TNT11: A Data-Driven Content Strategy Idea for Redesigning the Institution's Website (work in progress)

Justin Gatewood 
Webmaster, Victor Valley College

The audio for this podcast can be downloaded at

Announcer: This is one in a series of podcasts from the HighEdWeb Conference in Austin 2011.

Justin Gatewood: Well welcome to the capital of Texas, Austin. It's the fourth largest city in the state of Texas, the 13th most populous in the United States. It was settled in the 1830s and it was originally named Waterloo prying out a favorite place for Napoleon to visit. The site of human habitations since at least 9200 BC. Some good info there. You know that Hyatt was founded in 1957 by J. Pritzker in Los Angeles. It became a public company in 1962, you know the hotel we're in here.

And then he and his brother promptly took the company private in 1968 about six years later. Hyatt owns 456 properties as of about June 30th of this year. And this property is a triple A four diamond hotel. Wow! Famous Bat Bridge behind me over here to the right, best view of downtown Austin, what would you say ain't that great? Look at that that is just fantastic.

01:00 HighEdWeb started in 1999 by some web pros in New York. They joined forces with Web Dev Share in 2004 becoming an international organization. Web Dev Share having conferences as early back in 1996. 2006, HighEdWeb became an incorporated non-profit professional society and recently launched its own HighEdWeb publication called Link.

Are you ready to leave yet? Are you frustrated? Are you getting information that you do not want? We just referenced the wonderful song I was playing for you a moment ago. The guy said that his hat was nice but it was too big, showed you a picture. Oh yeah. Unless you are a cast member in the Three Amigos or part of a mariachi band, both very appropriate reasons to be wearing that hat, craftsmanship that goes into it are significant. You probably don't want that hat. The guy says he can't see where he's going. Hoe doesn't know if it's raining or it's snowing so he's kind of disoriented, doesn't have a direction. He fell into the river. We got a river right there or a lake. I guess it's what they call it here.
He got married to his brother and he now hates Santa Claus. He's frustrated. His needs are not being considered. He got a gift. He got a hat, a functional thing. Something that has a purpose but it didn't meet his needs.

So there's a problem. My committee's agendas and minutes are my academic or operational department link, it has to be on the homepage. It has to be there right now. OK. And you just kind of step back and usually end up just going, putting it on the homepage because you don't really have a choice. Are the main goal of content strategy just to read the slides since it's always fun and presenters do that, is to use words and data to create unambiguous content like the hat or like my discussion about Austin or this hotel or Hyatt web for that matter. All three are very valid pieces of information for me to give given the fact that you're here in Austin, in the Hyatt hotel, at Hyatt web, but not the reason you're sitting in that seat between 1:30 and 2:15 today.
So we need to provide content that supports meaningful and interactive experiences. That quotes from Rachel Lovinger, from a book that she wrote, "Meetings. Doesn't seem like we get called into meetings all of the time when we're right in the middle of however many dozens of projects that we are engaged at any given time." Overwhelmed with information as far as what it is that we need to be doing throughout the day.

I'm a one-man shop at the college where I work. How many people are the only person doing what you do for your school, or for your college or, OK. That does not diminish however, any of you but the rest of you who are also engaged in this thing we call Hyatt web development and marketing for the web communications and so on. We have a difficult job. We have a lot to do and no extra time to just go kinds of hang out and walk the campus and have discussions with students about their testimonial necessarily.
And then we get pulled in to these meetings all the time by people who are well intending, highly educated, highly influential people who have very strong opinions about what they want the website to be when they don't even really use the website themselves. This is the website I inherited in 2006. My very first gig as a higher ed web person. I've always worked in private industry prior to that all the way back to 1995, I've worked for an internet service provider. Didn't actually work in high ed at all in any capacity whatsoever until 2006 and I walked in and this was the website that I was handed.

That was not particularly confusing. It seems to be fairly easy to find the stuff that you want, nice variation and font sizes at the bottom of the page. Nice little php script change and the date everyday, that's dynamic right? That's great. A nice big oval 1995-era, you know, animated not kind of jif, goofy glow behind the picture of the performing arts center across the lake at our campus. We do have view for campus. Got a picture there front center, nice org chart links aside from maybe admissions. The rest of it is all kind of org chart-ish.
So over the course of that next year, I did that. Not necessarily groundbreaking not even really necessarily exciting but a little more streamline maybe a little bit more easy to look out. I put together an audience-based navigation. Again, not everything is rocket science, just let's cater to some people groups rather than org chart groups, what you saw in the previous picture.

