Meet Web Analytics Pros in #highered: Alan Etkin, Web Analytics Manager at BCIT

August 7th, 2012 Karine Joly 2 Comments

Last Tuesday during my eduWeb presentation on the 2012 State of Social Media and Web Analytics in Higher Ed, I explained that while 87% of higher ed professionals spend less than 5 hours per week working on web analytics (including 60% that don’t spend any time at all), a few institutions are starting to create FT or PT analytics positions.

As I explained in my interview with the Digital Analytics Manager of the University of Alberta last month, I’m on a mission to make these Higher Ed Analytics Heads more visible within our community (If YOU work on Analytics full time in higher ed, post a comment below or shoot me an email! I want to interview you as well).

Just to make sure that more and more decision-makers in higher education know some institutions get the importance of analytics… Peer pressure FTW!

Alan Etkin, Web Analytics Manager at BCITAlan Etkin, Web Analytics Manager at BCIT (another Canadian institution), introduced himself just after my presentation at eduWeb last week. He has a Master’s degree in communication and specialized training in analytics via a Certificate of Web Intelligence offered jointly by the University of British Columbia and the University of California, Irvine. Alan has worked at BCIT for 7 years, and implemented the first version of Google Analytics when it was released. After proving the value of analytics for a couple of years, BCIT purchased Site Catalyst. Alan’s role evolved into managing the analytics program about five years ago.

While I was searching the Web for Alan’s photo, I also discovered that some of his work was featured on Google Analytics Blog last fall.

Even though he is officially on vacations this week, Alan 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.

1) What are your main responsibilities as the Web Analytics Manager at BCIT?

My main responsibilities with analytics at BCIT include:

  • identifying and setting up code for accurately tracking KPI’s using Google Analytics, Site Catalyst, and iPerception survey software
  • creating a culture of analytics within key areas of the institute by providing training, reports and analysis
  • configuring dashboards and automating their delivery to workgroups across the institute
  • participating in projects and responding to ad hoc requests for analysis
  • reviewing key operational stats and initiating experiments and projects

2) Can you describe a typical week at work?

My work with analytics varies by time of month and by phase of projects. At the beginning of each month, I review numerous dashboards to stay on top of trends and to spot any anomalies. Every Monday morning I review user feedback collected through exit surveys and through a site feedback form. I use this feedback to identify specific problem pages and either fix them, investigate further, or use the feedback to inform site owners.

BCIT website

I work on projects as either a project manager or team member. For site refreshes, I use analytics to provide baseline measures of performance. I try to insert an analytics review at an early stage to ensure that we’ve identified strengths and weaknesses of existing sites, and that we’re architecting new sites for conversion tracking. I help to identify success metrics and the techniques for measuring them. This project work comes in waves and some weeks are completely dedicated to project analytics, while other weeks can go by without any analytic tasks at all.

I also respond to ad hoc requests for performance reports, mainly from marketing, to track the success of specific campaigns. I’ve been training the marketing strategists to run their own reports on the basics, saving my time for deeper analysis.

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 absolute best part of working on analytics at BCIT is the variety of projects that come across my desk. I work within the web services group, which acts as a central support for our marketing group, 6 schools, 350 plus programs, and dozens of service and research areas. One any given day I can be working on projects as diverse as evaluating conversion rates for admissions, providing the usage context for major site redesigns, and identifying trends in visits from international students. The range of projects provides a constant challenge to figure out how best to use the features of the various tools available.

I also have the opportunity to initiate projects based on what I observe in our site stats. For example, I’m investigating the relationship between views of graduate outcome reports and requests for information at a program level. By raising the profile of the outcome stats, I hope to prove we can systematically increase our conversation rates.

The most challenging part of my job is finding accurate ways to roll up web stats to an institution-wide level. Because of the variety of audiences, and the various tasks for each of these audiences, it’s a constant challenge to simplify the reporting and analysis to make the information both understandable and compelling enough to act on.

4) If you had only 5 hours per week to work on analytics, what would you do?

If I only had 5 hours per week to work on analytics I’d automate as many reports as possible using the custom dashboard functionality of Google Analytics. By automating the reporting, you’ll free up your time from the drudgery of generating reports, and you’ll have more time to dig into analysis and project work. For analysis, I’d focus on the key conversion events you’re able to track, whether they’re registrations or requests for information. A segmented look at these events will provide you with the greatest return on your limited time.

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