June 3, 2010, 6:05 PM

How PBS tunes in to better web analytics

Thanks to analytics students, PBS got educated on the kind of web traffic it gets from social media sites.

Paul Demery

Managing Editor, B2B E-commerce

Lead Photo

Eric Peterson

The Public Broadcasting System may be known for educational TV, but to learn more about using web analytics, PBS turned to a new analytics mentoring program that offers free assistance to not-for-profit organizations. It learned, for example, that among social media sites, StumbleUpon rules as the biggest generator of web traffic to PBS.org, according to a case study provided by consulting firm Web Analytics Demystified Inc., which recently launched the mentoring program.

With many web sites struggling with an overabundance of web analytics data and trying put it to practical use, Web Analytics Demystified last month launched the Analysis Exchange as a way to provide training in web analytics to students and build up the industry’s base of analytics experts, says Eric Peterson, the consulting firm’s founder, CEO and principal consultant.

The students, many of whom are professionals already working at web sites, receive training from experienced analytics experts and the opportunity to work on web analytics projectsfor not-for-profit organizations. There is no money exchanged, Peterson says.

“There are not enough qualified, experienced people doing web analytics in business,” says Peterson, who will address this issue during a presentation next week at the Internet Retailer Conference. “We’re training students in web analytics and getting the hands-on analytics experience in real business situations.”

The mentoring program is also helping web site personnel to not only learn how to access analytics data, but to put it to practical use to improve business operations, he adds. To start out, the program is working only with Google Analytics, a common analytics application used by participating not-for-profit organizations, though the program will eventually work with other analytics tools, Peterson says.

At PBS, for example, students and mentors showed the TV network that, while StumbleUpon was generating the most traffic from social media sites, it wasn’t sending visitors that were highly engaged with PBS.org.

At the same time, the students and mentors also showed that traffic from Facebook to PBS.org also had a low level of engagement, but that the PBS fan page on Facebook.com was popular with a high level of activity.

The mentoring project at PBS also provided data on bounce rates, average time on site, and gave PBS recommendations on how to build strong engagement on PBS.org.

Since the Analysis Exchange launched on May 15, it has signed up more than 200 mentors, more than 250 students and more than 50 nonprofit organizations, Peterson says. By year-end, he hopes to have about 500 students and several hundred to 1,000 not-for-profit client organizations.

Each student is expected to complete about three or four projects, each of which could take from five to 15 hours, Peterson says.

He adds that students get rated for their performance and can post these ratings in personal profiles on Analysis-Exchange.com.

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