Setting Conversion Goals for your College or University Website

More than likely, you’ve installed the required Google Analytics tracking code on your website. You already peruse the monthly totals for visits, session duration and bounce rate. You have an idea what pages are most popular with visitors. However, unless you’ve set up the right conversion goals, you don’t really know which pages lead to a request for more information or even more importantly, an application.

Once you begin tracking this information, you can start asking a whole host of important questions such as:

  • What content is most likely to lead to a conversion?
  • Do mobile visitors convert at a better rate than desktop?
  • How can I get more conversion?

Setting Large and Small Conversion Goals

Your goals will depend upon the type of landing page it applies to. For example, for an admissions page it would likely be an application submission. By contrast, a request for a course catalog may be more appropriate for a program page.

Set both large and small goals, not unlike the way a football coach sets team goals for first downs as well as total points. After all, little successes often lead to bigger ones. This is particularly applicable for Higher Ed as the application process has so many touch points and each suggests an increased level of commitment.

A video view or email inquiry regarding a sporting event may be considered a small goal. A PDF download or request for a catalog suggests greater interest and may lie somewhere in the middle. An application submission is a more significant goal, obviously. Knowing what drives the earlier goals may very well provide you with the needed strategy to lead visitors to an application submission.

At a minimum, consider setting up conversion goals for:

  • Video Views
  • From Submissions
  • Virtual Tour Views
  • Requests for Campus Tours
  • Emails to Admissions Office and Faculty
  • PDF Downloads
  • Applications
  • Class Registrations

Higher Ed: PPC and Conversion Goals

If you spend a dime on PPC and don’t have the proper conversion goals in place, then you must have a money tree outside your office.

It goes without saying that 99% of those who visit your website don’t complete an application. However, many have converted on a lesser level. You’ve invested a significant portion of your marketing dollars in PPC. The information you gain from the smaller conversion can help you direct these same people through the conversion funnel and eventually, to an application. Why would you ever let these leads evaporate into thin air?

How ‘Bout Remarketing?

The enrollment funnel is longer than that of normal sales funnels. This gives students ample opportunity to leave for a variety of reasons. Remarketing keeps your ads in the front row and your school in the consciousness of the prospect.

Here’s how it works. The student’s initial visit generates a cookie which triggers your ad after they’ve left your site. Your ad may appear once again when they visit similar or competing websites. Conversion rates are generally much higher for these types of ads as the prospect has already expressed some kind of interest in your school.

The Bottom Line

At Beacon, we’ve been helping marketing professionals in Higher Ed effectively grow their digital presence for more than 20 years. If you have any questions regarding your school’s Google Analytics conversion goal set up, I encourage you to email me or call a Beacon team member at 1.855.851.0109. We’ll help clarify the admissions funnel and get you on the road to increased enrollment in no time.

Kent Dickinson
Kent Dickinson joined Beacon as an Account Executive in May 2017. Kent is a veteran sales executive with more than 25 years of experience in business development, strategic planning, operations, and sales management. He has worked in a variety of industries including digital printing, book publishing, educational textbooks, direct marketing, consulting, and financial services. Kent earned a B.S. in Business from Wake Forest University, and his MBA from the UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School. Kent is an avid college sports fan, an occasional golfer, and bedtime reader. He also enjoys travelling and considers himself an adventurous foody.
By | 2017-10-12T08:24:19+00:00 October 10th, 2017|Digital Marketing, Higher Education|0 Comments

Creating a Focus Group for Your Higher Ed Redesign – Part 2

Below is part two of “How to Create an Effective Focus Group for Your Higher Ed Redesign”. To read part one, visit here.

How to Choose a Focus Group Moderator

A moderator is much more than a note taker. You’ll need one of those, too. However, your moderator will be responsible for eliciting the most from your focus group. The moderator has a profound effect on the success (or failure) of your focus group as they are expected to set a relaxed tone, keep the discussion focused, observe body language and other cues, and create an environment that elicits the most valuable input from your participants.

