HOWTO: Help Non-Profits Maximize Analysis Exchange

Optimizing Participation by Non-Profits

Turn 24 Pages Into Increased Donations

Connecting organizations with people willing to donate their time and effort to help the organizations better understand their web analytics, the Analysis Exchange is a resource every non-profit should be aware of.

Participation in the Analysis Exchange doesn’t require a great deal of technical expertise or advanced know how. What is outlined below are the Baseline Requirements for participation, as well as a collection of very straightforward tips to maximize the return to your organization from the time spent with the Analysis Exchange.

If the additional tips are just too much to take on at this point, please participate in the Analysis Exchange anyway! Complete a project, get your feet wet and then consider taking on a second project incorporating one or more tips.

The most important element of the Analysis Exchange is " . . that it is fun for all parties involved," so don’t worry. Bring your site, your questions and let some really smart people do some free work for you and your organization!

Baseline Requirements

How to Maximize Your Analysis Exchange Project Value

Implement Google Analytics

All organizations need to use Google Analytics as their web analytics tool to participate in the Analysis Exchange.

Using Google Analytics is a requirement for participation in the Analysis Exchange due to the cost, free, and utility, high. Sign up for an account here if you have not already done so.

Google will give you a tracking snippet, a small piece of code, which you need to place on every page of your website. If you are using a Content Management System, such as WordPress, this should be a snap as you only need to insert the snippet in your template which the CMS uses on every page.

Google Analytics recently upgraded to their “Asynchronous Snippet” which is better than the traditional tracking code. If at all possible use the Async code.

In the unlikely event you get stuck, first check the fantastic implementation guide by Google here for Async and here for the traditional code. If you are performing a fresh install of Google Analytics give the tool some time to collect data sufficient enough for the student to analyze.

Due to different traffic volumes for sites across the internet this will vary greatly, I recommend you start checking every two weeks after installation to see what it looks like.

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Expected Google Analytics Knowledge

Organizations are not expected to be masters of Google Analytics and the students are there to help, in conjunction with the mentors. The Analysis Exchange Opportunites and Expectations Handbook provides the guideline that organizations should be able to frame a question which a student could answer for you.

Questions that revolve around conversions are usually excellent. For example:

  • Who is converting to donate via your donationg page?
  • What could a student tell you about them that makes that site traffic different from other traffic?

You don’t need to understand advanced statistics, multi-variate testing or any other methods to participate in the Analysis Exchange.

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Analysis Exchange Project Flow

Projects in the Analysis Exchange are designed to be completed within the two to three week timeframe which requires a tightly run project schedule.

Organizations that know that a particular season is busier than others could perhaps schedule their Analysis Exchange projects during a period of time which they are more confident of availability to the student and or mentor.

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Time Commitment

Within the two to three week period, organizations should expect to spend about two and half hours directly interacting with the student and or mentor. Maximize your returns from participation by making you and your organization as available as possible.

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Join the Analysis Exchange

Join the Analysis Exchange here. Keep in mind that every organization is hand approved and the approval email may go to your spam folder.

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Post Your Project

The Analysis Exchange Opportunites and Expectations Handbook gives wide latitude for organizations to define their project – given that it can be completed in two to three weeks.

Use the questions you generated from your Google Analytics Knowledge to define your project. Something such as:

We would like to increase conversions to donate on our website and better understand how the traffic on our site which doesn’t convert is different from that which does.

Also note that at this point you will need to upload your organization’s logo to the Analysis Exchange website.

Select Team Members

At this points mentors and students will apply to work on your project, you should be notified by email when they express interest.

Review the applicants’ Analysis Exchange profiles; should they list Twitter or LinkedIn profiles review those as well. Select whom you would like to work with to get the project started.

Kickoff The Project

A quick one hour call, likely led by the mentor, will include introductions, a discussion of potential projects and at least the basics of a time line.

Presentation of Findings

The final portion of the project is the presentation of findings by the student to the organization, done via Google Presentation or another web presentation solution. I have prepared instructions on how to conduct the presentation via Google Presentation and Google Chat here. The student will hopefully impress all in attendance with their insights and propel the organization onto new heights.

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After The Project

Finally, you just have to review your student and mentor. They will likewise review you and your organization.

That’s it!

Opportunity For Excellence

Rather, for the basic expectations that is it. Consider that:

  • Web analytics consultants are hard to find
  • Expensive when you do find them
  • Your web presences is largely how the outside world
    • Learns about your organization
    • Becomes involved with your organization
    • Donates money to your organization
  • You could even potentially increase revenue as a result of the project

Organizations would be wise to spend a little extra effort to maximize the return on investment of time by the student. If that’s for you, read on.

