Basic web analytics

A guide for using analytics to understand how and when people visit your election website

The internet makes information available with the swipe of a screen. Mobile technology connects us wherever and whenever. This means that if your election website works well on a smartphone, the people in your community are empowered with more civic information than ever.

But unless your election office has infrastructure to collect and analyze your website data, you’ll miss out on opportunities to make informed decisions that can improve your office’s communication and minimize confusion about the democratic process.

Using the free Google Analytics tool, you’ll learn how to set up an account for your election office website and understand some of the basic reports produced by Google Analytics.

What you'll need

  • Computer with internet access
  • Google/Gmail account
  • Access to the back-end of your election website to add tracking code

Table of contents

  1. Understanding how Google Analytics works
  2. Defining Google Analytics terms
  3. Creating a measurement plan
  4. Setting up a Google Analytics account
  5. Adding a tracking ID or code to your website

Understanding how Google Analytics works

For the purposes of the Toolkit, digital analytics is the analysis of data from your election office website. Through this analysis, you can improve the online experience of your community and improve your election office’s outreach strategies both online and offline.

A user has data collection, configuration, processing, and reporting icons arranged in different colored boxes

Google Analytics collects, processes, configures, and reports your website data

Google Analytics performs 4 main data tasks for your website.

Data collection
Google Analytics uses a small piece of JavaScript code to track a website. You must add the code to your election website. It collects information about how visitors engage with your site, how they find your site, their geographical location when they visit your site, and what kind of technology they use to visit your website.

Data processing
In addition to collecting data, Google Analytics processes data. Think of this as taking all of the raw information and translating it into something useful before displaying it.

Data configuration
Google Analytics allows you to choose configurations for your data. This means, for example, you can set filters that exclude your own website interaction data from the reports.

Data reporting
Google Analytics reports are displayed through a web interface. We’ll explore audience, acquisition, and behavior reports. There’s lots of data to discover in the reporting, and we encourage you to learn more on your own. For more advanced users, you can use a custom application code with the Google Analytics API.

As you learn more about analytics, keep in mind the online courses offered by the Google Analytics Academy.

Glossary of terms

It’s important to understand Google Analytics terms and concepts so you are correctly interpreting your election website data in the dashboard and reports. Below is a small collection of terms that will be used throughout the instructions. You can learn more terms and concepts in the Google Analytics Glossary.

  • API – application program interface is a set of routines, protocols, and tools for building software and applications.
  • Bounce rate – the percentage of single-page sessions (i.e., sessions in which the person left your website from the entrance page without interacting with the entrance page). High bounce rates may indicate that your visitors have difficulty navigating your website. Alternatively, high bounce rates may indicate that visitors are quickly finding the information they need and leaving.
  • Conversion – a completed activity, either online or offline, that is important to the success of your election office. For example, a poll worker signing up for text alerts or a person completing a voter registration form.
  • Dimension – a descriptive characteristic of your data that can be given different values. Browser, Landing Page, Session Duration are all examples of default dimensions in Google Analytics.
  • Event – interactions that visitors have on your election website that can be tracked. For example, when a poll worker downloads a training manual or watches a training video.
  • Goal – represents a completed activity, called a conversion, that contributes to the success of your election office.
  • Hit – an interaction on your election website that results in data being sent to Analytics. For example, when someone visits a page on your website.
  • IP address – short for Internet Protocol address. Used to identify computers on the internet.
  • Metric – a quantitative measurement of your data. For example, pageviews.
  • Pageview – an instance of a page being loaded in a browser.
  • Property – a sub-component of your Analytics account. A single property example is your election website.
  • Session – the period of time a visitor is active on your website. By default, if a visitor is inactive for 30 minutes or more, their future activity will count as a new session.
  • Source/Medium – Source is the origin of your website traffic, such as a search engine like Google. Medium is the general category of the source. Examples of medium are organic search, paid search or cost-per-click (cpc), and referral.
  • Tag – a snippet of JavaScript that sends information to a third party, such as Google. Your Analytics tracking code is one example of a tag.
  • Tracking code – a snippet of JavaScript that collects and sends data to Analytics from a website. You can add the tracking code directly to the HTML of each page on your election website. Depending on your website platform, you may be able to add your Tracking ID to the back-end of your website rather than adding the code to each page.

Creating a measurement plan

Before setting up an analytics account and adding a tracking code to your election office website, you need to determine your election office’s objectives.

As the official online resource for election information in your jurisdiction, one of your objectives may be to help people in your community easily find election information so they can participate in the electoral process.

