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Using Analytics

By: Kristin Resurreccion

An online digital archive like the Queens Memory Project is constantly evolving with every user interaction and administrative mediation, in addition to the ever-shifting environment of the World Wide Web. In an effort to improve the QMP’s relevance and effectiveness online, we have recently applied the use of free Web analytics software to track activity on the project’s website and social networking accounts.

Site Tracking with Google Analytics
Google Analytics installation is as simple as creating an account and copying and pasting a few lines of code from Google Analytics to the site itself. The software then begins tracking site usage statistics and translates them into easily interpretable charts and graphs.






Some essential questions that can be answered by using analytics include the following:

Where are our users coming from? If they are coming from a search engine, what were they searching for?
How many unique users visit the site? How many returnees?
How are users navigating through the site? Through which pages are they entering the site? What subsequent pages are they visiting?
How long are users on the site? On individual pages?
Where are they dropping out/signing off?
Which pages are getting the most traffic?
What internet browsers and devices are most popular among our users?

Some more advanced features on Google Analytics include the ability to set and track specific conversion goals and funnels. According to Google, goals are website pages that serve as conversions for your site, like an About page or a confirmation page following site registration. A funnel represents the path that users take on the way to reaching that particular conversion goal.

For example, we can set up a conversion funnel for the manner in which we anticipate our users navigating through the site. The first step in the funnel is the homepage, followed by a browsing option and a search result page, which will, hopefully lead to the end goal of accessing an individual record page. Setting up a conversion funnel like this one will allow you to see if visitors are actually using the site in the manner that you have anticipated by showing what percentage of users are making it all the way through the funnel and where they are dropping off along the way.

Another relatively new feature allows for tracking specific events. These include user interactions that are not directly related to pageviews. For example, you can set up a custom report to track how many users are downloading materials from your site, or how long users spend listening to an audio file.

User Tracking on Facebook & Twitter
Social networking metrics demonstrate the manner in which users respond to our various social networking outlets. QMP has employed the use of various metrics-gathering applications for these accounts. Facebook offers built-in metrics for its users via Insights, and while Twitter Analytics is still currently in development, other third-party applications like TwentyFeet offer comparable services. Find out what kind of exposure your site is getting via social networking outlets and whether or not the activity on your social networking accounts is corresponding to an increase in site visits.

With even this basic understanding of our users provided by analytics (What is popular?), and the potentially problematic areas that arise (Where are they dropping off? What isn’t being used?), we can already begin to tweak and redesign aspects of the site and use the information to guide future content development. While tracking use through analytics software constitutes only one small part of project evaluation, it can be the first positive step in keeping current and optimizing both your site design and social networking strategies for improved access, project administration, and user satisfaction.

For more on the useful applications of analytics in online archives, see Chris Prom’s Using Web Analytics to Improve Online Access to Archival Resources, available from American Archivist.

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