That was promptly turned into what a couple of PhD folks said they wanted that section to be about prospective students needed to become academic programs with a nice little popout list to the names of the divisions of academics. Not a link that's not valuable but not an audience. Current students became student services. Those are two deans, two PhD's who kind of back to back decided this is what those links needed to be.
So let me give you a real world parallel of what just happened when that took place. You go to the restroom. The signs are very easy to distinguish very quickly. Similar to highway road signs which folks and their books, and things we have talked about are very valid analogy. But to take the experience that I had with an audience-based navigation and being turned into org chart links, quasi org chart, quasi audience links will be like turning men into septic operations and women into toilet access services. Not links that aren't accurate. That's actually what's sort of kind of what's going on in those rooms but where would you go?
I can see groups of people standing outside debating which group's going to go in where and having a meeting about it and then probably some PhD telling them where they needed to go afterwards. Not that being a PhD is not a valuable thing. So the creation of a monster. I thought I did a good job at that time. I thought I was providing something that had some meaning to it. And then here's our homepage right now, today.

So I'm being transparent with you. I don't have it all done. That's why the title of the session did say work in progress so you were warned before you came up on the elevator. We're not coming up to see the end all be all of some completed thing. That's the actual homepage as of the screenshot I took today. That's great. I mean you probably don't even have to have a website. You can just have that one page and you're done. It's all there. We got the cool 50-year logo if you can even see it changing between pictures of people from like 1960s that no one who currently visits our sites care about. But I see it a interesting narrative.
So the problem is that when you go to these meetings or you get called into the office of these people or they send you an email or they send you whatever, and say put my link on the homepage, you provide your professional opinion or objection and their perception of you takes over. You are the guy or girl or person sitting in some corner of some portable trailer on campus or maybe at home creating web content between your World of Warcraft sessions with your Wi-Fi detecting T-shirts, which are cool by the way. You can take those off and not get it messed ups in the washer, and they treat you like that. They feed you crap, keep you in the dark. That would work if you were a fungus, doesn't work so well for those of us who care about what we do, work hard at it and see value in what we're producing.
So how can you defend the concept of content that is meaningful, that is not just random, vague stuff that somebody in some office said needs to be on your homepage? You need data. I can't resist, I mean the word. Actual data. The previous page is probably what? The people I'm talking about would think you were talking about when you mentioned the word data.

I'm going to do these quickly. These are some of the things that I have been using to put together what I consider possible strategy for putting together content types that could work for an audience-based approach. Website satisfaction rating. That's really more of a temperature gauge, not really a lot of context there. Purpose of visit tracking. OK. Purpose of visit tracking, very cool, nice whole chart, PhD's like that.
Site visitor comments. Free form, user generated stuff. Not stuff you're coming up with, not your opinion, definitely not the opinion of the guy with a panel wall behind him. Visitor click maps. That's an actual visitor click map of our homepage right now. Notice how most of the page has nothing because most of the page is not being clicked on. Surprise, surprise. Visitor heat maps. Again heat map of our actual homepage. Notice all the blue, if I was to show you the actual entire image, probably 95% of the page is blue. The big yellow swath is kind of where the mouse pointer starts and moves to spring term cross schedule. How do I get my money? That kind of stuff.

Detail analytics. That's Google. Whole industries and conferences on that one topic alone of course. Questions asked and popular answers. Questions asked are great because like visitor comments on your site, they're free formed, they're user generated, you're not coming up with it, it's not your opinion. It's actually what they're saying, they are looking for or asking about or saying about what it is that you're providing them.
Site search statistics also free. I use the Google one, you can integrate it with your analytics and get some really good insight there under context because again a search term is not something that you are coming up with. It's not a link you've provided, it's something they're typing. And I use the add webmaster tool site mapper thing for doing content editing and certain subdirectories and things like that.

So what kind of a process that I went through to be standing here in front of you today so that I can play an old Mel Blanc Speedy Gonzales song? Well Google analytics and sites which I already had set up. I set that up kind of out of desperation. I want to know what's going on, get some ideas, some concept. Avinash Kaushik and 4Q Survey, ever seen the ads? Does your website suck? Big 4Q on there. I took the top content information over a course of the entire previous year from the nice big oval photo of the website that I showed you and the nice squares down the side. That site hadn't been that way for about six years.
I took the analytics from that page and the top content report which arguably was not that great because the content I was being presented wasn't particularly great but it was a start and I made the top five things, the purpose of visit options that you get in your 4Q survey. So I didn't even come up with purpose of visit list out of my own opinion. I wanted to at least take what was already happening and make that the measurable metric that I was trying to get information on.

