Analytics at Western
“If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.” - Zig Ziglar
Western uses the free tracking tools Google Analytics (GA) paired with Google Tag Manager (GTM) to help learn more about how visitors use our websites. WebTech also utilizes Google’s free reporting tool Data Studio to create dynamic, easy to understand reports showcasing that web traffic and user interaction.
Why should I track website performance?
To make analytics effective, one must review the data regularly to monitor performance, notice red flags, and identify trends then use that data to make decisions.
These decisions include understanding the effectiveness of website content (text, images, forms, Calls to Action – otherwise known as CTAs – etc.) With data, we can analyze trends over time and evaluate website performance to gain a sense of what our visitors want.
The more help and value website content provides for someone, the more a person will engage with a website. Tracking website performance allows you to learn what content users like, so you can create more of it. Also, we can learn from the data what content users don’t engage with and remove it or tweak that content to be more useful to site visitors.
For example, say we learn that the Majors pages are consistently the top visited pages at wwu.edu. We can then ask ourselves if we are utilizing those pages in the best way possible. Are we explaining the outcomes students may expect to achieve if they enroll? Do we highlight what Western is doing differently than our competitors? Are we intentionally guiding students to information that can help them make a decision, or displaying related programs they may be interested in?
Knowing how pages perform allows us to determine what type of content works. It also allows us to question when content ISN’T working and ask ourselves “how can we improve these pages to drive more engagement and see an increase in visitors and completed calls to action (known as CTAs)?"
Google Analytics Overview
Google Analytics (GA) helps us understand the behavior of visitors to deliver better results and viewer interaction with wwu.edu. It is a platform that tracks performance and part of the Google suite of tools that include Google Tag Manager (GTM) and Data Studio. GA collects a vast amount of data, processes it, then generates reports to display that data to you. Those reports are what you can use to gain critical insight into your site and the people who visit it. The information we learn about user behavior can help us
- Measure a website’s performance
- See if marketing efforts are working (and at what cost)
- Determine the type of content or information to provide to visitors
- Optimize website pages to help visitors find the information they need, quickly and efficiently
- Allow users to easily discover additional content that they might find useful.
Google Tag Manager Overview
Google Tag Manager (GTM) is a tool that manages website tags, or snippets of code, that are added to website pages. One example is the code snippet (or tag) that allows Google Analytics to function. Tags help collect the data that Analytics (and other programs) need in order to deliver the various insights about site visitors. GTM has been instrumental in effectively managing a growing number marketing tags within multiple sites across campus.
What is the difference between Google Analytics (GA) and Google Tag Manager (GTM)?
They are totally two different things that serve two very different purposes. The two work together to create an easier, flexible system to track and manage various analytics codes. As mentioned earlier, GTA enables users to deploy tracking code on specific pages while GA uses that code snippet to track website data, including conversions.
Google Analytics tracks these user interactions with the help of a Tracking Code (Tag) that must be placed on every page of the website. (Drupal makes this easy with the help of a module – but that’s another story.) GA is a powerful tool and with customization can track almost everything you can imagine about a user interaction. But that type of reporting requires custom tags. For example, wanting to track a form submission or a video play. However, this is where Google Tag Manager comes in.
Google Tag Manager is a tool that allows you to manage the various tags that track user interaction throughout a website. It allows a user to define the rules of when tags should fire.
Differences in Reporting
While Google Analytics is an analytics tool that provides reports, Google Tag Manager has no reporting features. It is used to send data from your website to other marketing/analytics tools (including GA).
Examples of tags that Western uses within Tag Manager include
- Google Ads Conversion Tag
- Facebook Pixel code
- Chegg Pixel