This article outlines the basics you need to have set up to track your digital fundraising campaigns – as well as five digital tracking tips that we absolutely recommend you implement straight away. Tracking your digital campaigns gives you full visibility into the success of your campaign and spend.
If you’re fairly familiar with Google Analytics (GA) tracking, then this summary will allow you to skip straight to the tip you’re interested in:
- Digital tracking basics
- GA Events
- GA Goals with Funnels
- How to remove GA parametres in reports
- Filtering out TEST sessions
- Google Chrome Extensions: Google Tag Assistant (for GTM )and Facebook Pixel Helper.
0. Basics Digital Tracking
There are 3 digital tracking elements you should be using on your website and in your paid campaigns and owned channels: Google Analytics Tracking Code; Facebook Pixel and UTM tracking parameters appended to your click URLs.
I really hope that you’re already doing this! Nevertheless I still have to mention this basic tracking set up, just in case, so that we’re all on the same page (If you already know about this, please feel free to jump to 1):
- Google Analytics: Is the free website (and app) analytics service by Google. You just need a Google account to get started. Google Analytics tells you what happens on your website – and if your tracking is set up well, where your website visitors came from.
Google Analytics is organised in 3 levels: Account -> Property -> View. At the property level configuration, you will find the tracking code you should include in ALL your website’s pages, either including it directly (you need access to the source code) or using Google Tag Manager (GTM) if you already have it installed. If you are using WordPress for your site, there are many plugins to help you implement this, like MonsterInsights (which allows you to also have some reports in WordPress backednd) and Google Tag Manager for WordPress (which is a broader option, since you can use it to install Google Tag Manager and then install Google Analytics, along any other tag, whit it).
- Facebook Pixel: Similar to Google Analytics tracking code, Facebook has its own tracking code called “Pixel” that you should also install in ALL your website’s pages. This pixel serves two main purposes: (1) Track Facebook users that visit your webpages and (2) track conversions for your campaigns. Many people think that you only need to have the Pixel active while you are running campaigns, but that’s not true. You should always have the pixel activated in all your website’s pages. “Why?” I hear you ask? Because you can use Pixel’s tracking information to create target audiences to serve your ads to (Remarketing) as well as finding audiences similar to your own, these are called “Look-a-like”.
- UTMs: Are URL parameters (key-value pairs after a “?” at the end of the URL, separated by “&”) you add to the end of your landing page URLs (the page URLs you choose to point at on your website). Google Analytics uses the UTM parameters to populate their reports (utm_campaign, utm_medium, utm_source, utm_content and utm_term). It’s information you append to your URLS to be used by Google Analytics in their reports (utm_campaign, utm_medium, utm_source, utm_content and utm_term). Some services (like Google Ads) put UTMs automatically into their campaigns, and in some cases Google Analytics is capable of figuring them out, but as a rule of thumb: “Always Use UTMs on your click URLs!” You can create them online one by one, or you can use an Excel template for this (feel free to contact us and ask for the template we use, we will be happy to share it with you!) Technically, you can put whatever you want in the UTMs values. But, there are some conventions you should follow to get the most from your Google Analytics’ reports. The most important is regarding utm_medium; since the information you put there is what Google Analytics will use to group your traffic into the default channels.
1. Google Analytics Events
Use ‘Events’ when there is an action your user takes that indicates interest – like downloading an image or calendar or PDF, or shows intent – such as clicking a ‘tell me more’ button.
Most charities use Google Analytics. But most of them also tend to underestimate the use of Google Analytics Events. What are events? Put simply: events are something that happens in your website that you are interested in tracking – such as the “next” button in a 3 step donation form, or a specific “Find out more” button on your website. And here is an important distinction: it can be a Goal for your organisation, but it doesn’t have to. A Goal is usually a lead or enquiry or download or something very measurable as an action. An event may be an indicator or step a user takes before they complete the goal. You will be surprised by how much events can tell you about your site and your users. You can have events for tracking things like scroll depth, % of video watched, button clicks, outbound links, elements seen and much more.
You can implement all these events using Google Tag Manager (GTM) and it’s easier than you think; but it would be too long to include in this post. Leave a comment if you want me to write a blog post about “Step-by-Step GTM implementation for tracking events”.
