Stuart over at OSS Watch recently wrote a post about how OSS Watch measure ‘buzz’ around there activities. This sent me off on a little bit of a tangent as I started to give a little thought to the tools we use at JISC to monitor the impact of our website (and when I say we I still mainly mean Kerry!)
We make pretty extensive use of Google Analytics to monitor the JISC website and especially to track trends in popular topics and spikes in activity. We also back this up with a desktop application called Absolute Log Analyzer Professional
that we use to analyse the raw log data files that Eduserv supply us. This is mainly used to track downloads (still a major element of the JISC website for better or worse) and to sense check the results from Analytics.
Alongside this we also make use of Feedburner to track subscriptions to our RSS feeds – since they were purchased by Google many of the previously premium options have become free so we are looking into these tools as well and we use the backlink tool from the Google Webmaster toolset to see who is linking to us…oh and finally, lest I forget, we also generate stats from our Google Mini search appliance to help improve our internal search results.
All this information is about how people are using our site but we also try to track what people are saying about us as well. Like Stuart we use Google Alerts and also saved searches as RSS feeds at both Technorati and Google Blog Search to see who is taking JISCs name in vain most recently.
Well what are we doing with all this information I hear you ask (well no I don’t but I’m going to answer it anyway!) All the usage data feeds in to our ongoing work on trying to improve the user experience of the JISC website. The relaunch of the site was always seen as an opportunity to get us to a point where we had a stable enough foundation to really start to try and make some radical improvements to the usability of the site. This has been a little slower than we had hoped (the usual financial, resourcing and priority hurdles) but we are again picking up momentum as we hit this new academic year and hope to make some real headway in a number of areas in the next six-nine months.
The other information is less well used – JISC has not wholly bought in to the need to engage in the conversation online yet – despite my quiet urging. Some have started to embrace it but generally it is slow going. I firmly believe however that it is a direction we should be going in and will continue to do all I can to encourage others.
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