Imagine how powerful your school’s digital marketing strategy would be if you understood exactly how each tactic advanced prospects through the admissions process. You would be able to maximize efficiency, conserve resources, boost bookings – and the list goes on.
However, you don’t have to imagine this scenario for it to become reality. This information is readily available to all schools. The trouble is, not everyone knows where to find it or how to use it.
Once you learn which key performance indicators (KPIs) to look out for, your school can assess its success at each stage of the enrollment funnel.
Want to understand how each element of your digital marketing strategy contributes to your conversion outcomes? Read on to discover which KPIs your school should measure!
KPIs for Beginners: A Higher Ed Guide
If you’re new to the world of digital marketing data, the phrase ‘key performance indicator’ may sound highly technical. But fear not: a KPI is simply a measurement that you can use to gauge progress towards a goal.
For schools, goals often take the form of online inquiries, applications, bookings, and other activities that signify a high level of interest. KPIs are any relevant metric – such as social media followers, ad clicks, and organic search rank – which contribute to the completion of these goals.
Most digital marketing channels have native monitoring capabilities where you can measure certain KPIs, like Instagram Insights or LinkedIn Ads. However, there are also plenty of programs that collect data from multiple channels and offer in-depth insight into key metrics. These tools will make it exponentially easier for your school to measure both broad and granular KPIs at each stage of the enrollment funnel:
- Google Search Console: Analyzes your school’s organic search ranking
- Google Analytics: Provides a wide variety insight into website traffic and conversions
- Facebook Insights: Showcases the performance of your Facebook page
- Google My Business: Monitors your GMB profile
- CRM and Marketing Automation: Offers highly detailed digital marketing and recruitment reports
- Google Ads: Analyzes the performance of your Google Ads
Just as there are a wide range of digital marketing tactics, there are endless KPIs you can use to measure them. The KPIs you prioritize may differ based on your school’s goals and recruitment targets, but regardless of the particular metrics you choose, they should always be measurable, trackable, comparable, and improvable. Schools shouldn’t analyze data for sake of it – there should always be a purpose to what you track. That way, you can use the information to continuously optimize your enrollment funnel.
Higher Education Analytics in the Awareness Stage
The awareness stage is when a prospect first identifies education as a potential avenue to help them reach their goals.
Digital marketing in the awareness stage is all about gaining visibility, building your brand, and developing your school’s online presence. Strategies at this stage are centred around reaching new audiences and attracting students to your site – especially on search engines and social media, which is where prospects will likely come across your school.
But as many schools know, growing your online presence certainly isn’t easy, and it often takes time before you see results. That’s why it’s crucial for schools to know which higher education analytics to track to make sure they are heading in the right direction.
At the beginning of the enrollment journey, schools should measure metrics related to reach, views, and impressions. You should be less concerned with conversions at this point – you just want your school to get discovered by as many students as possible.
Here are some relevant KPIs across key data sources that your school should monitor in the awareness stage:
Since your Google My Business (GMB) profile may be what many prospects see when they first land on your school in search, it’s important to pay attention to the traction it gets. Google allows you to add plenty of information to your profile – such as photos, events, contact information, and social channels – so make sure to optimize your listing before you begin measuring. Not only will you offer prospects more options for learning about your school – you’ll also have more data to track!
Example: London Business School’s GMB profile is rich in information, offering prospects many ways to engage with their school.
Your school can then monitor how prospects engage with your profile by measuring how many people view your photos or complete certain actions:
But what about the prospects that aren’t directly searching the name of your school – what about those browsing schools, trying to find a top-rated university or a language school in their location? To discover how many prospects stumble across your school on search, it’s important to use Google Search Console to track your school’s search visibility.
Here, you can measure clicks, impressions, and other key awareness-stage metrics:
This data will help you assess the effectiveness of your school’s SEO strategy. Since search engine algorithms are constantly changing, it’s important to pay close attention to these numbers if you want to stay ahead of the game. If you notice a significant drop in traffic, which periodically does happen, you will know you need to rethink your strategy.
Of course, building domain authority takes time, so many schools will want to create ad campaigns at this stage to expand their visibility in a pinch.