Moderators must be good listeners. They must be able to manage a group dynamic and facilitate the kind of environment that makes participants want to share. Moderators have different styles. However, a good moderator will adapt to the personality of the focus group. For example, a moderator may joke with student participants while taking a more serious tact with faculty or administrators.

An experienced moderator will effectively manage the group and keep everyone focused. A good listener can ask the right follow up questions and get your participants to share things they might not otherwise.

Analyzing the Results

Before any analysis begins, take a few moments immediately after the focus group leaves to recall the day’s events and fill in any gaps that may exist in your notes. If you’ve taped the session, transcribe it immediately and note any observations regarding body language or behavioral anomalies within the context of the conversation.

After you’ve got each answer grouped with the question it addresses, take a look at your data and ask yourself the following:

  • For each question, are there any responses that stand out?
  • Does the data answer your research objectives?
  • Are there any recurring themes?
  • Are these themes unexpected?
  • What insights have been gained?

Writing a Focus Group Report

A report on your findings should begin with a summary of your objectives. What specifically did you hope to learn from the focus group?

Be sure to include your methodology. How many different focus groups were there, how large were these groups and what questions did the moderator ask the focus group in the search for answers?

What stood out from the answers provided by the focus groups? Provide a bulleted list of key takeaways that can be scanned at a glance. These will serve as talking points when stakeholders gather to discuss redesign priorities and strategy.

Summarize Your Findings and Make Recommendations

Highlight repetitive themes, particularly if they directly address previously stated concerns and objectives. What do these findings mean for the proposed redesign? Based on your redesign objectives and focus group feedback, make recommendations to the stakeholders involved.

As one of the nation’s premier website builders for Higher Ed., Beacon has been providing colleges and universities with redesign consultation and services for almost 20 years. We invite questions or comments regarding your redesign goals. Feel free to contact me or call one of our team members at 1.855.467.5447.

This concludes part two of two. Read part one of “Creating a Focus Group for your Higher Ed Redesign” here.

Keana Lynch
Keana Lynch is the Director of UX Design & Development at Beacon where she has provided leadership and consultation for over 35 Higher Education projects. She specializes in the analysis, design, and implementation of websites. Keana is very passionate about design and development strategies focused on user experience, accessibility, multi-device interactions, and technical best practices. Outside of work Keana enjoys spending time with her three dogs, hiking, kayaking and volunteering with local animal rescue groups.
By | 2017-10-11T07:45:01+00:00 October 4th, 2017|Higher Education|Comments Off on Creating a Focus Group for Your Higher Ed Redesign – Part 2

Creating a Focus Group for Your Higher Ed Redesign – Pt1

(This is part one of a two part article)

At the time it was created, your website may have met every online objective defined by university administrators. However, things change with time. Shifting technologies, user habits and objectives change the ways in which we appeal to our target audience. A website redesign is needed every now and then. With so many audiences to address including students, prospective students, alumni, and more, this can seem a daunting task. What works well with your existing design? What needs to be changed? You may have your own ideas however, you can’t know what every user may be thinking.

Assembling a Focus Group

There are numerous ways to collect user data to assist you in your redesign. You can send a user survey or questionnaire, for example. While this method can provide some useful information, your feedback is one dimensional as there is no way to ask for explanation. Additionally, one cannot read the subject’s body language or witness the group dynamic. There is no opportunity for give and take.

I strongly suggest conducting focus groups in person, if possible. In person groups allow for follow up questions and clarification. One can more easily identify agreement across the group, provoke thought and prompt participants to offer suggestions.

Identify Your Primary Audience

Before you go any further, it is imperative that you identify your target audience(s). There may be many different potential user groups you’d like to address with your redesign. However, when you try to please everyone, you often please no one. So identify the 3 or 4 major players. This ensures that your website will have the required focus to be effective. It also works to keep your focus group at a manageable number.

How big should your focus group be?

