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Trying to find useful things to do with emerging technologies in open education

UK HE Libraries Using Google Analytics

How many UK Higher Education Library websites are running Google Analytics, and how many of them are actually using them to report anything other than sitewide pageviews and visitor numbers?

A couple of years ago, I ran a series of posts on Library Analytics where I started to explore some of the ways in which Google Analytics (as it was then) could be used to help us start to understand how a library website was being used by its different sorts of visitors.

Two years on, and I’ve started looking again at Googalytics in the Library, and will hopefully get round to publishing a few posts at least about what I’ve learned about using as it currently stands for making sense of Library website usage, and for what we may be able to report back to course teams about library website activity of users referred from course pages on the OU VLE.

One thing I thought I’d like to try to do is come up with custom reports, segments and goal recipes that might be transferable, or useful to other HE Library websites, as well as identify “best practice” approaches that are used by other HE libraries running Google Analytics… But which libraries are running Google Analytics?

Using a list of HE Library websites grabbed from a November, 2009 dump of a scrape of the Sconul website (by @ostephens, I think?), I ran a quick python script to sniff library websites for evidence of Google Analytics tracking codes (results).

Total number of websites checked 181
Number with Google Analytics code detected 110 Percentage: 0.60773480663
Number without Google Analytics code detected 67 Percentage: 0.370165745856
Number of pages failed to load 4 Percentage: 0.0220994475138

So, it seems like a fair few folk are running Google Analytics… but I wonder: what are they reporting, what segments and custom reports do they find most useful, what goals have they defined (and do they carry a meaningful “financial” conversion value? If so, defined how?), are they in any sense “actionable” (that is, have they been used to prompt interventions to increase traffic, influence on-site behaviour, feed in to website design changes, feed in to subscription or book acquisition policies, improve links with course academics, update reading lists, contribute to VLE content or structure, schedule and staff online help services, influence opening hours etc. etc.)

If you are working in an HE library, running Google Analytics, and can provide even fragmentary answers to any of the above questions, please reply in a comment below, or feel free to email me (in confidence, if required) at: a.j.hirst@open.ac.uk

PS I’m even going to start looking to the literature, too… So for example, this is next on my reading list: Turner, S. J. (2010). Website Statistics 2.0: Using Google Analytics to Measure Library Website Effectiveness. Technical Services Quarterly, 27(3), 261-278. doi:10.1080/07317131003765910

PPS I thought I’d follow the single citation to that paper too, but it seems I can’t unless I pay for it…

This is interesting, methinks. Not only is the content of the paper kept behind a paywall, but so is its incoming link context…

Written by Tony Hirst

February 11, 2011 at 12:31 pm

Posted in Library, OU2.0

Tagged with ,

3 Responses

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  1. You can get an updated version of the SCONUL List anytime you need it from http://www.meanboyfriend.com/sconulaccess/?institution=all – but note this hits the SCONUL website for each set of details and takes time to run, so probably want to cache any result – but anytime you want to refresh your version feel free.

    You should be able to access that paper via Open University subscription.

    The paper which cites Turner is:
    Digital Archival Image Collections: Who Are the Users?
    Irene M. H. Herold
    Behavioral & Social Sciences Librarian, 1544-4546, Volume 29, Issue 4, 2010, Pages 267 – 282
    DOI: 10.1080/01639269.2010.521024

    A couple of further references from this paper which might be relevant:

    Arendt, J. and Wagner, C. (2010) Beyond description: Converting Web site usage statistics into concrete site improvement ideas. Journal of Web Librarianship 4:1 , pp. 37-54
    DOI: 10.1080/19322900903547414 (http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/19322900903547414)
    [available with OU or other subscription]

    Fang, W. (2007) Using Google Analytics for improving library website content and design: A case study. Library Philosophy and Practice 9:3 , pp. 1-17
    http://www.webpages.uidaho.edu/~mbolin/fang.pdf
    [free]

    Owen Stephens

    February 11, 2011 at 1:43 pm

    • Thanks Owen… I did have access to the paper (I have a libezproxy bookmarklet which makes picking up subscribed to papers easy enough), that point was just more of an observation that the citation linkiness around the paper had restricted access – makes it hard for me to find subscription content from that same provider, if nothing else? Though I guess it could also be argued that it might link to content from other providers, or sources that take issue with the cited paper, for example?

      Tony Hirst

      February 11, 2011 at 3:11 pm

  2. I’m slightly suspicious of the ‘cited by’ being comprehensive as it turns out the one article listed in on the same platform (so is this just the information they had access to?).

    I agree – makes no sense to restrict access to the information though – especially as you can get the same info via Google Scholar … http://scholar.google.com/scholar?hl=en&q=Website+Statistics+2.0:+Using+Google+Analytics+to+Measure+Library+Website+Effectiveness&btnG=Search&as_sdt=0,5&as_ylo=&as_vis=0

    Owen Stephens

    February 11, 2011 at 3:49 pm


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