New case study on a comprehensive, long-term analytics project with Vepple – a rich content platform for higher education student recruitment.
In developing and launching a virtual experience platform for several universities, Revolution Viewing identified the need for structured data analytics to support its growth.
They commissioned me to design and implement web analytics, assist with reporting, and uncover deeper insights about user engagement and conversion.
What did we do?
- Review of new user features, client strategy, and existing analytics reports.
- Bespoke digital measurement framework, covering stages in the prospective student journey.
- Mapping this strategic measurement framework to a concrete web analytics solution design.
- Designing and briefing a data layer to support analytics data collection.
- Multi-property setup of Google Analytics (GA) and configuration in Google Tag Manager (GTM).
- Looker Studio dashboard to summarise performance across all Vepple experiences.
- Deep-dive analysis to help evaluate Vepple, challenge qualitative research, provide insight to universities, and assist marketing efforts.
- Ongoing updates to the data layer and GA setup as Vepple features evolved.
- Ongoing consultancy and advice on the analytics setup and data analysis.
What was the outcome?
- Revolution Viewing and their university partners have been able to rely on a full suite of web analytics data, from the initial launch of Vepple through various feature updates.
- A rich set of data is being collected for Revolution Viewing’s own Universal Analytics and GA4 properties. Client universities have the additional option to integrate their own GA properties with Vepple.
- The analytics solution is future-proof due to the early inclusion of GA4 and strong GTM + data layer foundations.
- Summary Vepple performance can be viewed easily, via a dynamic dashboard that can be filtered by different universities and user journeys.
- Deep-dive analysis has uncovered key insights that showcase the strong performance of Vepple as a content and conversion platform for prospective university students. These insights have been shared with university partners and have featured in Vepple’s marketing.
Working with Daniel has been absolutely brilliant – he is structured, knowledgeable and has exceptional attention to detail. He’s also a lovely bloke which always helps!
Daniel helped us to understand how students are using our new university virtual experience platform, Vepple, and in turn, prove to our clients that the platform is delivering an acceptable ROI through an easy-to-use Looker Studio report. The team have really enjoyed working with Daniel and look forward to building on our working relationship as our platform grows.
Strategy & measurement framework
The project began with initial strategic immersion. We reviewed Vepple’s planned features and user journeys, alongside Revolution Viewing’s client strategy and the analytics for previous iterations of the virtual experience. This helped to understand the platform and main objectives more deeply.
The next step was to take this strategic information and produce a measurement framework.
The framework broke down the student’s experience of exploring universities into key “funnel” stages, as they related to Vepple and the university in question:
- “Prompt action”
Against each stage, we defined KPIs, supporting metrics, user segments, and dimensions of interest. Most metrics were directly relevant to the Vepple platform, though the measurement framework also spanned different digital platforms and onward conversion journeys.
The purpose of the measurement framework was to ensure that our analytics solution captured all possible data that was strategically relevant, while keeping us focused in our data collection efforts. The measurement framework is also intended as a point of reference for ongoing monitoring and evaluation of the platform.
Google Analytics solution & setup
With a measurement framework agreed, we then moved on to the task of designing and implementing Google Analytics for a dynamic platform rich in different features and types of content.
First, we translated the measurement framework and existing reporting requirements into a comprehensive solution design. This document laid out all the precise parameters for our GA setup and doubled as an evolving reference/specification. The solution covered Universal Analytics and GA4, with setups for both Revolution Viewing and for client universities’ own data collection. This meant four complex GA solutions developed in parallel.
Once the solution design was completed and signed off, working closely with Revolution Viewing’s developers we moved into designing and briefing a data layer and Google Tag Manager setup. This would serve as the foundation for all our analytics data collection. We also had to ensure that we respected users’ cookie consent options.
We then implemented a wide range of GA tags to collect data for all key user interactions, content views, and conversions. As Vepple is constantly evolving, over time we went through several rounds of analytics tracking updates to ensure that we had a correct and up-to-date set of reports.
