Web analytics limitations … and a bright future

January 4th, 2010

I recently read Joseph Carrabis’ fantastic posts – The Unfulfilled Promise of Online Analytics part I and part II. If you haven’t read them already – do so. They are so thought-provoking and written like no other analytics posts you’ll ever read. Really great stuff.

For an analytics evangelist like myself, reading them was both a breath of fresh air and a punch in the gut.
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On Link Styles – Are We Regressing?

November 16th, 2009

This will be a short post, as I’ve written about link styles before, specifically about how using underlined links in body text is still a best practice. If underlining is out of the question, then at least use a color that is in complete contrast to the text color. Why am I bringing this up again? I happened to be browsing some higher ed sites earlier this afternoon and I couldn’t help but notice that the trend seems to be getting worse, not better. Why?

Is it that we’re spending so much time focused on more complex user-friendliness issues (ie., can users navigate the site, is our online application usable, etc) that it’s almost like we’ve forgotten one of the fundamentals?

Dressing up link text with hover styles does nothing for the scanning eye. Finding what words are links on a website shouldn’t be an easter egg hunt. We should know *immediately* when we glance at a page that a word or phrase is a link, not after we move the mouse over it.

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Frustrating Conversations – We Don’t Need Web Analytics

October 19th, 2009

It seems that some (notice I said some, not all!) higher education web professionals still don’t think using web analytics on their site is useful.

Why do I think this? It became apparent after a couple conversations during the HighEdWeb conference I recently attended in Milwaukee. First, let me say that this has nothing to do with the conference. It was a fantastic conference and I learned a ton from the great presenters and attendees. I would go again in an instant.

More than once, however, I found myself in the midst of a conversation about how using web analytics is pretty much “useless.”

I doubt that the people in the conversation had any idea who I was (who would?) and that I was actually presenting at the conference about web analytics (both conversations took place before the presentation). So, I decided to keep my mouth shut and just listen. I wanted to see *why* they thought web analytics was useless on their sites before I jumped in to defend the practice.

Conversations like these happen all the time. They could have very easily happened at any of our campuses. In any of our offices. I’ve heard it all before and I’m sure I’ll hear it many times again. So, I’ll bring up some excuses I heard and offer some recommendations.

So … here goes …
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Looking Forward to HighEdWeb

October 3rd, 2009

Tomorrow, bright and early, I’ll be on my way to the HighEdWeb Conference in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  I know I will be learning a ton. I’m also looking forward to meeting some great people I’ve been conversing with via blogs, Twitter, and the like for so long.

Joshua Ellis, a fellow Penn State Outreach-er, and I will be presenting “Actionable Web Analytics” on Tuesday morning. We have a terrific time slot.  This will be our 4th presentation in less than a year and I’m really looking forward to it.

I’ve been looking through the selection of sessions and I think I have mine almost picked out. So far, I’ve picked out:

  • Building a Strategic Plan with Douglas Tschopp – This is my first time to highedweb conference and Douglas is the program chair of the conference. I’m looking forward to his session on creating a communications plan.
  • Talking to your boss about Twitter with Lori Packer – This presentation seems really interesting and I’m curious to see how Lori will bring ROI into the conversation.
  • Goal-Driven Web Strategy: Implementing Technology with an Eye on ROI with Karlyn Morissette – Hey, it’s a session on web strategy and ROI. Is there any doubt in your mind that I would be there? Plus, I’ve been following Karlyn for a while via Twitter.eduGuru, and her own blog and am looking forward to meeting her.
  • The Kids Are Alright with Mark Greenfield – I met Mark a couple  years ago at the Penn State Web Conference and have been following him on Twitter,  delicious, and the University Web Developer’s ning site he started. It will be great to see him again.
  • This is Not a Brand with Doug Gapinski – When I read this session description I loved it and was instantly thinking of specific examples of this happening. You can’t go wrong with someone from mStoner, either.

I haven’t made my mind up about the other sessions yet, but must say that there are a lot of great sessions to choose from. I will definitely learn a lot.

