I love Google. There, I said it. I love the general direction they’re headed in even if I don’t like (sometimes loathe) how they organize their content and navigation. But add two other tools I love and now we have a killer combination of content delivery platform, analytics, and automated report generation. Perfect for faculty and staff and makes my job so much easier.
The master plan involves 4 elements to start with.
- Build WordPress networks
- Teach our faculty and staff how to use WordPress
- Add Google analytics and automated reporting
- Teach faculty and staff how to assess the reports and use them to improve the content
We’ve been moving all of our legacy content over to WordPress networks for a little over a year now. I’ve structured the networks so I have a single network for each College. This doesn’t include our online and continuing ed College – they’re on Drupal. But for all my residential undergraduate colleges – we’re using WordPress. Why WordPress? It’s a solid platform, well supported by a community of thousands, is easily installed, maintained & extended, and is the most popular content management system bar none.
Under each of the colleges are the sub-sites, one for each department or school and one for the College newsletter. So an example is:
- School of Architecture + Art
- School of Business and Management
- David Crawford School of Engineering
- School of Nursing
- College of Professional Schools Newsletter
The college itself is on a sub-domain – profschools.norwich.edu – a choice I made for a couple of reasons.
- I wanted to separate databases in case something went south and
- I wanted to bring content up a level in the URL structure. So rather than www.norwich.edu/professionalschools/nursing/ we have profschools.norwich.edu/nursing/ Not much difference but important enough. This also made the next item a bit easier – analytics setup.
The websites for the schools and departments use the sub-directory structure. They are sub-sites of the College and using the sub-domain structure just helps reinforce the organizational hierarchy.
Since I’d like each of the College Deans to be better informed of how well their college website is doing, I needed to segment the University’s analytics. I created Accounts in Google Analytics for each of the colleges and then created Views for each of the departments and schools. I’ve realized in hind-sight that I probably could have just created different properties under one account but where’s the fun if I can’t experiment?
Then I installed Google Analytics Dashboard for WP which allowed me to hook into the Google Analytics accounts and show basic analytics for each website on it’s dashboard. I had to authorize access to Google Analytics for each site in the network. For example, the top level has access to the Main view (All Website data) while each of the sub-sites can see the View that was created for them. Using this setup the Editor responsible for the College can view the aggregate data while the Editors for each sub-site can view only their own data. I did this to help establish a chain of command and responsibility.
None of our Editors has access to Google Analytics yet. I plan to give them access at some point but there are several steps to do beforehand:
- Train them to understand and leverage what they have
- Build desire / interest in learning more
- Give them a peek behind the curtain of what we can really do.
Automated Reports: Raventools
One of my favorite tools is Raventools. I love it because it allows me to setup automated reports. It actually has a LOT more abilities (SEO, marketing, research, and assessment tools) but I’m working with users that are just starting out when it comes to publishing content online. Baby steps for now.
Using Raventools, I’ve set up monthly reports that provide summary level information for each of the websites. These are automatically created and sent to the Editors for each website within the network. I’m hoping that once the deans realize they have this information available to them, they’ll become a bit more interactive with their websites. Which leads me to the final pieces of this plan.
None of this will matter if the users can’t or won’t use it. It all hinges on creating and feeding a desire to improve. Up till now we’ve done basic WordPress training for the editors. Over the summer I plan to build a more robust training schedule that includes more advance topics like how to read the automated report and use it to improve.
I confess this is an experiment in some ways. I am looking for ways to inspire our faculty to learn more and do more with the tools we’re providing them which ultimately helps the University. I have a few ideas on how to do this but they all hinge on building desire to improve. So I’m tinkering and noodling on this. If you have some ideas, please feel free to share!