Using Google Analytics in Education: 6 Essential GA Reports and What They Tell You

Date posted: November 15, 2017

higher education

For the institution looking to improve their marketing and recruitment efforts with data-driven insights, there’s no better way to start than by adopting Google Analytics. Free to use, the platform has become the world’s standard for gathering and analyzing website data, and offers powerful functionality that can help you gain a deeper understanding of how to refine your recruitment activities.

For the uninitiated, however, Google Analytics, with its lists of reports and piles of data, may seem a little opaque. Taking time to orient yourself within GA can help you better understand how to approach integrating and using the tool. Even professionals who have long made use of it may not realize that they are not leveraging the platform’s capabilities to the fullest extent.

One good method of getting up to speed is to complete the Google Analytics Individual Qualification (IQ) certification program, which will equip you with a wealth of knowledge to help you use GA more effectively. However, this certification isn’t completely necessary for those wanting to get started. If you want to better understand the value that can be enjoyed through GA, here’s a guide to six essential reports to learn from and use for your recruitment activities.

The Channels Report: Offers Insights into Channels Driving Traffic to Your Website

As a broad-view resource for tracking the performance of your website, the Channels Report in GA can offer a good deal of value. It provides a number of important insights relating to the primary channels that bring traffic to your website, tracking statistics like the number of new visitors a channel draws in, how many pages these users visit, and other useful info.

Here is a look at the the channels tracked within Google Analytics and the types of users they track:

  • Organic Search: Users who clicked links in search engine results
  • Email: Users who clicked links in email marketing campaigns
  • Direct: Users who entered the site’s URL directly in their web browser
  • Referral: Users who clicked a link to your site on another site
  • Social: Users who clicked links on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.
  • Paid Search: Users who clicked links on Google AdWords or other paid search channels

The primary benefit of the Channel Report is in the way it helps with identifying which of your channels are successful and which are not. This, in turn, helps you take steps to improve your efforts. For instance, if you see that a channel already draws a large number of leads, especially those that stick around and visit multiple pages on your institution’s website, it is likely well-optimized. If you see that a channel is not bringing in much traffic, though, it is likely that you will want to makes changes to your approach in pursuit of better results.

Example: In this example of the Channel Report, you can see that most of this institution’s traffic is coming from organic and paid search, indicating that these initiatives are particularly strong.

Google analytics for higher education

The All Pages Report Offers a Detailed Look at the Performance of Individual Pages

The All Pages report in Google Analytics offers a much more granular view of your website performance, presenting a number of useful insights for each and every tracked page on your site. Within this report, you can see stats about the number of views on each page, the amount of time spent on each page, its “value,” and more. This report offers the best overview of which web pages are successful in retaining users’ attention, and also which pages are best at ushering prospective students through your recruitment funnel and on to eventual enrolment.

Strategically, the insights you can gain through this report are quite powerful. If you have particular pages that are monumental successes, drawing huge pageview numbers, retaining visitor attention for several minutes, and holding low bounce rates, they can probably be considered to be quite successful. These are pages that deserve to be promoted heavily – perhaps linked to in blog posts or on social media – in order to maximize the impact that they can have.

Seeing that a page has weaker performance can be equally instructive. If the average ‘Time on Page’ is low, for instance, it might indicate that its content did not match prospective students’ expectations or provide the information they were looking for, and needs to be rethought.

Of particular note within this report is the “Page Value” number. When set up correctly, this stat can provide great insight into how well all of your pages function as drivers of the conversion results you are looking to achieve.

The page value number represents the proportion of value an individual page holds, on average, relative to an overall, quantified financial “goal.” In the context of education recruitment, this goal is typically the average enrolment or tuition fee. If a visitor visits a particular page before enrolling, that page will be apportioned some of the credit for the tuition fee, which will be reflected in its value.

