A little over a month ago, we added Google Analytics Event tracking to many spots on the UMW website, including just about every link on the home page. After more than a month of traffic, it’s time to start sharing our findings.
The stats included in this article are pulled from the Analytics reports for the entire UMW website during the month of August. During that time, there were 219,024 unique visitors to the site, 491,266 total visits and 1,341,141 total page views. The home page of the site was viewed 529,577 times; 173, 206 of which were “unique pageviews”.
The first spot we’re watching is the “Helpful Links” section of our global template. This appears on every page of the UMW website (all those that use our official theme, at least; there are about 4 or 5 sites that use a different theme). In order to view and use these links, the user has to click the “Helpful Links” tab in the top right of our template, which opens the Helpful Links panel above the header.
The Helpful Links section is broken up into three separate Events. The main purpose of this section is to provide long lists of categorized links, which we categorize as Resource Links. The secondary purpose of the section is to provide links to various Online Tools (our LMS, webmail, intranet, directory, etc.) – this area uses icons laid out horizontally along the bottom of the Helpful Links section. There are a total of 11 different icons/links within the Online Tools area, as compared to nearly 100 separate links divided up into 10 different categories within the Resources area. There are also a few extra links, like a “Feedback” link that points to our general contact form, etc.
During the month of August, our users clicked on links within Helpful Links more than 77,000 times; this means that nearly 6% of the total page views on the UMW website included clicks on items within Helpful Links.
Of those 77,000 clicks, more than 74,000 were clicks within the Online Tools area, making up more than 96% of the clicks within the Helpful Links section. Almost 45% of those clicks — 33,078 — led to our employee and student portal (or intranet, or whatever you call it at your institution). Nearly 29% — 21,415 — of those clicks led to our Webmail landing page (which, in turn, links out to the student webmail system and the employee webmail system). Another 15% — 11,043 — pointed to our learning management system. Finally, 7% of the clicks — 5,219 — led users to our student information system; just over 1% of the clicks — 1,032 — led to the system we use to allow students and their families to add money to their ID cards; and less than 1% of the clicks led to each of the other 6 areas linked within that section (just over 3% total for all 6 links).
Links within the Resources section were clicked almost 3,000 times, making up less than 4% of the total clicks. Among those links, the Registrar’s office is the clear leader, making up almost 25% of those clicks. Links to the Bookstore (which is also linked in our global navigation menu) were about half as popular as the link to the Registrar’s office. From there, the Academic Calendar, Student Accounts and the Undergraduate Catalog round out the top 5.
The Feedback link (currently the only “other” link tracked as part of Helpful Links) was clicked 115 times.
As part of the UMW global theme, there are a handful of links (9 total) that appear in the header area of all top-level sites. These were identified as important areas of the website that did not necessarily belong in the primary navigation. Links within this area were clicked just over 10,000 times during the month of August.
Among these links, the “Careers at UMW” link (leads to our list of employment opportunities) was the most popular, with a total of 2,193 clicks. The next 3 in the list were pretty close to each other, receiving 1,494, 1,468 and 1,464 clicks each; they were Prospective Students, Directory and Maps and Directions. Contact Us and Parents both received between 1,000 and 1,200 clicks each. The rest of the links were clicked fewer than 1,000 times each.
The Home Page
This is the area about which we are most curious. The UMW home page, much like many other higher ed home pages, is a bit crowded; there are ambiguous calls to action that cry for the user’s attention. Which calls to action (if you can call them that, many of them aren’t action-oriented) are the users actually following?
For this tracking, as previously explained, we split the home page up into its various sections. Together, all of the links exclusive to the home page were clicked a total of 5,605 times, meaning that fewer than 1% of the home page views resulted in someone clicking on items that are exclusive to the home page. The home page itself, though, has a bounce rate of only 0.63% and an exit rate of just under 27%, meaning that, while the exclusive items on the home page may not be grabbing people’s attention, visitors aren’t simply showing up on the home page and running away.
The most popular section of the home page is actually the list of recent news stories. These links made up more than 50% — 2,822 — of the clicks on the home page during the month of August. Among the top stories (only the most recent three news items are shown at a time), two stories were very popular: “UMW Among Best Colleges, According to Princeton Review” (740 clicks) and “UMW Welcomes New Students” (737 clicks). The first stayed on the home page for 15 days (posted on Aug. 5, bumped off on Aug. 20), the second remained for 10 days (posted on Aug. 23, bumped on Sept. 2). The third most popular story, which remained on the home page for 7 days, was clicked 236 times. The rest of the top 10 were clicked between 100 and 200 times each.