To make the best use of the website data your election office produces, you will need to identify your office’s objectives and strategies, understand digital analytics, and have basic technical skills.

Step 1: Define your election office objectives

Determine what value your election office brings to the community and why people come to your website. What are your objectives?

  • Objective example: Increase voter registration rate to 80% by 2020.

Step 2: Identify strategies and tactics

Strategy is the plan that ensures your daily activities contribute to your election office’s objectives. Tactics are the practical things you do every day in your election office. Strategies and tactics can be both online and offline activities.

  • Strategy example: Drive traffic from Facebook to the voter registration page on your website.
  • Strategy example: Get more young people registered to vote.
  • Tactic example: Post engaging content to Facebook regularly with link to your website.
  • Tactic example: Create a competition between local high schools and colleges to see which school can register the most voters.

Step 3: Choose Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

Measuring your strategies and tactics will help you determine how your election office is performing.

  • KPI example: Traffic source/medium
  • KPI example: Pageviews

Step 4: Implement your plan

Implementing a measurement plan requires you to organize people, process, tools, and technologies. You should plan to have an ongoing conversation with your IT team to fully implement and maintain Google Analytics for your election website.

By including your IT personnel, you will better understand your tech environment. IT can help you learn about server technologies, mobile technologies, and your office’s ability to track everything you need to track to meet your objectives.

Setting up a Google Analytics account

We won’t cover every configuration for Google Analytics, but we will cover the basics to get you started.

  1. Go to google.com/analytics. In the upper right corner, click SIGN IN. A drop down box will appear. Select Google Analytics.
  2. Sign in using your preferred Gmail account. If you do not have a Gmail account, you will need to create one to use Google Analytics.
  3. On the right of the screen, click Sign up.
  4. In the upper left corner, where it asks what would you like to track, select Website.
  5. Set up your account details by entering your account name, website name, website URL, industry category (Law and government), and time zone.
  6. Set up your data sharing settings by reviewing the boxes that are checked by default. You may decide to un-check the boxes.
  7. In the bottom left corner, click Get Tracking ID.
  8. To use Google Analytics you must first accept the terms of service agreement. In the lower left corner, click I Accept.

Adding a Tracking ID or code

After you create your account, your Google Analytics Admin tab opens.

In the middle of the page is your Tracking ID for your Google Analytics property.

Below the Tracking ID is the tracking code.

A user has the Admin tab of Google Analytics open to get the tracking ID and tracking code

Get your website tracking ID or tracking code from the Admin tab of Google Analytics

If you are using a 3rd- party web hosting provider like WordPress, GoDaddy, or Wix, you will need to follow their instructions to set up Google Analytics on your website.

If you are using the CTCL election website template for Google Blogger, you can add your Analytics Web Property to your website by clicking Settings on the left side of your dashboard. Then select Other. Google Analytics will be at the bottom of the page. After entering your ID, in the upper right corner, click Save settings.

If you cannot use the ID, you must copy and paste the tracking code into every page on your election website that you want to track. We recommend pasting it into the code at the top of each page, inside the header tags.

In the middle of your screen, you can click OKAY, GOT IT! to delete the pop-up message.

Then, at the top of the page, click Admin to refresh the page.

 Table of contents

  1. Understanding your account structure
  2. Setting up basic filters
  3. Adding goals
  4. Overview of reports
  5. Exploring Audience Reports
  6. Exploring Acquisition Reports
  7. Exploring Behavior Reports

Understanding your account structure

Think of your Google Analytics account as a way to gather data from all of your digital properties, which may include multiple websites, blogs, and mobile apps for your election office. For the purposes of the Toolkit instructions, we are only using one account and one property – a local election website.

At the top of your screen, you will see 4 tabs:

  • Home
  • Reporting
  • Customization
  • Admin
A user has the Google Analytics Home tab open with the list of properties and election website

Start from your Home tab

In the Home tab, you will see the data that you entered when you set up your Google Analytics account: your account name and your election website name. Below your website name is the default view for your website data. This is called All Web Site Data.

We will introduce the Admin tab next and explore the Reporting tab. The Customization tab is great for more advanced users and we encourage you to learn more about customizing Google Analytics on your own. The Google Analytics Academy includes helpful resources on customization.

Setting up basic filters

Common filters can improve the quality of your reports. You can use them to include data, exclude data, or change data format to match your needs.

For example, you’ll want to exclude traffic data from your employees while including traffic data from people in your community. This means you will need to filter out the traffic that comes from your election office’s IP address. Learn more about IP addresses, including how to find yours.

