Posted by Brad J. Ward | Posted in Concepts, Higher Education, Recruitment, Research, Technology, Web | Posted on 03-05-2008
I’ve been sifting through about 4 months of Google Analytics, and I see some correlations to ‘The Long Tail’. (Note: if you haven’t read The Long Tail by Chris Anderson, go buy it now.)
When I read the book over winter break, it made total sense, and the book showed great examples. Then I got back to work and I’ve been struggling with how to look at the long tail and apply it to my work. At first I felt like I was just trying to make it fit, so I continued to ignore it. But every time I look at data, it pops back up. It’s not a thought. It’s not a pretty graph. It’s not fluff. It’s real, and it’s happening.
Here’s the main thing I see:
the conversation is in the long tail.
On one hand you have the bulk of the site (the head): endless pages of information about BU, why you should apply, majors we offer, etc. Then you have the other side (the long tail): the Butler Bloggers, BUForums, and photos (I’ll refer to this as /cs).
Let’s dig into some numbers. From October 4-March 4, there have been 297,793 pageviews on go.butler.edu. I have subtracted the Go homepage (~110,000), because many people in the office have this set as their homepage. Of these 297,793 pageviews, 74,378 come from the /cs area (24.97%). 25%. Is that significant for a section that was just released this year? I’m not sure, because there is no analytical data from before I was here.
But that’s where ‘the long tail’ comes in.
That first 75%? 223415 pageviews on 560 pages, with an average of 399.67 page views.
The other 25% 74,378 pageviews on 3,425 pages, with an average of 21.71 page views.
Here’s what you would hear in the old economy and way of doing business: “Why so many pages in that 25%? 86% of the site is only drawing 25% of our traffic? That’s absurd! Cut that area of the site, it’s a waste of time.”
However, in the new world of social media, that’s where the conversation is happening. Blog post = new page. Forum Post = new page. Forum response = new page. Tagging information = new page. User-created, user-driven, user-focused. What if no one was participating in the conversation? There would be fewer pages.
I view it as this: as participation in a community increases, so does content and engagement. Sounds like a no-brainer, but I’ve seen it time and time again, from my days as an RA up through the BUForums. If students are posting in our forums, other students will post and there could be 50+ posts over the weekend. If no one is posting, others will not engage in the conversation.
Get rid of the long tail and take out the conversation, and what do you have? A 1-way conversation, a static website that offers little benefit to the reader. You’re talking to them and there is no connection between your school and the visitor.
A website with static information. A one-stop shop for some quick facts. Zero engagement or community. Which do you want to be a part of?
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. I’m obviously still processing the concepts in my mind.