What is interesting about this particular metric is that it goes a step beyond merely being a performance indicator, and attaches a more tangible value to a page’s worth. Taking time to properly establish a quantified goal to enable Page Value tracking is therefore an important step for student recruitment teams hoping to get the most out of Google Analytics.

Example: Here you can see the All Pages Report with the Page Value metric properly configured. This metric allows schools to see exactly which pages play the most crucial roles in driving students towards conversion.

analytics for higher education

The Landing Pages Report Tells You a Lot About How Students Are Arriving On Your Website

The Landing Pages Report is not about specially created landing pages for your advertising campaigns.  Rather, in this context, “landing page” can mean any page which is the first one arrived at by a visitor. Your homepage, a specific program page, or even a blog post could all be included and ranked within this category.

This report offers a number of useful bits of information to help you establish which pages are most effective at keeping visitors around once they arrive. Details like the average number of pages subsequently visited or the percentage of visitors who immediately bounce away from the site after visiting a landing page can illustrate how effective your top landing pages are at generating leads.  If a page is consistently landed upon and holds a low Time on Page number or a high Bounce Rate, it might be worthwhile to consider ways to edit its content to promote greater engagement.

Similarly, when evaluating landing pages for lead generation, it is particularly useful to look at the “Goal Conversion Rate” stat, which tracks the percentage of visitors to a landing page who later converted. If a landing page is doing a fair job of retaining visitors but those visitors are not converting, it’s possible that the page could be revised to achieve a better conversion rate.

Knowing which pages tend to be the first stop for visitors is highly important for recruitment teams trying to improve upon website performance, particularly in regards to traffic coming from organic search.

Consider your school’s overall website structure. In a perfect world, you might imagine a prospective student first arriving to a page containing introductory information or a welcome message, and then navigating to a specific program page. In reality, though, they might land on the program page first. While that can be great – the information relating to the program will be there – other important information that you want prospects to have might not be.

Example: The Landing Pages Report can show you not only what pages of your site users are landing on, but the success rate of each one in driving them towards goal completions and conversions. 

student recruitment analytics

Understanding which pages tend to be the first seen, therefore, can help you determine which information to place on which pages. When reading this report, look at the top performers and consider the content on those pages. Does it provide the kind of introduction to your school that you want prospects to see upon first visiting your site? If not, you might want to consider revising it to ensure visitors are well-oriented after arrival.

The Goals Overview Report Helps You Track Conversions Across Your Site

Tracking specific goals is a hugely important piece of the student recruitment process. It illustrates just how successful your marketing and recruitment efforts are at bringing prospective students through the recruitment funnel, and in closing the deal with potential enrollees.

For professionals using Google Analytics in education, the Goals Overview Report is the place to look to find information regarding your website’s total number of conversions and the conversion rate relative to the number of visitors to the site overall.

Example: The Goals Overview Report gives you a comprehensive summary of how your site is performing in relation to its objectives.

GA in higher education

Additionally, the associated “Reverse Goal Path” report offers insight into the paths visitors to your website most often take from arriving through to final enrolment, telling you which pages are most often seen prior to conversion.

Example: The Reverse Goal Path Report allows you to retrace the steps prospective students took before completing a specific goal.

Google Analytics for Higher Education Marketing

All of this information is hugely valuable. Being able to identify which pages tend to be seen prior to conversion can provide you with indications of which pages it might be beneficial to promote across your marketing channels, to increase their reach and their odds of converting. Finally, the report can also provide insight into how effective a conversion page is. If you notice a particular conversion page consistently draws a large number of views, but doesn’t have a correspondingly high number of conversions, it may be an indication that the content of the page is in need of optimization. It is important to note that the Goals Overview report can only be used if “goals” are set up first.

There are a number of different kinds of goals that can be tracked within Google Analytics. “Destination goals” are completed when a visitor is redirected to a particular page on your website (for instance, a “Thank You” page they are sent to after submitting a form).  There are also “event goals,” which can be set to trigger when a prospect completes a particular action on your site, like downloading a PDF, or watching an embedded video. “Duration” goals are completed when a user’s session lasts more than a pre-determined amount of time. Finally, “Pages per session” goals are completed when a visitor views a specific number of pages on your site.