Filters are built on conditions. If the condition is true, then Google Analytics will take an action. If the condition is false, then Google Analytics will not take an action. There are predefined filters and custom filters in Google Analytics. Once you create a filter it will be added to your account filter library. More advanced users can create filters to remove, replace, and combine fields in complex ways.

In this example, we add a predefined filter to exclude a public IP address.

  1. In the top of your Analytics dashboard, click the Admin.
  2. In the third column from the right titled VIEW, click Filters.
  3. In the middle of your screen, click the red button, ADD FILTER.
  4. Under Filter Information add a Filter Name. For this example, we enter “Exclude public IP address.”
  5. Under Filter Type Predefined, click the filter type drop down menu and select Exclude.
  6. From Select source or destination drop down menu, click traffic from the IP addresses.
  7. From the Select expression drop down menu, click that are equal to.
  8. Enter IP address.
  9. Click Save.
A user can make selections and enter information to create a filter in Google Analytics

By excluding your own public IP address, your website traffic data will be more accurate

The analytics education section that appears in your Admin tab has helpful information about the section you’re working in. We encourage you to read more about filters and other topics in the analytics education area.

Adding goals

Setting up goals is one way to connect the data in Google Analytics to the key performance indicators in your measurement plan.

Goals are configured at the view level in Google Analytics.

There are 4 different types of goals and all of them track conversions.

  • Destination – triggered when user sees a page on your website after they complete an activity (for example, a screen that tells poll workers thanks for signing up for text alerts)
  • Duration – triggered when a user’s visit falls below or exceeds a time threshold that you set
  • Pages/screens per visit  – triggered when a user sees more or fewer pages than a page threshold that you set
  • Event  – triggered when a user does something specific like download a PDF or watch a video

For the following example, we create a destination goal to measure our effectiveness of driving online traffic to our voter registration page.

  1. Go to your Admin tab in Google Analytics.
  2. Near the top of the third column, click Goals.
  3. In the middle of the screen, click the red button, + NEW GOAL.
  4. At the bottom of the Goal Setup section, select Custom.
  5. Click the blue Continue.
  6. Under Goal description name, type Voter registration page.
  7. Skip the Goal slot ID setting.
  8. For Type, select Destination.
  9. Click the blue Continue.
  10. For Destination, copy and paste your voter registration page URL. For example, /registration.html instead of countyelections.com/registration.html.
  11. Keep Value and Funnel in the Off position.
  12. Click the blue Save button.
A user makes selections and adds inputs to create a destination goal in Google Analytics

By setting up goals in Google Analytics, you can quickly see how your election website is performing in relation to your objectives

You can also create a goal for pages viewed per session. Click the + New Goal button and then select Custom. Then, you’ll be able to easily select Pages/screens per session and set the number of pages for your goal. We think 2 or 3 pages per session is a reasonable goal for an election website.

Reporting overview

There are lots of useful reports within Google Analytics, and you can customize the reports to fit your needs. We will explore the audience, acquisition, and behavior reports.

Most reports in Google Analytics show a time graph at the top.

You can set the date range and use a comparison date range if you want to see how your performance changes over time.

Each report has a default metric – visits. You can use the tabs at the top of the screen to explore different metrics and dimensions.

A user has the reports overview open, which shows the Audience overview by default

Most Google Analytics reports include a customizable line graph at the top

Exploring Audience reports

The audience reports help you better understand the people who visit your election website and their behaviors navigating your site. Custom dimensions are available for more advanced Google Analytics users.

In this example, we will show you how to view where your audience is geographically located when they visit your election website.

  1. Go to your Home tab in Google Analytics.
  2. Under the name of your election website, select All Web Site Data.
  3. Your Audience Overview report is displayed on the screen. On the left of the screen is your report menu.

    A user's left menu shows all the options under the Audience reports

    By clicking items on the left menu, you can reveal or hide more menu options

  4. In the upper right corner is the date range for the report. The default date range includes the previous day and goes back one month. You can change your report date range by clicking on it, selecting your custom date range, then clicking Apply. For this example, we just use the default date range.

