Data Analysis for student blogs

March 12, 2009

Dara Crowfoot asked a good question about what metrics or usage stats I have in a comment on my post Thinking Differently About Student Blogs.

I pulled together some data to share:

We promote the blogs right off our homepage with a news article. It promotes all three of the spring break blogs we are supporting. Each group that blogs might do separate promotion with alumni and parents which we suggest as well.

So far the news article has received about 600 unique pageviews which is excellent for our news stories. This is more than double our average story. Part of your assessment efforts for these type of blogs has to be comparing your numbers against what might be “normal traffic”.  We do detailed news comparisons each year so we can tell our average pageviews on stories and how many doubled the average etc… This type of data is very helpful when we are attempting to quantify our efforts on projects like this one.

Additionally we have had over 300 unique pageviews to each blog so far. Of course these are still going on and we will do more post trip promotion. Admissions will use them in e-communications and we will often feature them in an alumni magazine. In the fall we had a professor take one of our first-year seminar classes on Homelessness to DC for fall break. This blog ended with over 2,000 unique pageviews.


You don’t need a redesign you need a web strategy (Part two)

October 23, 2008

What does a web strategy entail? A few items are essential. Identifying target and secondary audiences will be a key component. Once a strategy identifies these audiences decisions can be based on what the needs are of those specific audiences. Of course the easy answer here is that the web needs to speak to all audiences. While this is a nice, politically correct answer it will make your web manager’s job more difficult in the future. Part of developing a strategy is making tough choices.  By identifying who your website is designed for you are then able to address other audiences with strategies designed to give them the information they need.

A strategy should not just involve your public website in order for it to be successful. A careful calculation of all web tools should be done to create a comprehensive plan. A strategy needs to include e-communication tools, the college portal, e-commerce, and college related mini sites. It also needs to be developed within a collaborative environment.

Most institutions have some kind of overarching web group that “manages” or “oversees” the web.  A strategy should be developed and then implemented by a strategic team. Key players from around the institution should be included on the team and it should be led by the person with operational responsibility. The team will need to work collaboratively to meet development, enrollment, and retention needs. This strategic web group also needs to take responsibility for assessment, developing and tracking metrics, and benchmarking strategies. Assessing marketing efforts is an area where higher ed really falls down.

to be continued…


You don’t need a redesign you need a web strategy (Part One)

September 27, 2008

Each year higher ed spends more money, creates more positions, buys more products and services for the web but does your institution have a strategy behind these actions? Even if there is a strategy are there benchmarks and metrics in place to assess the strategy?

Over the course of the last 8 years that I have worked in higher ed I have found through my time in athletics, admissions, and now the web that we “throw” money at problems and challenges dealing with technology. Institutions would be better served to take 6 months and create a true strategy for their web efforts and then put the people in place to execute that strategy.

The website and in broader terms your institutions web presence is no longer just a medium for the school to communicate like the alumni magazine and e-newsletter but instead it represents the very essence of your school just like the buildings on your campus or the people who work at the school.

What does a strategy mean? Or better yet what does a strategy not mean. Simply redesigning a website in house is not a web strategy but instead a stop gap measure that might not even solve the challenges that institutions face. If a building needs to be upgraded it isn’t just done on a whim by the facilities department instead it often gets looked at as part of a broader campus master plan that had input from the campus community and was designed to meet the needs of campus from a facilities standpoint for the next 10, 15, or 20 years Why don’t we do the same thing with our web strategy?

Some would argue that it is too tough to create a strategy with technology since the technology changes so rapidly. That’s why you need a strategy in place that does not focus solely on the “latest and greatest” technologies but instead – focuses on your ability to adapt and respond working collaboratively and within teams. A strategy with this focus allows you to enhance and change as technology moves forward without losing site of your institutions mission and brand.

to be continued….


How data can help you show value…

September 24, 2008

You collect data all year long. You have google analyitics running on your site, and you can tell everyone how many hits your homepage gets in a week. Now is the time to put that data to use and help you show value. It’s budget time and the data you have collected can be a valuable asset when you are advocating for additional resources in the web area.

You will have a strong case if you are able to pull together a complete picture. Here are some examples:

  • just how many users the web is marketing to in a year
  • how with limited resources (because lets face it we never admit that we have enough) you were able to engage visitors to stay longer on the site because of your enhanced content or technology
  • a direct correlation to online donations or enrollment
  • the number of requests for help you got across campus
  • the number of “webmaster” emails you answered

Data can be used for more than just reporting or “backing up” your web decisions. Use it to your advantage.


What is your video strategy?

July 30, 2008

Video has exploded. No that’s not a news flash for anyone paying attention in higher ed marketing but how many schools have a strategy around video? Does your institution have a strategy? If so can you define it, assess it, and tell if it’s having a positive impact on your marketing efforts?

Each year we gather members of the admissions team, communications staff, and web communications staff and brainstorm around video. Some of the questions that we ask ourselves that help to assess our previous year and help set our strategy for the coming year are as follows:

  • What went well?
  • What can we improve?
  • What were our most popular videos?
  • Did people watch all of the video or just a few minutes?

At Gettysburg we try to tie our video efforts to larger enrollment and marketing goals. As an example one of the projects we took on last year was to create a video for each of our athletic programs that highlights our coaches. These videos were aimed at suspects and prospects and we thought might be able to help us recruit talented student athletes from a diversity of geographic territories. Increasing geographic diversity is one of our enrollment goals.

Not all of them are posted yet but if you visit any of our fall sport pages you can see examples of the videos. Early indicators have told us that the videos are having a positive effect. One of our coaches even reported that he had 3 students from California visit specifically because of the coaches video.

With limited marketing and video resources we must be strategic and look for high impact projects like this one as part of our video strategy.


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