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Analyze This

Travis Brock
Director of Business Development

I have yet to see the results of one of the Notebook Polls so one-sided, until this poll.

The question posed last month was “Which website analytics tool does your institution use?” It seems that "Google Analytics or other free analytics" was the main response (86% of respondents).  I am assuming that most responses where focusing Google Analytics and not the "other free analytics" part of the response.

Not surprisingly, the people who took the poll did not choose any of the following options that were available as a response.

  • ClickTracks, WebTrends, WebSideStory HBX Analytics, Omniture’s SiteCatalyst or other non-free analytics
  • None
  • Don’t know
  • Don’t care

And a slim 14% mentioned they use "Urchin, AWStats or Webalizer or other analytics provided by your web hoster".

The chart below provides the full story.

We all know that keeping track of your website stats is now key data that any marketer should keep a close eye on. While there are many tools out there to track this data, they are are similar and most do a good job. Google Analytics is, by far, the fan favorite and is a very powerful tool. It takes some training to get used to, but it is well worth it.

It is good to know that everyone who took the poll pretty much agrees with this and no one mentioned that they "don’t care" or don’t have any web analytic tools.

Some key data to watch on a regular basis

  • Bounce rate: how many are leaving a certain page to view a completely different website. The lower the percentage the better.
  • Average Time on Site: how long users are staying on your site. The higher the better.
  • Percent New Visits: how many new visitors are viewing your site. A good number to watch when running advertising designed to point lots of new people to the website. During an advertising campaign, the higher the percentage is good a sign the advertising is working.
  • Pages per View: shows how many pages a viewer is looking at. The higher the number the better. It shows your audience likes your content and wants to see more. It could also mean your content is too hard to find but is still needed by the viewers.
  • Traffic sources: where viewers coming from. Again, good to watch if running something like AdWords or some internet advertising. Or to know if someone has added a link to their website.
  • Pages: which pages are the most viewed. In many cases, it is the home page that is the most viewed page. This is good to know so you know what content people want the most on your website.

With many of the analytics tools you can mix and match the data to get a cross section of a certain page or a certain viewer domain or of a certain day.

Some things to keep in mind when watching the data trend.

  • Quick trend shifts: If you haven’t made a change recently to your website, find out why there is a quick change in the site stats. It could mean a page has crashed or a new browser update isn’t compatible with certain site functions. A sharp positive shift  in site trends could mean certain content is needed or someone has linked to your content.
  • When making changes: If you plan on making changes, make incremental changes to your website and then take a break to watch the stats. If you make a small shift in the website and notice  a positive change in the data you can continue to make more of the same type of changes. If the change creates a negative reaction, revert back to the version of the site before the change took place. If you make large multifaceted changes, you won’t know what works and what doesn’t work.
  • Seasonal shifts: Keep an eye on seasonal shifts in data. As we all know certain audiences on and off campus will need certain content on a seasonal basis and if you see a seasonal trend in the data you can make seasonal changes to match the needs. For example, during football season you can make your team’s scores and game times easier to find and after graduation you can make new alumni information easier to find on your site.

While it seems many use Google Analytics to track their website usage, most have their own favorite data trends to watch. I am interested to know what data people try to keep an eye on that we haven’t mentioned above.

And give us input on how the H1N1 flu is affecting your campus in the new Notebook Poll on the right panel.

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