Imagine you are a person who has never tasted coffee before, and a friend takes you to a trendy coffee shop in the middle of the city. You walk up to the counter, and they order their favorite coffee drink with additional sugar, a spritz of vanilla, and some other ingredient you don’t hear.
Now it’s your turn, and you look up at the menu, and your eyes glaze over. Where do you even start? You look behind you at the impatient shuffle of others in the line. Perhaps you panic, so you say, “Can I get a plain coffee?” The attendant asks, “Anything else?” You shake your head and quickly move away.
Now imagine we are talking about website metrics and not coffee. Some communicators might not know where to begin when setting website metrics that matter to them. As a result, they might choose generalized nonprofit website metrics that mean nothing to them and, ultimately, have no real impact on the work they are driving in the real world.
Traditional, generalized metrics may tell us how many people visited a site, but do they reveal why they came or what they truly care about? In the world of social impact, where connection and engagement are vital, personalizing your website’s metrics can transform mere numbers into meaningful insights, turning digital interactions into real-world change.
Furthermore, when you set better nonprofit website metrics—when you personalize them—you can strengthen brand engagement. By tracking metrics that matter to them, social impact organizations can better understand and engage with their target audiences, ultimately promoting brand awareness and loyalty.
So let’s begin with a bit of definition.
What Are Website Metrics, Anyway?
Website metrics are measurements of website performance that are used to evaluate and improve the effectiveness of a website. These metrics can include things like website traffic, bounce rate, conversion rate, and user engagement. In this document, we will discuss the importance of personalized website metrics for social impact organizations and provide actionable steps for transitioning toward personalized (and therefore more valuable) metrics.
Personalized nonprofit website metrics are measurements of website performance that are tailored to an organization’s goals and the needs of its target audiences. By focusing on personalized metrics, social impact organizations can better understand and engage with their target audiences, ultimately driving more effective and impactful work in the real world.
Here are four actionable steps to guide you on the path toward personalized nonprofit website metrics. And perhaps the next time you are at the metaphorical coffee counter, you actually order a drink you really like, and maybe it’s still plain coffee, but it is very likely it might not be.
Broadly speaking, the four steps to personalized website metrics are as follows:
- Identify and understand your target audience(s).
- Align your website metrics with your organizational goals.
- Implement the right website tracking analytics tool.
- Track your data at the right cadence.
How to Set Better, Customized Nonprofit Website Metrics: Four Steps
Step One: Identify and Understand Your Target Audiences
Setting nonprofit website metrics that matter to your organization can be challenging, especially if you don’t know where to begin. But the good news is that the first step is one that falls deeply in line with the everyday work of most social impact organizations, and it involves taking the time to understand the people in your ecosystem: the people whom you serve with your work, the people you wish to impact, the people you partner with, and the people who fund or fuel your work. Take a moment to outline all the people who are in your work’s sphere of influence.
For the family foundation that provides human rights and environmental grants, this might include current grantees, potential grantees, philanthropic partners, and journalists.
For the national education policy organization, this might include teachers, parents, funders, peer organizations, and policy partners.
Once you have identified your audience, the task is to understand them. In order to learn more about your audience, you can employ a number of strategies. Two strategies you can use in this process of discovery are interviews and surveys.
Using interviews and surveys to understand your target audience can provide a wealth of information about their needs, preferences, and behaviors. Most importantly, the process of reaching out to your target audiences in this sort of process can help foster a sense of community and engagement.
Here are some questions you can ask your target audience to learn more about them:
- What are your biggest challenges or pain points related to the issue our organization is working on?
- What are your goals and aspirations related to this issue?
- How do you currently seek out information or resources related to this issue?
- What do you think are the most effective ways for our organization to communicate with you?
- Are there any specific features or functionality you would like to see on our website?
- What are your thoughts on our current website? What do you like and dislike about it?
- Have you ever taken any action as a result of visiting our website? If so, what did you do?
- What other organizations or websites do you follow or engage with related to this issue?
Getting a better sense of how your audience engages with your work through the website and outside of it enables you to have the building blocks needed to develop personalized website metrics that are based on how your website is meeting the needs of your particular audiences.
Step Two: Align Your Website Goals with Your Organizational Strategic Goals
Creating personalized website metrics is not simply about meeting the needs of your audiences. Meeting the needs of audiences but not meeting the needs of your organization is ultimately unsustainable. Most social impact organizations have a sense of their mission, their vision, and often their theory of change. But even more importantly, for our purposes, most social impact organizations should have a clear sense of how they aim to achieve the work they set out to do every year. Websites are or can be an important part of how social impact organizations achieve their goals.
For instance, a national education policy organization might have the following goals:
- Increase access to quality education for all students
- Improve educational outcomes for marginalized or underserved communities
- Advance evidence-based policy solutions to education challenges
- Build partnerships and collaborations with other organizations and stakeholders in the education field
- Increase public awareness and understanding of important education issues.