The next most popular area on the home page was the featured slideshow at the top. Links within the slideshow were clicked 1,845 times (almost 33% of the total clicks on links that are exclusive to the home page). The slideshow on the UMW home page loads the slides in random order each time the page loads; as a result, we’re tracking the slides by name and by their position in the slideshow. The results of the slide positions don’t come as much of a surprise; they rank from 1st to 10th in order of their position.
The slide positions were clicked the following numbers of times:
To me, there are three surprises in these numbers:
- Almost 10% of the clicks in the slideshow were on the slide showing up in the fourth position
- Even the seventh slide received more than 5% of the clicks in the slideshow
- Every single position within the slideshow was clicked at least 50 times during the month of August
Looking at the slide contents coupled with the slide positions, the numbers don’t offer many more surprises for the month of August. The top-clicked slide, “Building Global Leaders” (clicked a total of 259 times) was at the top of the heap in position #1 and the third most-clicked slide in position #2. The second-place slide was “Beaming Brightly” (clicked a total of 238 times), and came in second while in position #1, fourth while in position #2 and seventh while in position #3.
After that, things get a tiny bit interesting. The third most popular slide, “Welcome Home” was clicked evenly enough across its positions that it didn’t show up in the top 10 when cross-referencing the titles and the slide positions. Although it was clicked a total of 154 times, the click distribution was spread across positions #1 (31 clicks), #2 (22 clicks), #6 & 7 (18 clicks each), #5 (17 clicks), #4 (15 clicks), #3 (13 clicks), #9 (10 clicks), #8 (9 clicks) and #10 (1 click). With that particular slide, the first, second, sixth and seventh positions each made up more than 10% of the total clicks on the slide, with the first position only receiving just over 20% of the total clicks on the slide.
The third most-popular “1st position” slide (43 clicks while it appeared in position #1) was “Mathematical Predictions“, which actually ranks sixth among total clicks on individual slides with only 138 total clicks.
The fifth most popular slide, “Patient Doctor” was clicked more times in position #2 (40 clicks) than when it was in position #1 (35 clicks).
Some of the slides mentioned above are shown below for reference (those that are still present in the slideshow; I’m not able to capture screenshots of those that have been bumped out of the slideshow).
Other Home Page Links
On the home page, we have a handful of other widget areas and calls to action, but none of them were clicked an extraordinary number of times. The call to “Watch the Great Minds Video” (the official promo video for UMW) was clicked 217 times; the call to “Apply to UMW” was clicked 186 times. There was also a graphic link on the home page with the phrase “Transfer Applicants” as its title, along with some brief text explaining that transfer applications were still being accepted; that link was clicked 145 times. The “Virtual Tour” link on the home page (which actually currently leads to what would be considered a campus map more than a virtual tour) was clicked 108 times. All of the other home page content pieces were clicked fewer than 100 times each.
Another set of events we’re tracking at UMW are clicks within the global footer area of our theme. This is split into three separate sections, as well; global footer links (those links that appear within the footer on every page that uses the official UMW theme), mega-footer navigation (a duplicate of the primary navigation menu that appears on all top-level sites) and viewbook link (there is a thumbnail of our current viewbook in the footer on all top-level sites that links to a “flipbook” PDF of the publication).
Links within our mega footer navigation area were clicked a total of 1,866 times. The most popular link in that section, with 298 clicks, leads to our bookstore. The rest of the top five in that area lead to “Undergraduate Admissions”, “Fast Facts”, “Contact UMW” and “Majors, Minors and Courses of Study”, with 191, 145, 126 and 95 clicks, respectively.
The second and third most popular links in that area, with only 73 and 72 clicks each, were “Map” and “Facebook”.
The Viewbook thumbnail was clicked a total of 210 times during the month of August. Eight of those clicks were on our International viewbook, but half of those were made from within Virginia (indicating that we may not be targeting our International traffic effectively with the link to the International viewbook).
In total, only 7% of the total page views on the UMW website were tracked as part of this event tracking, the overwhelming majority of which were clicks within the “Helpful Links” section of our theme. This is also the first full month during which we’ve tracked these events. Therefore, take all of these numbers with a bit of a grain of salt. It will be interesting, though, to see how these data change and take shape over the coming months.
Are you doing any type of tracking like this on your site? If so, what do your data show? Do you have an image slider with links to other areas of your site? If you do, and you’re tracking those clicks, what kind of behavior are you seeing on your site?