All entries for Monday 10 November 2008

November 10, 2008

What does Google Analytics measure and provide information on that repository managers can use?

Well, my thoughts on the topic so far stretch to:

1) Numbers of visits/visitors, which you can get as a whole since you launched and/or as a month on month comparison. Ours don't tell us too much, except that people don't visit WRAP much at weekends and we're growing more visitors since we launched. As we're also growing content, this just confirms that there's nothing I should be worried about! I'm not altogether sure what is the best way to measure these using Google Analytics: should I be looking at page visits or visitors? Should I be looking at the Unique Visitors if I'm going to look at Visitors? At the moment we're talking pretty small scale differences and there is no difference in the pattern, so for my own needs, any of these would be appropriate. But what if I wanted to benchmark against another repository? (GA does have a "benchmark" feature which supposedly benchmarks your website against other sites of the same size. I don't fully understand it and it makes WRAP look really good, but I don't believe it's all that useful to benchmark WRAP against unknown websites!)

Information about visitors includes looking at which countries and networks they have come from. I can drill down further within the UK visitors to find out which cities the visitors came from. Of course the largest contingent of our visitors were from Coventry, and from withing the Warwick network. But there are other academic networks appearing in the list, including Southampton, Durham, Birmingham, Edinburgh and others.

2) Traffic sources. The latest beta "Advanced segments" option shows me very nicely the whole number of visits as a line graph, with different coloured lines for the traffic sources, be they direct visits (eg bookmarks, someone types in the URL), search engine referrals or web page referrals. The pattern seems to be remarkably similar across all three, although the search engines are by far the largest traffic sources. Looking further at which web pages link to WRAP is an interesting exercise... likewise for looking into which keywords were typed into the search engines that led to a visit on WRAP. Mostly the web pages are Warwick Uni ones. At first the keywords were nearly all general enough to suggest that peopl were looking for WRAP itself, or something like it. But now that we have more content, the keywords are getting much more specific.

3) Content: Pageviews give you a lovely big number, if that's what you need to show! But I hardly think it is more useful than the number of visits or visitors. TopContent tells me that the pages in WRAP that are visited most are the home page, search pages, admin pages and the browse pages, etc. This is the closest to telling me which are the most visited papers in the repository, which is useful for advocacy. Except that I can't possibly know whether the papers themselves were read, only that their records were read... The site overlay feature might show this for a single record, but I can't compare papers on such popularity of pdf download. And I cannot tell much information about the visitors to an individual paper: I can see which keywords led to that paper, which sources linked to it. But not whether the visitors were on an academic network or not, from the UK or not.

The Top Landing pages tell me which pages within WRAP people are reaching WRAP through. Our most important page is our home page, but after that are actual article records. I can use this in advocacy work, to claim that "the paper that has had most direct hits to it within WRAP is...." But of course that would not necessarily be the most popular paper in WRAP. Just the one that more people are following links from elsewhere to. Academics could easily boost this statistic for their paper just by sharing the WRAP URL for their work.

The Top Exit pages provide a nice balance to those, so presumably our visitors are looking at precisely what they wanted to find and not hanging around (also described in the high Bounce Rate). However, people are exiting from our search page, browse by department page and latest additions page as well. I am a little concerned about people who don't make it past the search page: we link directly to the advanced search form, but I might want to change that if there is a real problem with this. But I'm not worried yet, it's just something to watch.

Site Overlay looks like a great feature but I don't understand what on earth all those percentages mean! If I'm right, when I look at the record for an article and I can see the link for the pdf, if it says "0%" then that means that no-one has clicked on it. But I'm not sure I've got that right.

But that's only all about what I can do with Google Analytics. The list of what I would really like to be watching/providing to authors is most likely to be entirely different.

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