by Sarah McMaster
Mount Wachusett Community College
It’s the end of another year. We’re ready for the holidays. Students are preparing for exams. It’s time to sit back, relax and wax poetic on another year, right? No way. Now is the time to begin your end-of-year review process for new media.
What do I mean by that, exactly? I mean you crunch all the important data you’ve collected throughout the past 12 months and compare and contrast with past years, quarters, semesters and maybe even month over month.
Another question: Why would you, as a webmaster, community manager or new media specialist, undertake such a task? At my college, we do it for many reasons: to determine where strategy adjustments need to be made; to examine trends; to spot opportunities for growth; to refine campaign tactics; to allot resources; and to make projections.
If you’ve not done this before, you may wonder where to start. If you currently do an end-of-year analysis, you may wonder what others do. Either way, let me share what we do. Every January I spend a few hours reporting out high-level metrics as well as some deeper analyses. My list looks something like this:
- Report on overall website visitor stats, including increases in various audience, geographic or behavior segments, compared year over year.
- Take a deep dive into the new visitor segment, including trends and behaviors in terms of traffic sources and top content, as reported through Google Analytics (GA)
- Conduct an analysis of search engine traffic to produce recommendations for SEO on our site
- Take a deep dive into mobile device traffic, including operating systems, devices and a cross-check on bounce rates and how they differ from non-mobile traffic
- Do a year-over-year analysis of our online enrollment campaigns as tracked by Google Analytics and other tools, which we’ve reported on monthly and per campaign throughout the year
- Make observations and recommendations on times, days, keywords, messages and other factors for future online campaigns taken from the data and from qualitative feedback gained through social media comments
- Take a close look at all our tracked events (on Google Analytics), which includes things like request info button clicks, apply button clicks, video plays or landing page link clicks
- Collect data to make any updates or adjustments to our “typical website visitor” persona using data from a variety of sources, including GA
- Report on Facebook (and Twitter and LinkedIn) visitor stats, including demographics, most-effective content, engagement and new trends
- Analyze costs per lead across various venues such as Facebook ads and Google AdWords to help forecast future costs
- Compare the many landing pages and their conversion rates and performance
- Compile lessons learned for next year’s content schedule and strategy
- Take a close look at queries from the built-in search function on our website and make recommendations for content updates or other action items, such as suggesting the moving of pages for easier navigation
- Compile Web visitor feedback form submissions
OK, I know this sounds like a lot of work, and it is, but we start each year with measurement practices already in place, expecting that we will need to report on all this “stuff” at the end of the year. This helps make it manageable. We make sure we track, measure and collect all the information we will need so we are not scrambling later. We use Google Analytics, Facebook Insights, Crowdbooster, HootSuite and spreadsheets, plus reports from a couple internal systems databases to do most of this work.
If you’re not currently doing some kind of end-of-year reporting, start now! Make a commitment that 2013 will be the year of measurement and data-driven decision making. Come January 2014, you’ll be confidently crunching your data saying, “Look how far we’ve come in just 12 short months!”
Sarah McMaster is director of new media at Mount Wachusett Community College in Gardner, Massachusetts.