Following the Google Analytics Flow

We’re collecting website stats for our Quarterly Report, and I’ll report on the usual stats: our registrations, where our visitors come from (email/search engine/direct link, etc) and so forth. But I can’t help but start looking through Google Analytics. I have only lightly scratched the surface, and was getting frustrated with the bounce rate, exit and entrance pages. There are multiple ways that people arrive at and use our site and I was getting frustrated drawing conclusions based on an entire site of activity. Our site has many, many pages (too many?) which clouds our understanding of what people are doing and perhaps dilutes our objectives?

So I explored some more, and right now I’m enamored with the Visitors Flow: at a glance it’s telling me where most of my visitors are landing, and most importantly where they go next. I’m also learning that our site is organized in such a way that Google Analytics (GA) sometimes has trouble following. Due to our odd information infrastructure, it’s not making connections that a human makes, and I either can’t or haven’t figured out how change how pages are categorized in GA. Due to the sheer number of pages on our side, GA has categorized most of them as “misc”, it seems. I’m not sure how much of this is due to the fact that our site is built on Joomla, which creates specific nesting of sites and how much of it is our IA. Both, either, that and more?

Regardless, lots of happy browsing ahead. Any advice or suggested readings?

Following the pathways: our flow 

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The technology doesn’t work!

I deliver workshops at my university, mostly on online software platforms that can be used for educational goodness. It’s natural that I get many questions (though email, at the workshop) about mysterious error messages, blocked doors or inexplicable misunderstanding of the software’s vocabulary. I have a golden rule of the three R’s:

  • Read: Sometimes when we’re frustrated, we miss clues or instructions on the screen. No, really, it’s true!
  • Resources: There are probably some great self-help resources (or even Google) that will help you find the answer quickly.
  • Relax: and this is the most important one. I would hazard a guess that 90% of meltdowns while using online platforms are due to user error (an inability to follow instructions, for example) or the computer/browser just needs a  break. So in these cases, I sometimes make a cup of tea. It gives me time to cool down (if necessary), and approach the problem with new eyes when I return to the computer.

Tea – it solves so much.

Timing some tasks

Sometimes, when working on a task at the computer, I get distracted – it’s true! I check my email every two minutes because what I’m working on is tedious, or I want to look up just one thing, and then end up looking at book reviews, or EdTech videos on YouTube. And you just know where that is going to end up.

I looked online (ha – see, in addressing this perceived issue, I am in fact procrastinating) for for computer based timers (a kitchen timer ticks annoyingly). I found many resources – and a page that wraps up this concept nicely for me, plus offers some suggested software. The 43folders wike page on timers also assures me that I`m not along in my distractions.

I downloaded the multi-timer from here, and set it to 20 minutes. So far I spent 5 minutes updating a document, and almost 15 messing around with formatting. There is a lesson here, to be sure. That being said, now that I`v deciding definitively on the formatting for my document, I can really get down to filling in the course map.

Privacy settings in Google

Though a Lifehacker post, I’ve found a number of short You Tube videos that explain how to modify the privacy settings in various Google applications. The settings mean that you can choose what to share and with whom. Google doesn’t automatically assume that locking down all your web activity is a good think (which is an automatic reaction by some users), but explains how online information can help you share items, track down a path you took last week or collaborate with friends and family.

Google has uploaded a number of videos under the user name GooglePrivacy – you can subscribe to their You Tube channel, or just browse the videos already uploaded.