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3 Metrics for Improving School Websites
Red Abbott

I don't want to alarm you, but there are people wandering around your school's website right this second and you don't know what they're looking for! Or do you? With a tool like Google Analytics, it's easy to see what content is most popular, but that's a blunt instrument in comparison to these three website metrics for improving your school's web design — and they're all available within Finalsite's content management system, Composer.

Yes, there's a lot you can do to reduce a high bounce rate, improve conversion rates, and increase the average time on page, but it all comes back to creating a better user experience and knowing what your users want. Start by asking yourself:

  1. Where do visitors from search engines land on your site?
  2. What percentage of your visitors use the site's own search feature?
  3. What are your users looking for? 

Where do visitors from search engines land on your site?

In the wake of Google's decision to stop providing search term specifics to website owners, we're left looking for insights into the searcher's mind – what exactly is he or she looking for when they visited your school's website? Is it your tuition? Your swimming program? Your head of school?

Listen: the homepage will always dominate your list of landing pages, but the top 10 can tell you a lot about the kinds of specific phrases people use when searching for information on your site and as a result, you know what content is the most sought-after (e.g., "Finalsite Academy tuition"). And that might drive decisions you make about the architecture, content, and pages on your website. 

What percentage of your visitors use the site's own search feature?

I just did a completely unscientific survey of eight Finalsite sites, and the average was 2.4%. On average, one out of every 42 site visitors uses site search to find something on the site. The range for this group was between 1.1% (about one out of every 91 visitors) and 3.4% (one out of every 29 visitors).

When you look at the percentages, it seems like a pretty tightly packed group. But in "one out of X" terms, there's a big difference between the low and high ends. Know where you are on that spectrum. But don't stop there...

SEO Services

What are your users looking for?

Have you ever thought about what your users are searching for on your site? The way your users engage and interact with your school’s site plays a major role in user experience, and if they’re looking for information and can’t find it…well…say, “goodbye!” Luckily, with Finalsite’s Search Analytics feature within Composer, these insights (and more) are right at your fingertips.

For a school using Finalsite's content management system, Composer, it’s easy to access your analytics and see the search data for the previous seven days. From there, you can see what the top search queries were, what searches returned only a few hits, and even what countries the searches originated from.

table with site searches

You can also see how many searches were made, how many unique IP addresses those searches came from, and what the average number of searches was for each IP address. This gives you insight into whether multiple visitors made just a few searches (which might indicate problems with your site’s navigation), or if a few visitors searched many times. Knowledge is power!

You’ll also be able to view what your users wanted to find on your site, including the search term, the number of times that search term was entered within the past week, and how many results users received.

Finalsite’s Search Analytics also shows valuable information about how your site is functioning in response to users’ queries. If you have multiple queries with only a few hits, it could be a sign that you need to rethink your site’s content.

global data in Site Analytics

There’s also a global map and a table indicating what countries the previous week’s searches originated from. Some of the results may surprise you, but it’s a good indication if your content is reaching the right people.

Knowing what you know now, it would foment panic to learn that one in 25 of your site's visitors need to use the site search to find what they're looking for. You need to know what they're looking for. Looking at a list of the most popular site search terms, I focus on a couple of things:

1. Are the top few terms used more frequently than the next few?

For example, is #3 used in twice as many searches as #4? This is a signal that these are really important topics that are too hard to find in the navigation or on the homepage. That's actionable.

2. If #1 doesn't apply...

Then you've got to look for groups of terms that add up to something significant. Do they relate to a page on your site, or are they have similar phrasing?

3. If #2 doesn't apply...

Then you've got a lot of topics that are all similarly popular. Put your strategy hat on and pick the two or three that represent the most valuable site visits and make it so those people don't have to use the site search to find what they're looking for!

Key Takeaway

Put this all together and you'll have a lot more confidence talking about what people want out of your website and where you can focus your efforts to improve the site experience for important visitors!

Finalsite’s content management system, Composer, makes it easy to set up Google Analytics, and if you’re on Composer, chances are you’re already running GA. If you’re not sure, contact your Client Success Manager for help sorting it out.

Not sure where to start with digital advertising? Finalsite is here to help! Click here to get started.

Red Abbott headshot

Red Abbott leads Finalsite's Consulting Services team, tasked with helping schools around the globe with increasingly critical sources of new connections: organic search engine visibility, online ads, and social media. Red has a long history with American independent schools as: an alumnus, a former teacher (and dorm parent, and coach, and advisor, and…), and a current parent. Throw in his engineering degree and a master’s in school leadership, and you’ll see right away why clients say Red “gets them” when they discuss marketing strategy.  Red loves to hear about the challenges schools are facing and what creative solutions they are coming up with in response.

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