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march madness

March Madness – Lessons Learned, Part 3

Looking back we can read analytics and web logs to get a good idea of who came to the site during March Madness and what they were looking for. That’s the easy part; the hard part is evaluating our performance and taking away lessons to learn for the future.

From a technical standpoint we did a good job. The site stood up to the increased load, and would have been able to handle considerably more if it had come. The content that we posted, though, was not as pro-active as was the technical measures that we took. The web calendar was probably our most successful measure in this respect. We did take active measures to get the event information posted there as soon as possible and to get the event linked from the main university web page.

Given the fact that analytics showed (and common sense would suggest) a significant uptick in the number of people visiting the Athletics page, I’m disappointed in how we handled that content. We didn’t make any significant changes to that page until after the championship, and in retrospect we could have made finding things a lot easier for visitors looking for information on the women’s basketball team and their tournament run.

Improving on this process is going to be one of my goals for this year. While we will never have access to the detailed information that the Aggie Athletics site has, we can and should make an effort to be more responsive to what people are looking for at the time. With that in mind, I have made some small updates to the Athletics page to highlight the Equestrian Championship that our team is competing in this weekend. This feature can hopefully continue to grow and evolve as our teams compete in other title events, and in so doing make the university web site more valuable to those interested in keeping up with the Aggies.

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Monday, April 11th, 2011 www.tamu.edu No Comments

March Madness – Lessons Learned, Part 2

Last time I talked about the games leading up to the championship game. For us there was no large, measurable increase in traffic until the day of the championship. This is where there is a real difference in the impact from the men’s tournament and the women’s game. Having talked to web offices in other schools, increases in web visits there are reportedly noticeable by the Sweet-16 round.

On Tuesday we finally experienced a significant increase in overall traffic. According to Google Analytics (i.e. actual numbers are probably slightly higher than indicated here) www.tamu.edu experienced 107,400 page views on 54,000 visits. This represents a slightly more than 25% increase over normal Tuesday traffic. The skew of what visitors were looking for was different too – the Athletics page was by far the most popular interior page, while it is normally fourth or fifth. Overall numbers would have likely been considerably higher, but as soon as the game was over I pointed the Athletics link away from our own page and over to Aggie Athletics because they had more up to date information.

The calendar reached almost double its previous high in numbers of visitors. About half of this was for the game itself, and half was for the welcome-home event planned for the team the next day. We did not immediately feature the latter link on the university website, so visitors were by this time actively reading the calendar for related events.

Because we weren’t sure what kind of traffic to expect, we talked to CIS administrators on Monday and decided to add some extra insurance to make sure we didn’t fail. The setup that they developed for www.tamu.edu made it relatively simple to add a few more virtual nodes behind the scenes to pick up any additional load that might hit. Their solution worked beautifully, and even when demand was peaking the machines never slowed down or presented a problem. (Many thanks for a job well done!)

From a technical standpoint I think our response was a success, particularly since this was our first time experiencing this sort of thing and we didn’t know exactly what to expect. I think our biggest problems were on the content side. More on that next time…

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Thursday, April 7th, 2011 www.tamu.edu No Comments

March Madness – Lessons Learned, Part 1

We’re only one day out from winning the NCAA Women’s Basketball National Championship (we are the Marketing Department, get used to seeing that plastered everywhere) but some of the lessons are already apparent. Some things we did well, some things we didn’t. Such is life.

The first few games of the tournament honestly didn’t affect our site traffic very much. Even on the day of the Sweet-16 game the traffic wasn’t outside the bounds of a typical day. We did first see some increased traffic with the Elite-8 game against Baylor, but it was again not significantly outside the normal range. Perhaps playing another Big-12 school rather than somebody unfamiliar with us cut down on the amount of traffic from people curious to see who we are. With this game being in Dallas we did put extra effort in promoting it via the web calendar, and we did see lots of extra traffic hitting that site.

Sunday’s game against Stanford didn’t give us a lot of useful information. The traffic on www.tamu.edu was significantly higher than a typical Sunday (our least busy day in terms of traffic) but did not rise to the number of visits we get on most weekdays. It therefore wasn’t a good stress test for what we should expect from the finals game.

Coming next time… preparations for the championship game, results that were measurable, what we’d do different next time.

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Wednesday, April 6th, 2011 www.tamu.edu No Comments

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