Second, set up click tail, actually records sessions. Now 4Q survey and click tail give you unlimited account totally for free so you can start using them, you don't have to pay for them, they do have paid models of course. They got the premium thing going on. But that's where you get the heat maps, the click maps and even recordings of user sessions. So in my case as a one-person shop, I honestly just totally being honest with you. I do not have the time to do usability studies. I could actually set one up that's really cool and then not have the time to go sit with the person while they did it or to monitor the people that were giving it or train the people that would monitor the people that would do it. I just don't have time.
So I needed to have some kind of passive method of collecting this information that I could then go back to that was real, actual data that I could then present to someone like put my facilities, agenda on the homepage kind of person.

FAQ system. We actually purchased one. I say we, it's just me. I didn't pay for it out of my own pocket thankfully, the college did. So when I say we I include the college. We use custom FAQs. Custom FAQs very cool. You will top answers viewed, questions asked. You can do keyword searches, you can forward ports out of it. You can even do that by department, by category and other things like that. So that's a user-generated content system, which is not your opinion thing. Just like the 4Q Survey, comments. 4Q Survey is cool and give you a little rundown, how many of you have heard and/or used 4Q Survey? OK. One thing that's really cool, you go to It's very cool.
Avinash Kaushik has a book called Web Analytics in an Hour a Day I believe. It's on Amazon. Really good book. The guy's an industry giant when it comes to the survey stuff. It's really cool because it starts you up at the one to ten, how would you rate your experience today? That's the temperature gauge I showed you that. Then the next thing goes to what's the purpose of your visit today? I populated the items that you are allowed to present from my Google analytics report because they didn't want it to be my opinion and I wanted it to be defensible.

So then they pick. I think I have on there apply for class, register for class. Access my online class, find out about my financial aid, get tech support and then other. It gives you the option to put in some user-generated stuff so that the stuff you're missing you can still get information on. And then the FAQ system has its own, just ask a question. We use a compass at the college. It's my little plug for them. We're on our sixth year using that product, we really like it. And then again another source of data that I've looked at over the course of the last few years is Noel-Levitz E-expectation survey. Good information, again not coming from you, so adds credibility to any report. You might put together to present, say, hey I really honestly don't want it to be my opinion on what we're doing here on this particular site.
And the concept that I'm thinking may work and I welcome your comments and suggestions at the end or questions that you may have. The way that I'm looking to pursue this is take this information and focus it on one particular content area just to take a bite out of the elephant at a time. Don't try and get the whole site done, there's no way, it's not possible. I'm just going to use the homepage of my example right now. That's why I'm looking at it because the homepage is awful.

So let's just grab the information on what's going on from that homepage. I set up some event tracking stuff. I actually found that on a blog post from Mike Feenan on .uuguru. I was like that sounds really cool. That would actually go with what it is I'm going to be talking about to you guys, to put some event tracking stuff on there, you can categorize and name what links you have. You can actually get tracking on a PDF link off of a page, which is a little difficult to kind of put a script of analytics and a PDF. It might be possible, it does support Java script but it didn't want to go there and be that detailed with it.
So I said but what if I can just get data off of someone clicking on a PDF? OK. Cool. So it's event tracking and Google analytics giving us some more context of the information on your page which is nice. So until we commit to treating content, again another slide I'm just going to read so, maybe I can just stand back you can read. Until we commit to treating content as a critical asset worthy of strategic planning and meaningful investment which is, you know time that we probably really don't have but it's worthwhile pursuit.

We'll continue to churn out worthless content and reaction to unmeasured requests. This is a book by Erin Cassin A Book Apart. What's a content strategy? Content is appropriate for users when it helps them accomplish their goals. OK. Well goals and perspective.
What? How does that apply to what we're doing? When we have goals we have our certain perspective in what we're doing and in what types of projects we're completing and have the workload that we have everyday and wanting to go home without being completely fried everyday if possible which is not usually all that possible but it's a nice goal to have. A nice goal is to realize, hey we've got people coming through our site.