I’ve found that the best way to facilitate the desired give and take is to keep the size of each group at around 10-15 individuals. Once you get beyond 15, it’s a case of diminishing returns. It becomes difficult for a moderator to steer the conversation and ask follow up questions if there are too many voices in the room.

Inviting Focus Group Participants

Be aware of the fact that each of your focus groups behave differently. That’s why they’re here. This extends to their willingness to participate. Extend invitations to more students than any other group. Their participation levels tend to be lower than others so provide an incentive to attend. For students, free food often does the trick.

How to Develop Questions for a Focus Group

While there are a certain number of questions you absolutely need the answer to, allow for ample time to address questions that your focus group participants have. These can be as illuminating as any questions you may have. Plan on 10 or fewer questions per 60 minute session. Answers to these will very likely lead to new questions you may have not anticipated. While the questions will differ for each of your four focus groups, there are some basic guidelines designed to facilitate meaningful responses and avoid “yes” and “no” answers.

Remember to:

  • Arrange your questions in a logical order.
  • Start with higher level questions and get more granular as you go.
  • Ask open ended questions. These include questions that address design, content and intended usage and require more than a “yes” or “no” answer.
  • Encourage questions by participants.

This concludes part one of a two part article entitled “Creating a Focus Group for your Higher Ed Redesign”. As one of the nation’s premier website builders for Higher Ed, Beacon has been providing colleges and universities with redesign consultation and services for almost 20 years. We invite questions or comments regarding your redesign goals. Feel free to contact me or call one of our team members at 1.855.467.5447.

Keana Lynch
Keana Lynch is the Director of UX Design & Development at Beacon where she has provided leadership and consultation for over 35 Higher Education projects. She specializes in the analysis, design, and implementation of websites. Keana is very passionate about design and development strategies focused on user experience, accessibility, multi-device interactions, and technical best practices. Outside of work Keana enjoys spending time with her three dogs, hiking, kayaking and volunteering with local animal rescue groups.
By | 2017-09-21T12:51:06+00:00 September 19th, 2017|Higher Education|Comments Off on Creating a Focus Group for Your Higher Ed Redesign – Pt1

PPC Tips and Strategies for Increasing Student Yield

While one may or may not think of a college or university as a business, there is no arguing that those involved in student enrollment mean business. The playing field is more competitive every day. This is evidenced by the fact that more and more schools use PPC (pay per click) advertising as part of their appeal.

Since many more in your target audience communicate through digital channels than in the days when you and I went to school, it goes without saying that it doesn’t pay to stick with just traditional means of promotion. Besides, at the rate that the enrollment landscape is changing, PPC almost qualifies as traditional.

PPC Strategies for Higher Ed

Unlike large, profit generating entities, most colleges have limited budgets to work with. This means that while one may encourage ones students to experiment, to “find themselves”, you don’t want your marketing people to have to do so, too.

Make sure you have a clearly defined strategy going in. Higher Ed keywords are generally very expensive (again, the Higher Ed space is VERY competitive), so it’s essential that you use your marketing dollars efficiently. That having been said…

Branded Campaigns Don’t Work for Higher Ed

Many businesses use branded campaigns to make sure their competitors don’t pick off shoppers who are looking to pilfer their customers. However, your audience differs from most. With a college website, many students, alumni and faculty use the website as a constant resource.

Since you’re already at the top for a branded search, you don’t want to waste your money paying for those who choose to access your site through a PPC add. That’s a sure way to burn through your ad budget and see minimal return.

Higher Ed Remarketing Ads Do, Though

The enrollment funnel for Higher Ed is protracted when compared to other competitive spaces. That being the case, a conversion rarely happens as part of an early touch. This is true across the board, unless your brand is so big that you don’t need to advertise. That’s a very exclusive club.

Remarketing ads follow visitors from their initial visit to your site (or mobile App). As they visit other competing sites, your ad will pop up, keeping your school fresh in their mind. It’s a great way to maintain a familiarity and nurture the process. These remarketing ads can include periodic offerings such as a limited time discount on an application fee in exchange for contact information.

