State Of The Website: 2012 – 2013

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Well, it’s nearly March again…and that marks about a year since I volunteered to be webmaster of the STC Eastern Iowa website. I guess that means it’s time to report on how things are going, and make some suggestions about what we can focus on for the new year.

2012 Goals

When I took on the webmaster role, I had more or less the following objectives:

  • To maintain what we had and update content as necessary for upcoming meetings.
  • To not undertake a big project like a site migration.

So much for plans! A year later (roughly) and we’ve managed to accomplish the following:

  • Migrated the site to a new, more economical web hosting provider.
  • Implemented a listserv for the exec team.
  • Moved from a site constructed of flat HTML files to the WordPress CMS.
  • Implemented website analytics by which we can measure and understand site performance and traffic patterns.
  • Implement a chapter blog for use by members. (We’re just now starting to roll this out.)

It’s been a busy year.

2013 Goals

For the new year, I think it would be prudent to focus on the following:

  • Keep things running, backed up and up to date with security patches, etc.
  • Continue to build website traffic through a content strategy that provides value to chapter membership and the community.
  • Stimulate community, discussion and learning through the chapter blogging initiative.
  • Move the current Meetings implementation to a more calendar-based interface.

In addition to the stated goals, there are a few targets of opportunity that I’d recommend pursuing if the chance arises:

  • Updating the site’s visual identity to better reflect contemporary design principles. If anyone out there has strong design skills and would like to donate their time and expertise, please get in touch!
  • More chapter involvement in curating the content of the website, meeting descriptions, etc.
  • Continued use of website and hosting capabilities to support learning within the regional community of technical writers.
  • Cross-training to provide continuity of service in the event that I become unable to fulfill duties as webmaster. In some circles, this is called “Addressing the Bus Factor“.

2012 Metrics

OK, on to the fun stuff. Since our site wasn’t running analytics prior to 2012, we won’t be able to do year over year comparisons, but we can still have a lot of fun just looking at the most recent year.

First off, visitors… As you can see from the graph below, STC-Eastern Iowa had a total of 514 visitors from March 2012 to March 2013 (roughly).

Daily graph of site visitors for a year.
2012 Site Visitors by Day
It’s clear from the graph that we’ve been getting more visitors, but it’s difficult to visualize the trend when we look at daily visitors. Looking at weekly visitors is more helpful:
Weekly graph of site visitors for a year.
2012 Site Visitors by Week
And monthly visitors, more helpful still:
Monthly graph of site visitors for a year.
2012 Site Visitors by Month
We’re clearly moving in the right direction!

If we look at how our site visitors arrived at our site, we can tell that it breaks down roughly like this:

Pie chart showing the relative percentages of visitors sent by search, referral and direct navigation.
Site visitors are either sent from search engines, are referred, or arrive via direct means.

This is an interesting ratio. I’m used to seeing sights perform much higher in search traffic. Most of our traffic is from people who already know how to get our website and likely know what they are looking for on it (upcoming meetings would be my guess). While this is not bad news, the fact that people aren’t discovering our site by searching for the term, “technical writer” or something specific to the profession might be something we want to look into. On the flip side, it is entirely possible that all we want and/or need is a site where existing members can look up information on upcoming meetings. If that’s the case, then we’re largely supporting that already (though we can improve the experience in a number of ways).

One more metric I like to look at is mostly for entertainment purposes. We’re a regional chapter of a professional organization, so I’d expect most of our traffic to be regional in nature. It is.

A map of the earth with bubbles of relative size over locations from whence visitors are located.
Distribution of traffic across the globe.
Still, it always fascinates me to look at the broad reach we have. The following removes the local communities (Cedar Rapids, Iowa City, North Liberty, Swisher, Marion, Waterloo) from the results:
A map of the earth with bubbles of relative size over locations from whence visitors are located.
Distribution of traffic across the globe, adjusted to filter out traffic from Cedar Rapids, Iowa City, North Liberty, Swisher, Waterloo and Marion.
So apparently we’re big in the following locations outside our community:

  • Savage, MN – 24 Visitors
  • Oslo, Norway – 17 Visitors
  • Bethesda, MD – 13 Visitors
  • Unknown – 10 Visitors
  • Shakopee, MN – 10 Visitors

For visitors that found us by searching, most came to us by by undisclosed means (Google doesn’t report search terms for users searching when they are logged in to their Google accounts). As would be expected, variants of “eastern iowa stc” or “stc eastern iowa” are the top performers for terms Google reports.

Social media was responsible for an insignificant volume of traffic to our website. The actual breakdown is as follows:

  • Facebook – 3 Visits
  • – 2 Visits
  • Twitter – 2 Visits
  • LinkedIn – 1 Visit

The next metric we’ll look at is content. As you might expect, the most popular piece of content is the home page of the new site (555 Pageviews). The next most popular pages were as follows:

  • Upcoming Meetings – 109 Pageviews
  • Old website meetings page – 95 Pageviews
  • Information Mapping Meeting – 72 Pageviews
  • Old website home page – 52 Pageviews
  • Old website contact page – 50 Pageviews

Because we’re looking at an overlap between the old website and the new, we get some funky results. One way to think about it is this: the new website’s top three performing pieces of content were responsible for 736 Pageviews. The old website’s top 3 pages were responsible for 172 Pageviews.

I’d caution against reading too much into this, as these numbers incorrectly suggest that the old and new websites were competing against each other for the same amount of time. They were not.

The last metric we’ll look at is our meeting descriptions. By looking at the metrics we can see which events drove the most traffic to the site. Unfortunately, we’re also dealing with a migration to a completely new architecture, and the absence of analytics on much of the content for some of this time period. For this year, I’d just consider these curiosities. Next year, since we’ll have full analytics coverage and won’t be dealing with a content migration (hopefully), these might be more interesting to ponder:

  • Information Mapping – 72 Pageviews
  • Content Strategy – 52 Pageviews
  • Mary Ann Peters/New Bo Books – 12 Pageviews
  • Bulletproofing Your Career Online – 12 Pageviews
  • PDF This! – 5 Pageviews

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