The changing face of Web habits – and Web analytics

At weac.org, we are constantly checking our Web analytics to find out what it is our members like best and to get direction on which areas we should emphasize in our work. We know for example, that they really like our Member Benefits resources, the WEAC Savers’ Club, our continuously updated news headlines, and the Educator’s Bulletin Board. We also know how many people visit the Web site overall, and we monitor both micro and macro trends in these numbers.

But now, as Web sites such as weac.org reach out to share information in more ways and find innovative avenues for generating participation, it becomes an increasingly interesting exercise to measure success. It used to be we would just look at our Web analytics. More unique visitors, more page views, more “hits” on our Web site was interpreted as success in reaching our audiences.

While we definitely want to keep increasing those numbers, they simply don’t mean as much as they used to. Today, we don’t just attempt to drive people to our Web site; we seek to engage them in conversation and we try to meet them where you are in the online world. It is feasible in that environment that fewer unique visitors, fewer page views, and fewer “hits” on a Web site is not such a bad thing at all. Maybe it means we have just found new and better ways to reach and engage people – and that people have found better ways to stay informed and involved.

Right now, our numbers on weac.org are strong, and we would like to see them continue to grow. But, like other successful Web sites, we have moved outside the borders of our core Web site to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, Groupsite and other external Web tools. We have added email alerts and RSS feeds, and still use our weekly e-newsletter – WEAC Direct – to extend the reach of our online resources. You might say we’re making it easy for people not to come weac.org.

People no longer have to type weac.org into their browser to get the information and services we offer or to participate in online conversations. We have to consider how many Facebook “fans” we have, and how many of those fans respond to and participate in conversations on our Facebook page. We also must examine the quality of those conversations. The same is true for all our other “external” Social Media tools. How many people are watching our YouTube videos or looking at our Flickr pictures? These are important measurements as well.

Today, people can stay in touch through our email alerts. They can subscribe to the WEAC News Feed, the Daily News Blog or any of eight other email alerts targeted to specific audiences. Once they sign up, we would like them to continue to come to weac.org for more information and services, but in a lot of cases they probably won’t. They’ll get what they can from the email alerts, and stay informed and in touch that way. They won’t show up on our Web stats that day, but we’re very happy that they are staying connected in other ways.

We also know that every year people have many more quality Web sites and Social Media tools to visit and use, from TheApple.com to teach-nology.com to teachers.net and literally hundreds of thousands of other options. So we know that for us to maintain and increase the number of visitors to our site takes more work: promotion, organizing of members, and – primarily – continued development of quality, useful content and targeted social networking opportunities that serve each of our niche membership categories.

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