Web Analytics – Outcomes

In taking a deeper look at the web logs for ISU Extension’s main site, I’ve learned a lot about how the site is used. One thing that jumped out is that “The Long Tail” definitely exists on our web server. This says that a small number of pages have the highest visits per page. However, when aggregated together, the less popular web pages make up the bulk of the visits. These recent posts from Seth Godin and Arpan Shah describe the long tail much better than I can.

Entry page into the site is an interesting statistic. In many cases, the first page people see are not the ones we think are most important. We think about News, the Store, and topic pages off our home page as being pretty important. However, only the store showed up on the top 50 entry pages (as number 8), and that wasn’t the store’s home page but the “Item Detail” page.

So what did show up? Three of the top 50 entry pages had to do with tree identification, a site that was first written over 10 years ago, and without much modification since then. Not only did people come into this site, they used it! People moved around within this site because it had 39 of the top 100 overall pages in October. To borrow a phase from Kevin, “The people have voted with their mouse clicks.” This site is important.

Other things I learned:

  • Our home page was the entry page for about 20,000 visits, and had a total of about 24,000 visits, meaning that a little over 4,000 people (less than 1% of the total visits to the server) saw our home page after coming into a different page. This reinforces the every page is your home page theory.
  • For over 100,000 visits, the top entry page was a graphic file. This was likely the only file seen by these visitors.
  • One of the top referrers to our site was MySpace. Upon farther investigation, I discovered people are using images from our server on their pages. Some of the other top referrers were also to graphic files.
  • Making the top 50 entry pages was old pages on using HTML. I discovered that one of these pages is linked from Wikipedia, therefore had high rankings on Google..
  • Google was the biggest referrer (no surprise), but not by as much as I would have thought. Also in the list of top 20 referring sites were search pages from Yahoo, MSN, Live, AOL, and Ask. Absent from the list is Wikipedia.
  • Google seems to break pages with frames up, into the individual frames. We have a site that uses frames, and the content on that site if found through Google. However, when accessing the content through Google, you never see the frames, just the content session. This causes it to loose its identity with ISU Extension.

I was surprised how much good information I found when digging deeper into the statistics for the entire server. My guess is that the ISU Extension site is pretty typical of what is happening at other states.

If you would like more information on this, please let me know.

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6 comments so far

  1. Anne Adrian on

    Brian, very good practical example. Another reason to look at web development differently than we have in the past.

  2. Jeanne Wiebke on

    Brian, good analysis. As an organization, we certainly need to look at this type of information when planning for future development. We also need to look at those “old” sites that are being hit heavily and revamp them make sure the tie in with ISUE exists.

    Jeanne

  3. Brian Webster on

    Thanks Anne and Jeanne for the comments.

    Anne – I posted this article about midnight last night, and before 7:00am, you not only commented here, but also
    posted a response
    in your blog. That’s impressive! So much for the traditional work hours.

    [For those wondering, I had not changed my blog settings to account for the end of Daylight Savings Time, so the times shown for this article are an hour off. Should be fixed now.]

  4. Lynette Spicer on

    Brian,
    I’ve always been fascinated by Web stats and your post makes me want more detail.
    Del was at a media relations conference in Sioux City this week where one or more newspaper and TV folks said they don’t use feeds. They want the information in their ‘in’ box. Which made me think about the land-grant institutions I get news from that don’t offer feeds, but do send directly to my email account.
    So I think like Kevin Gamble wrote—“…resistance is futile. It really doesn’t matter whether we like it or not. It’s the new reality.”
    We probably need to offer topic segments of our news as well as our news in a chunk via email as well as via feeds. Different audiences, different preferences.
    The people vote by their mouse clicks and to be viable, we need to know how they vote today and in the future.
    Thanks for a really good post. I look forward to more.

  5. bwebster on

    Lynette,

    You bring up an interesting point. I wonder if there is a service that would e-mail articles to people based on feeds, or if we’d have to build an e-mail subscription service.

    I’m also wondering why the people at the conference didn’t use feeds. Are feeds something new to them, or have they looked at getting information both ways, and decided that e-mail is the best way for them? I like feeds so much better than e-mail, that I think we should do more to promote the advantages of feed readers. The last think I want is more e-mail 🙂

    Brian

  6. Lynette Spicer on

    Why people don’t use feeds at the newspaper in question…..

    The answer seemed to be they wanted information ‘spoon-fed’ to them. It was too much trouble to go look at feeds. Maybe they just don’t ‘get’ feeds. I love how I get news that way, much better than the news I get via email and have to wade through other emails to find.

    Maybe we need some testimonials or more explanation about feeds as a link from our news site to encourage people to try them.


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