Meta Data

Summer, in contrast to the school year, is a different kind of crunch time. Since I began doing these year-long data dives of the Oberlin blogs - third year running! - I’ve learned lots but from year to year, I challenge myself to find more things hiding within the masses of numbers provided by Google Analytics and align those finds with offline data points. And when I find hidden treasures, I like to share them to people.

A more detail-oriented version of this blog post was sent individually to members of the blogging roster, complete with the data specific their posts published last year including most trafficked posts and my favorite post, as well as yearly reflection questions.

General blog data from this past year

  • 172 posts were written by 25 bloggers. Eight bloggers (that’s about a third of our roster) wrote over 10 posts last year.

  • In the past year, we’ve had 53,757 people visit the Oberlin blogs 85,000 times for a total of nearly 190,000 total pageviews. 61% of the people visiting the blogs are doing so for the first time.

  • Of the people who visit us regularly, the people who come back come back a LOT: 13,000 of those 85,000 are coming from people who visit the blogs between 10 and 200 times. There are around 2100 folks that visit the site over 200 times… which, coincidentally, is around the number of people admitted to Oberlin last year. Since the blogs are mainly for prospective students and their families, let’s look at a different set of numbers that mean more given this audience: Oberlin received between 7000-8000 applications this past year, and the number of people who visited the Oberlin blogs over 50 times is around 5,500 people. If you think of those frequently returning visitors as the most informed applicants, that’s pretty awesome!

  • 64% of our visitors are doing so via a desktop, which means the rest are coming from not-desktop (30% from mobile, 6% from tablets). Mobile is up 6% from last year.

  • The majority of our visitors come from the US (86%, actually), but rounding out the top ten countries that visit us most: India, Canada, the UK, Germany, China, new Zealand, Pakistan, Japan, and France. More on this later.

  • From the social referral front: 17,000 visits to the Oberlin blogs came from social networks (579 different pages were visited in this way). Facebook is the big one here - 92% of social traffic comes from here, with Twitter, Blogger (blogs hosts via Google), Tumblr, and Pinterest rounding out the top 5. Most interesting of these traffic sources: while Tumblr is number 4 on the list of referrals with only 1% of traffic originating here, Tumblr users spend the most time reading on the blogs and visit the most pages - nearly 8 minutes and 5 pages on average, respectively!

On the whole, these are almost identical to last year’s numbers, so we’re pretty consistent in terms of readership from year to year.

There were also some new things I looked into this year, gained from some more serious number crunching related to posts published between July 1, 2015 and July 12, 2016 (that’s when I started all this number stuff; it took me two weeks to analyze everything before sending it out to the bloggers):

  • The five most trafficked sections of the blogs (actually, all these sections are in the TOP TEN most visited pages on the blogs every year) are Housing, Student Life and Culture, College Courses, Applying to Oberlin, and Winter Term.

  • Of all the parts of the blogs that got traffic last year, posts published in the last year accounted for 26% of traffic to the blogs and individual posts published last year accounted for 25% of new traffic to the blogs.

  • I also calculated how posts published last year fared in engagement (for our purposes here, that’s time spent on page) against the average of all posts viewed last year. Average time spent on the page for all pages is 1:51, but most posts published last year had 1:51 as the minimum time spent on page. The average for posts published last year was 2:44 - nearly a minute longer than the average - and over half the posts published last year had readers stay on the page for longer than the 2:44 average. In short: Posts published last year accounted for a quarter of the traffic to the blogs, but significantly more time was spent on new posts than the average random post from the archives.

  • Tanya, my compatriot over in the admissions office, is also the primary international admissions traveler, so we spent some time looking specifically at the countries she traveled to last year. We wanted to see what the blog traffic from these countries looked like generally, if traffic to the blogs from these countries aligns with applicant numbers from these countries, and what countries visit the blogs most frequently. We work under the assumption that the Oberlin blogs are an excellent resource for students who don’t have a chance to visit campus, and international applicants are a huge part of that population. 14% of last year’s blog traffic came from international visitors, around 8% of the first year class is international students, so there’s a better chance than not that our newest international students spent some time on the Oberlin blogs learning as much as possible about this place before applying or arriving on campus.

What do all these details mean for us in the coming year?

An eye toward international students - This is the first year we looked at international traffic to the blogs, but even those cursory pieces of information are really valuable for us to plan for new blog content and possible student participants for virtual student panels.

Update older content - There are posts from the beginning of Oberlin blogs time (2008-2011 in particular) that are still VERY popular reads, primarily blog posts written by admissions officers about some part of the application process. We’re taking that as a cue to revisit some of the topics that readers are constantly seeking insight or reassurance about.

Content strategy - Whether it be prompts, email marketing, or social media posts, looking at the newest blog content from the 2015-16 school year is an excellent guide to what people are reading and needing right now.

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