Using Website Analytics for Higher Education Marketing

It’s easier than you might think for colleges and universities to get actionable intelligence, and maybe some budgetary support, from Google Analytics. Best of all, you won’t have to be a statistician to make it work for you.

Know What You Want to Accomplish and Set Realistic Expectations

The whole goal of Analytics for Higher Ed marketing is to provide the insights needed for better marketing.

You won’t have IRS audit-level-accurate tracking in your digital marketing’s ability to track student acquisition, but you can get close enough to collect solid marketing insights and even estimate revenues generated by your efforts.

Go into your analytics project with the goal of insights over audits, and you’ll have the freedom you need without sacrificing accuracy required for your goal.

Identify and Clarify your Goals

What are the goals of your efforts?

Online applications are the obvious choice, but consider additional ‘signal’ goals that tend to lend themselves to student acquisition or interest, such as setting on campus visits or requests for information on a particular program.

If your online application forms and other requests have dedicated ‘thank you’ pages with unique URLs, you can setup a Google Analytics Destination goal. Otherwise, consult your IT department or web developer for “Event or Virtual Pageview support.”

Fight the urge to configure ‘engagement’ goals such as time on sight and pageviews per sessions. While Google Analytics offers these options, they’re better used by online publications driven by ad revenue, and could toss some red herrings in your own reporting.

Attach Value to your Goals

An often overlooked step in configuring goals is to add an estimated financial value to that goal. This small step unlocks a new layer on your reporting that reports the estimated revenue of your channels and campaigns.

For Higher Education, you’ll want to apply the average lifetime value of a new student multiplied by your rate of acceptance for online applications.

In the case of Harvard, we’ll take the estimated value of a student, $232,000, and multiply the acceptance rate of 5.9% for an estimated per-application value of $13,688.

This example is a bit simplified. Work with your finance team to build a more accurate model taking into account drops, transfers and financial aid.

As an added benefit, bringing the finance team in early on in the process might help reduce friction later by starting with their buy-in.

Optimization: Collect and Pivot

With your goals and valuations configured in Google Analytics, you now have a go-to dashboard for testing the effectiveness of channels, programs and campaigns.

Pay attention to ‘assist’ value of programs. This may reveal insights into how touch points help nurture a potential applicant leading to that application.

If a student first looks into a program from an ad on Facebook, then Googles for more information, completes a form asking for information and finally applies in response to a reminder email, only the email will get credit for the conversion. Multichannel reports in Google Analytics will give credit to all your marketing players.

Multichannel attribution will allow you to see website user touch points over time, allowing you a holistic view of each channel and campaign’s ability to help a potential customer along in their journey to a website conversion. Learn more about multichannel conversion funnels from Google.

If a beloved marketing program isn’t driving conversions or assisting conversions, it may be time to disrupt the status quo and free your resources up for something new.

Conversely, you’ll likely find some untapped potential in unexpected traffic sources or funnel flows.

A lot can happen when you can see the results of your experiments in near real-time.

Configure for Accuracy

Does your website serve students and potential students? Create additional Analytics Views to allow you to quickly see student and non-student traffic. This will be critical in accurately gauging the conversion rates of channels which both students and prospects use, such as social media and search engines.

This can be accomplished by using filters in the Analytics Views and a User Defined Variable. This highly technical fix isn’t for the light of heart and requires a different implementation depending on your specific website’s setup.

To get started, share this article with your web team for assistance, or contact Quadlyfe and they’ll connect you with one of their trusted partners to assist.


Editor’s Note: The author, Marc Frechette, is a Google Analytics Certified Professional and Digital Marketing Strategist for Quadlyfe’s agency partner, wedü.