Spotlight for Career Services Professionals, August 31, 2011
by Gary Alan Miller
When we build career center websites, we put considerable thought into its design and content. But, how often do we pay attention to how our sites are performing after they’ve launched? Website analytics tools can provide insights into data that you may have never considered.
Douglas Lee Miller, new media manager at DePaul University, says that the best approach after connecting an analytics program to your site is to first sit back and learn.
“Take some time once you have it there to really look at what the data is telling you,” he says.”What drives your traffic? Search? Referrals? What times of day and week do you see traffic there? What spikes? Make it a goal to track as much of your users' online behaviors as possible.”
Knowing how your website visitors are behaving can help you make better marketing decisions and investments in resources. Maralyn Kinch, director for career information services in the center for career services and cooperative education at Montclair State University, says, “When I see that our job listing site, as expected, gets a lot of visits, it is easy to justify the costs. Analytics helped me see that some other web resources we offer are not being visited and may not justify the costs associated with them."
Many companies offer website analytics tools which are both free and easy to use. You can find many options by doing a web search. (For example, a lengthy list of analytics tools is available in a blog post by Mashable titled Analytics Toolbox.)
In most cases, you simply need to set up an account and place a piece of code on your website. You can then access your analytics through a standard website.
“Cost and statistical expertise are no longer barriers to accessing important data,” says Matt Klawitter, a higher education marketing consultant and former executive director of digital communications marketing at Washington University in St. Louis. “You can compare your website’s information architecture [navigation] against the actual pathways users follow to find content. In response, you can promote strategic pieces of content from highly trafficked locations.”
“Ultimately, web analytic strategy at the core is about funnels,” notes Miller. “Before you drive traffic, you have to think about the paths you want your website visitors to take, and also set up parameters for yourself to be able to determine success. This is much easier on a page or site with distinct calls to action like ‘register here,’ so start thinking in those terms.”
At university career services at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, we have used analytics to find that students’ use of search engines sends a significant amount of traffic directly to the login page for Careerolina, our branded NACElink CSM. These users never see the front-page information we post about our events. As a result, we also began promoting our larger events directly on that sub-page.
Gary Alan Miller is the assistant director for social media and innovation at university career services at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. You can follow him on twitter at @garyalanmiller.