Thursday, January 25, 2007

Blog & web stats junkie

I love web statistics! Seeing how patrons are actually using your web page, as opposed to how you think they are using it, is an eye-opening experience. When I built the first IRC web page during the 2000-2001 academic year, we did not have a web statistics package available. I searched, found, and used a freebie service to gather and track page hits; the page soon outgrew the software and I discontinued the practice. A short time later, AU began using AU Web Stats, an AWStats program, for server statistics. With this program I am able to see how the library web site ranks against every other site on the AU server. With some help from the program’s filter, it is possible to narrow the statistics to library only, IRC only, and even within certain organizational sub-folders within those pages.

When I began working on the IRC re-design last October, I used the statistics to help determine what pages to eliminate and what handouts should be updated. Among other things, the web stats concisely illustrated a recurring problem. Beyond the fact that the site uses frames (gasp) and the navigation page was getting more hits than the actual starting page, frames keep the page from being properly validated (WC3). Once the IRC page is complete, evaluating and updating the main library web page will begin. The page continues to be functional, but is seriously out of date and should conform to AU branding standards (color, etc). Using the Web Stats, I will be able to compare web page use from the beginning of the term, demonstrating how students are being taught to use the page, and the end of the term, a clear indication of how they are actually using the page. Sharing this information will exemplify what pages are not used, or poorly used, and will prove invaluable when determining criteria for removing excess fodder from the web.

I use StatsCounter on each of the IRC blogs, a newly instituted course blog, my personal blog, and Library Cloud. Getting the statistics is quick and easy, maybe too easy. This is where I admit I am a bit addicted to looking at the program. Right before lunch each day, I log in and check the clicks, and continue to be amazed at the breadth of the web as blog hits are counted from around the world. I generally take a quick glimpse at where the hits have come from, but one of the more interesting statistical summaries provided is “recent keyword activity.” With this option, I am able to see what search term, or “query,” is being used and what page viewers landed on as a result of that query. Library Cloud is a small blog with a few steady readers and a general stream of people who find us through academic library resources. It is with some curiosity that I look at the key words when I note a big jump in hits; Ms. Dewey was a popular post, as was Rebecca’s recent entry on Libraries in the news.

Within the last two days we have had over 30 hits on Library Cloud. Not a big deal for many academic library blogs, but in interesting development for this one. I checked the keyword activity and found each of those 30 query’s in some way, shape, or form, had something to do with the Cambridge Who’s Who among professional women. Very interesting. Guess a new round of invitations/letters went out recently. While I grapple with my addiction to web stats, I can console myself with the knowledge that I am learning.

Tags: Web statistics, Blog statistics, Using web statistics, Statscounter, Academic library blogs

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