donations rise 5.4% with help from Google Analytics
Case Study donations rise 5.4% with help from Google Analytics


The company and the challenge

The American Cancer Society has been working for over 100 years to find a cure for cancer and to help patients fight back, get well, and stay well. Today, the Society uses a number of websites and mobile apps to provide information on cancer detection and treatment, offer volunteer opportunities, and accept donations.

The Society realized it needed help understanding how people interact with its sites and apps. It knew its users had different needs and goals, but it was a challenge for the digital marketing team to distinguish how to group users in a way that would be beneficial to all parties. The Society also wanted to understand how its users’ behavior changed over time, and remarket to all segments once they were identified. So, it turned to the digital analytics and marketing company Search Discovery for help.

Breaking down the scorecard

Together, the Society and Search Discovery began by using Google Analytics to capture information that would help them identify camps of users. They quickly learned that the Society’s website visitors fell into three main groups. Info seekers visited the site looking for information about cancer signs and symptoms, or help understanding a cancer diagnosis. Event participants, on the other hand, wanted to take part in walks, races, and other events to raise funds to fight cancer. And finally, there were donors, looking to give money to help the fight against cancer.

The next step was to understand whether each group was effectively finding what it sought. Using custom dimensions in Analytics, the Society gathered signs of conversion success for each segment. The team learned that for info seekers, success meant that the appropriate web pages were viewed and information was gathered. In the case of event participants, it meant that registration was completed for one or more events. For donors, it meant a donation had been made.

Search Discovery began mapping events that showed when each user was successful or unsuccessful at meeting a goal, and custom metrics were used to score each event:

  • Recency score = One point awarded if user’s previous session was within the past week
  • Engagement score = One point awarded for every three pages the user viewed
  • Conversion score = One point awarded for each conversion — a donation, event registration, or view of an entire information article
  • Revenue score = One point awarded for gifts larger than the average, which was $70

This scoring method helped the Society’s marketing team monitor the overall health of the site for each user segment and follow trends over time. It also let the team dig deeper when abnormalities arose.

More importantly, the Society now uses Google Ads to speak to its users based on any combination of segments and scores. For one, it began to invite info seekers to donate to cancer research efforts. The Society also shared fundraising ideas with event participants and encouraged them to make donations and raise funds. And previous participants were invited to register for upcoming local events

How to successfully drive traffic

The new custom metrics allowed the Society’s analysts to identify behavior changes in each segment that would have otherwise gone unnoticed.

For example, is the primary site used by the Society to distribute cancer research and information, but a separate site called Making Strides Against Breast Cancer is used to raise money specifically for breast cancer research.

In October, the site performance score on began to increase. Analysis showed this was due in large part to October being Breast Cancer Awareness Month. However, the Society had expected breast cancer donors to go to the Making Strides site, and wasn’t optimized for this traffic.

In response, the Society marketing team created new promotions on to drive traffic to the Making Strides site. It worked. More than 39,000 people followed those links throughout the month. The team also created a new donation form on that sent funds only to breast cancer research. The result was a 5.4% jump in revenue year over year.

The Society analysts now deploy the user-scoring metrics introduced by Search Discovery to measure the performance of other website changes and redesign projects. As the Society moves into its second century, Search Discovery and Analytics are helping it reach a new generation of supporters, patients, and donors in the fight against cancer.

The insights we’ve gained from Analytics and working with Search Discovery continue to positively influence our business decisions.&nbsp Not only are our marketing decisions well-informed, but our digital content is driven by user experience and engagement. We’re looking to the future with enthusiasm and optimism.

Ashleigh Bunn, Director of Digital Analytics, American Cancer Society