Google Analytics Tracking Tips for Higher Education
Before you even think about Google Analytics tracking, step back and ask yourself, "What do I need to know from the website, and how often do I need to know it?" Then carefully configure GA to accurately meet those needs. We sometimes see with Higher Ed that UA-ID usage is fragmented across the domain, primarily because there are many different content "owners" across many different departments. Hence, if standards aren't followed, session continuity can be lost as users move through your website.
Tracking at Department & Institution Level: Most colleges are composed of multiple departments, or schools, on campus. How do you setup GA to be effective for all the departments such that all their data & reports are separate, yet everything rolls up to the institutional level? Use dual tracking for this purpose such that there are 2 sets of tracking for each of the departments.
Tracking Specific Audiences: In order to isolate and track only prospective students, current students, alumni or faculty, configure a user-level custom dimension in GA and use the code snippets given by GA to tag each user interaction. You can then utilize the dimension in Advanced Segments, as a Secondary Dimension in reports or within custom Reporting Views filtered on the Dimension so you can easily isolate any of these audiences.
Tracking Non-Pageview Activities: Standard tracking with Google Analytics is based on pageviews. When you click on a link, a signal is sent to GA that a new page is being presented and viewed. However, you can also track non-pageview activities (video, FAQs, photo gallery, viewbook, download of a tour, etc.) and associate them with conversions (application submission, visit requests, etc.) by using Event Tracking. Just identify the activities, configure and install the snippets, then include the events in your reporting.
Tracking Admissions Applications: This is a common issue and the solution really depends on your current setup (private app, Common App, other 3rd party, downloadable PDF) and how accurate you want to be. Since the actual completion of the application typically takes place "offline", and not directly on the website, many colleges and universities measure the "intent to apply" by
- using Event Tracking to identify the exit point from your website to the application,
- configuring a virtual pageview for PDF downloads (and as a conversion), or
- identifying certain pages in the process and configuring them as conversion points.
If you are fortunate enough to use in-house application software, you can embed GA tracking directly to get actual results. However, since many colleges provide multiple methods for submitting an application, our GAFUSION product provides a more accurate, consolidated solution.