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When auditing higher ed Google Analytics accounts, we typically see that clients calculate admissions content stats and goal conversion rates against their global data. This is despite the fact that they know not all people who visit the website are prospective students.
Wouldn’t it be great to have Google Analytics reporting that focuses on prospective students? How about other reporting sets for other audiences, too? The custom dimension feature in Google Analytics is a great way to build audience segments, and we can start with prospective students. First, you need to identify pages, links, buttons, and other content elements with which you have a high level of confidence that only prospective students would interact. Some examples include clicking an Apply Online call-to-action or scheduling a campus visit. Simply landing on the admissions home page is probably not a specific enough indicator of a prospective student. In the Google Analytics admin, you will need to configure a new custom dimension, possibly naming it Visitor Type. Be sure to set it as a user-level dimension so that data spanning multiple website sessions will be collected. If your Google Analytics tracking is hard-coded on the website, you would apply the given code snippet to all pages and page elements that indicate a user is a prospective student. If you are using Google Tag Manager, you would update your tags to include the custom dimension variable, ensuring it is only triggered by any of the pages or page elements you identified earlier.
After testing the new tracking and taking it live, you can utilize the custom dimension in a number of ways, including custom reports, dashboards, or even a new reporting view dedicated to the audience. Be mindful that you should assess the viability of each page and page element that make up your prospective student audience, in order to continue to have confidence in the parameters that define the audience. Of course, you can add or remove any pages or page elements as you see fit, always striving to have the audience tagging as accurate as possible.