Get even more granular by using Google’s RLSA’s. You can target users based on their behavior, which page on your site they visited and how long they stayed. So, if they visited the page for your dental school, they’ll receive remarketing ads specific to that discipline.

Higher Ed PPC & Mobile

Make sure the landing pages for your PPC ads are responsive. Recent surveys indicate that roughly 80% of high school seniors and their parents view college websites on their phones. If your site is mobile friendly, you’ll also be able to take advantage of Google’s new Expanded Text.

You’ve spent the money to get your visitors to your website. Don’t blow the experience now.

And that’s Just the Beginning

Want to know more about how you can pull more candidates into your school’s enrollment funnel? Beacon is recognized as one of the top Higher Ed web design firms in the country. We’ve been helping colleges and universities with PPC marketing for over 20 years. Feel free to contact me with questions regarding your institution’s admissions goals or call a member of the Beacon digital marketing team at 1.855.851.0109.

Kent Dickinson
Kent Dickinson joined Beacon as an Account Executive in May 2017. Kent is a veteran sales executive with more than 25 years of experience in business development, strategic planning, operations, and sales management. He has worked in a variety of industries including digital printing, book publishing, educational textbooks, direct marketing, consulting, and financial services. Kent earned a B.S. in Business from Wake Forest University, and his MBA from the UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School. Kent is an avid college sports fan, an occasional golfer, and bedtime reader. He also enjoys travelling and considers himself an adventurous foody.
By | 2017-09-01T09:28:27+00:00 September 6th, 2017|Higher Education, PPC|Comments Off on PPC Tips and Strategies for Increasing Student Yield

Top 5 Accessibility Items to Review in a Website Redesign

Accessibility is a hot topic and an expansive one, too. I’ve been preparing for some upcoming speaking engagements with accessibility being the main focus. The first of these engagements is the eduWeb Digital Summit on August 6-10. This seems like a good time to share some thoughts regarding accessibility, WCAG guidelines and 508 compliance.

Additionally, I’d like to leave you with a list of 5 important accessibility items to review while in the midst of your next site redesign.

Accessibility Overview

Often, when administrators or oversight committees are asked to consider website accessibility while planning their institution’s website redesign, they think only in terms of addressing under-served users such as the elderly or visually disabled. Accessibility doesn’t simply address the needs of the disabled user. Adaptations and modifications made to address under-served users have broader implication, frequently enhancing the experience for all users. Designers and developers understand this and design with the idea that what is good for one is most often to the benefit of all.

Accessibility almost always enhances a website’s usability.

For example, incorporating design for those with diminished motor skills is always a good idea. It will enable all users to view your website without having to use a mouse. By doing so, you’ve also made it easier for any user to navigate the site and spend some time there. User engagement improves and, if you’re operating an online storefront, sales go up as well.

It goes without saying that any and all websites should factor accessibility into their design. To that end, WCAG recommendations and 508 standards have been established as guidelines to ensure a positive user experience for all. These guidelines have peripheral benefits, as they often overlap with best practices for mobile design and SEO. Still, there are many, many sites that remain inaccessible to a large number of users even today.

5 Accessibility Items to Review

With this in mind, I’ve comprised an abbreviated list of important accessibility items to consider when redesigning one’s website. Bear in mind that while I’ve listed 5 important accessibility items, this list is hardly complete and is meant only to provide a high level overview of what’s involved. Consider:

  1. Clear and Logical Design – This includes clear and intuitive navigation, contrast between text and backgrounds, proper use of color and more.
  2. CMS that Supports Accessibility – You’ve already considered functional requirements. Not all content management systems meet WCAG accessibility requirements. Know this from the start.
  3. Content Structure – Use headings and lists so as to clearly organize information. Use clear title attributes and page titles. Consider skip navigation for users of screen readers.
  4. Keyboard Accessible Functionality – Users with motor skill deficiency depend on keyboard accessibility to navigate your site. Other users benefit from added efficiency thanks to keyboard accessibility guidelines.
  5. Accessible Forms – Using JavaScript in forms often means that they are not accessible by keyboard alone. Testing your forms for keyboard accessibility is an imperative.

