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The web presence we currently have in place was launched in Fall of 2006 (www.niu.edu) , and has continued to grow as more and more colleges, departments, and other offices migrate into our template system. Soon we will be implementing a new content management system, and at that time, we are looking to make more improvements to usability and user experience. Of course we plan to do some user testing with our main audiences (students, faculty & staff, alumni, parents, community) to get a better understanding of how they use our site. But we are also hoping the information we can get fro the analytics data will help support or confirm our findings.

We've used Google Analytics to track our marketing efforts in a few specific programs areas in the past, but recently we've added analytics to the main university website. I was hoping this would give me some indication as too where our users were going to if they came in from the university site's home page. As is expected, the most frequently hit link was to the Students page, which is a listing of resources related to student needs (college links, our internal student information system, financial aid, etc.). This somewhat confirms our notion that our users self-identify and will pursue a path that speaks to them (following the scent of information). We are still in the early stages of gathering and analyzing this data, so I am anxious to see what else it will reveal.

Has anyone else out there been employing Google Analytics as a tracking tool, and do you have any anecdotes or caveats to share?

By the way, I'm not going to trouble you for feedback or assessment of our site, but if you have constructive criticism to share, I will gladly take it ; )

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Replies to This Discussion

The important thing with Google Analytics (or any analytics software such as ClickTracks, etc.) is to set up "Goals". With any good Web design, there should be a "path" that you want people to take with an ultimate goal. It may be to sign up for a newsletter, buy something, or get to an end result. By creating a path for people to follow, you can set up these goals in GA and assign a dollar value. Then track how people get to your goal, and what the funnel looks like. With that kind of data, you can refine the path and make it easier to get people to the goal. So if only 5% of people are getting to the end and buying, what prevents them from getting there? Analyze the data and see where the bottlenecks are or do usability testing to see if you can improve the conversion rate.

Book recommendation: "Web Analytics An Hour A Day" by Avinash Kaushik

Tom Petty
Interesting this is an older topic, but it applies to what I am going through right now. I just became a team lead for a redesign and one of my most important tasks is to analyze the paths as we take a look at Google Analytics. It hasn't been a surprising discovery, but it gives the "hard facts" that everyone needs to hear as we move forward with the redesign. In my opinion, monitoring traffic and paths is a ticket to continuous improvement.

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