Google Analytics Get Ready

Make metrics a priority in your organization by taking the time and making the effort to review at least some of the documentation prior to the start of your project; in addition to enhancing the project you will continue to use the knowledge afterwards.

Population Action International participated in a project where I worked with them on their overall site efficiencies. Dilly Severin, the main point of contact with PAI, continues to impress me with her level of web analytics knowledge. This enabled our project to focus on solving issues which directly related to increasing fund raising through donations.

Free Google Documentation

Start with the free resources from Google Analytics.

  • Google Analytics Getting Started – Printed out it is only 7 pages. Seven pages.
  • Google Analytics Help – Have a question? Check here.
  • Google Analytics IQ – More in depth training videos.
  • Web Analytics TV – Listen to the Google Analytics YouTube channel over lunch!

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Web Analytics Get Ready

Practitioners which I have worked with have taken the opportunity of working with the Analysis Exchange to evangelize the value of web analytics to other business units. Don’t miss your chance to shine!

Free Web Analytics Documentation

Eric T. Peterson, the founder of the Analysis Exchange, has produced exemplary web analytics resources. Recently he made them freely available for download. Absolutely everyone in web analytics should have these already, if you somehow don’t they are available here.

Understanding how to relate website performance to business objectives is detailed in "The Big Book of Key Performance Indicators," which defines Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) as:

The big idea behind KPIs is that you’re taking technical data and presenting it using business-relevant language. Key performance indicators

  • Use rates, ratios, percentages and averages instead of raw numbers
  • Leverage tachometers and thermometers and stoplights instead of pie charts and bar graphs
  • Provide temporal context and highlight change instead of presenting tables of data
  • Drive business-critical action

The web analyst would be wise to at the very least read Chapters 1 and 2. Reviewing Chapter 3, as it which discusses the specific KPI’s and how to calculate them, would be an excellent idea.

Chapter 4 discusses the specific measurements for websites of different business types. For non-profits, start by taking a look at the Marketing Site KPIs, which begin on page 83. Add to that a dash of both the Online Retailer and Content Site KPI’s, starting on pages 79 and 72 respectively.

The KPI’s for the respective business types are straightforward to understand with excellent examples. Even if you just give the sections a cursory reading with barely a try at implementation before your project, you will reap the rewards numerous times over.

Web Analytics Continuing Education

In terms of continuing education in Google Analytics I recommend Advanced Web Metrics with Google Analytics by Brian Clifton, although Google Analytics by Justin Cutroni is a close second. Both books start at the beginning, moving more in depth after that to provide excellent resources to users.

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Organizational Get Ready

The organizational contact is typically the web facing specialist, perhaps more of a content focused person that an analytics focused person specifically. Chapters 1 and 2 of "The Big Book of Key Performance Indicators" comprise 17 pages of pure web analytics understanding which is digestible by any individual.

If the organization can make analytics a priority, convincing anyone in the following areas should be willing to spare the time to read 17 pages:

  • Marketing
  • Online and Offline
  • Public Relations
  • Finance
  • Collecting Donations
  • Content
  • IT
  • Organizational Goals

That would basically be just about everyone in the organization that makes a decision. Your web presence is that important to your organization; creating ways to explain what web analysts do to other business units is something you can even bring out as part of your project!

For every one of the presentations I have been involved with, either as a mentor or student, I have always welcomed whomever would like to sit in the final presentation. If they are prepped, perhaps by reading a certain 17 page document, the job of the web analyst going forward is potentially going to be more effective.

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Get Ready Extra Credit

There are a couple of additional Google tools which, if implemented, can also be incorporated into Analysis Exchange projects.

Google AdWords

Students have worked on Google AdWords as part of their project, if you are a qualifying non-profit Google provides up to $10,000 in AdWords grants. Further details on the program are available here

The Myelin Repair Foundation leveraged this grant in a project with the Analysis Exchange to very positive returns.

Google Webmaster Tools

Google Webmaster Tools helps understand how Google sees your site, how site issues may affect your Search Engine Optimization (SEO), potential crawl errors and much more. You can even validate site ownership with a Google Analytics implementation. Read more here.

One of my previous projects involved an organization which relied heavily on the use of Adobe Flash to present visually powerful images and movies to prospective donors. These media were very effective, except when it came to SEO as Flash has to be indexed properly by Google for the content to be searchable.

Through the use of Google Webmaster Tools I was able to show the organization how their hard work was not being recognized by Google, how to get it recognized, and what the potential increase in exposure from SEO improvements would be.

Recently the Google Webmaster Blog posted several articles specifically to help non-profits. If you have not already read them, they are available here, here and here.

