Recently, I had the opportunity to join local techie collective DC Web Women for An Overview of Google Analytics and Reporting, the latest event in their CodeHer series. The event featured Elastic Interactive founder Dawn Lodge Golden, who sagely guided the crowd through the basics of Google Analytics, one of the most popular and robust web analytics tools.

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While listening to Dawn talk, I started thinking about the important role reviewing and assessing your organization’s analytics can play in determining the parameters of an advocacy campaign. In an effort to think critically about this issue, I put on my journalist hat and dug into the Five Ws and One H of Google Analytics and advocacy:

  • Who? Over the past few years Google has taken steps to protect user data and search specifics. Ultimately, you should not let these privacy measures trick you into focusing only on what you cannot see. Instead, use the generalized data you get from Google to really shape your voice and the content you present to your audience.
  • What? While you may not know if Sam from Iowa is looking at your site, Google Analytics can tell you how people like Sam behave when looking at your content. Page views, in-site analytics and visitor flow can paint a pretty detailed picture of what content works – and what content doesn’t work . Use that information to do some A/B testing to make sure your site is getting your message across accurately and effectively.
  • Why? Analytics can give you a good sense of the ROI on your digital presence. However, don’t fall into the trap of using statistics without context. For example, while a lower bounce rate is more desirable, if you are tracking analytics on a linear designed site that does not require people to click off of it (think a series of blog posts or infographics), that stat can be misleading.
  • When? Part of creating a digital advocacy plan means knowing when to post. While many stats are floating around on the best times to post you should make sure to dig into your analytics to monitor when people are visiting your page. Pro-Tip: take advantage of a tool like Real Time to see if that email blast you sent out is really driving people to your site.
  • Where? Knowing where the majority of your audience is coming from should help inform your content calendar in a number of ways. If your audience is coming from California, but you keep posting things at 8am EST – you may want to see how shifting your posting time could change your stats.
  • How? If you need help convincing your organization that your site needs a responsive design, make sure to pull up statistics on how people are accessing your site. Google now lets you split your audience tracking between smart phones, tablets, PCs and laptops. Even if these numbers do not represent the majority of your audience right now, they will make a big difference in the future.

Of course, Google Analytics is not the only tool you can use to track and monitor your web traffic – you can also check out AW Stats, Optimizely, CrazyEgg and many other options.

So tell us: how else do you use analytics to shape your advocacy strategy?