NPS.gov Use of Digital Analytics Program: Beyond the Numbers

National Park Service ArrowheadThe National Park Service website, NPS.gov, is home to sites for the parks, programs, and subject-related content about the places and ideas that we preserve and protect for the American people. With roughly a thousand content authors dispersed across the country, NPS.gov receives nearly 50 million page views per month during the peak summer season, when visitors are planning their vacations.

In February 2013, the NPS migrated from Adobe SiteCatalyst to the Digital Analytics Program (DAP) solution. From the very beginning, our goal has been to give content authors the necessary tools and knowledge to use analytics to gain an understanding of how visitors are using their pages and where they can make improvements to their content.

As part of the transition to DAP, one of the key tasks for us was to equip our users with the right tools and information to make the transition a success. So, we created a Getting Started Guide to allow website content authors to register for access to the DAP tool (~ 250 users), as well as give authors basic information on how to access standard reports, import custom reports and dashboards, understand sampling, and set up campaigns. For example, instead of having to create custom reports for each individual site, we can allow users to import a shared custom report and then modify the filtering to match their sites.

To further help our DAP users, an analytics team looked at some of the more commonly needed tasks and created reports for items, such as video plays, external links, and visits to site folders.  To help authors gain key insights into the metrics, and to understand how to use these numbers and reports to improve their pages, we created an Interpreting Your Analytics guide and presented a few webinars. Webinar topics included:

  • Improving content (e.g., park homepage features and links) based on items frequently searched for within a specific site
  • Using a weighted sort on the bounce rate to figure out what content might need improving
  • Understanding the Navigation Summary reports to see the visitor’s path on a site and adjust content accordingly

NPS Teacher Portal Once the users were trained and the baseline for the traffic and metrics was established, we started using campaigns in DAP to measure the effectiveness of our website promotional efforts. For instance, in September 2013, the NPS launched a new Education Portal for teachers, which was promoted through many digital avenues such as email, promotional web links, social media, etc.

To help us determine which promotional methods were most successful and at what times of the day (this was especially important for social media posts), as well as which methods we should focus on for the next promoted event, we set up a campaign and used the results to make those conclusions. We also created a real-time dashboard to allow us to see the current number of visitors, active pages, visitor location, and through which campaign source visitors entered the site as the events were being promoted.

As we move forward with DAP, we plan to continue refining our site’s goals and using DAP analytics to verify our success.

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