We have some information here that shows us what it is they are requesting based on what we're gathering, what they're saying about what our site is providing or not. And our perspective is a little different. Maybe we are kind of stuck in that wood paneling room like that guy. Maybe we do feel a little bit like a mushroom kind of kept in the dark. So maybe our perspective, maybe that's the reason why we really don't want it to be our opinion that produces this content strategy. We want it to really be actionable data that can be defended. The founder of Saks Fifth Avenue said that discipline is remembering what you want. It's a random quote out of nowhere right?
Well not really because if you realize that you have a goal if you've looked at the content that you have out there and how it is being used and/or appreciated or not by the people who are using your page or your site or your set of pages, then you can apply the discipline of evaluating it and giving credence to what it is that your site visitors are requesting or asking you to provide them to make their lives easier and to make their goals more easily achievable and less confusing. Providing them a hat that's not too big but that actually fits that works for their situation and considers their needs and requests.

So I heard a story, you, some of you may have heard the story before. I heard a story about a guy walking down the road. He comes across a few guys that are cutting stone on one side of the road. So he asks the first guy, the guy who's just really focused on what he's doing, what are you doing? The guy looks up and he says, oh I'm cutting the stone here. It seems fine a bit, just doing his thing.
OK. Well the guy, the passerby still not really understanding what's going on so he moves on to the second guy, well what are you doing? The guy's like, oh I'm cutting stone but I got to make this stone just so the dimensions have to be just right based on the specifications so I can fit it in its place in the wall here. OK. Oh I will, that's great. Then the next guy down, there's three of them all doing the same thing, same tools. The guy is, got a smile on his face, he's kind of humming to himself and he's just kind of jumping around and looks like he has a lot of energy.

So the passerby walks up to him and said, what are you doing? And the guy looks up at him and says, I am building a cathedral. So it's a perspective thing. I'm not trying to give a big motivational talk, I'm not going to go running around the room and hugging and crying anytime soon. But what I am saying is, the way that you look at it and your perspective on things can really change how you feel about it and it can change your energy level and your perspective.
Norman Vincent Peale said, "The more you lose yourself in something bigger than yourself, the more energy you'll have." So I think about, OK, what are our goals? We're doing a lot more than just publishing or managing or creating or evaluating content. That's cutting on the stone. We're doing more than taking that content and putting it into pages and creating sites out of it, that's building the wall and fitting our content that we've evaluated in to the wall. We're creating an environment in which someone who is maybe a little bit lost coming from high school or in my case when I graduated from college I was already supporting a family and was working full time.

We have the ability to, if we do it right and if we put the right passion into it and if we really care about what we're doing which we wouldn't be here if we didn't. So I'm not saying, don't hear what I'm not saying. We are all part of something like this. People come through the educational institution in which we work and they have goals, they have aspirations, they have hopes. They have frustrations. They difficulties they're dealing with in their lives. We all have that.
Hopefully on the other side of that they have something that now betters their life. it betters the lives of their family or the future to come family if they're still single and trying to figure that part of their life out. And it sets them on a path that is better than before they came to us. We're a part of the group that ifs building that cathedral. We're building something, we're working on something and we're presenting something that can make a significant impact on someone's life.

So what are you building? I mean it's important to know not just how and what to do but why? I mean that's a prevalent topic in even business today. What's the why behind what you're doing? Why do you get up in the morning and go to work and sit at that computer and work on that content, work on that code, work on that graphic design, work on that publication or whatever it is that you're doing. What's the why behind it?
It's viewing the whole and not just its parts. It's a perspective thing. Being able to see the forest even though all the trees are all around you. Seeing a vision, seen as the bigger picture, I'm just reading off a card, anybody wants to come up. Having the ability to see significance in the work you're doing beyond the obvious and understanding that there's a legacy, that's a big word, right? OK. Now I'm going to start preaching in a second.

There's a legacy that lives on after whether in the stone of a cathedral or in the impact that you make on other people by your efforts. So your efforts don't go completely unnoticed, they might not, the people that are benefiting from the work that we're doing in my case when I graduated from college, I benefited from the work of others working at that institution. I didn't know all of their names but I look back on it now and I can appreciate the work that all of the people, the PhD's who wanted their facility's agenda on the homepage as well as the web people, the IT people, the facilities guys, everyone in between, the people who hopefully didn't change their restroom signs to septic operations and toilet access services.
But the people who get up, go to work everyday and provide an environment in which education can happen and lives can be made better. So I had been to a bunch of sessions at this conference, they're all very, very good, very knowledgeable people. People who really care about what they're doing and have a lot of really good ideas and I always learn from them. And I'm hoping that by switching gears here into a slightly motivational type of an approach while still providing you with some substance that you can take a little bit more away from it than just bullet points and just checklist of things to go do.

