As education marketers, how do we know if our efforts are paying off?
Of course, the prime goal at the end of the day is “how many students did we get?”. But, answering that question alone doesn’t give us much insight into how we are doing and more importantly: where we can improve. We can (and should) look at a lot more data to see how we’re doing at various stages of the student journey.
There are 3 primary stages in this journey: Awareness, Consideration, and Decision. Let’s look at what each stage means, and some important metrics to keep track of in each stage.
In the awareness stage, the goal is to build your audience. Here, prospective students are starting to think about what to do in the next stage of their lives. But they have no idea yet what their plans are – whether to continue studying, go to work, take a gap year or anything in between. During this stage, they’re not going to be ready to take action because they’re not even sure what action that would be. At this stage, our focus should be less on conversions, and more on building a solid foundation.
When looking at an awareness campaign, you should focus on building a wide audience, meaning: high-level metrics. Here are 5 crucial ones.
The most fundamental metric is how many visits you have to your website. But don’t just look at the number of people who visited overall. Dive into what pages and content have had the most visits – this can help you guide further content creation.
You can find this data in Google Analytics, under Behavior -> Site Content -> All Pages
Social Media Reach & Impressions
Social media is a great way to build awareness for your school. You want to keep track of how many people your posts are reaching. Whichever social media platform you’re on will have an Insights or Analytics tool that will give you this data. Again, look at each post/piece of content, and look for trends. Which posts had the highest reach, and why do you think that happened? This can help you with planning future posts and organic campaigns
Search Rankings & Queries
Google’s search console gives you metrics about how your content is showing up in searches. This is useful in determining how people are finding out about you, and understanding what your prospective students are looking for. You can see the keywords people are searching for that are leading them to your page, as well as the average position of your site in search results. Use this to understand your prospective students better, and to provide the information that they’re looking for. If your average position is too low, you might also want to consider optimizing your content for SEO, so you appear higher on the search rankings.
Share of Voice
This metric measures how often your school is mentioned by others online, as compared to your competitors. It enables you to compare your brand awareness against those competitors. To calculate it, take the total mentions of your school divided by the total mentions of all your competitors. Fortunately, you don’t have to track all these manually. There are a number of tools you can use to help keep track of this.
In addition to tracking how often people are mentioning you, it’s also important to take note of what they are saying. But don’t worry, you don’t have to go through every single one of your mentions manually to track this. Many brand mention tools incorporate this sentiment analysis, using AI to tell you if a mention is positive, neutral, or negative. Here are some of the best ones.
In the consideration stage, your prospects are starting to become more serious about taking that next step in their education. They’ve decided they want to go to a school, but they still want to learn more about the courses available. They will also be considering alternatives, and the best research approach they can take. At this stage, they’ll start to take action. They might attend a webinar to understand more about student life, sign up for a newsletter, or download a course brochure. These are all things we should be tracking. These insights are invaluable, and when used correctly can improve overall campaign performance.
Here are 3 vital metrics to track at the conversion stage of the student journey.
The most important metrics at this stage are conversions and conversion rates. How many people are taking action on your site? Which conversions are the most popular? Look at the stats of your landing pages, especially the number of visitors and conversions. Find out which of your assets are the most effective and push more traffic towards those. For the ones that aren’t converting well, you’ll have to decide whether you want to move away from them or work on improving them. You can track these conversions via Google Analytics. Just make sure you’ve set up conversion events for all the actions you want prospective students to take. Here’s how you can do that.
As you dive deeper into the conversion rates, it’s useful to take a look at what channels are bringing you the most conversions – both in terms of absolute numbers as well as in terms of conversion rate. Are visitors from your social media more likely to convert compared to those who clicked on your paid ads? Determining which channels are performing the best can help you focus your efforts and allocate budget and resources effectively. If your conversion events are set up correctly, you can find this data in Google Analytics, in the Acquisition section.
Bounce rate is the percentage of your users who visit a page on your site and leave without taking any action or visiting any other page. This often means they landed on your site, didn’t see what they were looking for, and left. If your bounce rates are too high, this could point to issues of content relevancy. It could also indicate that your website’s user experience needs some tweaking. It’s also useful to look at individual pages – which pages had the highest bounce rates and try to understand why so that you can improve your existing content.
When a prospect reaches this stage, they are almost ready to enroll. They’ve shown an interest in your school, and now they are making their final decision. We want to nurture their interest and follow up with them, to ensure that they enroll with us.
These are the top 3 metrics to consider at the decision stage of the student journey.
It’s vital to look at the inquiries-to-enrollment ratio. How many prospective inquiries do you need to convert one student? This encapsulates the overall quality of your nurturing system. You’ll need a CRM, such as Hubspot, to track your inquiries and customers.
Email is a great way to nurture prospective students and provide them with the information they need. You’ll want to keep track of how well your emails are doing. What percentage of the emails you sent are being opened, or clicked? Your email tool or CRM will be able to give you this insight. If your emails aren’t being opened as much as you would have expected, you might consider optimizing or clarifying the subject lines. If they’re being opened but not clicked on or replied to, perhaps the content itself needs a bit more work. With a CRM system, you can also look into demographics and information about the people who have engaged with your emails most– these are likely the ones who are the most interested, and you should make sure you follow up with them accordingly.
Following up with prospects by phone can be an effective way to improve enrollment rates. Just like emails, it’s important to keep track of these calls. Many CRMs provide call-tracking capabilities, and perhaps even recordings. These will help you understand how well your calls are performing, and to be able to monitor metrics such as connected vs unanswered calls, voicemails, and incorrect numbers.
With all this data from each stage of the prospective student journey, you’ll get a holistic view of how your marketing is performing. You’ll be able to see where the biggest drop-offs are – perhaps there’s one specific stage in the journey where you struggle more.
Having that data is the first step in optimizing your processes, so you can improve your enrollment rates and get more students. By constantly measuring your efforts, and regularly analyzing the data, you’ll be able to focus on the efforts that are working best and improve on those that aren’t.