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How Google Analytics can help improve our websites

ElizabethRose -- Mon, 04/16/2018 - 2:24pm

We’re always aiming to make our websites more effective tools. An effective website has the information that prospective students need so they can choose the right program — and the information that our current students need to succeed while they’re here.

But how do we know if they’re effective? This is where Google Analytics can help.

I’m a believer in using analytics to inform our strategy. Google Analytics, a free tool that we have installed on all of our websites, can show us how most people are using our websites — including where they’re finding the most useful information, where they’re getting lost, and what they’re aiming to accomplish.

I recently gave a talk at the CASE District IV Conference about Google Analytics for beginners (you can see the presentation here and all of the collateral materials here). I know this information would be helpful for a lot of our web ambassadors on campus, as well, so I wanted to give you the condensed version here.

If you’re interested in learning more about using Google Analytics on your website, let me know! I’m happy to help.

Why bother using Google Analytics?

Using the information we get from Google Analytics will help us be more efficient and more effective communicators and recruiters.

Plus, when communication is clearer and more compelling, your audiences are happier and they’ll trust you more. Using our analytics can help us get there.

What can I learn from my analytics?

Google Analytics won’t tell you what to change on your site.

But it can tell you when a strategy is or isn’t working. Use the numbers you get from Google Analytics to inform how you communicate on your site.

The most important numbers you can get from your analytics are:

  • How many people are visiting your site
  • What pages they’re viewing
  • Where they’re leaving your site
  • How they’re getting to your site
  • What device they’re using (desktop computer, tablet, or phone)
  • If they’re completing a task or goal

What do I need to know before I dive in?

Before you can really understand what Google Analytics is telling you, you need to know three things: your goals, content, and timelines.

What are your goals?

Looking at the traffic to your website won’t help you if you don’t know what you’re trying to accomplish.
You can’t know what to look for in Google Analytics if you don’t know what your goals are.

Here’s a hint: increasing “hits” to your site probably isn’t the only goal you should set. It’s more about whether or not those visitors are getting what they need from your site. If you have lots of visitors but they’re not getting anything done, chances are they’ll be less likely to come back to your site and their trust in your office or department may be diminished.

Goals should be related to the actions people take on your website, like signing up for a tour, contacting a specific person, applying for a program, etc.

And then you can decide: what does success look like for these goals? What does failure look like?

What is the content on your site?

You need to be familiar with the content on your website. Otherwise, you’ll just be looking at a lot of numbers without a lot of context.

What timelines are important?

Know what time frames are most important. That can be a week, a few months, or even a whole year. When you’re looking at your analytics, you can easily adjust the time frame (and compare time frames!).

For example: don’t look at just your summer traffic when trying to determine if current students are looking at your curriculum pages. From what I’ve seen, traffic to curriculum pages spikes the two weeks around advising — so looking at page visits during the summer isn’t useful.

I’m ready. Can I get access to see my analytics?

Absolutely!   Send me an email at and I’ll set you up. We’ll also want to do a walkthrough so you can get more comfortable with the different pieces.

As the semester winds down, don’t let your website become an afterthought. Let’s set a time to meet over the summer and go through your analytics so you’re ready to effectively use it in the fall — trust us, your students (and everyone else!) will thank you.