In this case, it’s especially crucial for schools to keep their finger on the pulse, and monitor the performance of both search engine and social media ads closely. With frequent monitoring, you can optimize your campaigns and maximize the ROI from your budget. Ad platforms like Google Ads and Facebook Ads provide a variety of KPIs, but for awareness-based campaigns, you should be paying attention to the reach and impressions your ads generate.
Example: A snapshot of Facebook Ads results highlighting awareness stage KPIs.
All in all, the goal of these strategies is to build visibility and encourage prospects to learn more about your school – which, in today’s digital world, is practically synonymous with visiting your school’s website.
To assess how effectively these tactics meet that mark, you can use Google Analytics to monitor the number of new visitors to your site, as well as what source brought them there:
You can then compare these KPIs over time on GA to make sure that your school’s online presence is growing:
Consideration Stage Analytics for Higher Education
During the consideration stage, a prospect has firmed up their interest in pursuing higher education and begins researching their options in further depth. Your goal is to convert these prospects to leads.
To measure how effectively your digital marketing strategy converts leads, you’ll first need to make sure you’re properly tracking goals using GA. In the consideration stage, goals in Google Analytics for Schools could include inquiries, newsletter signups, resource downloads, or any other sort of activity where a prospect initially engages with your school in a meaningful way.
When you set up these goals, GA will monitor goal completions across channels. If someone clicks a CTA in an email to download a brochure or submits a ‘Contact Us’ form on a landing page, GA will track each of these activities.
Example: A GA report measuring goal completions across channels. If you want to measure goals specific to the consideration stage, you can use the Conversions drop-down menu to analyze different activities.
If you’re looking to increase goal completions, you should also measure more granular KPIs on the digital marketing channels you use to convert prospects into leads. It’s important to have a multifaceted strategy at the consideration stage, and the following tactics are highly effective for lead generation:
At this stage, it’s important to foreground calls to action (CTAs) that propel prospects to take the next step in the admissions process. Whether you integrate CTAs in emails or include them in your blog posts, there are many ways for schools to gently invite prospects to take the next step in the admissions process.
As you can imagine, measuring CTA performance is a key KPI for the consideration stage. Many marketing automation platforms will allow you to measure click rates across different channels.
Example: In this HubSpot email report, you can measure click rate and click through rate as well as unique and total clicks. Total clicks represent how many times links are clicked in your email and unique clicks indicate the number of times that prospects clicked a link for the first time. In other words, if one person clicked a link in your email three times, it would count as one unique click but three total clicks.
If you offer multiple links in one email, you should also compare the traction of each CTA. A click map, like this one from HubSpot, displays these metrics visually:
Similarly, marketing automation platforms will allow you to analyze how many prospects are clicking on the lead capture CTAs on your website. You may also want to create different CTAs and perform A/B tests to ensure you’re engaging as many prospects as possible in the consideration stage.
Example: This HubSpot A/B test allows schools to see which CTA design performs better in order to optimize accordingly.
When it comes to social media, however, it’s not CTAs you’re measuring – it’s engagement. Likes, comments, and shares represent meaningful interaction with your school’s content. However, engagement looks different across each platform, so use this chart for reference when analyzing social media KPIs in the consideration stage:
While you can view the above metrics on each social channel, you’ll need Google Analytics to measure how effectively your social media posts drive key conversion activities:
In the consideration stage, it is also highly beneficial to launch paid advertising campaigns because prospects are actively researching schools and you want to make sure that yours sticks out in their mind.
However, for consideration-stage campaigns, you’ll want to focus more on conversion metrics as opposed to reach and impressions. To ensure your ads drive inquiries, you should pay close attention to the number of prospects that click on your ads, as well as how many of those fill out the form on your landing page.
Example: In Google Ads, you can assess how many users your ads convert and how much these conversions cost. It’s always important to balance budget with results when measuring ad metrics.
After you’ve devoted time to growing your school’s online presence, you want to ensure that this new audience meaningfully engages with your school – and digital marketing data will give you insight into which tactics best convert prospects into leads.
Measuring Decision Stage KPIs using Google Analytics for Education
By the decision stage, prospects have explored different schools and have demonstrated significant interest in yours, and you need to show them why your school is the right choice. Through lead nurturing, direct contact, and concerted follow-up efforts, you can get these prospects over the finish line.
One simple but effective way to swing prospects in your school’s favour is by creating automated email workflows. These campaigns allow you to present leads with a wide variety of content offers in the hopes that something will give them the final nudge they need to enroll.