We also set up a daily export from Vepple’s master GA4 property to a Google BigQuery project. This helps to ensure that granular analytics data will be fully available in future and can be queried flexibly on demand.
Once we had the GA data flowing, there was a need to surface basic performance data and trends in a clear dashboard.
We used Google Looker Studio to create a bespoke, dynamic dashboard, showing KPI performance and with some drill down into supporting metrics. The dashboard could be filtered by different universities’ Vepple experiences, or other parameters such as user content selections, device types, traffic sources, etc.
We also included the ability to allow individual university performance to be easily benchmarked against the aggregate performance of all universities using Vepple.
With good foundations in place, we were able to carry out pieces of deeper analysis at key strategic points.
Once we had a few months of data, we completed a general review of Vepple’s performance in terms of engagement and conversion. We looked at traffic trends, performance around key events such as university open days, audience profiles and segments, and conversion rates for important interactions and conversion metrics. This analysis helped understand if there were any issues with the platform, begin to identify opportunities for improvements, and develop some further analysis questions.
Next up was a “research vs. reality” analysis to support a presentation by Revolution Viewing to university clients. This analysis looked at some specific insights from qualitative research, using our quantitative data to compare actual user behaviour to stated preferences and desired features. We also broke down Vepple engagement and content data by several detailed segments to provide additional information to university partners.
Our most recent analysis looked at how user engagement and conversion varied by use of content filters. These content filters are a key feature of Vepple, allowing prospective students to personalise their virtual experience by level of study, subject area, etc.
We have completed a full programme of analytics work in designing, setting up, and using rich interaction data for Vepple. The data and insights have been well used, offering Revolution Viewing a strong platform to monitor performance and deliver ongoing improvements, as well as highlight the benefits of using Vepple to deliver content.
In my view, Revolution Viewing have been an ideal client. They are clearly experts in their field, know their audience, have a deep knowledge of technology, and are great to work with. Crucially, they understand the value of analytics and how to get the most from their data. This provides great added value to universities and prospective students alike.
I’ve been rather busy working away on many projects over the last 18 months. Here’s one of them: a global website relaunch with the development organisation Plan International.
Website relaunch: May 2021 – April 2022
In early 2022, Plan International launched a new global website platform.
Keen to ensure full web analytics capability from day one, the organisation commissioned me to provide a comprehensive analytics setup, custom dashboards to surface key reports, plus training, documentation, and support for website stakeholders.
We began working together from the outset of the website project in 2021, scoping the analytics solution and offering expert analytics consultancy from website conception through to build and release.
With a keen interest in international development and education, and being familiar with Plan International’s work, I was excited to be involved with this bold new phase for their online presence. I was able to bring comprehensive analytics experience from similar projects, including complex multi-site setups and training for other major international organisations.
What did we do?
- Requirement gathering questionnaire & interviews with international stakeholders.
- Solution design & detailed configuration checklist for analytics.
- Training sessions on Google Universal Analytics (UA) & Google Tag Manager (GTM).
- Interactive Google Data Studio dashboards for essential website reporting.
- Full setup and testing of UA custom events & goals to track rich website interactions.
- Full integration of user consent options with analytics.
- Analytics usage notes & a complete walkthrough guide for GTM.
- Introduction to Google Analytics 4 (GA4).
What was the outcome?
- Plan International have had high-quality, global reporting in place from website launch, giving them continued access to key insights with no interruption.
- The Data Studio dashboards provide a website performance overview across a few concise report pages. This reduces the need for stakeholders to log in and navigate GA’s interface for basic insights.
- The GTM solution is highly flexible and scalable. This allows Plan International to manage all their analytics and marketing tags across the entire global web platform, or by each country’s individual sub-site as desired.
- We have strong analytics foundations in place following best practice and extensive first-hand experience of analytics for large websites. This gives us a clear path to implement GA4, and make ongoing enhancements and additions to the analytics setup.