I don’t plan on live-blogging, however, I will be tweeting throughout the conference.  There will be many others doing the same. Follow #heweb09 to catch updates.

Working Together for our Users

August 24th, 2009

I know everyone hates the word “users.”  They are our students, our applicants, our prospects, our alumni! Well … that is right … they are all those things. They are also our website “users” just as they are our … oh, God … don’t say it … “customers.” Customers. Customers. Customers. There you go. I said it.

Why is it important to talk about our students, applicants, prospects, and alumni as our “users” and our “customers?”
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Oh no, not another Social Media ROI post!

July 26th, 2009

I’ve been reading a lot about social media ROI lately. How can you not? There is so much information out there. In my opinion, the best series I’ve read on the subject is over at BrandBuilder. 9 posts so far on the subject. Awesome, awesome stuff.

Before I get started with this post, though, I want to mention 2 things:

  1. Social media doesn’t just mean Twitter, Facebook, and the like. I know you all know this, but I’m just saying … social media is about conversations – reviews, posts, tweets, comments, videos, sharing, anything … anything. Obviously there are different tools that are popular now, but it does depend on the audience. What’s popular for one group of people, isn’t for another. Find out what your audience is using.
  2. Social media obviously doesn’t happen in a vacuum. There are many other marketing efforts happening all the time at your university. Know what they are and how they impact your bottom line. Social media is an addition to those efforts.

Now, on with the post.

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4 Quick Ways to Clean House Using Web Analytics

July 6th, 2009
Photo by:  Marcin Wichary

So I’m taking most of this week off to clean house. Yes. I’m serious. The *real* reason for the house cleaning is that my family is coming down next weekend with a toddler and someone who is allergic to cats (not the toddler) and I have two (cats, not toddlers).

In the middle of writing my lists (yes, multiple lists … I am a list writer) my mind began to wander to work. What are some of the “low hanging fruit” that we could clean up pretty quickly on our websites?

How can web analytics help us with this?

Let’s explore some ways to quickly clean up your online campaigns and/or websites using analytics as  a guide.
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Why Segmentation is Essential

June 22nd, 2009

We all know the worthlessness of the data puke. Our analytics tool can give us so much data. Then we realize that we have no idea what to do with it all.

Goals and key performance indicators (KPIs) are so important. What metrics should you use to see if your Web site is meeting its goals? Your Web site as a whole will have goals and KPIs, but your marketing efforts will (or should!) as well.

This is where segmentation comes in. Segmentation allows you to see past the overall averages/trends and focus on specific segments of your Web site and how your Web site performs for those particular segments.
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Help! We have major issues with our analytics!

June 9th, 2009

On Monday, Joshua Ellis (a co-worker and Google Analytics guru — and someone I’m hoping to get to guest blog here soon!) and I presented at the Penn State Web Conference. Our presentation was called Actionable Web Anaytics for Higher Education.

As attendees started asking question during and after the session, a theme developed – a theme that we are all familar with and is consistently brought up (especially in higher education).

Common Theme - I/we have issues with our analytics set up/implementation/limitations – what do we do? Help!
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Getting Ready for the Penn State Web Conference

June 6th, 2009

This will be my 3rd year attending the Penn State Web Conference, but I’m especially excited this year because I am co-presenting at the conference.

Our presentation, Actionable Web Analytics for Higher Education is part of the Web Project and Information Management Track and is, of course, among the last group of presentations of the day. I hope people don’t bail before that time slot. We’ll see.

We did a “dry run” to our co-workers in Outreach Marketing and Communications this past Thursday and I think it went pretty well.

One thing we are emphasizing in the presentation is the fact if the attendees are working with/on a Web site that 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 not.

I’m also looking forward to a lot of other sessions that will be taking place. Mark Greenfield always has awesome sessions and I’m sure this year will be no different. Always look forward to attending his sessions. 

Follow the whole conference on Twitter using #psuweb2009.