Bob Johnson's Blog on Higher Education Marketing

Web analytics and student recruitment...

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Early this afternoon I had the pleasure of participating in an Eduventures panel discussion on "Recruiting in a Digital Age: The Evolving Nature of Search."

My 15-minute section was on the role of Web Analytics. It was an interesting exercise to select from a 75-minute presentation the key slides to work with today.

At the end came a question from the Eduventures audience that I'd not thought of before... "How often should web analytics reports be reviewed?"

Review Web Analytics Weekly

The answer: Weekly, or about as often as most deans and directors of admissions review inquiry stats. Why once a week?

In today's digital age, potential students search for the right college online in the now proverbial "stealth" fashion that hides identity for a long time, often until the point of application. In that context, tracking the number of new visitors to selected web pages is an important supplement to the weekly counting of new inquiries.

Key Steps to Key Data

  • Make sure the analytics program is set to filter out internal use of the site, so that your tracking reports are only based on new visitors.
  • Get stats to identify the admissions section pages most frequently visited by new visitors in the past 6 months and select the highest for weekly tracking. (Do a google search for your own school and note the 6 alternate entry points that you'll see there. Future students and parents will have a choice of bypassing your main "home" page and going directly to "admissions" or "prospective students" or "academic programs.")
  • Be sure to check the pages for your most popular academic programs. Many students with strong interest in a particular program will head direct for your section on architeture or engineering before (maybe) doubling back to admissions.
  • Ideally, you can access the analytics reports from within the admissions office. If you're not sure, check to see if that's possible. If it isn't, then ask IT for reports on just the 2 to 5 most important pages on the site. That's enough to serve the purpose: is interest in my college or university increasing or decreasing over what it was a year ago?
  • Start saving the results. After the first year, you'll be able to review new web visits in the recruitment cycle so that you know if interest is increasing or decreasing.
  • In addition to the number of new visitors, ask for the "bounce rate" as well. That's the term Google Analytics uses to tell you what percent of visitors leave a given page without moving on to another. If your bounce rate for new visitors on key admissions pages is over 50 percent, you have a problem. You probably need to rework that page after at least informal usability testing to help identify the problems.

That's it for now. More later on the value of web analytics and how they can help measure success in student recruitment. 

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