more time sharing great content there. If you are getting good traffic from email or Twitter, don't spend all your time trying to build up Google+ traffic.
You will find many other great features within Google Analytics to help refine your church website. Events, site search and site speed are just a few of the other sections that church leaders should study if they enjoy interpreting data.