Top 10 Metrics School Marketers Need to Measure

We all know how hard school marketers work every day, but it can be challenging to prove your efforts are paying off. If this is true for your school, you’re not alone. A recent study by ITSMA / Vision Edge Marketing found that 74 percent of marketers are unable to identify the impact their marketing has on their organization. With the plethora of digital marketing tools available, there’s no longer an excuse for not tracking, analyzing and reporting marketing data.

Marketing analytics are essential for understanding what’s working, what can be improved and the return on your investment of time and budget. Metrics, also called key performance indicators (KPIs), are the specific results being tracked. They are commonly used for tracking, assessment and comparison purposes over time. While short-term metrics can be helpful, gaining a birds-eye view by tracking metrics over a longer period of time. A year – or even longer – is helpful so that seasonal fluctuations can be identified.

Tracking the right metrics gives school marketers perspective. Gaining insight into your analytic results helps you set goals and reasonable expectations. For example, if you’re currently experiencing 2,000 users to your website per month, setting a goal of 10,000 monthly users is most likely unreasonable. Setting a goal of 4,000 website users per month might be a more realistic goal based on your current traffic.

Social media analytics are similarly useful. For example, tracking engagement metrics on your social media channels can help guide future content topics.

In today’s technology age, a plethora of digital marketing tools offers school marketers unprecedented amounts of data. This can pose a challenge for marketers, who can end up spending too much time focused on analytics that may not prove advantageous. School marketers need to be measuring the right metrics.

School marketing metrics should meet the following guiding principles. They should be:

  • Set at the beginning of the year, so the marketing team is aware of the goals they are striving to reach.
  • Easy to understand and use.
  • Easily compared from one period to the next.
  • Useful, actionable and deliver a positive impact on the school.

Here are the top 10 marketing metrics school marketing departments should consider tracking, analyzing and reporting.

  1. Website Traffic

Website traffic lets you know how many people visited your website during a set time period. It can be broken down into source/medium, which tells you where your traffic is coming from.

Website traffic is best measured over time so you can see patterns emerge. A good rule of thumb is that if you’re doing a good job your overall traffic should increase over time.

Here’s how to measure your website traffic:

  • Login to your Google Analytics dashboard
  • Go to Acquisition > Overview > Sessions
  • Select the timeframe you want to review (I usually track at least the last 30 days)
  1. Channel-Specific Traffic

Channel-specific traffic refers to where visitors were before they came to your website. Understanding where people were immediately before visiting your site gives you valuable information about the channels your audience prefers as well as what might be causing a drop in visits if you see dips in overall traffic.

There are nine channels used to measure website traffic in Google Analytics. Don’t be concerned if you don’t see all of these – only metrics relevant to your website will be displayed.

  • Organic search – these visitors came to your site by typing a search term or phrase into a search engine and clicked on your website’s organic (non-paid) link.
  • Social – This measures the number of people who came to your site via a social media platform.
  • Direct – A direct channel refers to the people who actually typed your website URL into the search bar or have visited your site before. If they visited before, the search engine search box will automatically fill in when they start to type in your URL and take them directly to your stie.
  • Referral – A referral is when someone lands on your website directly from another website. This could include a directory listing; it means someone followed a link from a different domain than yours to get to your website.
  • Paid search – This indicates traffic from pay-per-click (ppc) campaigns (i.e. Google Ads, Facebook Ads, etc.)
  • Email – Traffic that lands on your website by clicking on a link from within an email.
  • Display – Traffic from display advertising such as Google Ads display banner or remarketing effort.
  • Affiliates – Traffic sourced through affiliate ads.
  • Other advertising – Traffic that comes from advertising other than PPC, such as click-per-view (cpv), click-per-action (cpa) or click-per-1000-impressions (cpm). 

View your channel traffic under your website traffic metrics (see #1 above).

  1. Conversions

In the past, conversions referred to a purchase on your website. In today’s digital world we think of conversions in a broader sense because we want to gain a better understanding of the actions users are taking on our website.