Once the items listed above have been fully considered and incorporated into the new design, the all-important testing phase begins.

Testing for Accessibility

Accessibility and usability are undeniably congruous. The benefits extend beyond just the user experience and into SEO and mobile performance. So take the time to test and test again. It’s time well invested. Fortunately, the WC3 provides a list of recommended web accessibility evaluation tools.

A Few Final Words

I look forward to seeing many of you at the upcoming eduWeb conference in August. I’ll discuss the topic of accessibility in more detail at that time. In the meantime, please comment below. Share your thoughts and experiences. We’ll pick up where we left off at the conference. See you then.

Keana Lynch
Keana Lynch is the Director of UX Design & Development at Beacon where she has provided leadership and consultation for over 35 Higher Education projects. She specializes in the analysis, design, and implementation of websites. Keana is very passionate about design and development strategies focused on user experience, accessibility, multi-device interactions, and technical best practices. Outside of work Keana enjoys spending time with her three dogs, hiking, kayaking and volunteering with local animal rescue groups.
By | 2017-07-17T07:14:26+00:00 June 30th, 2017|Higher Education, Web Development, Creative Design|Comments Off on Top 5 Accessibility Items to Review in a Website Redesign

Subdomain Tracking for Higher Education Websites- Universal Analytics

One of the most common issues we see with Higher Education Google Analytics configurations is incomplete tracking across all subdomains. Because colleges and universities often have different departments or interest groups run by different decision-makers, it is incredibly common to see multiple subdomains created to cater to these individual topics; think: athletics.myuniversity.edu, or admissions.myuniversity.edu. More often than not, we find Google Analytics implementations on these subdomains is incomplete, incorrect, or missing altogether. Here’s some information on how you should be tracking your Higher Education website across all subdomains.

If a visitor to your website clicks from one subdomain to another, you want to be tracking that visit as a single session in Google Analytics. There are two main steps you need to take to accomplish this…

  1. Set the Cookie Domain
  2. Create a Referral Exclusion

Setting the Cookie Domain

Universal Analytics uses a single cookie to identify the user with a unique client ID. By setting the Cookie Domain to ‘auto’, this instructs the tracker to make the cookie available to all subdomains.

Using the recommended JavaScript tracking snippet from Google does this for you.

<!– Google Analytics –> <script> (function(i,s,o,g,r,a,m){i[‘GoogleAnalyticsObject’]=r;i[r]=i[r]||function(){ (i[r].q=i[r].q||[]).push(arguments)},i[r].l=1*new Date();a=s.createElement(o), m=s.getElementsByTagName(o)[0];a.async=1;a.src=g;m.parentNode.insertBefore(a,m) })(window,document,’script’,’https://www.google-analytics.com/analytics.js’,’ga’);

ga(‘create’, ‘UA-XXXXX-Y’, ‘auto’); ga(‘send’, ‘pageview’); </script> <!– End Google Analytics –>

This must be explicitly set in Tag Manager:

Screen-Shot-2015-07-06-at-9.22.29-AM

Creating a Referral Exclusion

The second step in properly tracking your subdomains is to update your referral exclusion list in Google Analytics. To do this:

–          Navigate to the Admin Panel

–          Add your root domain (myuniversity.edu) to the referral exclusion list.

10-11-2016 3-02-54 PM

By default, a referral automatically triggers a new session. When you exclude a referral source, traffic that arrives to your site from the excluded domain doesn’t trigger a new session. By adding the root domain to this list, you are ensuring that as users move from one subdomain to another, session continuity is maintained.