In our transition to a new website, Daniel’s experience and insight in Google Analytics has helped us anticipate issues, resolve unexpected roadblocks and quickly understand technical challenges.
Daniel’s expert knowledge also meant he was able to deliver a flexible solution – ready for our transition to Google Analytics 4.
Requirement gathering & training
For a large global organisation like Plan International, it was essential to consider the perspectives and needs of different country teams as well as the central support function. Plan International kindly facilitated our analytics discovery questionnaire and arranged targeted interviews with key stakeholders.
Even with what appeared to be relatively simple analytics requirements, talking these through with different teams was invaluable to validate our design decisions, clarify what was in scope, and keep people informed about what they could ultimately expect on the new web platform.
We also laid some early groundwork by running brief, interactive training sessions in Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager for Plan International’s global support team.
Data Studio dashboard
In large organisations, there are many types of analytics users. Some have detailed expertise and are comfortable with advanced analysis, while others use analytics infrequently, perhaps for annual performance reporting or a snapshot of a big campaign. For users less familiar with the tool, Google Analytics can be daunting. The interface has many different reports and settings: great for expert analysts, but it presents challenges for basic ongoing reporting.
To address this, we decided to create a summary reporting dashboard in Google Data Studio, a free – but powerful – data visualisation tool. Our dashboard pulls in select data from the global web platform, allowing users a quick - almost at-a-glance – summary of website performance. The dashboard can be filtered easily to show data for specific sub-sites or groups of sites, as well as common reporting dimensions like device type, traffic source, and user country. There are further dynamic filters for users wishing to interrogate the data without fully diving into the GA interface.
We produced a dashboard template which we were able to replicate for both the new web platform and the previous platform, giving Plan International the additional option of straightforward historical reporting alongside the new solution.
We identified the key features for website analytics and mapped these to a comprehensive solution design. This included a measurement framework of top-level KPIs - mapped to goals in GA - and supporting KPIs, which could be reported as either custom events or pageviews.
We designed a clear, scalable system of GTM containers to allow us to manage all analytics and marketing tags across the website, at either the global level or per sub-site.
In collaboration with Plan International’s developers, we were able to integrate GTM cleanly with the content management system and provide a CMS field to add additional containers. We also implemented a basic data layer in the website backend to help delineate individual sub-sites in reporting where this was not apparent from the URLs.
With this solid infrastructure in place, we set up all our analytics tracking tags in GTM. These could be updated and tested with ease ahead of the website launch. The tagging setup included custom work to ensure that interactions with all elements of interest are picked up and mapped neatly to GA data.
Cookies & user privacy
Cookies, consent, and user privacy are core considerations for any modern website. Against a backdrop of increasing regulation and public scrutiny on cookies and trackers, Plan International recognised that they needed to implement a fully compliant cookie notice across the website.
Together, we worked with developers to understand the cookie notice technology, test out its features, provide feedback, and ultimately integrate the cookie notice with all analytics tags. This ensures that users are only ever tracked when they actively opt in.
Part of the data privacy work is clear explanation of trackers in the website’s cookie and privacy policies, as well as supporting stakeholders in understanding the rules and logic. We were able to provide analytics guidance for the website policies, along with step-by-step instructions to ensure that Plan International remain compliant as they extend their analytics tracking in future.
Global website launch
Our careful process and clear strategy ensured that we had no major issues come website launch. The analytics tagging was tested thoroughly in pre-live environments, and again several times on the live environment. Once real user data began to flow, we arranged a demo of reports with key Plan International stakeholders, to ensure they could find what they needed and understood the nuances of the setup.
Shortly after the launch, Google announced that Google Analytics 4 would be fully replacing Universal Analytics in July 2023. Our use of GTM, clean, future-proof analytics tagging setup, and clear documentation mean that we can now go ahead and implement GA4 with relative ease compared to many organisations.
Plan International’s work and values align very closely with my own areas of interest: they are exactly the type of organisation I want to help get better insights from their data.
