For the last five months I’ve been putting together a monthly web report for Wofford. This report has been a way to frequently monitor and track our presence online and keep track of our effectiveness. I distribute the report to everyone who I think will read it, the more people who understand what is going on online with Wofford the better.
From what I’ve been able to pick-up web analytic tracking isn’t something that is widely done in Higher Education?
Tracking allows you to do multiple things:
- Keep up with effectiveness of your site over time
- Regularly monitor what is working and what isn’t
- Identify areas that might not be performing as well as you would like
- Provide proof of the effectiveness, or lack, of your online presence
The web is the one medium where you can accurately track effectiveness. With television, snail mail, radio, and magazine you can attempt to guess, but the web is the only one that truly provides reliable and accurate tracking data. Although it’s still debatable about exactly how accurate analytic tracking is, studies have shown it to be very accurate.
A speech that I constantly find myself making is, you can have the greatest website in the world, but it doesn’t matter if nobody is visiting it. Similar to the myth that a tree doesn’t make any noise in the woods if nobody hears it, don’t let the same be said for your website. Tracking allows you to know if what you are doing is being effective and how and what to change.
Because this is the fifth month I’ve compiled this report it has grown and has changed in the areas that I track. Each institution or business could justify tracking similar or different areas depending on the goals set forth.
For Wofford I break the tracking down into six categories:
- Alexa Ranking - this provides an industry standard to compare a site visitors against direct competitors. Although I’ll admit Alexa isn’t completely accurate, but it does provide a base that can easily be comprehended by anyone. Compete and/or Quantcast could easily be substituted for the Alexa ranking and those might be things that we consider adding down the road.
- Website Analytics - all our data is pulled from Google Analytics. Google Analytics is an excellent product and one that I would highly recommend. Because it is free, if you aren’t currently using anything this it is a no brainer to sign up and start using it today.
- Video Analytics- Wofford videos are hosted through an agreement with the local newspaper, The Spartanburg Herald-Journal, and Brightcove. Brightcove provides us with a corporate competitor to YouTube. We do post some videos on YouTube but not everything and do track this also.
- Mailshot Analytics- Mailshot is what we call list distribution or email marketing. A mailshot, done properly, is an excellent way to segment and communicate with constituents. Wofford segments into Prospective Students, Alumni, Donors, News Releases, Website Updates, and Athletics. The system that we use, Bronto, provides excellent tracking and analytic capabilities to really know what is being effective and what isn’t.
- RSS & Blog Analytics - These are two very new and growing areas, but it’s still an important area to track. Feedburner is the best and honestly only realistic way to track RSS.
- Social Networking - This is actually a brand new category that I’ve added this month.
Below is a link to the summary version of the February 2008 report. I’ve removed some information (although I’ll admit very little), but it should give you an idea of how you could track your web presence with some real world data examples. I’m also going to Google Analytic training later this month. I’m sure I’ll have some brand new metrics to monitor and share after the training.
I would love feedback about things that we could track better or ideas for new things to track. If you aren’t currently tracking anything then I highly recommend adding one or two things a month and going from there. Monthly updates provides a regular window, without spending to much of your time tracking and not improving your site.
NOTE: Be aware that because we spent a good portion of the last two months moving our site to a new CSS framework some of the pages didn’t get the tracking code installed properly. Because of this the Google Analytic data is lower than actual data.
web analytics - web stats, web analytics and tracking your site