How to Use Your Higher Education Data to Boost Conversions

Analytics is an essential aspect of higher education marketing. University marketers can leverage analytics to make more informed decisions on a day-to-day basis.

On a foundational level, university marketing departments collect vast amounts of data, including website visitors’ behavior (time on site, number of page views, etc.), but data points may not give enough context to inform decisions. The next stage of analytics is information, which provides a more digestible means of understanding a marketing campaign’s performance (total sessions, average conversion rate, etc.). Information is a collection of relevant data that can be useful in terms of making adjustments and optimizations for marketing efforts.

The final and most useful aspect of analytics is knowledge, which provides clear-cut concepts or assertions that have been proved over time (e.g., the best month for higher education marketing results is January, while the worst month is December).

Once the analytics team has the right people and technology in place, it can collect data, analyze the information available, and even provide valuable knowledge to your department and institution. The value gained from the ability to determine and act on actionable insights is critical. As more and more universities move to OPMs, now is the time to ensure you are one step ahead of your competitors when it comes to making data-driven decisions.

Create a Dashboard that Displays All of Your Funnel Data

Farzin Espahani, Director of Paid Media & Analytics

Have you been asked to create analytics reports for your student enrollment marketing team? If yes, you know how important it is to create an analytics report that gets to the core performance metrics that actually matter. As higher education marketers, we know that leads are just the starting point — the top of the enrollment funnel. Generating thousands of leads who never start their applications, let alone submit them, is just a waste of your marketing budget.

The student enrollment funnel starts with leads at the top. Then, your nurturing PPC strategies will push them down to start their applications, and the enrollment advisors should help them to submit and complete their applications. Nevertheless, your leads need to actually enroll in the program in order for your marketing team to celebrate its success. 

Your marketing analytics dashboard must align itself with the above funnel segments. You can easily export leads to your dashboard directly from Google Analytics or from the marketing platform itself, but you need to make sure you are filtering out the duplicates. 

To deduplicate your leads report, you need a daily pass-back file from your enrollment CRM. CRMs not only deduplicate your lead profiles but also report on each lead’s application activity. With proper URL tagging, you can tie each lead to the referring marketing channel. Normally, a CSV export of your CRM will provide you with accurate lead data, along with the application and enrollment status for each lead. 

Use Behavior Flow to Guide Your Content Strategy

Raymond Martinez, SEO Manager

Understanding a university’s website traffic can be a challenging task, as university websites have multiple target audiences and stakeholders across the board. Identifying the prospective-student user flow can help you understand your target audience’s needs. To that end, the “Behavior Flow” report in Google Analytics allows you to analyze traffic and look at user navigation through the site. 

This report is a goldmine for content and web strategists trying to understand what kind of content resonates with your audience. It also provides insight into challenges a university site may have with user experience and content depth. For example, a user lands on an admissions page but uses site search during their second or third interaction on the site. This type of behavior suggests the user either is having a hard time navigating your site or is simply not finding what they’re looking for. 

Furthermore, “Behavior Flow” allows you to look at key user movements. For example, a user moving from a program page to a faculty bio page can be indicative of a prospective student. User navigation to curriculum pages or admissions pages is also an indicator of prospective student behavior. Understanding a prospective student’s needs helps higher education marketers better position their programs and drive more users into the student enrollment funnel.

Look at How Exogenous Variables Impact Enrollment

Justin Fisher, Digital Strategy Manager

The ability to understand and analyze your university or program’s marketing strengths and opportunities is important, but the impact of exogenous variables on the performance of the university, college, and/or program often gets overlooked. For example, a struggling economy or a strong growth market can lead to strains on enrollment marketing (higher education tends to be counter-cyclical to the market, so recessions seem to show the best results for our industry).   

There may be other external factors beyond your control. Besides economic ebbs and flows, there could be fields of study that may be hot one year but not so much the next. For example, sustainability and green degrees were in great demand in the early 2010s but have since become less popular. On the other hand, amid the coronavirus pandemic, we have seen a significant growth in interest in epidemiology and public health programs.

Answer the Questions that will Direct Your Retargeting Strategy

Cherie D’Souza, Senior Data Analyst

Analytics are the foundation for any solid growth strategy. Whether it be identifying the how’s, what’s, or where’s to find leads or detailing the journey through the enrollment process, there can not be a targeted approach to success without an analytics strategy in place. Fundamentally, analytics are not a mere collection of numbers; they’re a story.

Who is my audience? What are their online habits? How quickly do they perform an action? By collecting information in terms of what types of questions need to be answered, we start to outline where these answers should come from. Upon compiling appropriate data sets, we can introduce visualizations, from dashboards to tables, to aid in answering these questions. The ideal outcome for any analytics team is not only to have provided answers to all the questions identified in the discovery process but also to have provided additional insights that allow for future strategic actions. 

The university marketing journey is unique, as there may not necessarily be opportunity for recurring business. Therefore, it is critical to identify, analyze, and target behaviors that prove successful. By providing analytics surrounding the lead-to-enrollment conversion and applying the same or similar tactics, targeted strategies can provide a pathway to achieve marketing goals.

For programs that do see repeat students for additional certifications or degrees, understanding what the overall enrollment landscape looks like can assist them in their retargeting efforts. Looking at key behaviors — such as how many students take multiple courses, how long after taking a course a student reconsiders additional education, or what that demographic looks like — we can appropriately time and design efforts to leverage the current relationships for repeat courses.

Need Help Analyzing your Data? Let Our Team Help You!

Circa Interactive’s team of Data Analyst experts is always up to date on strategies to help your program gain visibility and convert in prospective students’ search results. Our higher education analytics tactics can help your university:

  • Understand where and how your leads are entering the funnel
  • Examine conversions down to the individual ad or keyword
  • Pinpoint which channels need to be fostered to bring new leads

Contact us or visit our Analytics tactics page to learn more about how Circa can help you reach your enrollment goals.

Justin Fisher Team Profile Picture

Justin Fisher is a director of analytics & digital strategy at Circa Interactive with extensive experience in education as a digital marketer at the University of Wisconsin and Pearson. He was even a guest lecturer at the University of Wisconsin School of Business for digital marketing/advertising undergraduate courses and MBA courses. Aside from his roles in higher education, Justin has managed paid media and SEO strategies for global brands such as the Golf Channel and Disney. Justin earned a Bachelor’s in Economics from the University of Central Florida, a Master’s in Information Management from Arizona State University, and, most recently, a management certificate from the University of Wisconsin.

  • Join the
    Higher Ed Marketing
    Journal Newsletter.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.