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Congratulations from the Beacon team on completing another busy academic year!
In the last few months, your campus has hosted a myriad of visiting students and their families, completed another round of final exams, framed up your incoming freshman class and sent off your most recent group of accomplished graduates to a bright future.
Whew. After all that, for higher ed professionals, there’s no shame in picturing yourself on some wonderful tropical island paradise, soaking away your vacation days.
It’s June. You can absolutely be forgiven for taking a moment to revel in the accomplishments of the past year. Thank goodness for summer sessions, right?
However, while there’s undoubtedly many reasons to celebrate your achievements, summer’s slower pace is also an excellent opportunity to assess the efficacy of your marketing efforts. If you want your next recruiting class to be as good or better as the last, you have to know what you did right and what didn’t work out quite as you planned.
So, where can a higher ed marketer look for answers (once you’re back in the office with a nice tan, that is)?
As your flagship marketing asset, your higher ed website is a natural place to start. It’s also the place from where most of your prospective students will initiate their journey to your campus.
If your site is properly configured for tracking visitors (read: must-have), you can mine the used engagement data for a host of insights into the interests, motivators and behaviors of your target audiences. From that information, it’s easy to see how well your website is meeting all those needs.
Let’s dig into the benefits of used engagement analysis, shall we?
What is User Engagement Data?
First, let’s define what user engagement data are. Actually, let’s let Luke Pajer, Beacon’s resident data wiz, define it for us:
“User engagement data describe the interactions visitors have with your site. These data are important for measuring the performance of various webpages, including any featured elements – such as, videos, call-to-action buttons, internal links, social shares, and the like. User engagement analysis informs the rationale for any effective website strategy.”
Ok, now that we know what engagement data are, where can find them?
At Beacon, we trust Google Analytics (GA) to track user interaction. Let’s find out a little more about GA.
5 Key User Engagement Metrics to Analyze
There are a host of various indicators in a GA account, tracking everything from real-time user interactions to acquisition, behavior and conversion data points. Not only that, there are many different ways to parse all that data.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed with all the tools at your disposal. And, for that very reason Google offers a series of trainings and certifications to help educate customers on strategic uses of the platforms.
However, while helpful, you don’t need certification to get a basic overall picture of how your website is performing. That can be accomplished by looking at just a handful of key indicators.
This is THE bottom line metric. Sessions track the number of times visitors have accessed a particular page. Note that this is not the same thing as “users,” which represents the unique visitors to the page (the same user can log several sessions by leaving and returning to your site).
If a user accessed a page and then quickly moved on to another page or left your site altogether, they are said to have “bounced.” The bounce rate, then, is the percentage of sessions with no user interaction with a particular page.
Average session duration
This one is pretty straight forward. The average session duration defines how long you could expect a typical user to remain on a given page.
Pages per Session
This metric shows how many pages, on average, were accessed in a typical user session.
You can track the actions that you want users to take on your site by setting up goal and event tracking (this can be done with Google Tag Manager). You can even assign a monetary value to a goal and determine how well each page performs financially.
Again, you can do a lot more with your GA account. However, in any analysis of your website traffic, you should probably take into account the above five metrics.
Using Engagement Data Strategically
You can use user engagement data to see how well content performs on your site. From there you’re empowered to make educated guesses on suitable improvements or fixes. With historical data, you can also compare the performance of various content updates against each other and evaluate their effectiveness.
A common analysis tactic is to break out user engagement data by audience (audience tracking can also be set up with Google Tag Manager). This way, you can tailor content adjustments based on the unique usage patterns of specific audiences – like, prospective students.
GA can also help you figure out the effectiveness of multi-channel marketing campaigns (email, paid search, social media, etc) by tracking how users get to your site.
Your data analysis can be basic, moderate, advanced, a combination of all, or something in between. As with most data analytics tools, the end product is dependent on the skill level of the user. (From experience, we advise that the level of analysis in your reporting match the comfort level of the report audience.)
Beacon Knows Google Analytics
Is your higher ed website properly configured to take full advantage of Google Analytics insights? Beacon can make sure you’re set up for success. Request a complimentary website audit from our team of GA experts.