Curious about how your journal is being read and used? We can help with that! This summer Clayton Hayes, a practicum student from the Wayne State University School of Library and Information Science, created a series of guides to help our publishing partners gain access to and make good use of the Google Analytics data we gather for all of our digital publications. Below, he tells us a bit about the process of developing these guides. We’re delighted to be able to share these new resources with our publishing partners, and with anyone who may find them useful. Thank you, Clayton!
As part of my practicum experience here at the University of Michigan I had the opportunity to work with Google Analytics (GA), which has been implemented on all of the Michigan Publishing journals. GA is pretty complicated and intimidating at first glance due to the sheer amount of information it presents to you and, despite all of the fun and interesting things that GA keeps track of, it can be difficult to see how any of this might be useful. A lot of GA is tailored for commercial web sites that are attempting to track things like the effectiveness of ads and the number of fiscal transactions; for non-commercial sites like those run by Michigan Publishing, it’s very important to know how GA can be used effectively.
After being given some time to familiarize myself with GA, this was the project that I undertook. I hoped to create a collection of guides that could be used by the editors of Michigan Publishing journals to take advantage of the data GA provides in an effective, targeted manner. I enjoy creating point-of-use guides like these but don’t often have the opportunity to make them, so I was very excited for the opportunity to put them together. My practicum supervisors, Meredith Kahn and Rebecca Welzenbach, and I settled on five separate guides:
- What is the Purpose of Google Analytics?
- Guide to Google Analytics
- Creating Email Alerts
- Creating Custom Events
- Adding Annotations to Reports
The first two guides provide general information on the uses of GA and highlight some of its most important features, while the last three explore specific features that we felt would be most useful to journal editors. We tried to focus on features that were low-maintenance, relatively straightforward, and provide users with useful, easy-to-share information.
- What is the Purpose of Google Analytics? This guide provides an overview of some of the useful things that journal editors can accomplish with the help of GA. It’s meant to answer the question, “Why should I bother with any of this?”
- Guide to Google Analytics This guide provides users with a resource to get them started with GA, beginning with registering for an account and signing on to the service. It uses screenshots to take the user through the different parts of the service and provides a brief description of the charts and displays that users will run into. This includes Overviews, Explorer Tables, Map Overlays, and Data Tables. It also introduces some of the useful customizable features of GA such as the Dashboard, Shortcuts, and Intelligence Events.
- Creating Email Alerts One of the most useful functionalities of GA is that almost any of its reports can be turned into an automated Email alert. This guide takes users, step-by-step, through the process of setting up these alerts.
- Creating Custom Events GA uses Intelligence Events to pick out times when the data it collects deviates from the norm. Users can set up custom events in order to track when data coming from a group and in a category of their choosing deviates in a way that they consider to be significant, and this guide provides step-by-step instructions in setting up such a custom event. It also attempts to unravel some of GA’s jargon by providing users with a practical example throughout the guide.
- Adding Annotations to Reports Annotations are short messages that can be added by a user to specific dates in a site’s history, either as a private note for that user or as a public notice to all users with access to that site’s GA data. This guide provides step-by-step instructions in adding annotations to reports as well as describing where and how the annotations will appear.
We hope that these guides will provide the editors of the Michigan Publishing journals with, first, an idea as to why it would be valuable for them to spend time learning how to navigate GA and, second, a firm foundation upon which to base their exploration of the GA service.
All of the guides are available under a Creative Commons Attribution license on the Usage Statistics page of the Michigan Publishing wiki. If you are a Michigan Publishing journal editor and would like to request access to your Google Analytics data, write to firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll be glad to get you up and running!