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Campus Suite Blog

How to Set School Website Goals Using Google Analytics

Posted by Steve Williams
Aug 4, 2016 11:56:01 AM

Schools are consumed with data. Educators employ data-driven practices to measure student learning and teacher performance. Parents rely on critical data points – like test scores and graduation rates – to see how a school stacks up when deciding where to enroll their child. But what about adopting a quantitative approach, using Google Analytics for schools, to track website performance?

Using Google Analytics Goals, you can glean powerful insight into website activity. These tools can help to create an optimal user experience for parents  students, and key stakeholders, while also attracting prospective families to join your school community. For some good background, check out this introduction to using Google Analytics for schools.

Aren’t you curious to learn how you can quantify your enrollment marketing efforts and get your finger on the pulse of what’s working? Or perhaps you would like to experiment with some of the savvy marketing strategies used in higher ed, and be able to chart its effectiveness. By setting goals in Google Analytics, schools can do just that by measuring website efficacy.

Google Analytics and enrollment marketing

Data derived from Google Analytics Goals can be a powerful aid in boosting enrollment. When visitors initially scope out your school website, keep in mind that they’ve probably been scouring out the competition.

In the world of education, a website lead might become a new pupil sitting in one of your classrooms in a couple weeks. Keeping track of such leads is crucial. By studying this behavior, you can hone in on what keeps certain leads from further materializing.

Schools have felt increased pressure to maintain stable enrollment numbers. Steady enrollment means keeping strong teacher-to-student ratios and offering robust academic offerings. Healthy enrollment, regardless if you are a private or public educational institution, means a solid stream of money sourced from either tuition or tax revenue.

Open enrollment/school choice has tossed public schools into the enrollment marketing fray, necessitating a more strategic use of tactics like websites, email marketing, social media, and more.

Unfortunately, some schools and even entire districts have felt the pangs of under-enrollment, like Baltimore City Schools, resulting in the loss of millions of dollars. On the flip side, lottery systems used by schools in Washington, D.C. have demonstrated that students are vying for limited seats.

What we can learn from this is that students come and go, and schools need to be well positioned for new student enrollment at anytime. To attract new students, it would behoove schools to use their web presence as a means for enrollment marketing. After all, your school’s website influences perception as the digital entry point to your school’s brand, regardless if you are a charter, private or public school.

What does enrollment marketing look like for schools and how can you  parlay it with helpful Google tools to enhance such outreach efforts?

Use visitor needs to help set website goals

Having key information readily accessible on your school’s website is a start. A study conducted by GreatSchools.org found that parents heavily weigh decisions of school choice, and are seeking specific school information.

Parents want to know about a school’s demographic makeup and if there are supervised programs beyond the school day. Performance trends are also helpful to parents.

Creating a seamless destination path to the following information is imperative to keep site visitors from bouncing off your page and onto another school’s website:

  • Application/registration process
    • Student eligibility
    • Enrollment deadlines (if applicable)
  • Test scores and other sources of academic performance data
  • Extracurricular activities
  • Student diversity
  • School extended hours: after/before school programming

Website design drives smart goal setting

While information may be the end goal, a poor design can just as easily detract from what you are trying to convey. Deliberate website design is a must have.

The elements of design are just as critical to the user experience, as the information itself, and should not be overlooked. There’s a whole science behind happy design that keeps users, like parents and students, engaged.

Successful websites are user-friendly. Visible links. Organized material. Intuitive drop down menus. Nothing too busy. Your school website should reflect credibility and authenticity. Features of website design, like color, font type and use of images, need to have aesthetic purpose.

Through the use of Google Analytics Goals, you become privy to website design issues that could be impacting leads and conversions.

Think ‘conversion’ when setting website goals

There’s a host of reasons why traffic lands on your school’s website and the activity patterns of users are invaluable. Like a business, you want your website visitor to take a certain action.

Whether users are perusing academic curricula, downloading a summer reading list or purchasing school spirit wear, the tracking tools available through Google Analytics Goals chart the frequency of specific actions.

These successful user actions are known as conversions. For a school website, conversion activity might be a visitor submitting a form to join the Parent Teacher Organization or signing up for a registration appointment to enroll their child in your school.

Essentially, Google Analytics Goals for schools enables you to see what’s working by tracking leads, understanding the destination path of users and charting user behavior that leads to conversions. By tracking these key metrics, you can get the most out of your web traffic.

The use of goal features in Google Analytics for schools will help you answer the following questions:

  • How many visitors are you getting per month?
  • What are the optimal sources of web traffic (social media, referrals, email, or through an organic channel)
  • What improvements can be made to a user’s web experience on your school’s site?
  • What is the frequency rate of site visitors engaging with the web content? (submitting forms, clicking on links or downloading material)
  • What does an ideal destination pathway look like that results in a conversion?

Focus on visitor destinations

Your focus should be on Destination Goals. In other words, when a visitor lands on a specific location (URL) on your site.

Using Google Analytics Goals, reports are generated that track the URL of unique page visits. Once specific URLs are tracked, you can determine how many conversions are submitted and from which channels allowing you to compare campaigns.

For example, you could evaluate if Facebook posts generate more web activity that lead to conversions over Twitter posts.

With Destination Goals, you can enable the funnel feature of Google Analytics shedding light on the direct pathway a site visitor took to reach a conversion. This enables you to see how many clicks and page visits it took to get a visitor to the desired destination.

The funnel feature can reveal if a pathway to conversion is too cumbersome for visitors. Through deliberate website design and a meaningful content strategy, you can lay out a clear route for users.

Conclusion

If you want to give your website a competitive edge, you need to use baseline data and goals through Google Analytics for schools. Without this knowledge, your efforts toward improvement could be for naught.

Data is the roadmap to get you to your next destination.

Take it from management guru Peter Drucker who so aptly drives home the point of data use, as he stated, “what get’s measured, gets managed.

Understanding what leads and conversions mean for your school community will only further enhance your website efficacy, positive branding and give you the tools to build a strong student body through enrollment marketing.

Leveraging the tools available through Google Analytics for schools, along with a vigorous marketing campaign, your school website can gain momentum to compete in the online marketplace of vast educational options.


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Posted by Steve Williams

As co-founder of Campus Suite, Steve believes behind every great school is great communication. His tech savvy and passion for design fuel his desire to help administrators understand, embrace and seize the power of web communications.

Topics: School Districts Private schools Website design Content management

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This blog and other Campus Suite Academy resources are part of our commitment to professional development for school communicators. Please join our forum for sharing the latest technology and communication trends to help schools better engage and improve education outcomes.

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