Red Abbott, Manager of Consulting Services at Finalsite, recently led the webinar, "Google Analytics 101 for School Marketers," to share how professionals working in school marketing and/or admissions can use Google Analytics to improve their efforts.
Google Analytics (GA) is a great tool that gives you a lot of insight (in some cases, arguably too much insight) into of your website traffic and performance. However, the tool is often perceived as complicated, and we often receive numerous questions like: "which data actually matters?" and "how can I find the data that actually matters?" The webinar Google Analytics 101 aims to answer some of those FAQs.
In general, the important data school marketers find helpful will live under the umbrellas Audience, Acquisition, and Behavior. Here, you'll get to learn who your audience is (Audience), where they are they coming from, such as social media vs. organic search (Acquisition), and what types of devices they're using to view your site, the pages they visit most, how much time they're spending on each page, and which pages they most often leave (Behavior).
During this hands-on webinar, Red provided an inside look into Google Analytics dashboard using Peddie School's Google Analytics to share how school professionals can use this data to make better decisions about their marketing, website, communications, enrollment, and overall strategy.
When you log in and land on "Home" in Google Analytics, this dashboard comes up with a summary of website information.
When using Google Analytics to run reports and get useful, meaningful data, here are some important things to keep in mind:
Google doesn't track how often you are logging into your Google Analytics. So, each time you log in and select one of the main tabs on the left, such as Audience, you'll want to update the date range in the upper right-hand corner to get a better picture of your website's audience for the day, week, month or year.
Google Analytics is a great tool for creating graphics that visually explain your website's data. In Google Analytics, you can export reports as a PDF, Google Sheets, Excel (XLSX), or a CSV file. You can find this option right above where the date range is located in the upper right hand corner.
Right next to the toggle for exporting reports, there is also a "share" button that allows you to send reports and information via email. From here, you can even set up how frequently the report is sent and the length the reports will be sent for - whether it's one month, six months, or twelve months.
This feature is especially helpful because it provides you with the data you care about on a regular basis, without needing to go into Google Analytics every month and find it.
Another great way to keep track of peaks in data is the ability to annotate on a specific date to keep record of any activity you may have done on the site to influence traffic.
To do this, simply pull down the arrow in the bottom center of the date range (as seen in the photo below) and select "create a new annotation" on the right. From there, you will see the drop down where you can note the data, information, and save. From there, the note will be saved right under the graph to look back on if needed.
From the interface, there are three buckets of data that many Google Analytics users spend most of their time on and give you the best insight into your school website: Audience, Acquisition, and Behavior.
The "Audience" tab in Google Analytics contains data about the people that are visiting your website (pretty straight forward). The audience tab consists of relevant information to better understand your audience, including:
- Number of active users
- Mobile Usage
For example, under the "Geo" category found under the "Audience" tab in Google Analytics, you're able to understand the language setting for that end user, as well as their location at the time they are browsing your site which could be narrowed down by country, region, state, and even town level.
This is important because it will give your team more insight into where your common visitor is from. For instance, if you are an international school and notice you have many visitors from China, you may want to spend some time creating some pages on your website that are accessible in Chinese to improve their user experience on your website and provide the information that they can best comprehend.
Another example breaks down how audiences are viewing your website from different devices, such as desktops, mobile, and tablets.
It's important to note that in most cases for schools, about only half of the traffic being brought to your website are from a desktop, meaning more people than ever before are using their mobile devices to browse the web. Therefore, it's essential for your website to have a responsive design so visitors can have the best user and navigation experience on your site. For instance, if you begin to notice your mobile viewership go up, it would be worth taking type to analyze the pages on your website to ensure the photos and text will collapse to a mobile-friendly view. If they are unable to browse your website on a mobile device, this could affect your bounce rates and how often they will visit your site.
Acquisition is looking at how your audience got to your website. This is also a great area for schools to determine how well you are driving traffic back to your website, as well as where you may want to invest more time or ad spend.
One of the important tabs under Acquisition is the channels tab under All Traffic:
● Organic search, which typically falls between 50-60% of your overall traffic, explains how your audience arrives to your site from a result in a search engine, such as Google, Bing, or Yahoo - AKA organic search.
● Direct traffic is essentially Google Analytics saying they are not sure where the audience is coming from, which could mean someone visiting your site from a bookmarked link in their browser, simply typing in the URL into the address bar, links included in email blasts, or QR codes.
● Referral traffic is traffic coming from other websites that is not your website. When you click this option, you can actually see the list of websites bringing your audience back to your site. Some of these links may be internal redirects, like a payment gateway integration.
● Social media is also now becoming a popular avenue to bring your audience to your website. Under Acquisition, there is even a separate section on social you can dive into to better understand the traffic coming from social. This will break down the results by platform and is extremely easy to follow.
Behavior is understanding what the audience is doing on your site. This also helps schools better understand how well your school website is organized and built in terms of content to be successful for both your audience and your school.
One great tab to look at under Behavior is the Landing Pages tab which breaks down where everyone is spending their time on your site, no matter how the audience got there.
If you're already a Finalsite client and have either a Page Manager or Composer website, we have done some custom work under the "Events" section of GA that is very useful to our clients:
For example, under the "external links" category, you will find a report that lists the destinations that people are clicking on to leave your website and go to another website. These pages are good "starting points" when you're trying to increase site performance by decreasing exit rates. On these pages, it is important to analyze the visual and text content and determine how you can improve it to get people to stay.
Another useful category is "email links." Here you can see who on campus is being sought out to communicate (many admissions folks can fall under this category).
So, what's next?
Google Analytics may feel a bit overwhelming because there is so much information in there - but start with these areas when you start using the platform to get some new insight into your website. From there, it can influence some changes you may or may not make on your school website, from content, links you are using in emails, how pages are organized on your site, and more. For instance, you can simply leverage popular content on your school's website based on the behavior data.
If you're looking for assistance in areas such as organic Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Pay-per-Click advertising in Search and/or Display (PPC), Social Media Ads, or Traditional Social Media, see how our Search Engine Marketing consulting services can help.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Stephanie brings a fresh new marketing perspective with her background in social media, communications, and radio broadcasting. She is a co-producer for the FinalsiteFM podcast network and is passionate about helping schools stay ahead of their marketing goals by tracking new trends and developments. She is also a practicing singer/songwriter and loves to expand her creativity in DIY projects.