Why do I need analytics? I’m not a marketer!

When it comes to websites, everyone is a marketer. Every website is selling *something* – whether it’s a widget, a subscription, a journal article, a blog post, a helpdesk ticket, or an engineering degree. Money may not exchange hands, but if you want a user to  do *anything* on your website, you’re selling something. So who is your target audience and what do you want them to do? That’s your goal! Analytics can tell you if you’re achieving that goal.

Questions higher education website owners may ask themselves:

  • School of Business Website – Do you want to entice new students to apply to a degree? Are your current students using it as a portal to their learning environment or to school news?
  • University Library Website – Are users looking to see if a book is available? A journal article?
  • Department Intranet – What are your employees most interested in? Email? Department news?
  • IT Helpdesk – Do you have a useful ticketing system? Alert system?
  • Department or School Blog – Are you looking for comments? RSS subscribers? Are you mostly an internal blog or would your topic be interesting to outside users?

The great thing about analytics is that it is useful no matter what your website goal. E-commerce sites may use it in a different way, but analytics can give you actionable insights no matter the type of website.

Hypothetical. Let’s say that a university library website does extensive user testing (a great thing!) to find out what typical users are looking for, if they can easily navigate through the site, and if the site is generally user-friendly. Great start.

The library website takes that data and redesigns their website. Fantastic. Everyone loves it. They are getting great feedback. But, how do you *really* know if the site is useful? How can they continue to tweak the site to make sure that users are getting what they’re looking for? Sure, you can survey users (qualitative analytics!), but you can’t ask everyone. That’s where analytics comes in.

Let’s say that one goal of the university library website is to get more users to self-help finding journal articles.

Measuring the success (create a *funnel*):

  • Fundamental - how many visits am I getting?
  • Even better – how many of those visitors search for a journal article?
  • Better still – how many of those visitors entered a keyword, clicked search and landed on that page that lists all the journal articles?
  • Almost there – how many of those visitors clicked through to a specific article?
  • Nirvana - how many of those visitors took an action (printed the article, checked it out, etc.)?

Where within that *funnel* are most of your visitors dropping off (leaving the funnel)? Are visitors getting to the list of articles and then not clicking through to the detail? Yes? Bingo! Now you know what needs work.

Success events. Goals. Conversions. Different analytcis packages call it different things, but they all give you the ability to do this (if implemented correctly, of course!). Of course there is so much more analytics can tell you, but this is one small *actionable* measurement.

So, what are your website goals? What do users do when they get there? Are they doing what you want them to do? Do you know? Would you like to know?

6 Responses to “Why do I need analytics? I’m not a marketer!”

  1. Erin says:

    As marketing budgets shrink the we as marketers need to be more fiscally responsible with those budgets. I find that web analytics is a great way to measure traffic and understand how the traffic moves through the website. It is a vital tool and should be a part of every web marketing project.

    Getting traffic to the website is only 10 percent of the goal and I agree with Shelby websites are “selling” something. If we don’t know what our customers are doing once they are on the website then we are losing “conversions”. That is not being fiscally responsible.

    Thank you Shelby! I look forward to more articles.

  2. Wow! I hadn’t really considered the implications for Intranets and IT Helpdesks.

    I’ll be interested in hearing more on analytics packages and making sense of the data as you continue to post.

    I’m so glad you started this blog!

  3. Shelby says:

    Thanks for the comments Nikki and Erin.

    Nikki – over the next month, I plan on giving specific examples of actionable insights analytics can give different types of websites. I will definitely touch on Intranets and Helpdesks. Stay tuned … :)

  4. AlexM says:

    Your blog is interesting!

    Keep up the good work!

  5. [...] Web Analytics in Higher Ed As we more time lately talking about web sites, content management systems and training, it is becoming more apparent that we don’t know why users are coming to our sites. We think that we know but we don’t have any evidence to back us up. It is the same problem with our web-based applications like Blackboard – we don’t have more than a baseline of information about our users and their habits. Thus enters the realm of web analytics. Now I don’t have a clue how all of this happens technically, but I do know that I want the output that can come out of this process. I have been reading Shelby Thayer’s blog Trending Upward lately and I am intrigued by many of the things that she says. The following quote is a great summary: When it comes to websites, everyone is a marketer. Every website is selling *something* – whether it’s a widget, a subscription, a journal article, a blog post, a helpdesk ticket, or an engineering degree. Money may not exchange hands, but if you want a user to  do *anything* on your website, you’re selling something. So who is your target audience and what do you want them to do? That’s your goal! Analytics can tell you if you’re achieving that goal. <http://www.trendingupward.net/2008/08/not-a-marketer/&gt; [...]

  6. [...] can be found in a search engine, or if they send out emails with links back to their Web site, then they are marketing that Web site whether they know they are or [...]