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8 Insightful Website Metrics for Nonprofits

Nonprofit websites are a world apart from eCommerce or branding sites. Sure, you want to abide by many of the same best practices that apply to web design as a whole - but Nonprofit sites have unique goals, and deserve a set of original metrics to match.

With that in mind, here's a list of the essential metrics to track when assessing your Nonprofit site's success:

8 Insightful Website Metrics for Nonprofits

  1. Traffic
  2. Ah, an easy one to start! Site traffic is an important month-to-month metric of how many people are visiting your site.

    The goal here is pretty simple: an uptick in traffic signifies positive growth for your site's reach. There's no "right" amount of traffic for any site, since all organizations have different target personas and mediums of communication. So, set your goals based on both competitive analysis and a realistic assessment of your past performance. 

    If you do see a month go by with negative growth, don't panic. Drops in traffic are a natural part of the online circle of life, and they are often attributed to elements outside of your control, like the holidays. 

    If you see a few months go by with stagnant or negative performance, it's time to consider new ways to drive traffic to your site. Translation: you need Inbound marketing.


  3. Referral Sources
  4. What's that phrase about embracing your past? Something to the effect of, "To know where you're going, you have to understand where you came from."

    Albeit cheesy, this adage translates beautifully into a critical part for nonprofit website performance: referral sources.

    If you're not so familiar with analytics lingo, refferal sources are simply the places people are visiting your website from. Examples of refferals could be:

    - A link on Facebook to your blog
    - A link in a news article to your homepage
    - An ad you placed on another site

    Referral sources can help you paint a detailed picture of where your audience spends time, and which mediums are most deserving of your time investment. To know who your audience is, it's important to understand where they're coming from.

    If you're thinking "Shannon, you bonehead, sources aren't metrics!", then yes, you've got me on a technicality. Still, I'd suggest listing your top 5-10 referral sources in your monthly reporting, and tracking their contributions to your site traffic.


  5. Time on Site
  6. Everybody is always talking about time on site. It's kind of like money: no matter how much time people spend on our sites, we always seem to want more.

    This metric matters because it provides insight into how long you have (on average) to capture your audience's attention. 

    Whether they're donors, advocates, or information seekers, you want people to spend enough time on your site to complete the indented act (sign up to volunteer, make a contribution, etc.)

    If you see your time on site dropping off over the course of a few months, it's probably correlated with poor site structure. Look into optimizing the paths toward your intended conversions, and beefing up the quality of your content to hold onto those eyeballs.


  7. Inbound Links
  8. Inbound links are the highlight of a marketing nerd's day. These links occur when another website hyperlinks back to your site.

    For example, this is an Inbound link for jInbound, our Joomla marketing component. It's also a shameless self promotion, but that's another story.

    Inbound links are unique from referrals in that they don't have to actually be clicked, they just have to exist.

    But if they're not driving visitors, who cares?

    Google does, my friend.

    The more inbound links a site gets from other high quality, high authority sites, the more fondly Google thinks of it when related searches are conducted. This can translate to a higher position on a search result page.

    You can see your number of Inbound links, and where they're coming from, with free tools like Open Site Explorer from Moz. 


  9. Content Category Performance
  10. Similar to referral sources, content categories help us understand the motivations and behaviors of our site's users.

    In Google Analtyics, you can view your site's performance broken down by content areas of the site under Behavior > Site Content > Content Drilldown. Ideally, these will be organized accroding to your site structure: examples of content categories might include Blog, Events, Get Involved, etc.

    When you click into each content category, you can see performance for each page that belongs to that category.

    This is handy for comparing performance on related but distinct pages (think "Make a Donation" VS "Make a Recurring Contribution") and can show you which site areas are in need of a revamp. 


  11. Bounce Rate on Donation Pages
  12. Bounce rate - another fan favorite.

    Althought this metric sounds like a blast (who doesn't love trampolines?) a high bounce rate is generally not a great thing.

    Bounce rate refers to the percent of visitors who visit a site (or page) without clicking to at least one additional page on the site. This could be someone who visits your homepage and hits the back button, or someone who views your donation page and decides to hold on to that $50.

    For your site as a whole, anything under 50% is considered a healthy bounce rate. But I'd advise diving in deeper, and measuring the bounce rate on your specific donation pages. This can help uncover donation environments which are not performing, and direct optimization efforts. 


  13. New Visitors VS Returning Visitors
  14. The impact of this metric really depends on your goals: are you trying to engage and convert current members of your community, or are you trying to spread awareness of your cause?

    I know what you're thinking: "I must do both!"

    Yes, you ambitious Nonprofit marketer, you must indeed to both. But to get value out of this metric, you need to prioritize, or at least differentiate between the two.

    A high new visitor percentage means your message is reaching new audiences. A high returning visitor percentage means you've won half the battle in deepening ties with your existing community.

    Care about both, but prioritize one at a time.


  15. Online Donations Conversion Rate
  16. This metric assumes you're collecting online donations. It also assumes you care about increasing them.

    If you're interested in the first criteria, I certainly hope you're interested in the second.

    Sometimes "conversion" is a tricky word in Nonprofit marketing, because it can mean so many different things. In the context of online donations, it's simple: what percent of people who visited your site made a donation?

    Calculate this by dividing your total unique audience (not the same thing as traffic!) by your total number of conversions for the month. 

    If you're dismayed to see a low percent, don't throw in the towel yet. Anything between 2-5% is considered a healthy transaction conversion, and there are a lot of optimization tactics available if you need a boost.


If you start with these metrics, you'll be on your way to developing a complete analysis plan which sheds light on your month-to-month success and growth. But before you start measuring, there's one critical step you must take:

  • Exclude your own IP address from tracking - How many times a week do you visit your own website? If you're like me, probably quite a few. That's why it's important to exclude your organization's IP address from Analytics reporting, so you're not including all that internal traffic in your calculations.

    If you're using Google Analytics, you can exclude a range of IP addresses by following these steps

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