{Video} Tracking the Effectiveness of Online Marketing for Colleges

James Hutto here, and I want to talk to you about something that’s really been on my mind a lot: tracking effectiveness. I think it goes well beyond just looking at your analytics. I’d like to run you through a few of my thoughts on that today. We’re going to talk about how to track the effectiveness of your online marketing campaign for a higher educational institution, your university, or your grad program.

1. Stay away from vanity metrics. This is the biggest problem I see with pretty much anybody I talk to these days. When trying to quantify the effectiveness of an online campaign, people tend to say “Let’s look at our top list and our traffic. Let’s see how many hits our website has received.” This is just ridiculous and will not show you the true picture of how effective your online marketing efforts are. It’s taking a completely overarching view of factors not really correlating with results. The way we quantify results for most higher educational institutions is by determining how many applications you receive and how many of those we are turning into enrollments.

Don’t look at the metrics that make you feel good. Pay attention to the ones that really matter. A prime example of a vanity metric would be a top line Google Analytics business determining how much traffic they received this month compared to last month or the previous year. This doesn’t provide you with a good view of how you’re doing, if you’re engaged in SEO, when you’re running email nurturing campaigns, and all the additional things we recommend you do to promote your program. Google Analytics won’t show you this information.

2. Track what matters. While you should absolutely be staying away from vanity metrics, what should you be paying attention to? You need to set up your Google Analytics goals. This allows you to track every time someone downloads an e-Book, your applications, when someone fills out a form to attend an info session, and any newsletter sign-ups. There are so many things we track and try to quantify to understand the effectiveness of a campaign. Ultimately, we tie this back to “Where do they come from?” This is centered around if we are driving in traffic through organic SEO or through pay-per-click. Then we want to determine based on our pay-per-click budget how many conversions we get, the amount of newsletter sign-ups, e-Book downloads, mailing list sign-ups, and how many people are filling out applications.

For most companies, I typically break it down into three words: Traffic, Leads, and Sales. Every graduate program we’ve looked at has a buying cycle between 9 to 18 months on average. Thinking someone is going to register the first time they visit your website will not get you anywhere.

Track what matters, but also set your campaign up so you are pushing people into funnels and can re-market for them. If someone is trying to find out information about an MBA program, grab their email by offering premium content. Now you have the ability to update them on info sessions down the road, when the enrollment period is coming up, or new financial aid terms. There are a number of reasons you could reach out and try to nurture a lead into becoming a student.

So that’s it. Stay away from vanity metrics. Don’t get lost in how many Twitter followers you have and what your top line Google Analytics look like. Track what matters and really look at how you’re capturing leads and nurturing those into new enrollments. That’s it. We’ll talk soon.