This post is a follow-up to a seminar I recently presented to our Loyola web editors. The goal of that presentation and this post is to look at practical, basic ways to look at how you are engaging your visitors and the success of your marketing strategies using Google Analytics as a tool.
Taking a pulse vs. looking in their eyes
Don’t hide behind your numbers. Talk to the people that use your website and receive your emails. Ask someone if they had trouble finding something on your website. Do they feel like they get too many emails from you? Did they like that success story you posted about them, or did they not even realize it existed? The content you put on your website, in your email, or on facebook should strengthen the relationship you have with your audience. Web metrics is like taking a pulse, but looking in someone’s eyes and hearing their feedback is paramount.
If you would like monthly overview reports for your website, submit a web request and select “Strategy” as the job type. Make sure to include the URL to your Loyola site in your request (ex. chn.loyno.edu/history) and the email you’d like it to go to.
Some Terminology Clarification
Below are some terms that I often get questions about.
Unique Visitor – Person who may have come to your website multiple times, but is counted once. If a person uses more than one machine, more than one browser, or clears their cookies, they will be counted as multiple unique visitors.
Visits – An interaction with your website that lasts 30 minutes or less. This could involve multiple events and pageviews in a single session.
Unique Pageviews – Individual pages viewed by a unique visitor during a single session. If it’s viewed twice in the same user session, it’ll count as 1.
Organic (unpaid search),
Referral (link from another source),
Direct (url typed in directly, bookmarked or untagged links in emails)
Campaigns – Special variables that you can use in your links to track performance.
Bounce Rate – The percentage of single-page visits (i.e. visits in which the person left your site from the entrance page).
Scenario 1 – You want to fill a boat with alumni (Demographics & Unique Pageviews)
Promotion: physical mail, emails, and Facebook were used to promote the event
Analytics: Looking at unique pageviews told us how many people came to our registration page and also how many people looked at the attendee list. Looking at demographic numbers told us which cities were getting our message and responding by visiting the site.
Takeaway: We met our goal and filled the boat, having a great time in the process. Now we can use the ratio of visitors to our registration page vs. registrants to get a feel for how future event promotions are doing as they are happening.
Scenario 2 – Telling a story (Engagement)
Recently the Loyola Magazine website promoted this article about Professor Fak and it included both the professional side of a distinguished professor’s ties to Asia and lighter side about ping pong. A comment on the post shows that it connected with someone, and the Analytics shows us it engaged our readers.
Promotion: slider promo on the Loyola homepage
Analytics: It was the 2nd most popular content in past 30 days with most visitors coming from our homepage promo. The average time via different sources tells us not only were most visitors reading the article, but could also identify the level of engagement from each source. Those using organic search were most engaged, followed by visitors from our homepage promotion, followed by facebook visitors. The Bounce Rate of 70% or less means that a decent percent of our visitors dug in for more information on different pages of our site.
Takeaway: Our goal was to engage readers and tell our story. So we can see this effort as a success, especially with positive feedback in the comments. We may want to consider providing related content to keep users engaged with a goal of keeping 40% of our visitors reading.
Scenario 3 – Highlight a Student Success (Referrals)
Promotion: Promoted via the success feature in our site admin.
Analytics: The reason we looked at it in the first place was because it ranked as the 3rd top page on the History site. It was just under the history home and bios sections in popularity. By looking at the analytics we found that the traffic was coming from Facebook. Since we have no knowledge of posting it ourselves, we might assume it was through sharing on personal accounts rather than university pages.
Takeaway: Without reporting we won’t know what is popular, and from where our traffic is coming. The site content editor took the first step in making the news available, then someone else took the reigns and promoted it. We should consider doing a better job telling the story of these students in future success posts rather than just a brief blurb. More engaging content will likely result in more sharing and spreading the word. Also, if we did post it on one of our university Facebook pages, then using keyword tagging campaigns would help us better track our own efforts.
I’m going to save this topic for it’s own blog post, although we touched on it briefly in the presentation. If you’re eager to hear more about using URL variables in your campaigns, please leave a comment so I can get this information to you quicker.
An analysis of my own performance
Doing presentations to a group of 25+ is not my greatest strength. Hearing feedback helps improve my performance, but you’ve gotta have thick skin on the criticism. I received a majority of positive feedback in our questionnaire (which Crystal sent to me anonymously), and a few suggestions about things I didn’t cover, or things that may’ve been obvious to more advanced users.
So how could I improve for next time? Expectations. Let attendees know before they sign up what level experience we are targeting with the presentation. By targeting the scope of the presentation in our event promotion we’d have a better audience response.
People are already taking us up on the offer of basic monthly reports, and some would like more. It’s not too late to provide more feedback or request future blog posts or presentations, so leave feedback in the comments!