Why Do You Have a Website? (Episode II: The Empire Strikes Back)

A website allows people to become aware of your cause, engage with your organization, and take action. We’ve talked key metrics and devising a digital strategy, but you won’t be able to track your success without Google Analytics. In part two of our Why You Need a Website series, we dive into setting and tracking goals on your website.
(Yes, we also know that The Empire Strikes Back is Episode V, not Episode II… but let’s pretend those prequels never happened.)

First, what is Google Analytics?

Google Analytics is a free tool that you can use to track user behavior on your site. The setup is easy: Just add a snippet of code to every page of your site. Make sure you integrate AdWords and Search Console if you use them (and we recommend you do), and turn on demographics tracking. For more on setting up Google Analytics (including a checklist), check out our guide.

Focus on goals

Today we are focusing on setting up Google Analytics goals to track key actions on-site. In other words, what are users doing? With Google Analytics installed, you can see where people are coming from (source and medium), where they are first landing on your website (landing page), and where they are going on your site (page views).

What you can’t see is where and when people take key actions, just as a grocery store owner can’t see the exact moment and location when a family is buying a squash in their store. By defining key actions (like buying a squash, or donating) on your site through Google Analytics, you’ll be able to track and analyze key performance indicators.

In the case of Power Poetry, we want to know when someone is adding a poem, filling out a form, and logging in, because that information all indicates that people are taking action and the site is driving impact.

If choosing goals is leaving you a bit stymied, here’s an easy way to choose: If someone is giving you their information by signing up for your newsletter, filling out a form to volunteer, donating, etc., then you will want to set those actions up as goals. Once you track what matters, you will be able to analyze what drives people to complete those goals, and optimize your digital strategy to make it happen more frequently.

Google Analytics: Key terms

Before we get into optimization, let’s review some Google Analytics lingo:


Refers to the number of distinct visitors to your site. If George visits your site 50 times, he will be counted as one unique visitor. These are tracked by cookies.


Refers to the total number of visits to your site, including repeat visits from the same visitor.  A new session is counted after 29:30 of time passing between actions on the site.


When a user views a page on your site. Can be any page. A session can be made up of many pageviews.

To keep track of this data in neat dashboards, you can download our bundle.

Understanding the Google Analytics process

Now that you’re collecting data in Google Analytics and know the lingo, it’s time to analyze those numbers. You may be wondering: Why am I looking at a huge pile of numbers when I thought we were talking about websites? This is part of the process of gathering data, asking questions, analyzing, finding insights, and learning and acting.
Gather Data, Analyze Data, Act on Data
Your ability to articulate why you have a website depends on your ability to understand the data it’s generating and turn those data into actionable insights. The work isn’t done once you define your key performance indicators and track them as goals — your website isn’t a static page with a single form.
This process of gathering, analyzing, and acting is the key to building and harnessing the power of your web traffic. Ask the questions from your team, build out your Google Analytics account and funnel of engagement, then operationalize the process.

Asking the right questions from Google Analytics

A common question we hear is, “What are people doing on our website?” This is a broad (and frankly bad) question, because it’s vague and not necessarily linked to your KPIs or the reason you have a website in the first place. Everyone could respond to this question with similar answers: Traffic is coming from big cities, traffic drops in the summer, etc. This does not say anything about your particular organization and your goals. Here are some good questions to ask instead, and how to answer them

  1. Where is our front door?
  2. How is our organic traffic year-over-year?
  3. How is mobile traffic doing?
  4. Are we reaching decision-makers?

This is the second in a 3-part series on why you need a website. Watch Part 1 here, and stay tuned for Part 3. In the meantime, subscribe to Whole Whale TV (and be the first to know when new content is added)!