Shannan Palma, Senior Online Producer at Emory University, is one of the 12 higher ed professionals who presented at the 2015 Higher Ed Analytics Conference (now available on-demand).
In this 3-question interview, Shannan tells us about a professional “big analytics win” in 2014, the state of analytics and what colleges and universities should focus on in terms of analytics in 2015.
1) What was your biggest analytics “win” in 2014?
Probably my biggest win since I’ve been in this position has been the elimination of our internal home page.
Prior to my transfer to this division, my team had already successfully used analytics data to secure funding to hire external SEO consultants. (GO TEAM!) The university had maintained separate internal and external homepages since the beginning, but over time the two pages had evolved to become identical. The consultants showed us that having duplicate content on both the external and internal homepages was confusing Google and hurting our SEO. Well, that’s not good! But before we could decide what to do about that information, we needed to know whether the internal homepage, which garnered approximately half our homepage traffic, continued to serve a different function from our external homepage.
Now, I’ll discuss the specifics of how we used our annotated analytics to address this question in my conference presentation, but the outcome was this: data from the previous winter showed that the external homepage was actually our critical internal communications tool, at least web-wise. As a result, we were able to eliminate the internal page once and for all, improving our SEO without diminishing our capacity for reaching our constituents when it matters most.
2) What is the state of digital analytics at your school?
As a former academic, I’m all about the data, and I’ve found digital analytics an effective tool for evidence-based decision making at Emory.
In my previous position in another division of the university, I successfully used analytics data to shape social media strategy, and my department included our web analytics data in all our success reporting.
In my current role doing “Big E” marketing, I use analytics to make recommendations about content strategy and to identify elements for consideration for redesign of the main university site. I also collaborate with my news center and health sciences counterparts to keep an eye on our referral flow within all our enterprise communications outlets to see what’s working and what’s not.
Whether undergirding the business case for redesigning the website to be mobile responsive or for hiring an SEO consulting firm to help us understand fluctuations in our organic search traffic, analytics functions instrumentally in persuading Emory’s top decision makers to devote funding and attention to a particular area of concern.
3) In your opinion, what should your higher ed peers focus on in 2015 when it comes to Analytics?
Mobile and tablet traffic continues to grow exponentially pretty much across the board, so if your website isn’t mobile responsive yet, the first thing I would focus on is gathering the data to make a business case for upgrading.
If you’re already responsive, then on the micro-level, I’d focus on tracking mobile and tablet user activity and adjusting content and site structure as necessary to make sure users are getting where you want them to go as quickly as possible. On the macro-level, I’d make sure that you’re looking at your social data in conjunction with your web data and using both to guide content strategy. Use analytics to tell the integrated big picture story of all your digital outlets and the multiple ways they interact.
If you haven’t read Henry Jenkins’ Convergence Culture – an oldie, but a goodie – do so now, and start thinking about how his findings apply to all transmedia communications.