iMA & SXSW Recap: Collecting, Sharing, and Using Analytics

By Libby Peterek, Director of Web Services, KLRU  and Station Advisory Council Chair
In my experience, web analytics can be a bear of a project to wrap your head around. There are so many factors, filters, and qualifiers, none with much context, that it's difficult to know where to start. It's been a constant agenda topic at KLRU for some time now. We have several domains, Facebook, Twitter, video on COVE, Vimeo, and YouTube, and lots of people wanting to know where we addition to the regular updates and site launches of a station web team. I'm happy to report that some very good ideas and tests were shared in the "Advanced Analytics: Concrete Case Studies to Improve Your Digital Effectiveness" session at iMA and I know just where we'll start, Amy Sample's Custom Dashboard Templates. If you're interested in the entire session, you can listen to it on Soundcloud, along with the rest of the iMA sessions.

Amy Sample of PBS kicked off the session with a lot of great questions such as:
  • What metrics should be focused on each month?
  • What should we be reporting to our executives?
  • How are key areas of our site used?

She also offered up the very reasonable advice to exclude local traffic from your Google Analytics setup, then jumped right into showing off some custom dashboards for management, social media, site search, and video. All are available on her Tumblr. You can also find her step by step guide for setting up Google Analytics in a previous SPI post. For us, these will be a great kick off to giving many key stakeholders in our station the information they want now. We can fine tune and build after seeing this first round to completion.

Phil Meyer of WTIU followed with his experience as an executive with analytics. How WTIU's analytics help to serve viewers better, establish priorities, and provide focus to your web efforts. 

Corey Spencer from Keystone Solutions dove into some of the more technical pieces of Google Analytics version 5. He talked about custom variables which allow you to follow your individual users across your site. At KLRU, we've talked with several companies with similar perspectives on learning as much information about each individual user as possible. Personally, I'm ever so slightly wary about the ethics surrounding such information collection and would prefer to keep it at a bird's eye view. Anyone else? This being said, I was very impressed with the power of Google, for free. I should also note that the Chrome browser does not support cross-domain cookies, so custom variables should be used within a single domain.

Steve Mulder of NPR ended the session with a case study on driving online donations, using several different techniques during pledge. They reported that intrusive ads made no difference to the donation numbers. He included that more research will be conducted, but it was an interesting takeaway since so many at our station are taken with the lightboxed campaigns across the system. 

At the finish of this session, we felt equipped to give our executives and marketing department what they wanted from our web traffic, but the question still remained what exactly should we do with it? Enter Jared Spool at SXSW. I studied his Usability research in grad school and had heard he was a great presenter, so attending his panel was a gimmee.

Entitled "The Secret Lives of Links," his talk started with a pretty spot-on dance cover of Beyonce's "Single Ladies." Perfect. He said many smart and interesting things and for those of you interested in his entire presentation, you can listen to it on his SXSW page.

He discusses the scent of information, web standards, and of course, the usefulness of link naming. But, one of the largest takeaways for me was his discussion of Fitt's Law. It factors in so nicely when considering analytics. At its most basic level, Fitt's Law tells us that the most wanted parts of our site should be the largest and closest (which for our purposes we can say "above the fold"). The most egregious offender of the sites he shared was Walgreens. The photo (20%), search (16%), refilling a prescription (11%), pharmacy (7%), and store  locater (5%) areas of the site account for 59% of the traffic, but only 3.8% of the area of the homepage. 96.2% of the page area is dedicated to things that less that 50% of the users want. He discusses it as a case of the users versus the marketing people. But, maybe it's as simple as not truly USING your web analytics. In either case, it has made us take a long, hard look at what we're presenting to our users. PCMAG did a great recap of his talk as well.

Both of these sessions helped us formulate our next steps with analytics and thinking critically about the design of our site. They were also, as in the case of some of the panels we went to, a confirmation that we are thinking about all the right things. In our recent redesign of the Austin City Limits website, we began by looking critically at our Google Analytics, then emailing our list with 3 open-ended questions about how we were doing, what we could do better, and what people want. We received so much great information, it was easy to give our users what they want. You're never going to hit everything on the nose, but listening, even through analytics, is a great first step.

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