Hi all:
To take up a thread that is emerging here....our analytics also show that most of our users come in from search engines, library catalogs, wikipedia, and sites that focus on specific subjects. The latter two account for tremendous interest in two finding aids from a small historical society with clear specialty interest. Search engine traffic means that the finding aids for state prison records that have a lot of personal names are also consistently in our top ten. This is consistent with Jennie's findings--it's the obscure collections that often generate the most attention. 

So much for the notion that obscure collections at small institutions can't possibly be of interest to anyone! 

Shat this means is that having EAD guides exposed to search engines is ensuring that people who are not looking for archival collections are finding them accidentally. And that in turn means that we have to present the guides in a way that those same people find them valuable and useful--not by putting in notes that explain what a finding aid is, but by presenting them in a way that makes their value obvious. And we also have to accept that coming across the finding aid may or may not lead to the outcomes we envision (they call/write and ask about the collection, they come in to use it). 

It's a different use case than we usually think of. It's more expansive. And that, I think, is a really good thing. But it does challenge us to meet the needs of more divers audiences, all of which have their own goals. 

Best, Jodi

On Jun 23, 2010, at 4:52 AM, Jennie Anne Levine Knies wrote:

I think your suggestions are very helpful, as have been other comments on this topic.  Thank you - something as seemingly simple as putting a brief explanation of a finding aid at the top of the page may have huge benefit.  Yes, I understand that when it says that 58% of our users come from Google, it means that 58% of our users are coming from a Google search!  However, you interpreted my comment correctly in that I was wondering "What does that tell me about how users are accessing our finding aids and what can I do to make them more usable for that large audience?"

Another interesting tidbit - in the last month almost the same number of people came to us from our online catalog as did from Wikipedia...  and it wasn't many in either case. That said, taking three minutes to look into this explained to me why one of our more "obscure" collections keeps getting hit - it's because of the wikipedia link that someone (not me) entered.

I would really love to have the time to think about this more.  But am grateful to the thoughts already presented in this thread, and am hoping that, combined with Chris's article, can get me motivated to focus on it more...

Jennie Levine Knies
Manager, Digital Collections
2216 Hornbake Library
University of Maryland
College Park, MD 20742
Email: [log in to unmask]
Tel: 301-314-2558
Fax: 301-314-2709
From: Encoded Archival Description List [[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Joyce Chapman [[log in to unmask]]
Sent: Tuesday, June 22, 2010 4:01 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: Google Analytics

Dear Jennie,

In answer to your question "What does it MEAN?" I have several thoughts.

The first is that this is exactly the kind of situation where
collective power would be far more effective than individual
institutions attempting to dredge up resources to analyze their data.
You went to the effort of implementing analytics and you've got 3
years of data, but you may not have the time or staff power to conduct
analysis on your data. There are many others out there who possess
data, but who do not have time/staff/data analysis skills to conduct
meaningful analysis. For each person out there with data but no
analysis, there is someone else with the time/money/staff/data
analysis skills, but not the data. There would be enormous benefit if
we as a profession had a centralized location where data could be
freely shared. Not only would this encourage collaboration and reduce
time spent reinventing the wheel (in terms of people trying to figure
out if someone's already collected data on a specific topic that the
want to analyze), but it would encourage cross-institutional data
analysis, producing more meaningful findings for the community that
would aid us all in  data-driven decision making.

To answer your specific question, the fact that 58% of your finding
aid visitors came from Google means that 58% of users interacting with
your finding aids probably weren't looking specifically for archival
materials and probably have never heard of a finding aid when they
landed on your page. How can you use that information to improve the
user experience? You might want to re-examine your finding aid Web
display from a usability perspective that takes "novice" finding aid
users into account, and ask yourself the following:

Does the opening screen of the finding aid provide links or
explanation regarding...
* what this document is?
* what institutions this page is related to?
* where materials are physically located?
* how a user would request to view the actual materials described?
* who the user would contact to find out more?

Finding aid web displays often assume that users approaching finding
aids did so purposefully, when in fact, statistics like yours show
that a great percentage of them are arriving from Google searches,
possibly with no prior knowledge of finding aid or archives. I'm
seeing an increasing trend in the addition of a "what is this
document?" statement to finding aids that seeks to answer many of the
questions I listed above. In a usability study I conducted last year,
I found that the addition of such a statement greatly aided "novice"
finding aid users. For an example statement, see any finding aid at
UNC-CH, for example:


On Tue, Jun 22, 2010 at 2:34 PM, Jennie Levine Knies <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
Dear Nathan,
We have implemented Google Analytics on our finding aids. The code itself is
easy enough to add to a page.  We added it to our Footer include file, so it
shows up on every finding aid and auxiliary page within the
http://www.lib.umd.edu/archivesum site.

I check it periodically, however, have not had the time to really analyze
the findings.  All I do is occasionally look and see what people are
searching on and what our most popular finding aids are in terms of number
of hits.  I have three years worth of data, but so far, have done nothing
with it. I initially set it up because I saw a great presentation about it
by Chris Prom at SAA a few years ago.  I was all fired up and ready to start
working on it, but by the time I had collected enough data, I lost the

I would be curious to hear if people use specific aspects of Google
Analytics, and what they think the information really tells us. I also have
not set up any "Goals" because I never had time to sit down and figure out
exactly how they all work (I sort of feel like I need to take a statistics
class before embarking).

I keep trying to find a graduate student who would be willing to take my
data and make some sense out of it!

p.s. A quick look tells me that in the last month, 58% of visitors to our
finding aids website came via Google... but what does it MEAN?

Jennie Levine Knies
Manager, Digital Collections
2216 Hornbake Library
University of Maryland
College Park, MD 20742
(301)314-2558 TEL (301)314-2709 FAX
[log in to unmask] E-MAIL

Nathan Tallman wrote, On 6/22/2010 2:01 PM:

Happy Tuesday Everyone,

Just wondering if anyone has tried using Google Analytics with their
finding aids.  I was thinking it would be easy enough to insert the
necessary code in the stylesheet template and then you'd would be able to
get some good data on finding aid use, as well as user
browser/network/hardware capabilities.
When I started my current position, I implemented Analytics on several
pages of our website.  Our public finding aids are all HTML at the moment
and I didn't want to hand edit each individual document, so chose not to
implement Analytics in finding aids for the time being.  We've recently
started an EAD project thought and this idea came back to me.

If you have implemented Google Analytics for your finding aids, I'd love
to hear about it!


Joyce Chapman
NCSU Libraries
Metadata and Cataloging/
Digital Library Initiatives
[log in to unmask]

Jodi Allison-Bunnell
Program Manager, Northwest Digital Archives
Orbis Cascade Alliance
418 Woodford
Missoula, MT 59801
(406) 829-6528
fax (860) 540-8281
Researcher website:http://nwda.wsulibs.wsu.edu/