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Sarah Gordon, Assistant Director of Communications
Choate Rosemary Hall

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Sarah Gordon, Assistant Director of Communications
Choate Rosemary Hall
  • Independent Schools
Are Paid Online School Directories Worth The Investment?
Danielle Schollaert

Do you wonder how effective your online marketing outlets are? Do you want to see if your efforts are paying off? Did you know you can using Google Analytics?!

For example, let's turn our focus to online independent school directories — like boardingschoolreview.org. You can use Google Analytics to determine their worth within your school's marketing initiative.

Are paid online directories worth the investment?

School directories have long been part of the marketing mix for independent schools because they:

  • Provide a quick, one-stop, reliable resource for students and parents looking for objective information about multiple schools
  • Help expand your digital footprint by providing alternate access to your school's information outside of your website
  • Have the potential to increase SEO efforts since links to your site from these quality sources offer the off-site authority building needed to validate your site and increase its page rank (based on what we know about the elusive Google algorithm)

Here are the steps to take in Google Analytics to see if and how paid directories are performing for you.

1. Go to Acquisition > All Traffic > Referrals in the left menu bar in your Google Analytics account.

Referrals in GA

2. Select the time frame you want to analyze. It would be a good idea to set it to coincide with specific marketing initiatives. You may also want to use a full year since school selection is a long process.

3. The results show a list of referrals (external websites that sent referred visitors directly to your school's site by clicking a link), ranked highest to lowest by number of sessions. For simplicity's sake, we are analyzing the top ten referrals.

Data in GA

In this example, you will see there are 4 online directories within the top ten referral sources. Let's take a look at the corresponding data to see if these referrals offer any value. Boardingschoolreview.com is the third largest referrer for this particular school, responsible for over 5% of the school's overall referral traffic.

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All in all, it's a small percent but the data shows they are highly engaged:

  • These users were mostly new, never having been to the site before — a desired population.
  • These visitors have a very low bounce rate, half of the average for all referral sources, so they are staying on the site, interacting with content, instead of leaving after the first page view.
  • They are viewing 3.68 pages per session, one page greater than the average number of pages viewed by referrals overall.
  • They are spending almost four minutes on the site, double the average length of time on site for all referral sources.

Data for other directories in the top ten is equally compelling. These sites tend to refer more engaged users – more qualified leads — validating this school's placements in school directories.

By looking at referring traffic and corresponding user engagement, you can determine how well directories are contributing to your site's performance, marketing efforts and bottom line. Consider adding referral data to your usual analytics reports so you can keep a pulse on high-performing referral sites and further refine your marketing efforts.

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Danielle Schollaert

Danielle has over 10 years of digital marketing experience including positions at Advertising.com/AOL, Weber Shandwick and 906 Creative. She holds a B.A. from Colgate University and an M.B.A from the University of Maryland and currently resides in Maryland with her husband and two children.

  • Marketing/Communications
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