Usability, content, search and analytics on the corporate intranet

Tracking offline comms channels in Google Analytics

20 August, 2012 – Luke Oatham

Google AnalyticsWhen it comes to evaluating staff communication campaigns, we have to look at both online and offline channels. Using Google Analytics campaign tracking we can capture activity on the intranet as a result of clicks in emails and documents that are sent out to staff.

There are a few loopholes when tracking in Google Analytics (GA) for example, linking directly to a PDF document or linking to other documents from within a document (the russian doll effect), but GA can track pretty much most of the activity that happens on the intranet including tracking offline traffic sources.

I blogged a few weeks ago about the overbearing transformation campaign in the workplace, but there are many smaller campaigns that go on as part of the daily business, which may or may not form part of the larger programme. Not having any platform for social media in our IT setup, email is still a big channel for staff communications. Most of the comms will link back to the intranet where the meaty content lives. From here, staff can get HTML pages, documents and the odd bit of video to support the communication. It is this core intranet content that should ideally be the finally destination of any communications campaign.

For a long time, I have been campaigning to tag non-digital channels such as email and PDF documents with campaign tracking code that will feed back into GA. It’s nice to see that our corporate comms team are now doing this consistently with their campaigns. It has been hard to get these non-technical colleagues to add the bit of tracking code to the end of links in emails and documents. It’s hard enough getting the right URL. But Google have an online URL builder that makes the job easier and seems to be working wonders with the consistency of the campaign tracking.

The data from offline comms is now flowing through to GA and we can now realise the benefits of spending that little bit of time in adding the tracking code. By tallying-up with the original amount of mail sent, we can produce some statistics on click-through rates, visit duration, bounce rates etc. For campaigns that link back to intranet news stories, we can measure online votes against the different channels.

I’ve been reading a bit online recently about how relevant votes really are on intranet pages, and I agree to a point. Our news stories are written in the same format, in the same tone and all that changes is the content, both the written word and photographic content. I do believe that our system of “more like this” and “fewer like this” can help our editors in segmenting content themes and audience types (through campaign tracking), producing some concrete intelligence.

Of course we can’t evaluate whether behaviours or opinions have changed using GA. We need surveys and other means to do that. But we can see that people are visiting the core intranet content and how long they are spending there – as a result of the non-digital channels. Put this with data from direct intranet traffic and we can get a more-rounded picture of communications campaigns.

You need to be consistent with tags that you use for the campaign name, source and medium. If you stick to a plan then the results in GA will be more useful.

Non-digital campaign tracking in Google Analytics

Non-digital campaign tracking in Google Analytics

Interpreting the results is not foolproof. Going back to the news story example, it may be difficult to get good timings if staff are just being directed to a news story and there is nothing to do on the HTML page such as download a document or go to the core intranet content. GA will track a start time but will not track an end time and will consequently result in a bounce.

If a comms email contains a list of links to news stories then the second news story clicked will end the timing for the first story clicked, the third will end the second and so on. Meaning that the last story clicked will result in a bounce and won’t be included in timings. Communications and news stories should ideally link to the core intranet content where there is something to do, more information to find, a form to download or a supporting document to read.

As I prepare to start my new job at Helpful Technology I leave our comms team thinking about using GovDelivery to send staff emails. I blogged previously on our success with GovDelivery email alerts and newsletter management and, since writing, the system has been constantly improved. Using it internally would also provide great reporting on campaigns. I won’t have the chance to post about the outcome of this but you may find more in due course at http://www.govdelivery.co.uk

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