By following these simple steps you will be able to completely track your website- subdomains included. All of your website data will be housed under a single UA-ID and a single Google Analytics property. It is important to note that these changes are not retroactive, so historical data will be incorrect until proper tracking is implemented.

Questions? Contact us today for help properly setting up your website’s Google Analytics configuration.

By | 2017-07-20T08:48:34+00:00 October 11th, 2016|Higher Education|Comments Off on Subdomain Tracking for Higher Education Websites- Universal Analytics

How to Avoid Common Pitfalls During a Redesign

When redesigning a website the focus tends to be centered on overhauling the aesthetic appearance. The goal tends to revolve around developing a modern-day look that delivers great user experience, and rightly so. However, while working with colleges and universities throughout the country, we have found that many client-defined project scopes routinely overlook important steps that are essential for great higher education websites. Theses misses can threaten 508 compliance, damage the institution’s hard-earned search rankings, cause Google Analytics errors and inaccuracies, and even lead to a poor user experience. If you are planning a redesign or have recently launched a new website, don’t miss this presentation! Gus will address seven of the most common redesign pitfalls, and how you can make sure your website is working on all cylinders.

Overview

  • Avoid Common Pitfalls during a redesign such as:
  • Incorrect tracking code transition
  • Skipping over tracking improvements
  • Improperly planned 301 redirects
  • Not managing site crawl ability
  • Cutting corners on device, browser & user testing
  • Inadequate ADA/Accessibility Testing
  • No benchmarking or follow-up

 

Gus Kroustalis
Gus has an MBA from Elon University and brings seven years of experience in sales and marketing analytics to the Beacon team. He is the lead Google Analytics Strategist, which includes implementation and setup of GA for clients as well as management of Beacon’s GAFUSION product. Outside of his work at Beacon, Gus has been cooking at the Winston-Salem Greek Festival for over a decade, coaches high school basketball, and still believes that the best movies were filmed in the 80s.

Connect with Gus on Google+.

By | 2016-11-23T11:22:03+00:00 October 10th, 2016|Higher Education|Comments Off on How to Avoid Common Pitfalls During a Redesign

Multiple Department Higher Ed Analytics Setup

Are you a Higher Education institution who is concerned about:

  1. What visitors are doing/looking for on your site?
  2. Looking at analytics by a department and/or field of study?
  3. Having multiple stakeholders view Analytics for one or more departments ONLY?
  4. How to better organize your Google Analytics account?

If you answered yes to one or all of the above questions, Beacon has a comprehensive overview of how to best setup your Google Analytics account to support multiple departments within your college/university. Our Google Analytics Strategist, Gus Kroustalis, walks you through a few steps to better organize your account into properties and profiles that will satisfy all groups on campus. Please view the video below.

Subscribe For More Tips

Beacon will release a series of Higher Education focused Youtube videos covering Common Questions About Higher Ed Analytics And How To Answer Them. Please subscribe to our channel for more content like what you watched above.

Gus Kroustalis
Gus has an MBA from Elon University and brings seven years of experience in sales and marketing analytics to the Beacon team. He is the lead Google Analytics Strategist, which includes implementation and setup of GA for clients as well as management of Beacon’s GAFUSION product. Outside of his work at Beacon, Gus has been cooking at the Winston-Salem Greek Festival for over a decade, coaches high school basketball, and still believes that the best movies were filmed in the 80s.

Connect with Gus on Google+.

By | 2017-07-20T09:25:14+00:00 August 5th, 2016|Higher Education|Comments Off on Multiple Department Higher Ed Analytics Setup

Power Up Online Visibility to Your University with SEO

Universities and Colleges are beginning to realize the true value of SEO for Higher Education. Unfortunately, the SEO landscape is volatile and ever changing. However, there are some best practices which have been fairly consistent over the last couple of years. We believe that these best practices will continue to be relevant throughout 2016 and work to improve online visibility.