Obviously we have to do that but the why behind why we do what we do answers the bigger question as to how much energy we put into it, how much we care about how we do it and how excellent we do it, it makes a difference. So as a college graduate who benefited from the efforts of folks like yourselves and myself, I thank you for the work that you do. I appreciate it.
It has made my life better after the fact and it was great because I was able to, my son sitting there in the stands going through school himself was able to see his dad graduate from college and then have an example. And it would not have been possible for me to do that without the work of people like us, people working in higher education. So that's, that's pretty much it for me. Do anybody have any questions, comments, criticisms or ideas? Yes ma'am,

Audience 1: Do you have any info or anything about the few people who you've missed giving?

Justin Gatewood: You see it's, that's a difficult situation. I've taken this approach to deans at my college, to vice presidents, to folks that head up various different operational departments and academic areas department chairs, even to the superintendent of our campus, our public information officer and they all had various degrees of buy in, but they all understood the approach because you need to speak in the language of the people who are giving these unmeasured requests to you, languages that they understand.
They deal with reports and data all day long. They're handling large amounts of information like reporting in our case, reporting to the state every so often and making sure where a state fund's goal as a community college. So as the first half of our Cal State or University of California System, we have to provide information that's measurable, that makes sense and that can be absorbed and used by the state office otherwise they don't give us our money.

And people working in significant positions of authority, they have to be able to show why they made a decision that didn't just come out of nowhere. So that's the approach that I'm taking with this and bringing data to them that isn't my opinion. It's not even just the opinion of the data that I'm looking at from stuff I'm gathering, I also placed in that list the expectations report from Noel-Levitz, that's one resource. It's not me and it's not even what's going on at our college.
It's a general you know, nationwide type of a report and has information that is valuable and applicable I'm thinking pretty much all cases to a degree. Obviously you have to apply all these types of approaches to your own situation. But there are going to be people that they're just going to dismiss you anyway. Some people just have that thing going on, unfortunately.

And sometimes those are the types of people that you have to maybe build a relationship with first before you can really speak to that situation in their case and sometimes that's not an easy road and sometimes it's just not a short road. Some people will see it immediately and get it, and I can say that thankfully and fortunately I've had more of that experience than the latter which is the people that just don't want to hear you and don't want to get it. But it's an important endeavor. It's important to be able to, you know, it's kind of a political thing.
I've actually mentioned this whole, you know perspective thing to a couple of people that were a little less open to the idea of, can we actually take the information our site visitors are giving us and use that to form how we put content in that area of the site? I mean we'll just do it a piece of the site at a time and go around methodically. It's a lot easier to kind of manage that size of a project rather than try and go for the whole thing, that can be a little daunting. It's daunting just to do the one site, you know argue but given the existing responsibilities and tasks that you have to carry out on a daily basis.

So getting administrators to buy in on what it is that I'm trying to do is really the key focus on what this is all about for me. I say it's a work in progress because I'm not done yet as evidenced by our homepage right now, which is my first target.
I thought I had something cool going on, you know, it wasn't like, it wasn't the be all and end all of the web necessarily but that it was OK. And, we just became this huge monstrosity of nightmarishness that we have today and needs a change and it's not going to change unless I actually do something about it. The folks who turned into that by putting his request on me didn't, they don't care if that's huge, their links on the homepage, they're happy. They can go to a meeting as they want on the homepage. So I'm important and where's your link. And so it's validating for them.

Audience 2: So seeing you have a homepage, do you have a, any timeline or an expectation that you're setting to yourself to get past to the place like that?

Justin Gatewood: Yes. I've been gathering data for the last year.

Audience 2: OK.

Justin Gatewood: Specifically with all of these various things since last October. So my plan is first quarter of next year to take everything that I've learned and hopefully take every discussion that I've had around this data and the various content elements that our site visitors are requesting from us with their own words, questions, comments and search compared to what's going on and actually turn that into a list of content things that need to become a homepage.
So that doesn't take any consideration the design aspect. That will be the next thing but putting together some kind of a wire frame, here are the things we need to provide. Here are the things that aren't getting clicked on at all as evidenced by heat maps and click maps, let's make some decisions. Let's make them together. Let's have a meeting that's actually valuable where we sit down and actually decide on things rather than talk about deciding on things later and put it in the minutes and then put on the homepage.

We just actually have a valuable discussion that has a result that benefits the people visiting our site who's only goal is to get through education and move on with their lives, really. It's not to find out about your committee meeting. It's not to necessarily see pictures of your campus. They can come to your campus for that. I did my degrees online. I didn't go to the campus for that.
I didn't need to see a virtual tour. I needed to see where the classes were, who was doing them, how do I get ahold of them, how much it was. So first quarter next year is my goal date right now. So if you want to follow up with me and give me a hard time, if I don't get that done that will be good. I'm probably overtime, am I over? Oh, go ahead sir.

