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Google Analytics for Museums

Perhaps the most intimidating digital marketing term known to man, woman and child, “web analytics” isn’t as scary as it seems. There is a tendency for the digital world to use complicated jargon when it comes to analytics. To ease the techy transition, we’re including a glossary of commonly used web analytics terms and then we’ll spend the rest of the article explaining how they fit into the bigger picture. Sound good? Right – let’s start with the most important one…Web analytics – A means of collecting and analyzing activity on your museum website.

That’s the bare-bones definition. To break it down a bit further, web analytics allows organisations like your museum to see how long users spend on their website, where visitors are being redirected from, which pages they spend their time on and other super-insightful metrics. All of the complicated data and segmentations are boiled down into super-helpful reporting. Accumulating all of this data can prove useful in determining what is currently working on your site and what needs some help. Take “dwell-time” for example. If visitors are only spending 1-2 minutes on your site and then leaving, then there is room for improvement in terms of making your website more “sticky” – we talk  about this more in this article : 5 methods to improving your museum website

There are lots of things that web analytics can tell you about your website including, but not limited to the following basic metrics:

  1. Overall traffic
  2. Bounce rate
  3. Traffic sources
  4. Desktop v mobile visits
  5. New and returning visitors 

There are lots of other things that you can learn about including In this article, we will go over the most important metrics, how you can measure those, and then use that information to improve the functionality and navigability of your website. 

Google analytics is the holy grail of web analytics. There are other web analytic websites out there, but with Google being such a top dog in tech game, gravitating towards using their analytics service is a natural first step. Google’s software and metrics are the most comprehensive and free (until a point), but even after that, the premium package offers even more in-depth metrics and audience insights. 

The only reason we can think of that someone WOULDN’T use Google is if they are against a global conglomerate viewing and managing the data for millions of companies all over the world. Fair. The price-point of the basic Google Analytics services is hard to look past. However, it you have a large organisation and REALLY want to hone in on who your customers are and what they are doing and you feel that you need capabilities beyond Google Analytics, then might we suggest the following alternative web analytics options below:

These options are NOT cheap, especially Adobe Analytics that has extremely powerful software, but comes with a big price tag (prices vary, but it can cost anywhere from $30,000-$100,000 USD per month!)

With all of that being said, we are going to walk you through the basics of Google Analytics in this chapter. If you decide to go with another web analytics competitor, we recommend you take a look at their online tutorials and how-to pages. 


One of the reasons why Google Analytics can seem so insurmountable to people is because of the language that is used. However, we are going to include a very helpful glossary of terms right here are the start. Feel free to refer back to this as the course goes on and as you embark upon your own Google Analytics journey!

Visits – When a user visits your page. Their activity is logged during the duration of their visit and stops tracking after 30 minutes of inactivity.

New & returning visits – These metrics are broken down into users that are visiting your webpage for the first time versus those who have been before and are returning.

Visitors – Google Analytics name for the user that is visiting your webpage. Polite, inn’it?

Bounce – The term for a visitor leaving after viewing one website page. 

Bounce rate – The percent of sessions within a single page visit. A high bounce rate indicates that visitors aren’t staying within your website and navigating from one page to the next. 

Page views – When a page of your website is viewed. Google counts up the number of page views and then presents that as a metric. Google Analytics breaks this term down further into two categories: page views and unique page views. For example, someone might visit your site and land on the same page several times, therefore skewing the page view metric. Unique page views only offers information on the number of visitors to a page, not the number of views which makes that data all the more clear and measurable. 

Pages per visit – This term is used to total up how many pages a visitor has viewed or landed upon within a single visit. This metric could be looked at positively as viewers are spending a lot of time on your website, or negatively as perhaps they are spending so much time there because navigation isn’t straightforward…

Dashboard – This is a term that you’re probably familiar with as it’s used with almost all digital platforms. The dashboard is the primary interface that you see and interact with upon first opening up Google Analytics. 

Traffic sources – The term donates that channels that are bringing visitors to your website. Visitors using your website is called traffic, so then naturally traffic sources would be the vehicles (pun intended) that are carting these visitors to your site. Traffic sources are broken down into several categories.

  • Organic – Just what it sounds like. Visitors that go directly to your website.
  • Referral – Visitors are directed to your site by a link on another website. 
  • CPC – This acronym stands for “cost per click” and it denotes paid advertising.

Content – This term refers to the pages on your website. In the marketing world we use this term a lot a it can be lots of different things. However, in this regard, it specifically refers to the pages on the site and breaks it down into “top content” etc…

Goals – Again, there are no tricks here with this term meaning to set targets for yourself. There are many goals that you can set within the Google Analytics world that will give you a measured way to chart your success and improve your statistics. 

Conversion – The act of someone clicking through an ad and being taken to another destination being that your website, Eventbrite link, Facebook page etc… You have “converted” the user into someone who is now engaging with your brand. Tracking conversion is a beautiful thing.

Now that you’re comfortable with the terms – let’s put them to use! 

