Why use this guide?

You could be passively collecting a lot of data about how people are interacting with you online. Use this guide to understand what you can glean from your website and social media channels, and the dos and don’ts when using web analytics in research projects.

What is included in this guide?

This guide includes four sections:

  • Key insights from website analytics
  • Limitations of website analytics
  • How to use website analytics in research projects
  • Data storage and security.

Key insights from website analytics

Your website and social channels capture a large amount of data and information about people visiting and interacting with you online. You can monitor and analyse multiple channels:

  • Facebook (search for Facebook Analytics. There is a free demo you can try out)
  • Instagram (there are a number of free tools to consider)
  • Website (check out your own website provider or consider Google Analytics)
  • E-newsletter (check out your e-newsletter program).

There are some key insights you should review and take time to understand:


  • Build a profile of your online attendees using demographic data available
  • Compare demographic data of social followers across different social channels, e.g. Facebook versus Instagram, social followers versus website users, ticket buyers versus actual attendees.

Conversions and correspondences

  • Review general conversion rates, i.e. percentage of click throughs or views on your website that lead to purchases or attendances
  • Identify trends and correspondences between social channels and spikes on your website, ticket sales or attendances
  • Measure marketing campaign effectiveness, including things such as reach and conversion to purchases and attendances.

A quick way to calculate conversion rates is to divide the number of conversions (such as the number of ticket sales) by the total number of clicks or visits during the same time period, e.g. 50 ticket sales from 1000 website visits in the month of June is a conversion rate of 5% (50 divided by 1000 = 5%).

A quick website search or search function in your social channels will provide you with technical information about how to glean the most insights from your website and social data.

For context, compare some of your website and social analytics with insights from your box office or information desk, as well as non-digital marketing channels, such as newspapers, direct mail and newsletters.

Limitations of website analytics

Website and social data is popular; however, there are things to look out for when using these channels for research.

The ‘What’ versus the ‘Why’

From your website analytics you’ll know what people interacting with your website and social channels are doing – their behaviour. What you won’t know is why they are behaving in this way.

Defining your population

You can’t define your population on social channels or ensure that your sample is representative of your population. Because of this, feedback through social channels should be used as qualitative insights only. Check out the choose your research sample guide for more information.

Social media polls

Social media polls are fun to play with as an engagement tool, but they aren’t a reliable source to understand your bigger Population.

How to use website analytics in research projects

There are ways to use website analytics in research projects, but keep in mind the limitations outlined above. After reviewing your website analytics you’ll discover a number of insights, including different behaviours and connections between channels and reach, purchases and attendances. For example, you might notice a connection between a specific social media channel and your number of website visits. Consider how you can use these insights to determine informal conversations you have with your attendees, a formal focus group, or a survey to understand why people are behaving a certain way on social media channels and your website.

For tips on how to have casual conversations with your attendees, have a read of the talk to your attendees guide. If you’d like to speak to a group of people in a more formal way, take a look at the run a focus group tool.

To gather quantitative evidence (the numbers and statistics), check out the send a short survey tool.

Understanding the ‘why’ means that you’re informed and can more confidently take action – testing, trialling or making decisions – based on what you now know. This could lead to a number of tests and changes:

  • Trialling targeted marketing campaigns to reach specific groups and testing offers or discount codes on different channels
  • Redirecting your marketing spend to the most important channels
  • Updating your website layout, information or ticketing system.

Data storage and security

When working with data, there are some things to keep in mind:

  • Ensure the security of all information, including taking reasonable steps to protect identifiable research information from misuse, unauthorised access, modification or disclosure.
  • Do not keep identifiable research information longer than you need to – when you’re finished, delete this data or de-identify the data.
  • When sharing any identifiable research information with another person or organisation make sure you communicate the above two points.