Beginning to analyze a school website can be a daunting task, but in the world of higher education online it’s a fundamental part of achieving and maintaining your desired performance goals. It takes more than a discerning eye to do it effectively—and even after rendering your judgments and deciding the best plan is moving forward, there’s always this epic hurdle: providing actionable insight. The insight you draw from your website data from Google Analytics should not only make your action plan look desirable, but should continuously define it—and moreover, prove that it will work.
Already sound like you’re biting off more than you can chew? Have no fear. These two key metrics (and one grouping) will make on-the-fly analysis for your school website a walk in the park. Monitoring these metrics daily, while also comparing date ranges to establish trends, will give you insight to make continuous changes that will gradually increase your conversion rate to your desired goal. Let’s start with your most important metric.
1) Goal Completions (aka Conversions)

Through and through, Goals are the most fundamental metric to look for no matter what the objective of your online presence is. Use this metric to measure the instances that someone uses your site and completes an action you desire them to do. You can set up and customize these in Google Analytics, just be sure to verify these are set up correctly before diving into the data.
Here are some ideas for goals to help you measure the efficacy of your website:

  • application submissions
  • requests for more information (lead forms)
  • email/newsletter sign-ups
  • blog subscriptions
  • visit duration greater than ‘x’ minutes.

By definition, goals measure your website’s objective—they are the baseline for measuring the success of your initiatives, the work you’re putting forth, and the site as a whole.
2) Conversion Rate

Conversion rates represent the frequency of your goal completions. Monitoring these will tell you what’s working, and in turn inform you on what you can emphasize to the benefit of increasing Goal Completions. A poor conversion rate will alert you to what isn’t working. Determining what is a good—or bad—conversion rate should be relative to your site’s current performance. The best place to start is with your current average for each of your dimensions in Google Analytics; use that as a baseline for your improvement.
Remember, proactive web analysis is a game of inches. If you see a dimension in Analytics has a declining conversion rate—but it’s also carrying the weight of your site’s goal completions—drill-down inside of that dimension so you can find and eliminate what is bringing it down. In paid search analysis I look at individual campaigns to make sure they’re holding a conversion rate at or above average to their designated marketing channels.
3) Technology

We live in a multi-device world, so fluency between devices is a must if you’re going to capitalize on user experience. Knowing which devices your prospective students are using to connect and discover your institution online is a key insight that can be easily found in Google Analytics under Mobile > Overview in the Audience tab. Keep an eye on which platforms (desktop, tablet or mobile) have the highest conversion rate, and consider an audit of the platform with the lowest conversion rate.
Now, let’s step back and take a holistic look at the user experience…

  • Is the webpage rendering properly in different browser versions (Chrome, Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, etc.)?
  • Does it render properly on mobile devices and tablets?
  • Is the lead form clearly visible on the page without necessitating the user scroll down to find it?
  • Is the site asking for personal information from the user?
    • If so, make sure your privacy policy is clearly visible, and linked to the form with a verifiable icon that assures users of your website security.

Consider whether the lead form begs too much of the user. If you’re focused on just lead-generation or building a wide list of prospective students, you shouldn’t have many more questions other than Name, Email, and perhaps a set of check-boxes that denotes the nature of their interest. Whatever the case, try to limit your lead forms to no more than 3 steps. Any more may have the undesirable effect of discouraging a user to proceed further down your funnel-path towards becoming a student.
That’s all folks!
Looking for more info on how to leverage Google Analytics? Check out our previous Analytics post: Using Google Analytics in Higher Education to Influence Marketing Decisions
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