When you first create an account with Google Analytics, you will be asked to take the following three steps: 1) Sign up for Google Analytics (duh) 2) Add tracking code 3) Learn about your audience (yay!)

You’ll then be prompted to create an account and choose whether you would like to use Google Analytics to measure the web, apps or apps AND web. 

Once you fill out these steps, you’ll go through one more page where you link up your website URL, select your industry, and make a few more account tweaks. 

It’s important to understand account structure within Google Analytics. As usual, they have their own terminology that’s important to understand.. You’ll first off that Google asks you to name your organisation. Within your organisation, you can have multiple accounts (for different websites) or just one account. Under accounts, you can then have multiple properties. You may want to consider different properties if you have different region variants of your website (.com v, but keep in mind that this data cannot be viewed collectively in aggregate. 

You can then add filters on each view to select the information that you would like to collect data on for each individual view. These filters are very handy for determining if you’d like to only see data from a certain geographical location, if you’d like to filter out internal sources etc… There are lots of filters and you should experiment with setting some to drive the sort of data that you are interested in working with. 

This is also the stage where you can add goals. Google Analytics offers the capability to add goals under views which means that you can personalise them and have different goals for different views! A note of caution – be careful and thoughtful when setting up your properties and views because you cannot change this information once data has been collected. 

Setting up a filter

This is one of the first tasks you’ll have to complete when using Google analytics and it’s imperative for collecting clean and useful data. 

We’ll walk you through an example of how to set up a filter on a view and then we’ll encourage you to think of your own to further refine your data.

First, click on “Admin” at the top on the primary navigation bar. Then to over to “View” and select “All Web Site Data” from the drop-down menu. 

Then, you’ll want to click on “Filters”. Next, you’ll be presented with a page that gives you options for choosing a filter. There are predefined and custom filters. Custom filters give you the keys to the kingdom and get very specific results in terms of data that is relevant to your organisation. The predefined filters have presets to help guide the user to filters that are popular and for a good reason – they help create valuable data. 

For our purposes here, we are going to choose a predefined filter to exclude all data from a specific IP address. If you are opting to collect data on how visitors use your data, then you won’t want data from users within your organisation on your IP address to be muddying that data. Therefore, this a commonly used filter and a create example to start with. 

We’ve chosen to name the appropriately – “exclude internal traffic” and we’ve set the filter type to pre-determined. We then finished off the filter by opting to exclude all traffic from the IP address that is equal to the IP address of your organisation. Don’t know how to find your IP address? Just Google, “What is my IP address” and you will find what you’re looking for. 

Now that you’ve done all of the hard work to create a custom filter, Google rewards you with the ability to apply that custom filter to other views within your organisation. 

We’ll walk you through one other basic aspect of Google Analytics below…


Direct yourself to the left side of the dashboard to “Report” under which we have 5 different categories: 

  • Real-time – View how visitors are interacting with your website in real-time. 
  • Audience – Learn more about your audience; who they are, what their browsing habits are, how they engage with your content etc…
  • Acquisition – Discover more about the source of your website traffic and how each source is interacting with your site. 
  • Behaviour – Learn more about how people navigate through your site – what they use it for and how long they stay. Bounce rates, page views and dwell time are measured with these reports. 
  • Conversions – These reports track how well you’ve driven visitors to perform a certain action. 

All of these reports serve very different functions. We recommend that you start with audience and behaviour reports. These two will allow you to find out more about your audience – where they live, their age etc… Then, the behaviour reporting tool will empower you to take that one step further and find out if YOUR site is working for THEM. 

Don’t just view this valuable data as insightful and leave it at that. Use it to inform effective changes for your organisation. For example, if you were to use the audience reporting tool and set the specifications to mobile, and then overview, you would see the following type of report…

What this report tells us is that while 70% of visitors are using a desktop to access this website, 25% access it via a mobile device and 5% access it with a tablet. This means that if your website isn’t responsive and optimised for mobile viewing, that the website experience is being comprised for a quarter of visitors. 

This is just one example, there are thousands more ways to interpret the data. Once you have more insight into these metrics, we recommend that you explore a get a bit more technical with viewing your main traffic sources (to decide where advertising dollars are spent) and managing your conversion reports up against goals that you’ve set. 

These reports will be your new best friend. Once you have your filters set, the data that you have coming in will yours to do with what you want, interpret it in a myriad of ways, and use it to improve the performance of your organisation’s website. 

There is only so much we can summarise in one article. In all honesty, it’s IMPOSSIBLE to tell you everything that you need to know about Google Analytics in just one lesson. However, Google is VERY aware of this which is why they’ve created the Google Analytics Academy. It’s possible to take this free course in one day (set aside 4-6 hours) or spread out over a few days/weeks. This course breaks down all of the scary elements and techy language in Google Analytics for the layman and has engaging videos and quizzes along the way. We cannot recommend enrolling in this course enough – here’s the link!

MuseumNext offer online learning for museum professionals striving for engaging, relevant and flexible professional growth content. Learn more about our virtual museum conferences here.

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