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Curious about how other schools use Web analytics? HigherEdExperts recently conducted a survey to find out the state of Web analytics in higher education.

A total of 358 professionals working in higher education institutions completed this voluntary online survey from April 29 to May 17 2011. The total number (344) of the respondents tracking web traffic data was used as the baseline for most calculations and charts. These professionals came from marketing/communications (45.6%), web/web communications (34.7%), information technology (5%), admissions office (4.5%), alum associations (3%) and other offices. Most respondents worked in public (56%) and non-profit institutions (94%), with 31% working in a doctoral/research university, 26% in a baccalaureate (4-year) college, 23% in a master’s college or university and 9% in a 2-year college.

Here are some highlights from the State of Web Analytics in Higher Education survey:

  • 96% of survey respondents track web traffic data.
  • 96% of survey respondents who track data use Google Analytics, 49% use Facebook Insights, and 32% use YouTube Insights.

Clearly, access to web traffic data isn’t a problem anymore, with the vast majority of institutions tracking web traffic with Google Analytics. The big problem, however, is that there are very few Web analysts involved to help sift through this data. Consider these numbers:

  • In 46% of the cases schools have a staff member who spends at least 20% of her/his time working on Analytics in 46% (this is up, however, from 35% in 2010).
  • In 67% (72% in 2010) of the cases, respondents spend less than 2 hours per week working on analytics, with 3% (8% in 2010) not spending any time at all!

These distressing figures are consistent with numbers in “Tapping the Potential of Web Analytics for Public Sector and Non-Profit Sites,” a report published in May 2009 by the Public Sector Special Interest Group of the Web Analytics Association. The report claimed that 70 percent of public sector and non-profit organizations did not have a dedicated web analyst, and more than 60 percent spent only a few hours per week on analytics.

Perhaps even more troubling, however, is what these higher education institutions are measuring (and what they aren’t). The survey found that:

  • More than 70% monitor the 5 following metrics: visits, page views, unique visitors, referring websites and average length of visits.
  • 28% track goal conversion (applications, online donations, etc.) rates.
  • 22% (35% in 2010) don’t track any conversions.
  • 35% track online applications (29% in 2010) and 34% online inquiry for admissions. (32% in 2010), the majority wish they could.
  • 19% track online donations (17% in 2010) and 40% wish they did.
  • Insights gained from Analytics are used primarily to improve the website for 74% (53% in 2010), but 13% (15% in 2010) don’t use them at all.

Twenty-two percent of the survey respondents indicated they still didn’t track any conversions at all, and a good percentage of respondents wished they could get more from their analytics. To us, this is a clear indication that a gap still remains between the versatility offered by Web analytics and what higher education institutions are actually doing with this data, particularly when you see how they use insights gained from analytics (74% chose “improving their website”)

With marketing and recruitment departments under greater pressure in most institutions, Web analytics can remove the guesswork from a whole host of decisions, from the aforementioned website design and development, to marketing and recruitment initiatives, staff and budget requests and more. With every passing year, the importance of analytics-driven decision making increases. If it isn’t a cornerstone of your marketing and lead generation initiatives, it’s time to get started.

The good news is that a full technical website audit can help determine the competitive landscape, what metrics you should be measuring and what insights are most important to your goals. It’s never too late to get started.

Contact Higher Education Marketing for a free website audit.