Google Analytics 4 Upgrade

Google has announced their next-generation analytics platform: Google Analytics 4 (GA4). GA4 is significantly different than the previous version of Google Analytics—known as Universal Analytics (UA). Google has decided to begin sunsetting UA next year. All standard UA properties will stop processing new data on July 1, 2023.

Upgrade Process

University Marketing and Communications (UMC) is taking on the task of upgrading campus from UA to GA4. The process is complex, but the end result will be better data for our strategic recruitment and reputation initiatives. No immediate actions are needed from CMS liaisons and other website managers. Additional training may be needed in the future.

New analytics properties and views are required to be created through the upgrade process. As we restructure our setup, we will be able to plan for Google’s total views limit and make improvements.

UTM Tracking Codes and Digital Marketing

What do UTM tracking codes (also called UTM tracking parameters) have to do with digital marketing? Let’s define what UTMs are, where UTMs came from, and how you can strategically use them to understand the effectiveness of your digital marketing efforts.

What are UTM Tracking Parameters?

UTM stands for Urchin Traffic Monitor. UTM tracking codes were invented by a web analytics company named Urchin. Urchin was acquired by Google in 2005, which helped lead to the creation of the analytics platform Google Analytics. As a result, UTM tracking codes are a key part of Google Analytics and have become the standard for tracking digital marketing effectiveness across different traffic sources and distribution channels. Other analytics and customer relationship management (CRM) platforms, such as Adobe Analytics and Slate CRM, understand UTM tracking parameters as well and can create reports around them.

UTM tracking codes are attached to the end of webpage URLs. When used correctly, these codes help digital marketers understand where their website traffic is coming from and how different groups of audiences perform key actions. Using UTM tracking codes helps digital marketers identify top-performing platforms and content in the pursuit of reaching our marketing goals.

A History of Decentralization

I started working in University Marketing and Communications (UMC) as a student web content specialist in 2003. At that time, every department, college, group, etc across campus managed their own website. Server space was provided by Central IT. If you knew how to code, you could have a website and you could make it look however you wanted.

It didn’t take long for UMC to realize that this would cause problems. How can you have any semblance of brand standards, a cohesive user experience, search engine optimization, or web accessibility under such a wild and unwieldy setup? A history of failed attempts to centralize web maintenance followed and left us with a realization that “influence without authority” was our best path forward to make Michigan Tech’s websites the best they can be.

Technical SEO

Programmer working with technical seo code

There are two big parts to search engine optimization (SEO): content SEO and technical SEO. Content creators spend the bulk of their time—if not all of their time—thinking about content. That is what a writer sees. That is what the user sees. They say content is king and the content is always right in front of us. Web managers also need to consider how technical metrics can affect SEO.

What is Technical SEO?

Technical SEO refers to measurable metrics which affect search engine optimization and search engine rankings that web developers, programmers, and infrastructure managers can influence. One important example is page speed. The faster a page loads, the better the experience is for the user. Search engines, such as Google, factor in your page load times when determining how to rank your webpages because search engines know that faster loading webpages provide a better experience to visitors.

User Experience

This post about user experience goes hand-in-hand with a previous post I wrote about user intent. Once you know your audience and figure out what they need and when, you need to create the content on your website in a meaningful way. According to usability.gov,

User experience (UX) focuses on having a deep understanding of users, what they need, what they value, their abilities, and also their limitations.  It also takes into account the business goals and objectives of the group managing the project. UX best practices promote improving the quality of the user’s interaction with and perceptions of your product and any related services.

User Intent

Once you know your audience, the next step is to understand them a little more and figure out what they want and need. User intent is an important concept when designing and building webpages to help increase both search rankings and the value of your pages to your audience. This should be the cornerstone of building and editing your webpages.

According to Wikipedia, user intent, also known as query intent or search intent, is what a user intended or wanted to find when they did their search. These intentions are often categorized into three goals:

  • Navigation: getting to a specific site (Go)
  • Information: getting more information about a particular topic (Know)
  • Transaction: performing an action, such as purchasing or applying (Do)

Common Errors on Webpages

There are many common issues you can watch for on your webpages to help increase the quality and search engine optimization (SEO) of your pages, make them more accessible, and follow Michigan Tech’s editorial standards.

Specific instructions that may be included below are for Michigan Tech’s Omni CMS.

Misspellings

It only takes a few misspellings to affect a user’s impression of your website. Be sure to use the spell checking options within Omni CMS before publishing your pages. The system does not check spelling as you go. Within the editor you can use the Spell Check icon Spell Check icon to check the existing text and underline spelling errors. Before publishing you should always run the Final Checks, which includes a spelling check.

Communicating on COVID-19

Many areas of Michigan Tech are in charge of various guidelines, protocols, resources, frequently asked questions, and other information resulting from COVID-19. What is the best way to get this content onto your CMS website?

Documents or Webpages?

If your department is generating or receiving new content, you generally have a couple options for posting it online:

  1. Add to an existing webpage
  2. Create a new webpage
  3. Upload as a Word Document or PDF

If you have a small amount of content, like a status update, that relates to an existing webpage, we recommend adding a message box to that existing page. See the COVID-19 message box at the top of the Current Students webpage for an example.

My Michigan Tech (Student Testimonial) Initiative

We have been busy launching a student testimonial initiative called My Michigan Tech over the past few months. This is really neat project that has allowed us to talk to a bunch of our students and learn about their Michigan Tech experiences.

Project Motivation

In August, an admissions and enrollment consultant came to campus. One great idea shared was to prioritize letting prospective students learn about Michigan Tech through storytelling by our current students. This could be accomplished through quotes and stories in text and video forms.

Storytelling is a powerful marketing tool. More importantly, though, it is a genuine way to share great information about Michigan Tech. Our students are our story, after all. Why not hear from them?