According to the 2012 State of Social Media and Web Analytics in Higher Ed, 87% of higher ed professionals spend less than 5 hours per week working on web analytics (actually 60% don’t spend any time at all).
While the needle has been moving very slowly in the right direction on the web analytics meter in higher education, part-timers focusing are still rare occurrences. And, the entire population of web analytics full-timers can probably be counted by most kindergarteners. So, imagine my surprise when I found out last week that an institution has now a Digital Analytics Manager who manages a team of 2 digital analysts. Kudos for the vision, University of Alberta!
Tim Schneider has a background in marketing and web development. He started to work for the College of Engineering at the U of A in 2000. Last December he became the Manager of Web Services within the central office of University Relations. The size of the Digital Strategy team has almost doubled since the beginning of the year.
Now Digital Analytics Manager at the University of Alberta, Tim was kind enough to answer a few questions on his job, his responsibilities, the challenges as well as what you can do in only 5 hours per week working on analytics.
This is a new position that started Sept 1, 2011. For the first 4 months, there was a transition while we hired someone to take over my previous duties. Once that person was hired and came on board, I was able to fully transition into the role.
The main responsibilities now involve creating a digital analytics framework that the entire university can use to drive all the decisions around our digital marketing efforts. Since our redesign launched in Sept, 2011, we have committed to being data/research driven in everything we do.
2) Can you describe a typical week at work?
Recently, a lot of time has been dedicated to recruiting and hiring 2 digital analysts to work as part of the analytics team. The team also includes a writer/editor that focuses on our institutional level content.
With the team of 4 now in place, the 2 analysts will handle the implementation and periodic role of consulting with our internal clients as well as work on what we call Analytics Projects – projects where we have a question about how the site is performing according to a specific goal.
My role can now become more on the strategic and consultative side. About 20-30% would be meetings, another 20 or so on analysis and recommendations and the rest on reporting, recommendations and implementation of changes based on those findings. Of course, the new implementations would also have an entire measurement structure attached so we know how we are doing.
3) You belong to very small minority in higher education that gets to work full time on analytics. What is the best part of your work? What about the worse?
The best part is the realization that the analytics are key piece of the puzzle when it comes to developing and executing a comprehensive web strategy. This idea seems to be catching on more and more as we take success stories forward.
When it comes to web analytics in particular, people don’t know how much they can actually know.
The worst: as an analytics person, you’re no longer entitled to opinions :) Seriously, the hardest part is getting the right data in front of the right people so that they can use it to make better decisions.
4) If you had only 5 hours per week to work on analytics, what would you do?
Set 1-3 goals, measure and report what you do on your site against those goals.
Here’s an example: every year during our Spring Convocation, we see a spike in convocation related search terms from our homepage. This is despite the fact that for the past 3 years we have dedicated our feature space to convocation. This year, we set out to reduce that search volume by 20% compared to last year with some simple design changes. The result was a 33% in searches for convocation related terms.
Implementing and monitoring the analytics for the piece alone was easily under 5 hours a week. The key is to make sure you have a metric that can indicate whether what you’re doing is successful or not.
4-week online course: Web Analytics for Higher Ed
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