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Cotton Bowl Daily Traffic

January 26th, 2011 by Erick Beck

Anomalies always point out behavior that otherwise tends to be hidden in the general background noise. That’s why when we look at website analytics we look for events that stand out and then try to understand what happened.

The Texas A&M football team played in the Cotton Bowl on January 7, so it should come as no surprise that analytics reports showed a big traffic spike on that day. Examining that spike reaffirmed some of the lessons that we have learned in the past.

First, and unsurprising, national publicity leads to increased traffic volume. The football game was on national TV, in prime time, against a team that has significant national name recognition. Traffic on the mobile site doubled that day, and the main university site increased by even more. Given this many (mostly new) faces coming to the site, big events like this present a great opportunity to do something special rather than presenting them with your standard day-to-day content.

Once inside the site, traffic patterns were quite different from most days. Whereas academics and admissions are typically the most viewed sections of the site, gameday traffic was overwhelmingly focused on the “About A&M” section. After the index page, the next most viewed pages were About A&M, A&M Facts, and the university FAQ, then followed by Athletics. This trend is similar to what we noticed when the football game against Texas was on ESPN last Thanksgiving, and what Butler University noticed at the NCAA basketball tournament last year. In both cases the About page was the most visited on the site. For most of us this content tends to be low on our priority list, but as these instances show, this is precisely the area that can make a good first impression on people not already familiar with your school.

The moral of the story… big events provide big opportunities for marketing the university to an audience that isn’t already familiar with us. Most of the time events like this are known about well in advance, giving plenty of time to prepare. Do so… create something special for them… don’t waste the opportunity by presenting them the same stale content.

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Wednesday, January 26th, 2011 Analytics, Miscellaneous
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2 Comments to Cotton Bowl Daily Traffic

  1. I don’t disagree with the numbers, but playing devil’s advocate for a second, people generally go where you point them or where they see shiny objects. If they want to learn some background about the university (or any company) they go to the main page and poke around – looking at pages that they feel will tell them background information, i.e. About.

    With that being said, I think with your new design each of the main navigation pages is potentially an “About” for that topic, e.g. Athletics. If it’s half-time during the big game and I want to learn about the Aggie football program or see stats or roster, then I’d start on that page. All too often though we put “fluffy” text on those main topic pages because the real meat is one more level down, and we want to push people down there as quickly as possible.

    I agree with you that periodically user needs shift (e.g. code maroon), and we should be prepared for that – be proactive, be pro-content. As a suggestion for www, if you put a big shiny spotlight on the front page during a big event, then maybe you can herd traffic to specialized content and minimize attention on other “About” pages – the ones you may not want to change for each big event.

  2. Chris Siems on January 27th, 2011
  3. I think we’re saying the same thing in a slightly different way. The key is to know what the audience is looking for so that you can point them in that direction. For example, during the football games we don’t see (as) many people going to the Athletics section looking for team related information. “What does the A and M stand for” was a much bigger question. So, perhaps unfortunately, people less close to home recognize our competition in the game but don’t know that much about us, and so come looking to see who we are and what we’re all about. An aside – the same pattern can be seen on the mobile site, so lots of people don’t even want to walk int the other room at halftime to look, they just pull out their phones.

  4. Erick on January 27th, 2011

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