Shelby ThayerThis blog is about creating conversations specifically around web analytics and usability and higher education websites.

Currently, Shelby is a Web Strategist at Penn State Outreach. She started tracking websites using WebTrends at her old company back in 2002, which seems, to her, like eons ago. They made the move to Google (urchin) in 2006.

She currently uses Omniture SiteCatalyst, Omniture Discover, and Google Analytics.

Her hope is that higher education website owners will start to give web analytics and usability a higher priority in the months and years to come.

2 Responses to “About”

  1. Hi Shelby,
    We are currently using WebTrends, but given our current climate are re-evaluating to save costs and look at free or lesser expensive alternatives. I had three questions.

    Have you noticed any trends towards a self-hosting vs off-site hosting amongst schools?

    Have you noticed any trends in higher education amongst schools toward using a particular analytic option?

    Would you personally have a recommended analytic option?

    Thanks in advance!

    Anthony White
    Web Developer
    Green River Community College
    (253) 833-9111, ext.2245

  2. Hi Anthony,

    Thanks for the comment.

    The trends I’ve noticed are purely anecdotal as I haven’t done any surveys or found any data regarding this elsewhere. I’m pretty sure Kyle James from .eduguru did a survey a while ago, but I can’t seem to find it.

    Don’t quote me on this percentage, but I can say that from the people I’ve spoken to over the past couple years in higher ed, more than 90% use Google Analytics. It really is the vast majority, probably because it’s a great tool and it’s free.

    I have also spoken to a few people in higher ed who are just recently looking to go from a self-hosting solution (specifically Urchin) to off-site hosting … again, anecdotal, I know.

    Deciding between self-hosting vs. off-site hosting depends on what you want out of your tool. Some great advantages of self-hosting is the ability to process data retroactively, space depends on your storage limitations – not a third party, and the ability to run behind a firewall.

    For higher education, storage space using a third-party solution is rarely, if ever, an issue. There are also ways around the firewall issue. We are successfully running GA on our Intranet right now.

    Again, it all depends on what you need. With self-hosting, the data is yours. You can get into the database, you can reprocess data, etc. The downside is that you are responsible for all the storage space that is needed as well as all maintenance, etc. Unless you have a dedicated staff, it can get overwhelming.

    As far as the best solution for you, it, too, always depends on what you are going to do with it. First, establish what your website goals are and then figure out what you want to measure to see if you’re achieving those goals (your KPIs). I’ve found that 99% of the time Google Analytics can do it – especially for higher ed websites.

    One drawback with GA right now is that you cannot upload data into it. For example, if you have a campaign tracking management system or a CRM system, you cannot upload the data into GA. You can, however, download your GA data and then integrate with your other data elsewhere, say in Excel.

    If you’re really finding it hard to pick a tool, I suggest purchasing Avinash Kaushik’s book Web Analytics 2.0. Chapter 2, a full 18 pages, is dedicated to helping you choose the right tool (questions to ask yourself, your vendors, etc.). It really is fantastic information. You should read this book anyway. It’s really a must-read if you’re interested in web analytics.

    One thing you might want to try doing is running Google Analytics (or another free tool) in parallel with your Web Trends for a time. That way you can look at both tools and see which one works best for you.

    I hope that helps. Happy analytics tool shopping.

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