These goals can then be translated into specific website goals, personalized KPIs, and tracking metrics to ensure that the organization’s website is effectively supporting its mission and driving impact in the real world.
For instance, personalized website metrics that align with the goals of a national education policy organization can include:
- Number of unique visitors to the website who identify as teachers or parents
- Percentage of website visitors who engage with the organization’s policy solutions page
- Number of website visitors who sign up for the organization’s newsletter
- Percentage of website visitors who share the organization’s content on social media
- Number of website visitors who donate to the organization’s education initiatives
These personalized website metrics align with the organization’s broader goals of increasing access to quality education, improving educational outcomes for marginalized or underserved communities, advancing evidence-based policy solutions, building partnerships and collaborations, and increasing public awareness and understanding of important education issues. By focusing on these personalized website metrics, the organization can now align online activities with real-world impact.
Ultimately, leveraging one’s online presence can be a powerful tool for achieving social impact goals.
Step Three: Implement the Right Website Analytics Tracking Tool
Now that you have an idea of who you are and what you want, you might be wondering how to track the metrics we mentioned in step two. One way to gather the data you need is by using web analytics tools.
Web analytics tools are used to track and measure website performance and user behavior. They provide data and insights on website traffic, user engagement, conversion rates, and other key metrics.
There are several analytics tools on the market, with the most well-known tracking tool being Google Analytics.
Google Analytics is a web analytics service that provides comprehensive statistics and analysis for websites and mobile apps. It offers a range of features such as data visualization tools, customizable dashboards, and segmentation for deeper analysis of user behavior. With Google Analytics, organizations can gain insights into their website’s performance, such as the number of visitors, page views, bounce rates, and conversion rates.
While Google Analytics is ubiquitous in the market, some organizations might want to explore alternatives if privacy is an important value in their organization.
Plausible is a privacy-focused alternative to Google that tracks the usage of a website without collecting any personal data or personally identifiable information (PII), without using cookies, and while respecting the privacy of your website visitors.
Other organizations might be interested in going deeper and investing in tools that give them insight into how people are interacting with their site’s pages. In these scenarios, an organization might take a look at something like Crazy Egg.
Crazy Egg is an online application that similarly to the tools above helps organizations monitor and analyze their website’s traffic and user behavior. In addition to gaining insights into how their users are interacting with their website, including which pages are most popular, which links are most frequently clicked, and where users are dropping off. Crazy Egg offers heat mapping tools that allow website owners to visualize user behavior on their site, making it easier to identify areas that require optimization and improvement. You can learn more about how to use Crazy Egg for your nonprofit website in our guide, here.
As you can see, even the decision on which tool to choose to track data boils down to not only your personalized website goals and metrics but your needs and even your values as an organization.
Is privacy a value for you? Do the metrics that matter to you go beyond the click? Is it important for you to know about their behavior on the site?
Once you know what metrics you want to track. Take the time to research which tool will get you the best answers. Push yourself to go beyond what is easy and ask yourself what is needed.
Step Four: Track Your Data at the Right Cadence
The benefit of personalized metrics is that they are primed to be useful for the real-world impact you have every day. However, there is still a bridge to be crossed between what you collect and what you decide to do with it.
A cadence of data collection needs to be established. As an organization, a decision needs to be made about whether you will be reviewing data on a weekly, monthly, or quarterly basis.
Having an important report that simply collects dust is of no use to anyone.
One helpful way to avoid this is to build in the cadence of reviewing analytics with major strategic pushes.
As a philanthropic organization, you might want to align your reviews with your grant calendar.
As a national education policy organization, you might have several key moments, such as donation campaigns, policy campaigns, or even academic milestones like the beginning and end of the school year.
Aligning your reviews with your real-world calendars can allow you to see how your website is helping you be successful in key moments of your work.
At the end of the day, finding the right cadence for the review of your data helps ensure your data drives decision-making and strategy.
Nonprofit website metrics can feel intimidating to those of us who don’t spend all our time looking at data. The good news is that focusing on personalized website metrics is ultimately about lifting up quality data over quantity.
What is important in developing website metrics is coming up with metrics that will help improve your work and the experience of your website visitors. Doing this means taking the time to know your organization’s and audiences’ needs well. It means taking the time to use the right tools and ultimately reviewing data in the moments it matters most for your organization.
Making this shift allows you to cut through all the noise and focus on the few numbers that can make your work and ultimately brand even better.
So what will your cup of metrics be?
Only you can decide, but with the right approach and a willingness to experiment and iterate, you can create personalized website metrics that can help you engage more authentically with your audience, measure success more effectively, and drive your brand forward in more impactful ways.