Library Analytics (Part 7)

In the previous post in this series, I showed how it’s possible to identify traffic referred from particular course pages in the OU VLE, by creating a user defined variable that captured the complete (nasty) VLE referrer URL.

Now I’m not definitely sure about this, but I think that the Library provides URLs to the VLE via an RSS feed. That is, the Library controls the content that appears on the Library Resources page when a course makes such a page available.

In the Googe Analytics FAQ answer How do I tag my links?, a method is described for adding additional tags to a referrer URL that Google Analytics can use to segment traffic referred from that URL. Five tags are available (as described in Understanding campaign variables: The five dimensions of campaign tracking):

Source: Every referral to a web site has an origin, or source. Examples of sources are the Google search engine, the AOL search engine, the name of a newsletter, or the name of a referring web site.
Medium: The medium helps to qualify the source; together, the source and medium provide specific information about the origin of a referral. For example, in the case of a Google search engine source, the medium might be “cost-per-click”, indicating a sponsored link for which the advertiser paid, or “organic”, indicating a link in the unpaid search engine results. In the case of a newsletter source, examples of medium include “email” and “print”.
Term: The term or keyword is the word or phrase that a user types into a search engine.
Content: The content dimension describes the version of an advertisement on which a visitor clicked. It is used in content-targeted advertising and Content (A/B) Testing to determine which version of an advertisement is most effective at attracting profitable leads.
Campaign: The campaign dimension differentiates product promotions such as “Spring Ski Sale” or slogan campaigns such as “Get Fit For Summer”.

(For an alternative description, see Google Analytics Campaign Tracking Pt. 1: Link Tagging.)

The recommendation is that campaign source, campaign medium, and campaign name should always be used (I’m not sure if Google Analytics requires this, though?)

So here’s what I’m proposing: how about we treat a “course as campaign”? What are sensible mappings/interpretations for the campaign variables?

  • source: the course?
  • medium: the sort of link that has generated the traffic, such as a link on the Library resources page?
  • campaign: the mechanism by which the link got into the VLE, such as a particular class of Library RSS feed or the addition of the link by a course team member?

By creating URLs that point back to the Library website for the display in the VLE tagged with “course campaign” variables, we can more easily track (i.e. segment) user activity on the Library website that results from students entering the Library site from that link referral.

Where course teams upload Library URLs themselves, we could maybe provide a “URL Generator Tool” (like the “official” Tool: URL Builder) that will accept a library URL and then automatically add the course code (source), a campaign flag saying the link was course team uploaded, a medium flag saying the link is provided as part of assessment, or further information. The “content” variable might capture a section number in the course, or information about what activity in particular the resource related to?

For example, the tool would be able to create something like:

Annotating links in this way would allow Library teams to see what sorts of link (in terms of how they get into the VLE) are effective at generating traffic back to the Library, and could also enable the provision of reports back to course teams showing how effectively students on a particular course are engaging with Library resources from links on the VLE course pages.

Author: Tony Hirst

I'm a Senior Lecturer at The Open University, with an interest in #opendata policy and practice, as well as general web tinkering...