Sponsored Post

This post is sponsored and written by Penn State Web Conference 2015, sponsor of Higher Ed Special Edition.

Everyone is looking to big data to provide answers but understanding, capturing, and using this data to make informed decisions is a challenge. Jim Keller, technology director at Eastern Standard, showed us how to start with small data and all the information it can provide us.


Understanding your visitor as a single large group isn’t generally very helpful. Segment your thinking and your analytics to understand users as having distinct needs and goals. Think of them as individuals.

But individuals might be too specific. It’s not always practical or worthwhile to identify visitors as individuals Look to see if you can identify them as members of an already known group. Can preemptively identify visitors as members of group.

You can do this by:

  • Tracking audience navigation (“I am a…”) links – Are these tracked?
  • Tracking clicks from targeted emails or other campaigns
  • Looking at Location or Device Type.
  • Behavior Patterns

Remember, the goal of your website is to provide the right content to the right user at the right time.


Don’t spend too much focusing on overall metrics like total page views or page sessions. Look at the actionable data.

Make sure to utilize tools like Google Analytics to understand YOUR data and track the information that is important to you.

Content Groups

Allow you to view analytics by related types of content. Compare one to another so you can identify where one group is outperforming the other, or hitting goals more frequently.

Custom Dimensions

Provide additional data to your analtyics package and filter by a dimension that is relevant to your visitors. For example.
“White paper down-loader vs. non white paper down-loader”

Event Tracking

Track events other than page views. How many times a button was clicked? How many times was a link clicked?

Goals Tracking

This can be as simple or as complex as you need it to be. Start by identifying a simple metric that you can look at for improvement.


Now that you understand more about your audience and how the interact with your site, act on your data and tailor your site to your user:

Information-gathering Popups

(Yes, people do use them!)

Make the pop up relevant to your user, don’t do it immediately when your visitor comes to your site. (Remember: You want your use to trust you.)
Make them easy to close! (Use on virtual tour? Invite them to submit their info?)

Personalized content

Delivering a relevant, personalized experience
We can change our content in real time based on data we’ve collected about our visitor and their behavior. We’re NOT talking about showing a completely different webpage to each user. Focus on large dimensions to personalize the content, for example:

  • Location
  • Device
  • Search keywords
  • Visitor frequency
  • Date and time of day
  • Referring URL
  • Customer history
  • Session Behavior


When it comes to working with big data, remember to start small and work your way up.

Focus on easily identifiable goals and work backwards from them.

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking about you have to be able to do everything before you can do anything. Give an out to get away from the personalization side of things and don’t over personalize.


Article Author

Erin Supinka

Host of Higher Ed Special Edition
Social Media Manager, Dartmouth College

Erin is social media manager at Dartmouth College and contributing editor of the Higher Ed Live Blog. Erin holds a Bachelor of Science in Journalism from Rochester Institute of Technology. Connect with Erin on twitter, @erinsupinka.