The American Cancer Society was founded in 1913 by fifteen physicians and businessmen as a "nationwide, community-based voluntary health organisation dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health problem." The Society advances its cause through the efforts of two million volunteers nationwide in various research, education and advocacy programmes. With funding in 2005 of $605 million for these programmes, as well as $261 million for management and fundraising, the Society has become the second largest source of non-profit cancer research funds after the United States government. The Society now has about 3,400 local offices with branches in all 50 states and the latest incarnation of the Society website, www.cancer.org, is the online resource centre for its expansive efforts in combating cancer. Online initiatives are increasingly a part of the Society's effort to get important information about cancer into the hands of those who need it.
In the fight against cancer, every dollar counts. As a .org, the Society values metrics and data-driven decisions in order to get the most out of its funding. Complicating the process is the lack of a singular, straightforward goal that a for-profit company might have, such as sales numbers. Techniques for achieving the Society's objectives vary as well. The broad host of tools that the Society uses to fight cancer includes a research programme that has funded more than 40 Nobel Prize winners; prevention programmes on tobacco control and diet; and patient services that help ease the burden of a cancer diagnosis. Lastly, the Society's online presence encompasses a dizzying array of content pages, social networks, wikis, open source projects and rich Internet applications, all of which need to be constantly evaluated for performance. "We had other web analytics solutions on board, but we weren't tying web metrics to business decisions as much as we wanted to," says Alexander Negash, the Society's manager of web analytics and user experience. "Google Analytics gives us a holistic view of all of our marketing campaigns and has become a valuable cross-channel measurement tool."
With Google Analytics, the Society has been able to optimise its AdWords keywords and website around keywords and content that attracts donations and benefits its bottom line. The Society was an early adopter of Google Analytics when it was released for free in 2005. Some of the more overt benefits were dramatically realised right from the start, including measuring the ROI of their AdWords campaigns by calculating the difference between AdWords spent and online donations. The Society's Online Team found that Google Analytics e-Commerce report was the perfect tool to track their many e-commerce activities, including the highly successful TLCdirect.org web store, which sells cancer support products to constituents. Using Google Analytics on TLCdirect.org has allowed the Society to track product performance, seasonal purchasing trends and the impact of marketing initiatives. Using Google Analytics to track AdWords performance on TLCdirect.org, the Society was able to show a 908.22% CTR (Click Through Rate) increase with average ROI figures well over 116% (with some keywords bringing in over 600% ROI).
Google Analytics also played a vital role in the Society's diversified cancer education programmes that leverage the latest technologies. Local grassroots efforts are a major component of disseminating information about clinical trials and treatment options.
A single piece of information delivered at the right time can make a difference in peoples lives. In order to educate more people about open clinical trials and promote their clinical trial matching service, the Society experimented with a Google AdWords SEM campaign for mobile devices. Google Analytics was installed on the Society's mobile-version website and was used to track the entire continuum of the campaign, from the user clicking the mobile AdWords links, all the way to dialling the Society's 24-7 call centre. Significant improvements in getting patients into the Society's clinical trial matching service were realised with Google Analytics tracking and reporting every step of the way.
With a little Web analytics experience under their belt, the Society was able to get even more creative with their tracking. Internal searches for the Society's websites are provided by the Google Search Appliance, a hardware/software integrated solution that indexes corporate information. By setting up unique URLs for internal searches, the Society was able to analyse user traffic generated from those searches and see that they were responsible for 20% of all traffic, a significant amount. Internal search analysis allowed the Society to see which topics and links were popular with users, such as a particular maker of wigs for chemotherapy patients. Observations like these help the Society in its important and appreciated support of cancer patients' well-being beyond physical treatments.
The Society used Google Analytics to optimise their Web resources across their broad portfolio of goals, starting with the low-hanging fruit of SEM optimisation, and moving to sophisticated campaign and content tracking. Since adopting Google Analytics, the Society has used hard data as the basis for its last two homepage redesigns. Other content improvements, such as A/B testing of email marketing, have been implemented with Google Analytics tracking. In day-to-day operations, political pain points are tracked, internal stakeholders receive the data that they want and business cases can be made for what should and should not be on the website. "It helps us use our dollars more wisely for our mission and helps us make sure our constituents are meeting their goals, which is very important to us," says Negash. "Google Analytics is literally helping in the fight against cancer."