Magazine article University Business

Beyond "Reportics": Three Steps to Data-Driven Decisions with Web Analytics

Magazine article University Business

Beyond "Reportics": Three Steps to Data-Driven Decisions with Web Analytics

Article excerpt

As I noted in my previous column on the digital web in higher ed, digital analytics is bound to play an increasing role this year. Whether they call it big data, business intelligence, or analytics, many decision-makers on campus have been converted to the power of the data-driven approach. Make a difference with web analytics at your institution by taking these three steps.

1. Make sure you track everything.

According to my "The 2012 State of Web Analytics in Higher Education" report, 97 percent of institutions track web data. But, there is tracking ... and tracking. To make data-driven decisions, you need the full picture of what's happening on your site. Google Analytics, the web analytics application used the most by colleges, does a pretty good job tracking data out-of-the box--as long as it is set properly.

Amy Pizzolatto, a multimedia content specialist at The University of Chicago, learned this lesson the hard way. About six years ago, separate tracking accounts were created for all the sites. Domain and subdomain tracking should have been set up. "If you don't know how to set up your analytics account correctly, find somebody who can guide you through the process," she advises.

To track outbound clicks (for example, to the Common Application online form), video views, PDF document downloads, etc., set event tracking in Google Analytics. This will require extra tracking codes on your web page template to work as intended, but provide a wealth of useful data. This is why Emory University (Ga.) added automated, categorized click-event tracking as part of its full website rebuild launched in November 2012.

Also, tag digital campaigns to follow the footprints of visitors they bring. Email marketing, social media messages, and banner, keyword, or social advertising: It doesn't matter what channel or medium you use for marketing or communication campaigns. You can properly tag any call-to-action link using the Google Analytics URL builder.

2. Automate the repetitive work.

Like any other analytics application, Google Analytics could drown you in its sea of metrics. Despite some recent improvement in the user interface, it's still very easy to get lost looking at the default GA reports. Where should I look first? Where should I spend the hour I have every week to work with analytics? How can I make the most of this data? …

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