Results are in – State of Web Analytics in Higher Ed

A couple months ago Karine Joly launched the analytics revolution in higher ed by asking everyone to fill out a survey about the state of web analytics in higher education. She received 399 submissions.

The executive summary is out and available at the HigherEdAnalytics website. Taking a look at it, a few initial thoughts came to mind. I’m just going to run through them here in no particular order.

First, I was ecstatic that 95% of respondents track website traffic (I know it’s not 100% but in the words of Bill Murray – baby steps). What struck me, though, was that a full 35% did not track any conversions and of the 65% that do, a minority track clickstream and conversion from marketing campaigns (email, online advertising, print, etc.). Now, this may just mean that they aren’t in the marketing department. I’d love to see that data segmented by department. I’m hoping that the majority of folks in the marketing department do indeed track those stats. What’s more – even those folks *outside* the marketing department should be tracking if they do any kind of external communication via emails, social media, etc.

The report also states that 15% of respondents said they do nothing with the data. That makes me sad. : (

The most interesting part of the report for me was around tracking conversions. TheĀ  “would like to track” column being the most intriguing. To me, this shows that we *want* to measure conversions, we just can’t for one reason or another. In other words, we need help. The more I wondered about it the more I wondered about the reasons why we don’t (or can’t) track conversions … maybe:

  1. The conversion doesn’t happen on our website and the third party site is either unable or unwilling to allow us to track.
  2. If the conversion happens off our site, we don’t have the right technology in place to tie a campaign to a conversion (let’s say a submitted inquiry form or application).
  3. We don’t think we have an actual conversion to track – for instance if the particular website in question is only informational, etc.
  4. There are several owners of all websites and to try and track traffic much less conversion is so complicated and political that it’s just not worth it.
  5. Folks are worried about the implications for privacy.

Whatever the case, it seems as though we really want to. Now we just need help to be able to do it.

Another area of the report that was interesting was the question, “who spends at least 20% of his/her time working on analytics?” 35% responded either 1, 2, or 3 people. This astounds me – in a good way. I was shocked to find that number so large as I realize that so many people in the higher ed web world are jacks of all trades. Obviously it would be awesome if at least some reported that, “it’s my entire job,” but … baby steps. As an industry we’re certainly nowhere near that yet. It’s definitely a good start, though. I know there were 50% that responded nobody : ( but this surprised me much less. I actually thought that number would have been higher.

Although the majority of people said they were tracking the basics – visits, page views, etc, when we get past the basics, the percentage really drops off. I wonder why. Is this because of a lack of resources? Is it because of the lack of *insights* we’re getting? If it is the lack of insights, the catch-22 here is that you’ll almost never get insights from the very basic metrics, especially if there is no segmentation (unless your site is down and your visits just flat-lined). That was something I also wondered about.

Anyway, I think the report shows both that we’re doing great stuff and there is also a long way to go. But we’re headed in the right direction. : )

Making web analytics a priority

So let’s get this party started! Starting August 12, on the 2nd Thursday of each month, we will be collecting data to start the analytics revolution in higher education. Karine’s group will then release the benchmarking data from the previous month at the end of month. For example, July’s benchmarking data will be released at the end of August and so forth.

To get a benchmarking report, all you need to do is participate in the benchmarking. Go to the HigherEdAnalytics website to join the revolution.

So, I’ve blabbed long enough. Go read the executive summary. I’d love to know your thoughts.

3 Responses to “Results are in – State of Web Analytics in Higher Ed”

  1. Jess says:

    Hi Shelby. Just catching up on this – happy to see the insights released and the new higheredanalytics site started.

    My thoughts: the percentage may be so low because of the lack of connection with departments and marketing. Where I sit, we do not have access to every departments plan/campaigns. They have complete autonomy and working with the communications team is voluntary. Therefore, since the only person really tracking analytics, me, sits in communications, that means I am not able to track campaigns as easily. I try to insert myself where appropriate or possible, but many things go untracked.

    With that said, I think its very important to educate people on trends and advanced segments, not only campaign tracking and goals. There should definitely be an overall analytics strategic plan for anyone working with them, but there should also be education taking place that helps departments understand basic analytics, how to track them, integrate them into campaigns, and work with who ever happens to be monitoring them for the university at large. This is where I think we falter.

    I’m happy to see this topic getting the attention it deserves and look forward to discussion this more in depth via my next presentation at SIMTech in October. Its these two issues that will be covered. We’ll get everyone on the revolution! :)

  2. Jess – Really good point about the connection with departments. It’s exactly the same way here. I think that goes back to the “we need help” part. It’s not enough that just you and me and people in our positions at other schools make analytics a priority – it’s *any* department that has a website and *any* department that sends out communications – *any* communications.

    Avinash had a great post some months ago talking about “who owns analytics.” In it he talked about centralized vs. decentralized vs. centralized decentralization (point #2). Very interesting.

    To the outside world we are one school. They don’t see the silos, they just see the one school. We need to start measuring (and communicating!) as if this is true because that is how our audience interacts with us (as one).

    Anyway … I’m still really hoping to be at SIMTech. How can I pass on something so analytics-focused (the revolution and so many other analytics sessions) *and* Avinash as the keynote?

    Hopefully I’ll see you there! :)

  3. [...] for baseline information. She presented a quick analysis of her finding in August and Shelby Thayer added more insightful information in her [...]