As a start, whatever kinds of goals you choose to track, be sure that they help you monitor important conversions on your site. Things like newsletter sign-ups, contact forms, and other types of engagement are all signifiers that you are succeeding in attracting interest and attention from users. Setting goals relating to these can help you see what proportion of total visitorship is being spurred to engage at this level, providing you with an idea of how well your web content is doing at appealing to users.

It is also recommended to assign dollar amounts to your goals, allowing you to quantify your level of success (this step is also important to enabling “Page Value” tracking in the “All Pages” report). Given the usefulness presented by the Goals Overview report, it should be considered essential to establish a number of quantified goals that will allow you to measure the success of your recruitment efforts.

The Mobile Overview Report Helps You Break Down Your Audience by Device Type

Across the world, more people are using mobile devices than ever before. Correspondingly, developing a strong mobile recruitment strategy is becoming more important for institutions looking to communicate with a new generation of prospects.

The Mobile Overview report is therefore one of the more important reports for professionals tracking analytics in higher education marketing settings. It offers an excellent way to see how your website is performing in attracting and promoting engagement by visitors across different categories of devices. It offers a look at statistics regarding the number of sessions created, the bounce rate, performance toward goal conversions, and other important information across three kinds of devices: desktop, mobile, and tablets.

This report becomes particularly useful when active efforts toward improving the mobile experience of your website are being undertaken. If you have redesigned your website to improve accessibility to mobile devices, for example, referring to the stats included in this report can help you track whether there is an improvement in how long of a duration mobile visitors remain on your site or whether there is an improvement in the number of conversions.

Example: The Mobile Overview Report can you give you some real insight into differences in your website’s performance across different devices.

GA in education marketing

For those institutions not yet working on improving their mobile experience, the report could offer strong, quantified incentive to do so. For instance, the report above reveals overall increases in incoming traffic and goal completions on mobile devices year over year, clearly demonstrating that making an effort to optimize for mobile users should be a priority going forward.

The aim, generally, should be to establish near-parity for all kinds of devices in terms of conversion rates and general engagement. Referring to this report can help you identify shortcomings and make progress towards addressing them.

The Location Report is Essential Viewing for Schools Ramping up International Recruitment Efforts

International student recruitment has been one of the hottest topics in the education space for years, and that’s not set to change anytime soon. If you are using Google Analytics in education marketing and want a measure of how your website is performing in different regions, the Location Report is one that you will want to familiarize yourself with.

Within this report are a range of stats relating to the geographic origins of your website’s traffic. You can break the information down by countries, states, and cities, getting an accounting both of how well your website performs in a particular area (for stats like number of new users, conversion rate, etc.), and also of what proportion of total visitors a particular region accounts for.

Example: This Location Report shows potential growth opportunities in key international student recruitment markets like India, Malaysia and Europe.

GA for higher education

This report can be hugely powerful. As a first step, it can allow you to better understand who is visiting your school’s website, which can help you better craft pages and content addressing their needs. For instance, if you find most of your visitors come from your immediate area, it’s likely that concentrating on delivering information regarding programs and student life will be a good approach to addressing the curiosity of the average visitor. If, however, you notice a significant number of visitors come from abroad, it can be a good indication that crafting content relating to international student orientation, housing, and other concerns of prospective students who would be far from home, should be a priority.

This report can also be of great use when running geotargeted campaigns. Perhaps your recruiting team has identified great opportunities in India, and decides to run a Google AdWords advertising campaign targeted at individuals in major cities like New Delhi or Mumbai. The Location Report can help you see whether your campaign increases the number of visitors and conversions from individuals in those cities. Similarly, when deciding on locations for which to create targeted campaigns, looking at high-traffic and high-converting regions or cities in this report can offer good inspiration of places where making a marketing push could lead to great results.

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