A conversion is  as a desired action you define, such as filling out an inquiry form, signing up for your newsletter or downloading an ebook.

Tracking conversions is important. If you have a low conversion rate, it can indicate poor website design, an unappealing offer or a disinterested audience. Tracking conversions helps you identify which aspects of your site people are interacting with and which ones they aren’t.

Low conversion rates might mean you should consider a website redesign or updating your inquiry funnel.

Here’s how to view your Conversions:

  • From your Google Analytics dashboard
  • Go to Conversions > Goals > Overview > Source/Medium
  • Select a timeframe (upper right)
  • Click “View Full Report”
  1. Bounce Rate

A bounce rate is the average number of website visitors that left the site from the same page they landed on without viewing any other pages on your site. In general, your goal is to have a low bounce rate because your goal is to offer content on your site that will entice people to explore.

Each page on your site will have its own bounce rate, giving you page-specific information.

In general, you want your bounce rate to be 30 percent or less; if it’s much higher you definitely want to think about how to lower that rate.

Here’s how to view your Bounce Rate by Channel:

  • From your Google Analytics dashboard
  • Go to Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels > Choose a specific channel to view that channel’s performance
  • Select a timeframe (upper right).
  • Check the Bounce Rate column.

Here’s how to view your Bounce Rate by Page:

  • From your Google Analytics dashboard
  • Go to Behavior > Site Content > All Pages or Landing Pages
  • Select a timeframe (upper right)
  • Check the Bounce Rate column
  1. Search Trends

Search trends provide school marketers with valuable information. Studying Search Trends lets you know if you’re targeting the right keywords for your campaigns. Cross-check Search Trends with your Overall Traffic to identify changes in performance that may be attributed to changing Search Trends.

Here’s how to measure Search Trends:

  • Go to Google Trends and enter the search term you want to research
  • Try using a broad search (i.e. United States) or narrow it to a smaller region by drilling down
  • You can even search in a smaller geographical area if there is enough data
  • Google will generate related search terms
  1. New Vs. Returning Users

This metric is useful for determining how well your site is encouraging new visitors as well as how effective your outreach campaigns are performing.

Most Reports include a New Users column (i.e. Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels). You can also view the percentage of new sessions as an indicator from this report.

  1. Queries

Queries insights helps you identify the queries people are searching for that is bringing them to your website. In order to view Queries you need to have your Google Search Console linked to your Google Analytics account. Here’s how to configure Search Console in Google Analytics.

Once your Search Console data is viewable in Google Analytics, go to Acquisition > Search Console > Queries.

  1. Top Organic Landing Pages

This is a great metric because it allows you to see which pages on your website are the most visible to search engines. If your top page visited is a specific article, it tells you what people are most interested in. This metric also helps you understand how well your pages are optimized and whether you need to review your SEO strategy.

Here’s how to measure Top Organic Landing Pages:

  • Go to Behavior > Site Content > Landing Pages > Secondary Dimension (drop down) and choose Acquisition > Medium
  • Near the search bar, click “Advanced” and then create an advanced filter
  • Choose to show only “Medium” and type “Organic” into the containing-only field
  • Click on “Apply”
  1. User Demographics

Google Analytics provides some user demographics. The most important metric here for schools is the location information. This is relevant to ensure your marketing efforts are focused in the right geographic location.

  • Go to Audience > Geo > Location
  • Set the timeframe you want to measure (upper right)
  • Drill down to view metrics for regional/city location
  1. Brand Sentiment

It’s important to be aware of what’s being said about your school so you can proactively respond if needed. There are several tools you can use to conduct a brand sentiment search. Four of my favorites are:

You can also use Google Alerts but I think they are more cumbersome than GigaAlerts (gives you aggregated information).

While metrics are important, don’t get too hung up on them if they don’t make sense for your school. No two schools are exactly the same, so what works for my school might not work for yours.

In essence, metrics (or key performance indicators – KPIs) are tools to use to help make your marketing goals concrete and your efforts at reaching them observable and quantifiable.

What are your top marketing metrics? What essential ones should be added to this list? Please comment below…

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