Example: This robust email workflow first offers prospects general information after they submit an inquiry, before moving to more specific insights as application deadlines draw closer. By structuring your workflows this way, you gently nurture prospects towards enrollment without appearing overly promotional.
CRM and marketing automation analytics for higher education will allow you school to assess the performance of your workflows to determine how you can more effectively engage prospective students.
Example: This HubSpot report shows how many emails are sent, opened, and clicked. You may want to analyze these numbers over a given timeframe or compare results between emails to assess the factors that have the biggest impact on your prospects’ decision to apply.
In addition to emails, you may also want to reach out to prospects over the phone. A person-to-person connection can have a crucial impact on a prospects’ decision-making process. However, this task is certainly more resource intensive than automated emails, so it’s important to make sure your manual call efforts are generating the results you need.
With HEM’s customized Mautic CRM, you can monitor call outcomes, the number of calls you make, and productivity amongst your admissions staff.
Example: This Call Status report from Mautic can help your school assess the success of its manual follow-up efforts. If you find that you rarely connect with leads over the phone, you may want to begin calling prospects at a later stage in the enrollment journey to increase chances of a positive outcome.
At this stage, you may also want to consider connecting with prospects on Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp, as direct messaging is becoming an increasingly popular way for prospects and schools to communicate via social media.
To measure how effectively your team uses Facebook Messenger, the platform provides a wealth of helpful data. You can assess the volume of messages you receive as well as the timeliness with which you respond. The latter is an especially important KPI, since today’s prospective students often expect immediate answers to their inquiries.
To get a better picture of your enrollment efforts, you will also want to compare and contrast your lead nurturing activities. This will give you a more realistic idea of your recruitment outcomes based on your school’s bandwidth. You can use a CRM to monitor your admissions activities as well as to calculate how many touches it takes to land a student.
Since the purpose of these lead nurturing efforts is to generate bookings and applications, it’s at this stage where you will begin looking at the number of applications you generate. However, not every prospect that starts their application finishes it, so it’s important to monitor how many people drop off midway through the process. This way, you’ll know whether you should optimize your application or booking forms to ensure a smoother process.
Higher Education Analytics for the Enrollment Stage
At the enrollment stage, a lead has successfully applied to your school. Your aim is to help them become students.
By getting applicants prepared and excited for their studies, you can increase the likelihood that they actually enroll. Think blogs about clubs and activities, or things to do in your school’s area. Think pre-arrival emails and engaging with accepted students on social media.
To measure the success of these initiatives, you’ll be looking at metrics that signify a student’s repeated interaction with your school.
For instance, you could track returning visitors to your school’s website. Who are the prospective students that keep coming back for more? You can easily find out using Google Analytics or your school’s CRM:
If pre-arrival emails are part of your school’s digital marketing strategy in the decision stage, make sure to track how many applicants read your emails. However, keep in mind that the read rate for enrolled students should be far higher – like the 60% you see below – than the emails sent to prospects, which usually fall in the 20% range. Knowing these benchmarks will help you assess your email performance in contrast to your competitors.
Another type of KPI central to the enrollment stage is social media engagement.
If your school has a branded hashtag for accepted students (the University of Guelph uses #futuregryphon for instance) then you should track its circulation on social media. Not only will you come away with insightful data – you’ll also be able to engage with these prospects and perhaps get new content to share on your school’s social channels:
Because positive feedback is crucial for future recruitment success, schools should also pay attention to student reviews at the end of the enrollment funnel. Make sure to regularly monitor reviews on Google and Facebook, and respond to comments as quickly as you can:
After you’ve assessed all the different activities that contribute to enrollment, you can zoom out and analyze how effectively you move students through the admissions process.
Using your CRM, you can calculate how many leads became students, as well as which source they came from. This table helpfully indicates which channels were most effective at recruiting students, as well as which need some work:
Then, you can zoom out and assess what percentage of leads eventually became students across channels:
Finally, you can determine the ROI of each digital marketing channel by calculating the average cost per student:
Long-term recruitment success is contingent on continuous optimization, and measuring key performance indicators will give you the data you need. With both granular and broad insight into your recruitment efforts, your school can ensure it allocates resources effectively and makes the most out of its marketing budget.