Our dashboards and monthly reports feature traffic source pretty prominently. You are probably well aware of how much of your traffic is from Direct, Search, and Referrals - if you're not, learn more about Traffic Sources in this Google Analytics Training Video. Google Analytics reporting devotes an entire section to Traffic Source, but if it isn't meaning much to you perhaps there is something missing from your reports. If it isn't clear what to with this data then it isn't leading to decisions and if it isn't guiding your decisions then it can't have impact. What's missing?
You've got to have goals.
Think about why a visitor would come to your site - what are they looking for? what are they trying to do? For most Public Radio station sites, listening to streams and reading news are the central focus. Now think about your site goals - is your site trying to provide the things that a user wants? If your answer is yes then you know what your site goals are, now you just need to set them up in Google Analytics. Many of the stations that I work with haven't yet done this, which means that many of you aren't getting everything you could out of Google Analytics.
Why are Google Analytics goals so important?
Setting up goals in Google Analytics allows you to measure every aspect of your site in terms of its effectiveness in getting you to those goals. Let's think about your homepage. You probably know how much traffic it gets, but ask yourself why or how people get there and you may be at a loss. What if you knew that direct traffic to your homepage was most likely to listen to a stream, but that search was much most likely to be looking for playlist or program information? Could you change something to improve the experience? Would you?
A goal focused view of the data.
These goals won't give us all of the answers but they point us in the right direction by giving us much richer information that just where the visit came from. Knowing that the split between Direct Traffic, Search and Referrals is roughly equal isn't exciting, but adding goals to that report lead us to some interesting facts. Social Media visits are least likely to stream. This is because these visits are driven by an interest in a particular story, but it gives the opportunity to ask "can we be doing more to encourage these visits to stream by experimenting with stream placement?" or should we be doing more to promote programs or streams on Social Media? In contrast, we found that Direct visits to the homepage were twice as likely to stream as compared to overall traffic. Based on this information we may want to be sure that our streams are featured prominently on the homepage or we may want to try to encourage these visits to interact with news by adding a placement to the streaming player. Now this information applies to a group of 9 news-focused Core Publishers station in the month of June, but wouldn't you like to know if it's true for your site?
Deciding on your goals.
For most NPR stations the most important goals will be Reading Stories, Listening to Streams and Support. If you're a Joint Licensee you'll want to add Watching Video and if you're a music station you'll want to add Viewing or Searching Playlists. You can add more later, but you do want to identify the important ones so that you can group them logically and understand their performance in relation to each other. These goals will become the framework that you use to evaluate Google Analytics data and it will make it powerful, meaningful and consistent.
Common standard for evaluation reduces effort and confusion.
Creating goals in Google Analytics allows everyone in your organization from membership to the newsroom to understand and evaluate performance using a common standard. Goals are built into almost all of the reports in Google Analytics so you can cut down on the need for a reporting wizard to evaluate your data and ensure that everyone is using the same measurements. Newsroom performance and pledge drive effectiveness can now be understood in common terms and in relation to each other.
Ready to set up your goals?
Watch the Google Analytics Demo on how to set up goals or read our Web Analytics Practioner's guide to setting up goals in Google Analytics for step by step instructions.