Using Google Analytics With Non‑Ecommerce Websites

December 15, 2016

During our Google Analytics trainings, attendees often ask us to provide recommendations for objectives and metrics that they should focus on for measurement. With so much data available in Google Analytics and (frequently) limited resources to devote to analysis, what is most important? How can we make our data useful and actionable for everyone?

For eCommerce sites, this is usually an easy answer – sales and revenue! Once Enhanced eCommerce tracking is set up, you can use actual sales numbers from your shopping cart system to understand the impact of marketing efforts and content strategies. But what is important when the goal of the website is not a direct sale or transaction?

Keep in mind that you can get creative with Enhanced Ecommerce, so if you have a donation process, it can often be tracked like transactions. But for companies that really aren’t heavily focused on monetary goals (like some non-profits, government agencies, education, or content sites), there are many other valuable ways to use Google Analytics data: for brand-building, idea generation, and understanding the behaviors that drive the most important groups of users.

So where to begin? Here are a few recommendations if you’re starting out with developing your strategy for analysis.

Establish Objectives

You might not have eCommerce data, but you should still be able to identify high-priority actions that you want users to take on your site. What actions can a user complete during their session that you consider a success?

Why do you have a website?

Here are a few non-eCommerce examples:

  • Filled out a form (free trials, gated downloads, program enrollment, general contact, etc.)
  • Contacted you via phone, email or chat
  • Viewed important pages, or several pages throughout the site
  • Spent a significant amount of time exploring the site
  • Read or watched your content
  • Used a tool or feature on your site (calculators, widgets, etc.)

For each objective, find the measurement in Google Analytics that can help you determine how frequently they are occurring. For some objectives, this is easy. For reading content, you can look for increases in pageviews, pages per session, or time on site. Others will require the next step.

Track the Important Stuff

For some objectives, you’ll need to either modify the code on your site, or adjust your configuration settings in Google Analytics, or both.

Google Tag Manager can help with this, and our blog has talked about ways to set up form tracking, download tracking, video tracking, and more! Check out our Recipe section for pre-made, importable solutions!

You can measure on-page interactions using event tracking. This helps to record in Google Analytics how often a specific action occurs and needs to be set up on your page for anything beyond pageview tracking.

The next step after recording these actions is to tell Google about your particular important actions. These are called goals, and they help classify whether or not a specific action occurred during a session. During this browsing session, did someone fill out at least one form?

Reaching a certain page, staying on the site for a certain period of time, viewing a certain number of pages, or completing a specific action can all be turned into Goals, which happens in the Google Analytics interface.

Once these are configured, you’ll be able to gain more insight into what channels, content or features drove users to successfully complete those desired actions!

Measure Overall Site Performance

One of the easiest ways to successfully managing your data is to review it regularly, at a high-level. You can monitor overall site performance and keep an eye out for major trends by looking at overall metrics, like Sessions, Pages/Session, Avg. Session Duration and Bounce Rate. Break out these metrics by channel or campaign dimensions, in order to provide more context. In addition, look at Goal Conversion Rate and Goal Completions once you’ve defined these in Google Analytics.

Try the following reports:

Audience Overview (for overall site metrics)
Are there changes in metrics month over month (or another time frame)? Are these changes expected? If not, more research may be necessary.

Metrics by Source/Medium
Which sources or mediums had higher conversion rates or more site usage than others? There may be ways to duplicate successes from one channel across other channels.

Metrics by Campaign
How are your campaigns performing and driving users to achieve what you want them to? If certain campaigns are not driving people to do what we want them to on your site, you probably shouldn’t keep running the same campaigns in the future.

If you stay up-to-date with your data, you’ll be able to more quickly spot any significant changes and identify issues that may be causing discrepancies. Check out Samantha’s tips for small-businesses using Google Analytics.

Content Performance

Are users reading our content? What content is performing well and how does this help us with our content strategy? If one of the objectives for your site is to provide users with relevant content or encourage readership, you’ll want to look at more specific reports/metrics that allow you to measure content performance. Rather than looking simply at overall pageviews, or even views of individual pages, you can create a more accurate content strategy by understanding how users actually engage with those pages.

For example, within the All Pages report, you can gain insight by looking at these metrics.

  • Bounce Rate by page – how frequently did users view a specific page before exiting the site? Is this expected behavior or could you add features to encourage them to navigate to other pages?
  • Entrances per page – how often did users land directly on each page? This can help you find high-traffic pages to leverage, especially if people are landing on certain pages from search engine results.

If you have event tracking set up to measure engagement such as scrolling or timing, you can also look at the pages where these events occurred, which signals that your users are not only viewing the pages but actually reading them or engaging in some way. You can use the Events – Pages report to click on pages and view metrics for events that happened on each.

Another valuable report that may provide opportunities for NEW content creation is the Site Search report.

You can mine this report for high-volume search terms that also contributed to conversions. You may decide to use those terms to create new content or to target different audiences, or even just make existing content more visible throughout the site.

Feature/Design Performance

In some cases, you may want to measure the impact of site changes on conversions or engagement. For detailed testing, you’ll want to use a tool like Optimize, but for smaller changes, you can also use Google Analytics. You can set up tracking for individual features or tools, then establish a baseline for event metrics.

Once you’ve made changes on your site, you can determine whether engagement changed as a result. In addition, look at conversion metrics; an increase in engagement may also contribute to an increase in conversions, which is extremely valuable for measuring impact.

In conclusion, remember that Google Analytics offers MUCH more than just a way to track pageviews. It’s the key to understanding how your website is providing value to its users and to your company/organization! It’s important to define goals early on, so your analysis focuses on understanding how those goals/actions are completed, who completes them and what impact site changes can have on success. Start with a question, then use Google Analytics to help you find an answer that leads to action.