Ok. I’m sure most of us know what’s important. Kyle, for one, has done an excellent job in helping us all - myself included - in understanding how to use analytics to improve our higher ed web pages. But what I’m talking about here is: what’s important to tell your VP or others? As a higher ed web professional, what’s specifically important to the work that you are doing in trying to enroll and retain students and families?
I asked the question about VP reports recently in the University Web Developer’s Ning group. It seems from people’s responses that we all tend to be in the same boat: we provide reports monthly, not knowing what their use or interpretation will be. We may explain or leave others to decide how they read the analytical tea leaves. Or, we provide analytics in response to a direct question. I’m lucky enough to have a VP who asks what my opinion of the data is and what my recommendations are. So, instead of providing monthly blanket site analytics, which tell us very little beyond year over year trends or campaign responses, I’ve started thinking about what really is important:
What are we measuring? Maybe you’re lucky enough to have a great relationship with admissions and have tagged their email campaigns with specific URLs. Perhaps you manage the university AdWords account and monitor the progress of these campaigns. Beyond this, what else do you measure? Are you tracking your international hits to see if travel abroad is worthwhile? Landing pages for campaigns are great for collecting prospect information, but do you have this information built into your web pages? How is social media traffic translating into program attendance? Not having goals, whether they be analytics goals or site goals really limits what you can measure accurately. Also, if you have no mechanisms in place to capture student or parent contact information, you’re traffic means very little. You arent converting those visits into, well, anything. Stealths may get your information and apply on their own, but what else could you be offering them to make them come out of the woods?
Why are we measuring it? Is this information for budgeting travel? Will you be able to make changes to navigation or structure based on these reports? Will you get approval for more personnel or funds to make the changes to the web that you need? Are you thinking about going all electronic in some of your print campaigns? You need to know why you are measuring things just as much as you need to know what you will measure. If you are reporting for reporting’s sake, you’re wasting your own valuable time not to mention your VP’s. Measure for trends, measure for campaigns, but whatever you do, measure for a reason. I know we tend to be cynical (who, us?) but I encourage you: be curious.
Who are we measuring it for? Is this for VP’s, directors, faculty or communication professionals? Remember the audience for whom you are collecting this information and consider if you need to translate it. I’d suggest never just handing over information, but meeting face to face to ensure people understand the nuances of their reports. I also find that certain analytics professionals consider certain aspects of reports more or less reliable/important. For instance - of course China visits will have a longer time on site if they translating the page. Of course you have a higher bounce rate overall if you are incorporating more social media deep linking strategies.
What happens after we measure it? Will you actually be able to implement changes based on your information? A monthly trend report may help you keep a pulse on your visitors, but a quarterly report may actually lead you to making changes. Will you provide a report to a VP that will reference it in a board meeting? Know what you are providing the information for and the outcomes the requesting party is seeking.
In preparation for my (first! )HighEdWeb NY Regional conference presentation - Analytics: What’s Really Important - I ask you to add to this conversation. How do you tackle the analytics question and how much power do you have, as the reporting party, to effect change? How much collaboration is there between offices for use of this information? Do you create reports as you see the need or do individuals request specific reports?