Keyword Research and Targeting Specific URLs 

Higher education institutions should embrace keyword research and use it to build relevant pages. These pages should be built around their core programs they offer. To get started first conduct keyword research which will drive content creation. You can start with a free keyword research tool from SEObook. This tool pulls data from Google and Bing’s databases. Simply input the term you want to get information on. This tool returns data on monthly search volumes along with related terms.

Keyword Research for Higher Ed

Next, you want to build an appropriate page around a theme of closely related keywords. These keywords should relate to educational programs your University offers.

For example, upon conducting some research I came across a few Universities who had important content within PDFs. Rather than a dedicated landing page, one University had downloadable PDFs of their courses.

landing page example

 

An alternative would be to build a landing page around this content and include some sort of conversion point. In case you do not know what a micro conversion is it is a small step on the path of a visitor towards your website’s primary goal.

Avoid Duplicate Content

Google admits that 25-30% of the internet is duplicated content. However, we can still take measures to avoid this. To get an idea if your site has duplicate content simply use Siteliner to run a quick diagnostic.

Identify duplicate contentI can see this college has around 10% duplicated content but, the free version this tool will only look at 250 pages. A way to fix this is to write unique copy on key pages and block unnecessary pages from being crawled by search engines with a robots.txt file. The robots.txt is a nifty text file you can create to instruct search engine robots on where and where not to crawl your site.

Get a Grip on Local Visibility 

local search visibility

 

Colleges are not immune from the types of competition businesses face online. As you can see competition is fierce. There are a lot of different options for any prospective student deciding on where to further their education. Local visibility or local SEO has risen in prominence over the last several years. But how can Higher Educational Institutions benefit?

Google has begun to provide more individualized search features. These personalized features are based on a person’s geographic location and search history. You can take advantage of this by:

Local Citation Corrections – Your first job is to make sure your college’s address is easily found on key pages. Then you need to ensure it is listed correctly throughout the web.

local citation reviews

 

Local Content – Once your Higher Ed’s citations are handled it’s time to produce local content. It’s important this content resonates with your audience. Maybe you build a page dedicated to ‘College Life’ and talk about activities around your college’s campus.

Don’t Block Important Resources

Blocking content that is important to searchers within search engines is detrimental. A common way to block important information is with a robots.txt file.

A robots.txt file is a simple file which holds pretty significant power. This file controls how search engines initially crawl a website when they first visit. However as you can imagine it can be pretty easy to block important resources you would otherwise want indexed. To check this simply type your domain name “example.com/robots.txt”. Remember replace “example.com” with your Universities domain name.

robots.txt sample

 

A good rule of thumb is to not block key pages from search engines with a robots.txt file. For example, you would not want to block important categories such as, Admissions, Academics, or Athletics sections.

Keep in mind, if you use Google Site Search as your internal site search, blocking a section with the robots.txt file will also prevent it from showing up properly in your internal search as well.

Higher Educational institutions may not take digital marketing or search engine optimization into consideration. However, no website is immune from the grasps of Google.

Take advantage of digital marketing and SEO to get in front of more prospective students. By conducting keyword research, avoiding duplicate content issues, and gaining more local visibility you can reach a wider more targeted audience.

Jordan Lowry
Jordan is a Digital Marketing Analyst in SEO, PPC and Social Media. He recently graduated from UNC-Greensboro with a strong business background running a start-up.
By | 2017-10-09T09:41:04+00:00 June 17th, 2016|Higher Education|Comments Off on Power Up Online Visibility to Your University with SEO

Segmenting Your Higher Education Audience Using Google Analytics

Higher education websites face a difficult challenge that websites in many other industries do not have to endure: Catering to a handful of audiences with one website.

