A primary objective of your government web strategy is to quickly direct visitors to the information or services they need and web analytics and metrics is a critical aspect to this success.
As Usability.gov states:
Web analytics is the collection, reporting, and analysis of website data. The focus is on identifying measures based on your organizational and user goals and using the website data to determine the success or failure of those goals and to drive strategy and improve the user’s experience.
Analytics helps you understand how visitors to your site are using it, and how you can better optimize to help them access the information and services they’re looking for. Analytics also give you insight into the content being accessed (pages), the technology used (browser, device) and audience (location, service provider). You can leverage this data to better design your digital government experience, especially if you notice a large portion of traffic coming from a certain device, browser or specific language demographic or accessing particular pages.
The most commonly used web analytics tool is Google Analytics, but there are a variety of open source, proprietary and hosted options available.
The federal digital government strategy requires all federal websites to use “analytics and customer satisfaction measurement tools.” Subsequently, analytics.usa.gov was launched by the General Services Administration’s Digital Analytics Program to bring wider visibility into web usage on federal .gov websites.
Government web metrics
“Many metrics can contribute to your understanding of website usability,” says Digital Analytics Program (DAP) Acting Program Manager Tim Lowden. “An extremely long page load time can signal an exodus of visitors. Tracking landing page and traffic source certainly helps in assessing where users came from. Looking at the on-site search queries will definitely give a better picture of a user’s ability to find site content. But the reality is that in order to measure usability on the whole, whether it be using bounce rate, time on page, pages per session, or other metrics, you first need to have a solid understanding of the goals of the site, and what you ultimately ask your user to accomplish. From there, you can establish the specific measures that help determine success.”
DAP recommends some of the following considerations for website metrics:
- Completion rate of intended task
- Ease of getting information or using your service
- Timeliness of getting the information
- Does the information meet and/or exceed expectations
- Relevance and usefulness of the information
Alongside pageviews, bounce and exit rates, and other standard metrics, you should strategize and implement what Google Analytics calls conversion goals and events. These allow you to measure success rates on specific objectives (online forms completed, downloads, etc.), which are important when you’re trying to optimize the experience on key action items users want to perform. Knowing that site visitors want to accomplish certain tasks and making it easy for them to quickly accomplish these should be a key metric.
Example goals and events governments should consider:
- How much did our online payments or reported issues increase?
- How much did our newsletter subscribers or social media followers increase?
- Are more visitors self-servicing and finding information (as opposed to submitting online inquiries for help)?
Other items to review are pages with high bounce and exit rates to see if the information is helpful or simply causing frustration.
GSA’s DAP offers comprehensive digital metrics guidance and best practices to help government web analytics practitioners.
Remember, analytics is an ongoing process that helps you iteratively evaluate and improve your digital service offering. As DAP says, “The ultimate goal is to drive a continual improvement of the online experience for your customers.”
ProudCity and analytics
- Shifting Your Metrics Mindset (Digital.gov)
- Web Analytics Basics (Usability.gov)
- How to Build an Analytics Strategy (Digital.gov)
- Web Analytics Playbook (Digital.gov)
- Digital Analytics Program
- Digital Metrics Guidance and Best Practices
- DAP YouTube channel