Google Analytics Wierdness: Part 1, Page views and visits in the drill down reports

Google Analytics is awesome, no question, but one of the things which will foil your attempts to get people to use it on campus is the wierdness which GA can throw back at you. Here’s an example.  This is the page views for the English home of Lund university in the last month. 

English webpage Lund University

So far so good. But now, if I click on the Dimension drill down, and select City, I get this:

b87qihtg5j1The page view data is showing over 72 000 views for Lund alone, which combined with the other city data quickly exceeds the page view information from our previous report. What gives? This is totally the kind of discrepancy which, understandably, confuses the hell out of someone using Google Analytics and makes you lose faith in how much you can rely on GA data to drive decisions.  The problem is that at the drill down level GA is counting all the views of pages made from the cities (in this example), and not just the views to the particular page. There’s a lively thread at the Google Analytics support forum which includes several work arounds for this problem. Basically, it seems to be a bug but you can get around it by using advanced segmentation to look at traffic to particular pages, though this could be time consuming to set up. Also, if you only have user access, rather than administrator access, then there’s nothing you can immediately do.

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Studera.nu: error messages “Requirements not fulfilled, unqualified and specific requirements not fulfilled”

Update: 4th April. I spoke to studera.nu and it looks like this problem is fixed now.

The studera.nu website now has the following information: (it’s in the column on the right hand side of the page)

NEWS: Due to a technical malfunction on Your pages, applicants get the wrong information about their eligibility status for master’s studies right now. As this glitch will be fixed by 12 March, we kindly  ask you to disregard the following notes for the time being: ‘Requirements not fulfilled’, ‘Unqualified’, ‘Specific requirements not fulfilled’.”

I’ve had some comments about this here, and have seen that students are concerned by this (and quite rightly so) on the studera.nu facebook group – hopefully this will answer some concerns. I can’t imagine that things are going to be any calmer on the 13th March, however.

Goal! They came, they saw, they applied…

Using Google Analytics I’ve been able to gain insight into  who clicks on the ‘apply now’ button on our website. You can see the button here (the text is Swedish, but don’t be scared). ‘Anmäl Dig’ means ‘apply now’ – I haven’t a screen shot of the English version.

button1

The code looks like this: <input type=”submit” onclick=”javascript:urchintracker (‘/LUBAS/SE/summer/BIOB06/can-apply/applied/’);” value=”anmäl dig!”>

What this means is during an application period I can track both page views of pages with an apply now button and clicks of the button itself.  I can see the results in the content report from Google Analytics but I also set up the ‘applied’ value as a goal, so I see the data directly on the dashboard. In the master’s application period, the button was clicked about 10 000 times. Given that Lund received over 27 000 applications, this number seems a little low. But you need to consider:

– Not everyone goes to studera.nu via the apply now button. I track the links to studera.nu from the central pages and there were over 16 000 exits to studera from these links.

– Not everyone goes to studera.nu from the central pages; the joy of a decentralised website means I have no idea what’s happening on the faculty sites.

– Students may be applying directly from studera.nu, rather than leaving our site to go there

– The usual caveats of using a cookie based analytics tool i.e. we’re certainly underestimating traffic

Clicking on the button does not indicate an application in the bag either, at best it’s an indication of intent.  The value of this data is twofold; first, by segmenting it we can get some great insights into who is on our site, and which other parts of the site are important to them and two,  we have some amazingly valuable benchmarking data.  Finally, what I really like is I can calculate the % conversion of pages viewed versus apply button clicked on;  in the last application period it was around 15%, which is another great benchmarking figure.

Studera.nu: Call for improvement, add your voice

Andrei Neculau has been a driving force in helping international students with the application process but also in trying to lobby VHS (the organisation operating studera.nu) for change. He’s recently launched on facebook a call for students to leave comments about studera.nu, which he will incorporate into a report. I think this is a great idea, and if he does write  a report I will do my best – within my role at Lund University  -to make sure it gets read by the people who should read it.

So, visit the studera.nu facebook group and leave your comments – you’ll need to be a member of facebook, but that’s a painfree process. Alternatively, you can leave comments here, and I’ll pass them on to Andrei. Here’s what he said on facebook:

‘Write about the things that please or trouble you, write about the things that you like or don’t like, write about the things that you see fit to be part of this process and aren’t as of now, write about this Facebook community, etc. Each and every of your comments will help with writing a more comprehensive and a more balanced report.’

Regular Expressions in Google Analytics

One of the things which can sometimes be really confusing is using regular expressions in the ‘find page’ box in google analytics. Find page function in google analytics

I’d previously been put off its use by its apparent complexity. Which was a shame, because now I’m starting to get my head around this and its cool for showing content in a more sensible way.. Here’s the issue I was working on recently. We have a whole bunch of news on our website, the urls can look like this:

http://www.lu.se/o.o.i.s?id=708&news_item=3337 

or

http://www.lu.se/o.o.i.s?id=1187&news_item=3321

The identifier is the 1187 or 708 number. Seeing them separately in GA is easy enough, just plug in the 708 or 1187 number. But if I want to see all the news, I need to use a regular expression. So, if I use /o.o.i.s\?id=(.*)&news_item=(.*) in the find page function, I then get both 708 and 1187. I tested this, by adding the totals of searching separately, and then using the regular expression and they almost match – somewhere along the way I lost about 100 views but thats probably more to do with my cruder searches for 708 or 1187 picking up non news pages where these numbers occur.

Why not just use advanced segments? Good question, and while I am a huge fan of advanced segments it seems to throw out wierd results when I try segmenting by page title.  Just by looking through the results from the regular expression I can see that I’m only counting the pages I want to examine.  Having got these results, I can now add my segments (e.g visits from Lund, visits from Stockholm) and start finding out who sends us the love.

Or have I missed something blindingly obvious – let me know!

Vote delayed until November – Tuition fees delayed until 2011

I heard today that it seems likely that the Swedish government will delay the vote on the Internationalisation of Swedish Higher Education Bill, which contains the new law on charging tuition fees to non EU Students, until September 2009. This is later than the previously reported date of March 17th 2009.  My sources are reliable and say the reason that the vote will be delayed is that the Minister for Higher Education in Sweden does not want to introduce a fee scheme without first having the money in place for scholarships. This, apparently, will delay the implementation of fees until 2011.  

This is the second delay we’ve had, but the first to effect the date of implementation which was originally proposed to be 2010. This presumably means that 2010, rather than 2009, will be the last opportunity to apply for ‘free’ education.