Magazine article University Business

Putting Web Analytics Data to Use: No Matter How Much Data You Collect, It's Useful Only If You're Asking the Right Questions

Magazine article University Business

Putting Web Analytics Data to Use: No Matter How Much Data You Collect, It's Useful Only If You're Asking the Right Questions

Article excerpt

I've spent much of the past four years helping raise awareness of the importance of web analytics for digital marketing and communications. I've used many tactics to reach this goal: online surveys on the State of Web and Social Media Analytics in Higher Education, columns focusing on early adopters, trends and success stories, countless presentations at industry events, blog posts, and even an annual online conference entirely dedicated to higher education analytics.

In June 2010, after presenting at UBTech in Las Vegas, I launched a year-long benchmarking project: the Higher Ed Web Analytics Revolution. This project was intended to overthrow marketing decisions based on opinions, hunches and guesses. The goal was to collect and distribute useful benchmarking data on 12 website metrics selected for their relevance for colleges websites. With more than a hundred different institutions self-reporting data each month, the project helped, but not as much as I had hoped. The sample size was too small to produce truly relevant benchmarking data. But the project did help establish the habit of using Google Analytics data for many digital teams in higher education. Now, four years later, digital analytics is part of hundreds of conversations, projects, meetings and reports on many campuses.

New tools

Yet, with so much data now available, it is more challenging to choose what to present to decision-makers. In this context, benchmarking data can offer a welcomed reference frame to evaluate the overall performance of your school website. This is why new benchmarking reports, introduced in Google Analytics in September, are such a step forward for digital analytics. The three available reports let you compare the performance of your website with similar higher ed web properties. By selecting a geographic location and a range of average daily web sessions, you can access dashboards to compare your data on digital marketing channels driving traffic to your website, the location of your visitors and how they connected to your site. For a tutorial on accessing these benchmarking reports in Google Analytics, see my four-minute screencast (http://tinv. cc/ga-bench-).

What can we learn? …

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