The typical list of audiences that frequent a university or college website includes:

  • Prospective Students: The most critical audience for higher education websites, especially considering the impact of digital marketing for admissions.
  • Current Students: Not only do current students access the website for email and current schoolwork, but researching potential classes and majors can also be important. Sometimes, this can be the most difficult group to isolate.
  • Faculty/Staff: Digital marketers obviously do not want to isolate this audience for marketing purposes, but identifying Faculty/Staff activity can help with future content navigation and redesign projects.
  • Alumni: Especially when donations are sought, it is important to know the website interactions by this audience.
  • Parents: Some higher education websites have a section of content tailored to parents of prospective students, incoming students, or both.
  • Community: This audience constitutes individuals involved with the university or college who do not fit in any of the above audiences. For example, if the university is leading an initiative in its city, website visitors seeking more information on that initiative would fit in this category.

Imagine how much impactful Google Analytics for Higher Education would be if the data could be segmented based on audiences such as these. Analysis of audience activity could lead to improvements in content display, website navigation, and call-to-action optimization. In order to implement audience segmentation for a higher education website, follow these steps:

#1 – Identify and Define the Audiences

You may want to include all of the audiences listed above, or it may make sense to just start with Prospective Students, nail down that audience, and then add more audiences later. The best way to define each audience is by noting what actions can confidently be associated with just that audience. Examples of such actions could be:

  • A prospective student is any user who downloads an admissions application form.
  • A prospective student is any user who schedules a tour on campus.
  • An alum is any user who submits a donation via the form in the alumni section.

Notice that there can (and should) be more than one action used to identify any given audience. An important point about defining audiences by action is to be careful to avoid actions that could be performed often by multiple audiences. For example, logging into the school’s email provider is an action probably done by students, faculty, and staff. You cannot confidentially single out any of those audiences with that action.

#2 – Configure the Audiences as Custom Dimensions

Under the property settings in the Account Admin for Google Analytics is a link for Custom Definitions. (Side Note: These instructions are for Google’s Universal Analytics syntax, their most current version. If you are on an older version, it is time to update your website analytics.) When you click Custom Definitions, you will then need to click Custom Dimensions.

universal-analytics-custom-dimensions

Add a new custom dimension for each audience that you are building. Name the custom dimension as you plan to name the audience, and set the scope as User. That configuration will apply the audience identification for a user across multiple sessions. Once you save the new dimension, Google Analytics will provide you with a snippet of JavaScript. The dimension value should be replaced with the name of the audience, and the snippet should be added to all user actions in the website’s HTML.

configure-a-custom-dimension

What if our website uses Google Tag Manager?

Rather than hard-coding snippets of custom dimension JavaScript, some digital marketers prefer Google Tag Manager. Google has some content that points Tag Manager users in the right direction, such as this: https://support.google.com/analytics/answer/6164990?hl=en.

#3 – Test and Validate

First, make sure that the website’s pages load properly in a test environment after the custom dimension code has been added. Also, use a test reporting view in Google Analytics to make sure that the custom dimensions are loading in the reports. In most reports, all you need to do is add a secondary dimension, typing an audience name to find the custom dimension in the list. You can also create custom reports, adding these custom dimensions as a primary dimension.

Once the custom dimension tracking goes live, decide on an amount of time to allow new data to populate in the reporting view, maybe a couple of weeks or a month, depending on the website’s traffic volume. Upon analyzing your new data, you will be able to determine if the actions you have tagged on the website are representative of that audience. For example, you may see audience totals much higher or lower than expected, compared to overall traffic or to other audiences. Take that opportunity to adjust the actions tagged for those audiences in question. Of course, you will always have the opportunity to tag additional actions in the future, further refining your audience reporting.

Gus Kroustalis
Gus has an MBA from Elon University and brings seven years of experience in sales and marketing analytics to the Beacon team. He is the lead Google Analytics Strategist, which includes implementation and setup of GA for clients as well as management of Beacon’s GAFUSION product. Outside of his work at Beacon, Gus has been cooking at the Winston-Salem Greek Festival for over a decade, coaches high school basketball, and still believes that the best movies were filmed in the 80s.

Connect with Gus on Google+.

By | 2017-10-09T09:26:47+00:00 January 5th, 2016|Higher Education|Comments Off on Segmenting Your Higher Education Audience Using Google Analytics
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