Understanding online visitors, not just visits


Your digital community is no longer accessing you only via their computers — now their smartphones, tablets, internet-enabled TVs, and even gaming consoles are an important part of this experience. How can community news and information projects adapt to a multi-device world? A new analytics tool from Google can help you start to figure this out.

For years, Google Analytics has been one of the most popular free tools for monitoring web traffic. The new Universal version of Google Analytics offers expanded insight into how people interact with you across many devices and “touchpoints” (such as social media).

Universal Analytics moves away from tracking what happens during individual visits to your website, and instead tracks the behavior of visitors. As eConsultancy notes: “It stitches user data together across platforms and devices, and can track activity on any web-enabled device. That includes websites, mobile apps and point-of-sale systems, which means that Universal Analytics can track offline conversions too.”

Wait, doesn’t that sound like a tool for retailers, not publishers? Yes: It’s important to keep in mind that Google Analytics is first and foremost intended to support e-commerce. It’s designed to track how well you’re “funneling” visitors toward “conversion points” — such as product sales.

That’s not a bad thing. It’s useful to consider your community, and engagement, in terms of funnels and conversion points. Because — unless your community project is strictly a hobby — chances are you’re hoping to not just attract eyeballs, but to make stuff happen.

This isn’t only about getting people to click on ads. You might be soliciting donations, courting volunteers, trying out new advertising or sponsorship models, or gauging whether your efforts have increased local voter turnout or public meeting attendance. Also, you probably need to justify your efficacy and influence to funders, advertisers, and other stakeholders, or even internally.

For all of these goals it’s important to track not just where people go on your website, but what they DO there — and why. And without tools that can track user behavior across multiple device types and touchpoints, you’ll have a fragmented understanding of how you’re influencing your community.

Google Analytics is the first major mainstream data management platform — an emerging breed of marketer tools that bears increasing relevance to publishers and community information and engagement efforts.

DMPs offer they kind of analysis that makes it easier to segment your audience and define new (or overlooked) opportunities to build your business or support your mission.

Continue reading on www.knightdigitalmediacenter.org



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