2. Google Analytics Goals with Funnel
Use ‘Goals’ when there is a specific objective completed – such as a form submitted. Use ‘Funnels’ with Goals when you want to track the steps your user has to take to complete the goal.
Unlike Google Analytics Events, most charities use Goals, mainly because they are relatively easy to set up when you choose “Destination” page as the Goal Type.
Goals in analytics are objectives for your organisation (financial or non-financial) that you want to track. You can use a key variable in several Google Analytics reports in order to have insights about conversion rate, average value (if financial), channel performance etc.
The most used Goal Type is “Destination”: which is based on the page path the user is viewing and means “fire this goal every time a user visits this page.” The most common use is for “thank you” pages.
The main things you need to know about Goals are:
- It’s based on pages from YOUR site. For example, you can NOT set your Charity’s Facebook Page (www.facebook.com/charityuser ) as a Destination Goal because you don’t own Facebook (unless you are Mark Zuckerberg reading this blog post, in which case go ahead mate). Same thing applies for any page outside yours, or more accurately, any page that doesn’t have your Google Analytics Property’s tracking code installed.
- Usually, you MUST put only the path. Except in very specific cases, your destination goal is the path of your target page. The path is what starts with a “/” after the domain ending (this is “.com”, “.com.au”, “.net”, etc) in the URL. For example, in this URL https://parachutedigitalmarketing.com.au/resources-and-free-stuff/ the path is /resources-and-free-stuff/ (by the way yes, we give away a lot of free and useful stuff to download that you should totally check out after reading this post. You can click it now and it will open in a new tab for later). Google Analytics will ignore the other part (https://parachutedigitalmarketing.com.au), so you must include ONLY the path. I’m stressing the word ONLY because it’s not optional. If you mistakenly put the full URL like “mycharity.com/thank-you” it will never match and the Goal will never fire and your tracking is null. So you MUST put just “/thank-you”.
- Be careful with the Match Types: Match types is the method Google Analytics uses to compare the destination you entered in your goal against the pages that users visit. The default option is “Equals to” but this can be a problem. To understand why, here is brief explanation of each match type:
- Equals to: As mentioned, this is the default option. It means that the page the user is on must completely match (exactly) what you have entered. Just one character more or a character less and there is no match. This could be a problem because many times “Thank You” pages include extra parameters that are dynamic (like firstname personalisation or transaction ID). This can prevent the match from happening and the Goal from firing. For example, if you set a destination “/thank-you” but your thank you page looks like “/thank-you?transactionID=1234” even when the user has completed the action that represents a Goal, this won’t be counted, because “/thank-you?transactionID=1234” is not exactly the same as “/thank-you”.
- Begins with: This is the one you should use in the previous example, since Google Analytics will check that the page visited by the user begins with what you have set as destination. If you use this match type in the previous case the Goal will fire because “/thank-you?transactionID=1234” begins with “/thank-you”. Remember to make sure there are no other pages starting the same way in order to avoid false positives.
- Regular Expression Match: This is for advanced matching rules using a codification system called “Regular Expressions”.
So, those are the main things you should know about Destination Goals. However, there’s another interesting feature available for Destination Goals that you should use when possible: Funnels. This is what you want to use to track drop off rates. Funnels are a series of “previous steps” that the user takes before completing the goal, represented by pages (using the same Match Type as the Goal Destination, the last step is the destination goal itself but you should NOT include it in the Funnel section).
If you create a funnel, you will be able to access a very interesting and insightful report called “Funnel Visualization” (Conversions -> Goals -> Funnel Visualization). You can set up the first step to be required, if you want ALL journeys to start there, otherwise goals will count even if they start half-way through the funnel. Sometimes people avoid using funnels because they are afraid of “missing goals” in the reports due to bad configuration of the steps. But, what most digital folk don’t know is this: the Funnel steps you set up affect only thereport. All other reports (like “Source Medium”) are NOT affected.
In conclusion: Use funnels, you have nothing to lose and a lot to gain.
In conclusion: Use funnels, you have nothing to lose and a lot to gain.