Google Analytics for LIS

Before I begin with the data, I have to explain for website redirection works. We have a number of pages on the CMS that redirect the user to another page. An example is the link to MIDCAT on the LIS home page. The redirection is done by sending what is called an HTTP Header from the web server to the client. Basically, all web responses from a server come in two parts: the headers, which supply some metadata to the client about their request, and the body, which contains the content. When a server instructs a client to go to another location, via a redirect, it might send a header of type 302 and the location of the new site. The client then makes a request for the new site. Importantly, this is all done before the body of the original site is loaded by the client.

This is important because of the way Google Analytics works. The code to update the analytics data for the site is contained at the end of the body and is only run if the entire page loads. This means that when we do a redirect, the user’s click on that link is not recorded by our analytics tools. Because of this, you will see a 0 next to that link to MIDCAT on the LIS home page. It would be silly of us to assume that this link is never clicked on, but according to GA, it wasn’t. I’ve noted in the spreadsheet at the end of this post whenever a link on a page is a redirect. We could use standard log file analysis to determine the exact number of page visits to all of these, but as I explained earlier, we don’t have the log files because I deleted them all.

This is not to say that we should discount the results of the data here. There is still useful information in GA. However, when looking at the data, we need to take into account that there are links on each page for which we don’t have information.

Now on to the analysis! The following data is for the last year (July 26, 2008 – July 26, 2009). I figured that a full year would give us the most robust view of the site traffic.

I’ll start with the total page views for each major area of the LIS site. Unsurprisingly, the Library content is the most viewed, with the Contact, Quick Links, and Teach/Learn sections barely viewed at all in comparison. The Unique Pageviews bear out this pattern and the full table of data is available in the spreadsheet at the end of the post.

Two questions we agreed to ask of the Google Analytics tool were “What are the top five links on the LIS home page?” and “What are the five least clicked links on the LIS home page?” Here are the top five:

  1. Library & Information Services (6539)
  2. Articles, Indexes, Research Sources (6160)
  3. Find Books, Articles & More (4289)
  4. Middlebury (Home Page) (3175)
  5. Course Reserves (3059)

Here are the five least clicked:

  1. Content Provider (LIS website) (0)
  2. P2P Music & Video Filesharing (0)
  3. Telephone Services (0)
  4. Digital Media Development (2)
  5. Departmental & Workgroup Directories (3)

The full lists, as well as the lists for the landing page of each sub-site are contained in the spreadsheet at the end of this post.

One question that I was not able to answer was about click paths to the blogging and wiki sites. This question can’t really be answered for a couple reasons. First, we don’t have a full year of data for those other services and, second, links to those services would go through redirect posting which are flawed for the reasons described above. If there are sites within the LIS site that you would like to see click-path analysis for, please let me know specifically what resources we should examine.

Here are the broad recommendations I draw from this analysis:

  1. The Quicklinks section gets little traffic. This should be removed from the site IA. A better designed site with the addition of a search landing page should not need this section.
  2. Other than the link to the CTLR, the Teaching & Learning site is not used. Rather than try to have this information live in multiple places, any relevent content should be moved from here to CTLR and this sub-site should be replaced with a simple link to CTLR.
  3. The Hours, Locations, Maps section is really the only think people click on About LIS to see. We should have this information on the LIS search landing page and move the remainder of the content elsewhere.
  4. The Departmental Directory is not used, but the full Staff Directory is used. Eliminate both and replace with a link to the LIS search results in the central Directory, which is the same information as the Staff Directory. (Forthcoming improvements to the central Directory interface will improve this experience).
  5. The Quick Phone and Email Contacts is the primary resource in Contact LIS. Eliminate the rest of the sub-site and add this information to the LIS search landing page.
  6. The links in the top sections of the sub-site landing pages such as below “Need help?” on the Library site are rarely clicked. Avoid this interface in future site designs.
  7. The “Did you know…?” sections of the LIS site are rarely visited. Consolidate this information into a central blog about LIS.

Here is the complete spreadsheet of results.

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