CMS and Email Solutions

If you are interested, both, a Customer Relationship Management solution, and VerticalResponse, an email marketing solution, offer free or low cost products for qualifying non-profits here and here, respectively.

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Describing Success

Aside from the technical and organizational preparation for the Analysis Exchange, the most important task for participating organ izations is the crafting of the project description. This is where organizations can help themselves tremendously by creating a clear project description showing an understanding of web analytics and some background of the organization.

Try to be clear in your description. Vague project descriptions make it appear as if you are getting started without reading the seven page "Getting Started" guide from Google Analytics.

I worked on a project which had a very loose description and it actually turned out splendidly. I was able to create a temporal analysis of their site traffic illustrating how the organization could increase donations collected by targeting different segments depending on the time of the year, day of the week and hour of the day.

That project turned out very nicely because my mentor, Michael Helbling, was very good about keeping us on schedule. A more consistent choice would be to ensure that you spend the two weeks doing the project and not the first part thinking about what the it should be.

Succinctly Successful

As a nonprofit, we have a Google Grant for free Adwords advertising, worth up to $10,000/year. It’s been in use for a couple years, with a fairly low click-through rate. I’d like someone to see what I have set up and make suggestions on what needs improvement.

This example project description is very concise, and on point. As a mentor I know what I am getting into, what sort of student I may want to involve in this project and most importantly I am already formulating a plan for success. We can hit the ground running.

Exceeding Expectations

Tri-Valley Animal Rescue (TVAR) is a 100% volunteer organization which rescues over 1,000 local animals yearly. Our website 1) Encourages the adoption of animals, 2) Raises funds directly or indirectly through events for the care of the animals, and 3) Works to expand on the 250+ existing volunteers in the organization. TVAR would like to increase conversions to those three goals. We are also open to any suggestions to improve our site experience. For more information please email

This example demonstrates how organizations can:

  • Give a quick intro into who they are and what they do
  • Show an understanding of web analytics
  • Provide specific goals for improvement
  • Are expressing openness in constructive criticism
  • Provide their email to answer further questions

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Evaluating Potential Success

Providing your email, assuming that you check and respond to inquiries, is such a valuable step. For my project as a mentor with the New Zealand Drug Foundation (NZDF) the organizational contact, Stephen Blyth, took the step after I applied to be the mentor but before acceptance to email me.

Stephen asked a few very pertinent questions related to the issues relevant to the NZDF site experience; he asked about my perspective on the issue of illegal drug use and my understanding of the issue. That extra touch of attention drove home to me that the organization was taking the project seriously, so much so that I felt the extra drive to produce something worthwhile to exceed their expectations.

Take the time to engage at least a short list of mentors and students on what their understanding of your:

  • Project
  • Organization

In the case of the NZDF, if their answer had been "meh" that may have worked out just fine. My answer was more along the lines of:

Punishing drug crimes through incarceration has been proven ineffective, some of the research was done by one of my professors and is available here.

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Critically Successful

The student’s role is not to validate the existence of the current site, or make you feel good about how awesome your work product is. If the student is exceeding expectations they will, in all likelihood, suggest changes to the organizational site which you may or may not agree with.

When working with the students, try to remember:

  1. The student is only trying to help you do better
  2. You most likely have done a very good job so far
  3. Everyone is on the same team
  4. The student may even be right

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Close The Larger Loop With The Student

Something that students are often learning is that organizations move at different paces, some move quickly while many just move at the pace that they move. Projects completed within three weeks are not always going to return results inside the time frame of the project.

You have the student’s email address, right?

Take a minute after everything is done, when you are actually implementing some of the suggestions which the student gave and send them a quick email such as this one which I received long after my project was completed:

Once again, thanks for your help and offer [of] support.

The student in the project worked very hard, as the mentor I had it slightly easier, so I was very glad to see that even several weeks removed from the project the organization showed appreciation. Students really put a tremendous amount of effort into what they are doing so I would recommend my business relationship maxim to the organizations at this point "Take care of the people that take care of you."

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From Knowledge To Action

At the very least, I strongly encourage you to read the seven page Google Analytics "Getting Started" guide and the 17 pages that comprise Chapters 1 and 2 of "The Big Book of Key Performance Indicators" before you begin a project.

The combined 24 pages should empower your organization to increase utility of your site, hopefully increasing donations to your cause making your organization a more effective advocate.

If you would like to connect about any questions or a particularly interesting project for the Analysis Exchange, feel free to email me.

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Technorati Tags: Analysis Exchange, Eric T. Peterson, HOWTO, Measure, Michael Helbling, Non-Profits, NZDF, Volunteering

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