As a manager for over 17 years, numbers have a great deal of importance to me. The biggest lesson I’ve learned in regards to interpreting data is that numbers “tell a story” and they are a key means to “hearing” your customers. The great thing about the internet is that a lot of data is available to webmasters and social media efforts for making better decisions. For example, our parish website was recently handed over to a young man to gain some experience. I’m all for it, but knew that change shouldn’t be disruptive to parishioners. The site recently has taken on a look and feel that is “nicer” but doesn’t match up to the content that visitors have told us they want. How do we know? From the numbers. The website stats tell us that among the top visited pages consistently have been Mass times and the Ministry Directory. This is information that our parishioners have been “telling us” they want to be able to get easily through the website.
Where do the numbers come from online? One of the services I typically use for websites is Google Analytics. The service is free and simple to set up on a website. The data is very detailed as well (i.e. top visited pages, popular days, popular times, types of browsers used, time on your site, etc.). There are other data services as well, but this is the one I typically use. Let’s look at websites first and then we’ll touch on Facebook’s Page Insights which is really eye-opening. So what should you be looking for in these numbers and hat decisions do they help you make?
- Number of visits. This tells you if people are even visiting the website. This is the foundation to everything. If people aren’t coming, then you really can’t go any further with anything else. If not, you need to find out why. That’s when you should be out actually talking with people. Do they know the parish has a website? Have they ever visited it? What did they like or not like about it? What would they like to see on there or differently on there?
- The type of browser people are mainly using. This is one that often gets missed and speaks a lot to the experience people are having. It’s important to check and see how your site is working on all browsers (i.e. Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Firefox, etc.).
- Number of returning visitors. You might have great SEO (search Engine Optimization) that brings in a significant amount of traffic, but if they are not coming back you have an effectiveness problem. This goes back to experience and you need to find out what it is you are not delivering on in terms of information for your parishioners.
- Times that people are visiting. Traffic will vary by day and time of day. This is great information to know. This tells you when you should get important new information out prior to those days and times. It also tells you the best time to make major chnages or updates (i.e. when traffic is the lightest typically).
- The pages people are mostly visiting and for how long. This is how people are telling you how they are using your website. What’s important to them in term of information. These pages should be a lot of focus on keeping them top-notch and up-to-date.
page (if you are an admin), you’ll see “View Insights”. Typically most have been measuring “effectiveness” on Facebook by the number of “Likes” and comments to posts. These are important, but do not really tell the “whole story”. Are you reaching people is more important, but it’s been difficult to tell that in the past. Now you can see the number of “impressions” you are making and when. For example, although you might not be getting a lot of commenting; you may see that you are getting a lot of visitors to your page and views on your posts. The question obviously becomes why isn’t the “conversation” happening you might have been hoping for? That’s what you need to find out, and again need to start asking people. Look at other pages where great conversations are happening in the Catholic community and tweak your posts to better engage visitors.