Our analytics work over the last year provides a strong foundation for the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead as Plan International renew and expand their global web presence. I’m thrilled to be part of that journey and relish any opportunity to help make a positive impact in the world, however small my own contribution may be.
With projects in Malawi, Uganda, Rwanda, and Ethiopia, Link’s vision is of a world where every child has the right to quality education.
Following a recent website relaunch and with an upcoming Christmas fundraising campaign, Link were keen to improve their data analytics and build the foundations for getting quality insight from their data.
What did we do?
- Complete audit of Google Analytics (GA) and Google Tag Manager (GTM) on Link’s website.
- Set up a range of GA goals and custom events to measure KPIs.
- Support on UTM link tracking for campaign attribution.
- Created interactive dashboards in Google Data Studio.
What was the outcome?
- Link now have a reliable, clean implementation of Google Analytics they can depend on for ongoing analysis and evaluating future campaigns.
- With an enhanced UTM process and a way to integrate CRM data with the website dashboard, Link have a fuller picture of channel attribution and their overall KPIs.
- Data Studio reports will help stakeholders to view crucial data in one place, interacting with and querying the dashboards where needed.
Daniel has been a huge help to us at Link. Having recently launched a new website, we worked with Daniel to audit our digital analytics needs and capabilities.
Daniel was extremely flexible and responsive to our situation. He worked with us to deliver a package of work that was bespoke to our needs, in line with our budgets, and would give us maximum impact for our current situation. He kindly accommodated our tight timelines and always turned work around quickly and efficiently.
As a charity, we really appreciated his expert subject knowledge in our field as well as his clear expertise in analytics and we wouldn’t hesitate to work with him again in the future.
Audit of the analytics setup
A core part of our offering is a comprehensive review of the Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager setup. This also touches on other platforms that can be integrated with GA, such as Google Search Console and Google Ads.
The aim is to ensure that we have a clean, reliable analytics setup, which serves as the foundation for all reporting, analysis, and optimisation work.
We carried out priority fixes and enhancements to the analytics setup, and provided a roadmap for further improvements to Link’s analytics ecosystem.
Custom Google Analytics measurement
Link did not have much in the way of custom tracking in place on their website but needed to be able to evaluate various KPIs. These included key fundraising and interaction points across the website. We also wanted to measure “softer” user engagement, such as CTA button clicks, document downloads, page scrolling, and video plays.
We worked with Link to understand their requirements and gain a deep knowledge of their website. We were then able to translate these into goals and custom events for ongoing reporting in GA.
Campaign links & attribution
Effective analytics is an ongoing process, requiring buy in from various stakeholders to be successful.
A key factor in analytics data quality is the use of UTM parameters for tracking campaign links. These tell Google Analytics through which platforms, campaigns, and marketing channels users reach the website. The responsibility for managing UTM parameters usually lies with marketers or content creators.
We worked with Link to help them understand the best use of UTMs and created a tracked link generator to support them in this continuous process.
Dashboard reports for stakeholders
Google Analytics can be overwhelming and difficult to use for many people, even analysts with specialist knowledge.
Google Data Studio is a business intelligence platform that allows us to create attractive visual reports from data. We can work with many data sources and pull them into a single report. For example, with Link we provided a Google Sheet for them to export CRM data, which is connected to Data Studio and will display reports alongside a suite of Google Analytics data.
Link wanted to help many stakeholders engage more readily with website data. Working closely together to refine the requirements and presentation, we created a high-level report for wider distribution up to board level, and a more detailed report for communications and fundraising stakeholders.
The ultimate purpose of all the analytics setup is to get useful insights from the data, and we hope these dashboards will be a key contributor to Link’s work.
It’s been a pleasure working with Lyndsey and Link Education – particularly satisfying to help support the work an international development organisation with such an admirable vision.
We hope to continue working together and that our analytics groundwork will bring value for months and years to come.