Audience 3: Who are you reporting to?

Justin Gatewood: Right now, I report to the executive dean of computing and information resources. He is a male with about 30 years IT experience. No web experiences really but a very dedicated caring person, air force retiree. He reports to the vice president of administrative services, who reports to the superintendent president of our community college district. Prior to reporting to him, I reported to the director of management information systems who's out on medical leave right now. So that's how I am now reporting to the executive dean. Prior to her, I reported to the director of Information Technology. Actually she works in a data center on servers and things like that in addition to the web stuff, now picked up Sharepoint as her responsibility so that's great, just started installing that last month.
So that's a new bullet point in my job description with no increase in pay and no increase in hours and no additional staff. Right, no additional staff. A bit right, no additional staff but we're all experiencing that. So before that I was reporting directly to the executive dean of institutional effectiveness and research who was in interim between when our IT director resigned out of stress because we moved the whole data center to a new building, and then he got told that, by the computer science faculty well I could it done in 20 minutes. Oh, 20 minutes, wow. It took 20 minutes to take one load of rack servers in our car from one side of the campus to the other before I'm hooking them up but anyway...

And then before that I reported to a consultant from Datatel who was the stand in director while the management information systems director was out on medical leave. Interesting we got two MIS directors both out on medical leave, both of them I was supposed to report to. And now I'm being told I'm going to be moved to the public information communications and marketing office.
And then the marketing director is a great guy. I mean he's been to the college for like 30 years. He talks about the college his eyes light up he's like, he feels like he's, he's just really, really excitable guy. Great guy to be around very inspiring. Prior word to this motivational talk came today I'll sell the tape later. He said, oh great so now you can do all these graphic designs and does that polishing things for me. Well I know how to do it because I do a lot of that for web stuff but I have like I kind of have some other things to deal with. I got some issues with my VMs over here and that's my share point form which I'm starting to learn how to deal with my seven books that he just bought me off of Amazon.

And my 800-page share point training that I just did on the 12th of September. And we could all stand up here and rant and rave about all the craziness going on at our desks and all the requirements that are unrealistic and unreasonable but anyway you only asked who I was reporting to and not a life story. But since I'm stuck in the whole like the gentleman earlier in my presentation most of the day, when I get out I don't tend to stop talking until someone tells me my time is up. So I haven't seen the sign yet. So I'm going to keep going.
Audience 4:  You go from writing all the data, say from writing all the data, can you think of a plan or a strategy or how do you know what people want in searching for, how do you get the mirror to occur? The purposes that you're talking about like?

Justin Gatewood:  That's a good point, it probably should have been a slide to my presentation. So note to self. The way that I am pursuing in, the way that I have so far in my plan, flawed as it may be, I think it's a halfway decent approach based on the last five years or so watching the craziness. It'll at least bring some more to it. Let us start with Google analytics which doesn't give me any context. That's just what people are already doing. It doesn't really give me any idea necessarily about whether or not they're doing what they want to do. They're just doing what they can with what they're being provided. So then I added event tracking to that which is where you're actually bringing the newer Google analytics script the GA, GAS1 whatever.
And you actually, within the actual H ref tag is the anchor tags for your links themselves. You actually put in a little GA Q push I believe it's what it is I don't remember the exact name of the function but you place that on your existing link, you actually categorize it and you designate whether or not, you know, an external-internal link if you want you can give it different names. And then analytics starts categorizing those things for you. Again still not really context but gives you a little more refinement as to what people are doing.

It's not just general visit to the page now it's the page and the individual items within the page that have the most or least popularity based on clicks. Then some cross, you know, sub-domain tracking within the domain. We have some other sub-domains, we all do. To be able to not have a ridiculous bounce rate when they jump to blackboard or web advisor or some other system that's ours but now it looks like they're all leaving the site. This horrible page sucks so bad it needs to be different. No, no, no, they're just going over there to that server. Didn't have that for the first couple years because could I just then take time out of that and gave me a little more context. Hey they are staying within our presence, right?
Then the next thing that I'd started to do whiting certain aspects of what we are doing, the whole conversion goal things much more understandable to someone working for a business not so understandable necessarily for us unless we have taken the time to set up. An actual path we want our user to take from A to Z, let's say and the steps in between. Finding out where they might be falling out of the process. In our case we have an online assessment-appointment system. A student goes online puts in their information, schedules an assessment test date and then they arrive physically at the location to take the test.