    A user has more date options after clicking the data range

    You can choose a custom date range for your Google Analytics reports

  5. In the upper right corner of the line graph, you can see the unit of time used for the graph. Options are Hourly, Day, Week, and Month. The default is Day. For this example, we just use the default.
  6. The line graph shows the number of sessions per day. You can change this by clicking Sessions and choosing a different metric. You can also apply comparison data to the line graph by clicking Select a metric and choosing another metric. You will then see two lines on the same graph.
  7. Below the line graph are the total number of the following during your report date range:
    ◦ Sessions
    ◦ Users
    ◦ Pageviews
    ◦ Pages/session
    ◦ Average session duration
    ◦ Bounce rate
    ◦ Percentage of new sessions
  8. On the right side of the screen you will also see a pie chart that shows you at a glance the breakdown of new visitors and returning visitors to your election website.
  9. At the bottom of the report are additional data about your audience. In this example, we click on City to learn more about where our visitors are when they come to our website.

    A user has a list of the top 10 cities where their website traffic is located when people visit their website

    Quickly see the top 10 cities your website visitors are in when they come to your website

  10. You can click on the specific dimension and see summary user data about:
    ◦ Language
    ◦ Country
    ◦ City
    ◦ Browser
    ◦ Operating system
    ◦ Service provider
    ◦ Mobile operating system
    ◦ Mobile service provider
    ◦ Mobile screen resolution
  11. For more detailed audience data, you can drill down on the left menu. For example, you can click Geo then click Location. This will show a map overlay at the top of your screen and a table at the bottom of your screen. In the bottom left corner of the map, where it says Primary Dimension, click City. Then explore the data table to see even more detailed information about how visitors from certain cities are interacting with your website.

    A user has a map overlay of the geographical data organized by city

    View your visitors’ geographical data with a map overlay

  12. On the left side menu, you can explore more audience data and tables by drilling down in other categories like:
    ◦ Behavior
    ◦ Technology
    ◦ Mobile

Exploring Acquisition reports

The acquisition report helps you understand how people find your election office website. Using this report, you can identify which outreach strategies are generating the most value for your election office. There are a variety of options to customize Acquisition reports for advanced users, including campaigns reports.

In this example, we show you how to find what social media platforms are driving the most traffic to your website.

  1. In the Reporting tab, on the left side menu, click Acquisition.
  2. Click All Traffic, then Source/Medium. The data table below the line graph shows your Source/Medium in the first column. Remember, source is the origin of your website traffic, like another website or search engine. Medium is the general category of the source, like organic search, paid search, or referral. The other columns show additional data about the users who visited via each source and medium.
  3. In the left menu, under Acquisition, click Social.

    A user has the source and medium data table that shows the top sites that are sending traffic to their website

    Looking at the Source/Medium data, you can identify which websites, search engines, and social media platforms are directing the most traffic to your election website

  4. Select Users Flow. In this flow chart you can see the social platforms that are driving visitors to your election website, what page the visitors start on, then what pages they visit next. You can see what social platforms are creating the most traffic for your election website and what content visitors are looking at when they come from specific social media platforms. This data can help you determine which social media strategies are effective and which ones are not effective.
A user has a flow chart of traffic on their website from starting page to exiting page.

On your user flow reports, green indicates through traffic and red indicates visitor drop-off

You can also see the Users Flow chart in your Audience reports section.

Exploring Behavior reports

Behavior reports show you how users interact with your website, like what content people look at and how they flow between the pages on your site. This information can help you understand the intent of your users and identify new marketing opportunities for your election office.

You can remove the Analytics Education section in the middle of your screen by clicking the “X” or the graduation cap icon in the upper right corner of the section. To make the Analytics Education resources appear again, click on the graduation cap icon.
  1. In the Reporting tab, on the left side menu, click Behavior.
  2. Click Site content, then All Pages. This report shows you the most popular content on your election website. Below the line graph is a table. The pages with the highest number of views appear at the top of the table.
  3. At the top of the table, beside Primary Dimension, click Page Title to view pages by title rather than web address.

    A user has the top visited pages on their website listed on the left side of the screen with additional data in the other columns of the table

    Use Google Analytics to identify which pages are most popular on your election website…and when

  4. On the left menu, under Behavior, click Behavior Flow. The default display shows Landing Page and the path visitors take from one page on your election website to the next. The green indicates through traffic. The red shows drop off of the visitors who exited your election website from that specific page.
A user has the overall flow chart of traffic on their website. from starting page to exiting page.

View the behavior flow display to see what pages are most popular for entering your election website during a certain data range

In conclusion, Google Analytics is a powerful tool that your election office can use to determine how people are interacting with the information that you publish on your website. By paying attention to your website analytics, you can make informed decisions about the best way to communicate important election information with the people in your community.

We only scratched the surface of what Google Analytics can do. If you want to learn more, check out the Google Analytics Academy, a series of free online courses.