As some of you know I’ve been doing a series of deep dive web metrics workshops for various institutions around the world in the last couple of months and one thing I’ve been interested in is estimating the size of a ‘core museum website audience’.
Whilst we all like the big figures of casual visitors we get to our websites many institutions, having flirted with social media, we are beginning to realise that casual visitors, much like casual visitors through the door of a museum, aren’t so useful for building sustained co-creative relationships with.
This ‘core museum website audience’ is the one that is engaged enough with your online activities that they return frequently. The patterns and trends in how they behave in your website is likely to differ significantly from casual visitors, and these trends should be closely analysed for insights into which are your ‘stickiest’ and most ‘interesting’ content areas.
Obviously, in looking at ‘repeat visitation’, though, it is critical to exclude all internal traffic. (I’m always shocked at how many institutions neglect, often through oversight, to stop their web analytics tools from reporting internal traffic!)
If we are serious about ‘engagement’ then our websites need to be actively growing repeat visitation as a proportion of the total.
So, how are we at the Powerhouse doing?
Looking at the Powerhouse Museum traffic for the last 4 quarters (Q4 2008 to Q3 2009) I’ve seen a sizeable number of repeat visitors to our website. Like most websites the vast majority of our traffic is new visitors (80.41%), but I’m pleased to find some interesting figures in our repeat visitors – the other ~20%.
Over the last 8 quarters repeat online visitation noticeably different patterns emerge around our in-gallery exhibitions and around our online-only content.
The ‘2 or more visits in a quarter‘ segment fluctuates most with the blockbuster exhibitions (Diana and Star Wars) showing the impact of return visitors booking online tickets and checking public event information. Here we see a rise from 13.63% in Q4 2007 to a high of 21.45% in Q1 2009 (Star Wars) before dropping again to 18.54%.
The ‘5 or more visits in a quarter‘ segment has grown steadily from 2.11% in Q4 2007 to a high of 5.22% in Q2 2009 and now rests at 4.78% in Q3 2009. This segment contains semi-regular blog visitors and those engaging with our collection online for research and study, as well as some of our high school curriculum focussed content.
The ‘10 or more visits in a quarter‘ segment has grown consistently, unaffected by the seasonal blockbusters, from 0.79% in Q4 2007 to 2.10% of traffic in Q3 2009. This traffic is our most highly engaged – again predominantly around our most consistent blogs (Fresh & New, Photo of the Day, Object of the Week), certain areas of our collection, and very specific curriculum content.
This 2.10% is one that needs a lot more analysis as does the ‘5 or more’ category. How do they arrive at our site? What are they looking for? What do they spend most time looking at?
Just for the record, as I’m using Google Analytics this data excludes RSS subscription-based traffic (critical for blogs), and does contain a low level of error – those who actively clear cookies (who may not be well represented in a core museum audience – but would be on, say, Slashdot). Of course, this data is far more reliable that log-based analytics.
I’m digging much deeper into this for an upcoming paper at Museums and the Web 2010 in Denver and of course my metrics workshop there too.
I’d welcome others’ opinions on this sort of audience segmentation.