A lot of people are dropping out at one step we had to find out why. So I set up a conversion goal we made a couple of little changes and improve the rate of conversion by about 20% or 30%. That was a pretty good exercise. That was last year. Then moving from taking that information while I have what they're doing, what they're doing within the page that I'm focusing on, in this case the homepage which you can see why I'm focusing on it, it's that long and that wide on the slide here because I can't even fit it. What are they clicking on? What are they not?
I had a click tail, again another free thing. I want to see a heat map of where the mouse is moving, what they're clicking on, what they're hovering and what they're not clicking on at all. It gives me a little more context when I put it in place with the event tracking data side by side. Here are the things they're clicking are on the page or not. Here are the things they're actually hovering over or not and for how long. Here's what they're clicking on and not. I can actually a recording of it if I want to but I don't have the time to watch a recording. So heat map is nice because of the snap shot. Sort like your PhD in the administrative services office, doesn't want to see your big chart of Google analytics, your big list of stuff. Oh look here's the top 12,000 pages. He didn't care about that, he wants to see a pie chart, right?

So it gives me sort of like the pie approach the real quick KPI kind of a thing, keep performance in the care of things what click tail gives me. Then I take the context of that. I take the context of the event tracking where they're clicking on in the page and I'm focusing on what they're trying to change, what they're already doing with analytics and then I add site search into that. What are they searching for? Meaning what are they not finding? In our case, our top search term for the entire time our site search have been online is of nursing. We have a California State certified nursing training program. We have a two-year waiting list.
By more than two to one the most used as a search term on our homepage is the word nursing. We don't have a nursing link, I say we, I haven't put a nursing link on the homepage. I take responsibility, right? I'm the one managing the page. There are no student workers or part-timers or anybody else, oh hey, why don't you, there isn't anybody. Just me. So that gives me more context, that's user-generated, I didn't come up with that. It's not my opinion. It's not Mr. PhD, facilities guy changing the restroom sign's opinion, it's real world data.

Then I go to the FAQ system. I got a nice big picture on the homepage, questions ask a ram. Maybe stupid, ram is our mascot. Got a guy with a backpack cartoon that got something like, with  big question mark. Ask a ram, so they can type in whatever they want. So you can pull keywords out of that like you can out of search. Very cool. You can then also after they ask a bunch of questions along the same lines, you can then turn those questions into a custom navi key system into an answer, kind of genericides it, that's not even a word but generic sides or whatever, turn it into something more general put it out there as an answer that can be searched then found.
So now you have two sets of data in your FAQ system the one I use. You see what they're asking and what answers we're providing are most popular. Again more context, stuff they're doing that has nothing to do with my opinion. So then the next thing is our 4Q Survey. I say our, again there's no our. My 4Q Survey that I'm using on the page to try and get some context as to whether or not that page is providing what they want. I get a satisfaction rating, just a temperature gauge, no context there. I get purpose of visit, a little more detailed information, really I'm providing that anyway so that's, not as context based but it's a little bit. But the other field is huge.

Then the comments field is where the real context comes in because now if I take the comments from the survey. If I take the questions that are being asked free form. If I take the search words that are being entered, again these are all totally free form user-generated information, has nothing to do with what I'm providing or not or what I think they want. They're just telling me what they want. It's a time consuming process.
That's why I'm saying March hopefully I can get done by March. If I don't give me a hard time because it's horrible. It needs to be done next week. That needs to be done last year, two years ago, maybe three. I can't go on about that. So now I have data that I'm collecting passively. I'm not having to take all this time to collect it because the systems are collecting it for me. I'm just going back after the fact on some schedule and deciding how to compare these things together. My thought was maybe using some kind of a ranking structure based on stuff they're already doing. It would be one view and then stuff they're wanting to do that I'm not providing. It will be another set of data and then ranking those things. I got a few minutes left.

Ranking those things and then trying it out. It's sort of like a trial and error. I mean it is, these are real people with real lives and real things and real approaches to, with the way they do things and get things done. So taking that data then after putting it together, we're just, it's going to be a process. I've been through it a couple of times on a small scale with some of the data looking at it a month at a time maybe a couple of weeks maybe a few months. And come up with a set of data a lot of which was obvious stuff.
Where's the class information? How much money is this going to cost me? Where can I get financial aid assistance? How can I get in touch with a counselor? Where is the the stuff located on campus? How can I get ahold of a faculty member? Those types of things. What are the hours of operation of various departments? Do I have to wait in line? Is there online help for this stuff? So a lot of the things are things that we don't need to see the data to know is valid stuff and I don't even think our PhD guy and administrative services would argue those things I just mentioned.

