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Why are Website Analytics Important for Local Government Websites?

by Tom Humbarger
Post Date:10/22/2015

You can’t manage what you don’t measure. This is an old management adage that is even more important today as there are so many more ways for customers to engage and interact with you – and most of these channels are digital. Which channels are the most important, what do they want to do, what information do they need, which messages resonate with what audiences, what do they want to do, and are you spending your time in the right places?

What Story Does Your Website Tell?

Analyzing information from your website is more than collecting a bunch of isolated raw data. The purpose is to collect a diverse set of data that can be analyzed holistically, and help you tell the story of how and when people are are using and engaging with your website. Using these insights, you can then adjust or update your site to better meet the needs and expectations of your website visitors.

At a high level, analyzing the metrics from your website is important to:

  • Help you get to know how much traffic you’re receiving
  • Alert you to any changes in visitor behavior
  • Know where traffic is coming from
  • Help you decide what your visitors want

Website analytics also can help you answer questions, such as:

  • Who is coming to your site
  • When are they coming to your site
  • Where are they coming from
  • What device are they using to view your site
  • How do they get to your site
  • What are they looking for
  • Where are they looking
  • How many pages do they look at
  • What path do they take through your site
  • How long do they stay on your site

To get the most complete picture of your website, you will want to track the following:

  • Current period information – identifies what is happening in current month or period
  • Month to month trends – analyzes what has changed from previous month or period
  • Comparison to prior years – helps you to see long term improvements and to understand seasonal trends
  • Comparison to industry benchmarks – when available, comparisons to industry benchmarks for similarly sized communities will help identify how you stack up against others

How Do We Get Started with Analytics Tracking?

Google Analytics is the most widely used platform for analyzing website metrics and is used by more than 52%. Setting up Google Analytics is a fairly easy task and is generally performed by your webmaster or web hosting provider. After you add the tracking code to your website, you can use the Google Analytics platform to begin reviewing the statistics from your website.

Google_Analytics_Audience_Overview-1.png 

What Information Should We Track?

While the Google Analytics platform lets you define any date range, a best practice is to collect the information on a monthly basis and track the information in a dashboard spreadsheet along with other metrics you may be tracking such as social media and services.

At a minimum, you should be tracking the following metrics in Google Analytics:

Item

 Definition

Sessions

Included on multiple reports, sessions track how often your site was visited, and what actions were taken during each visit. (Sessions were previously called “Visits.”)

New Sessions

Included in most reports, new sessions measure first-time site visitors.

 

Users

Measures how many people visited your site (previously unique visitors). Repeat visitors are only counted once, differentiating it from sessions.

Pageviews

Found under Behavior, measures how often a specific page is visited. If a visitor visits Page A, goes to the homepage, and then comes back to Page A, it’s counted as two page views.

Pages/Session

Measures how many site pages were viewed during one visitor’s single session.

Average Session Duration

Measures how long customers spend on your site. Average session duration is the total duration of all website sessions divided by the number of sessions.

Bounce Rate

Measures the percentage of site visitors viewing only one page on your site before leaving. (They enter and leave on the same page without any type of interaction.)

% New Sessions

Measures the percent of total users who came to the website for the first time.

Source

A traffic dimension, states the origin of a website visit, or how the visitor got to your site. 

Direct Traffic

 

Visitors who arrive on your site by typing in your URL or via a bookmark, instead of being assisted by Google, paid searches, social media, etc.

 
 

Where Can I Get More Information on Using Analytics?

In follow-on blog posts, we will provide some real life examples for leveraging the information in Google Analytics. In the meantime, there are a number of resources for learning more about using analytics to tell your website’s story. A great start would be to download the Vision Analytics Guide.

Download Vision's Introduction to Google Analytics 

Other resources for you to explore include:

 

At Vision, we specialize in helping agencies research and implement user-focused improvements, and are always happy to discuss your particular needs. Request a free consultation now.

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