One-on-One with UA’s Director of Digital Marketing: Google Analytics

One-on-One with UA’s Director of Digital Marketing: Google Analytics

The University of Arizona’s Director of Digital Marketing, Barrett Baffert, has a tendency to ask the right questions. After attending one of our webinars, he followed up with some fantastic questions about how to help his university excel at tracking goals, search engine optimization and overall site activity.


We partnered with Barrett back in the summer of 2015 to work through a Google Analytics project that included discovery, a current state analytics assessment, domain/sub-domain mapping, Google Tag Manager implementation, audience identification (and prioritization), auto-event tagging of site-wide elements (emails, navigation, form submits, outbound links, etc.), audience specific goal strategy, goal set up and dashboard development. Together we fixed their disjointed sessions, which resulted in data they could trust for marketing decisions.

We took a few minutes to ask him some questions to see how things are going and to get his advice for anyone thinking about improving their digital analytics.

CC: What were your goals for the Google Analytics project?

BB: First, using Google Tag Manager as a means to get Universal Analytics on all of our properties. Also, we needed to add visibility to different properties on campus and how traffic interplays between those sites.

Second, we wanted to measure more actionable metrics than page views, unique visitors and bounce rates. More measurable metrics. Some of the things we have started to measure since the project include applications started, campus tour sign ups, submissions of the request for information forms, access to net price calculator and user experience around different majors and degrees we offer.

We really wanted Converge to help us do the fishing, but then teach us to fish. Help us set up all of the events and dashboards to be armed with the knowledge to make strategic decisions based on those metrics in the future. We want to use the information and the tools we’ve learned. We wouldn’t have been able to get there without foundations from Converge.

CC: What challenges did you face in getting this project going?

BB: We are a large university with many departments involved. We needed some talking points to help popularize the concept of getting Google Tag Manager on other site on campus to help improve our data. Convincing departments close to us was easy, but departments further away from us understandably wanted more information before committing. It was helpful to have the talking points and verbiage to bring to those other groups.

CC: What aspects of the final project do you find yourself using most?

BB: Dashboards. I’m glad we’re tracking data this way. They really help the people on campus whose roles are analytics specific.

Also, Google Tag Manager and the auto-event tagging. We have events tagged on all kinds of aspects of our site now. It has really taken the discussion away from “what is our bounce rate” to what bounce rates are, what sessions are, etc. People didn’t really understand why users jump back and forth within the experiences. GTM has moved us toward actions that allow us to move toward goals more quickly. We’ve learned a lot about Google Tag Manager and coding.

CC: What kind of challenges do you see for the future?

BB: I’d like to make it easier for entities on campus to come to us and start a website the right way.

Overall, we need to work on what our marketing priorities should be and what they shouldn’t be. The data we now have can help with that. It puts us in a position to start other projects with important measurable metrics discussions. We can LEAD with what we are going to measure and know exactly how we’re going to measure those things with GTM and Google Analytics.

CC: What advice would you give to someone thinking about starting an analytics project?

BB: Do it. Google Tag Manager isn’t as scary as it might seem at first. Once your hands are dirty you can set up tags and events very easily. Also, take the time to figure out what you want to measure. It’s especially important to take some time and get organized if you have multiple domains with lots of subdomains. Taking the time up front to be sure your data is correct is worth it when you’re trying to make marketing decisions.

Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager have great online communities. Anytime I need something, I search and usually find the answer very quickly. Twitter, Converge’s blog and webinars are also good resources.

CC: What does the next year have in store for you with Google Analytics?

BB: We want to move away from vanity efforts that let us know what we are doing and get to more concrete examples. We are focused on measuring alumni engagement, brand awareness, shifting perceptions and measurable goals so we can track the success of web experiences.

If you want to learn more about the University of Arizona’s project and talk to Barrett, be sure to attend Converge 2017 and sign up for the pre-conference workshop.

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Becky Vardaman
Becky Vardaman
October 27, 2016