I think it is no secret that athletics drives eyeballs, and that includes to university websites. Without getting into the merits, a look back over analytics for the past five years shows that all of our largest traffic spikes come on days of a big game. This week was no exception.
Our site traffic on Saturday (the vast majority of which came during the game) was over twice the traffic we normally see for a daily high during the week. Not so surprising perhaps, but we all know that page hits are vanity metrics – what else more interesting can we see?
Looking at the most popular pages (other than the front page) we find a completely different set of pages being viewed. Frequently Asked Questions and About Texas A&M each received twice the traffic of any other page. After those two, At a Glance, Athletics, Traditions, Admissions, and History of the University round out the rest of the most popular pages. Again, not terribly surprising. The widespread television exposure probably meant that there were lots of people coming to find out more about us. But it represents a definite change from a more normal day in the type of content being read.
The geographic location of visitors bears this out. While Texas is normally by far the most common location, it barely beat out Tennessee. While the southeast was solidly represented, other areas such as the west coast, midwest, and upper east coast were also well represented.
The one metric that really stands out is the device that visitors were using. Only 20% of visits were from a desktop. We normally see more like 65% coming from the desktop, so this represents a major shift. Perhaps they don’t want to leave the TV to go into the other room, so instead pull it up on their phone or tablet?
What can we take away from this? One thing may be that events – whether football or something completely different – have dramatic effects on who comes to our sites and what they are looking for. How many of us actually change our websites to cater to this different demand? We go to great pains to optimize our sites and hit our normal target audience’s needs, but then never touch the content again. If our goal is to present visitors with the information they want, perhaps we need to recognize this trend. Almost 80% of our traffic was from new users. How much more effectively could we have reached this new audience if we had optimized the content for them that day?
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