But it's when you get into some of the other maybe a little less obvious things that I had 15,000 people ask about nursing. We know we have a nursing school. We know it has a waiting period. We have a big site over there to links down in the site, all about nursing. But they're searching for nursing on the homepage more than two to one over any other term for us. It'll be different for you, everyone's situation's going to be a little bit different but the method of data collection I think in and of itself is an OK approach.
I'm hoping that by modifying the content that's being presented on the homepage based on following these criteria and extracting the data from these various systems that users are creating on their own that I can then produce a homepage that's usable, that is beneficial and it helps them achieve what they want to get done in the least amount of time possible with the least amount of ambiguity or confusion involved.

So it's not like me sitting here playing the hat I got for Christmas is too big when you're sitting they're going what is this guy doing? What's the picture of this crazy mariachi hat doing up there? Why am I hearing Speedy Gonzales music? Why is he talking about the city? I mean it's out there but I'm not out there right now, I'm here. Why is he talking about the hotel? Why is he talking about the organization that puts this conference on? None of those things are the reason I'm sitting in this chair at this time frame. I'm here for a particular purpose. And my point in that was give you a little taste of what our site visitors probably experience when they go to our site and a lot of stuff doesn't really apply to them and doesn't make a lot of sense.
And to the detriment of the actual valid stuff, they're searching two to one for a term in our case, that's not even, it doesn't exist on the page. Then you would think if I had stepped back for about five minutes and said we have a nursing school. We have a two-year waiting list, that's enough interest right there in and of itself, that little bullet item. There probably needs to be a big nice link on the homepage nursing school click. There's not. There's not one.

I probably go put that one there right after the session and not ask anybody's opinion about it just ask for forgiveness later. The dean of health sciences will be very happy about it though. And then in the meeting she'll have, tomorrow she'll be like oh, I'm on homepage but then she's on the homepage for a reason because users of our site asked for it. They didn't come down to my office and say, hey man can you put a nursing link on the homepage you know I really want to be a nurse. I'd like to know how to do that. Can you make it a little easier for me?
It's user-generated information. It's what they're requesting without having to do big surveys. Without having to do big usability study necessarily. You can do the usability study and do this analysis again after putting the new content on the homepage. Maybe it's not a homepage, maybe it's a department page, maybe it's a specific service that your institution provides that you want to evaluate. Maybe it's a marketing campaign that you want to be able to over time see how it grows or the trends involved with it and you want the user voice to be the primary reason you make the change not our own opinion because opinions are, you've heard the phrase. They're like we all have one and they'll smell, right?

It doesn't necessarily mean they are horrible but they're our opinions, they're our perspective. So if we can get past what our perspective is, what our thoughts are that are site needs to be and respond to our customer, the student.
All of us have been students or are students or will be students and we'll deal with various degrees with frustration with the content that's provided for us trying to find our way through what's being presented and hopefully with some type of a process like this in place and that path can be a little easier. I almost said the word pathway, it gives me a chill. Every time I'm in the committee and they're like, well we got to come up with this pathway.

What do you mean by pathway? Is that the word that you heard at the conference that they said you have to do and is mandated and now if you don't do this you're not in compliance with AB2086, which happened to me last week by the way. AB2086 has to do with Cal Grant stuff for health sciences in California and whether or not you can actually give Cal grants. We didn't have a page that indicated what our results were and what our certifications pass rates were, we didn't have one. We weren't thinking about the person looking to invest their time and their money in their future and wanting to come to our nursing school and they're apprehension about maybe going that way. Maybe they're working at a convenience store or a restaurant or they're parking cars or maybe they're stay-at-home mom and they're not happy with that.
They want to do something with their life that's bigger than going to your page and hearing about the president's blog which doesn't apply to their life really. It's great for the president . He's an esteemed, or she sorry excuse me, that individual is an esteemed member of your organization has a lot of experience, a lot of knowledge and a lot of insight into just education in general. And it's a valuable person with whom a person can gain information but not necessarily applicable to the stay-at-home mom or dad who wants to do better in their lives and improve their family situation.

And when they come to your site to find out about how your nursing school is doing and I'm not providing them a link and they're searching for it two to one and there's not even a pass rate so is they're program even any good? You know those kind of questions come up though.
Maybe I'm going to ramble all day. I don't have the time too, my time is up. Thank you very much for listening to me, ramble and letting me get out of my hole at my school and talk for a minute I appreciate it.