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Google Analytics Reports for Higher Education

It is no secret that Google Analytics can be a crucial marketing resource. Google Analytics is the most popular Web Analytics tool in the world [1]. Specific content on higher education websites serves different purposes to different users. An enrolled student’s behavior will differ from a prospective behavior.

For higher education marketing, simply defining an audience as a prospective student might not be enough. Prospective students will interact with content differently depending on their location within the higher education admissions funnel. Marketers need to understand how their target audience responds to content and where they are inside the funnel.

The data and reports in Google Analytics can be a great source to find this information. This blog will examine three analytics reports that Higher education marketers can use to see how their audience responds to their content. But first, I want to share an example of how Google Analytics data can be misleading for Higher education marketers.

The Myth of Bounce Rates Reports: Misunderstood Data

Bounce rates are the percentage of visitors who enter a site and leave rather than continue to view other pages on the site [2]. Bounce rate trends can be industry-dependent. The average bounce rate for higher education website pages is between 40% and 60% [3].

Higher education marketing teams have pages that serve different purposes for audiences throughout stages of the admissions funnel. For instance, prospective students in the inquiry phase are gaining familiarity with the institutions that peak their interest. The average prospective student applies to 7-10 colleges, with 3-4 target schools, 2-3 reach schools, and 2-3 safety schools [4].

Students in the inquiry phase will narrow down their selections and place schools in these categories. They may consider the overall tuition price or scholarship opportunities as a differentiator for these buckets. They may visit tuition or scholarship pages quickly for immediate information and then leave to continue their research. This web action may cause bounce rates to increase for these pages and the average amount of time spent on that page to drop. In this example, the page served the exact purpose and gave the visitor the information they desired.

This example proves that a simple ‘bounce rate’ report from Google Analytics will not help marketers analyze their audience’s response to their content. It may seem like this is the correct report to pull, but the data inside is nearly meaningless without other metrics.

What are the Top Pages Users Are Interacting with on a Higher Ed Website?

Great question. Designing the user experience for a higher-ed website depends on how the audience will respond to the content on that page. I said in the paragraph above that a plain bounce rate report will not yield helpful information alone. Bounce rates and the average time spent on webpage metrics will help marketers find what content is performing well. As mentioned above, these metrics can have different meanings depending on when the content interacted within the admissions funnel.

Using Google Analytics, marketers can start by creating a page view report. Next, set the dates to the amount of time they want to measure. They should then export that report to either an Excel document or Google Sheet. Exporting this data gives the marketer more control over what they are seeing.

Focus on the Bounce Rate column and highlight the entire rows with a bounce rate higher than 60%. Remember, 60% is on the high end of the national average. Next, marketers should look at the Average Time on Page column. Highlight each row with an average time spent on the page less than 2 minutes, again, below the national average. The rows left unhighlighted are the pages with a low bounce rate and an above-average time spent on the page. What this tells the marketer is that these pages are resonating well with their users. These users spent above-average time on the page and did not leave after viewing that singular page.

We previously wrote a blog analyzing prospective students’ search intent. A recent study found that academic pages such as majors and minor pages are the most sought-after content for prospective students in the admissions funnel. Knowing this can help marketers develop content strategies that is matching this intent. By analyzing Google Analytics data, marketers can see where the majority of their prospective traffic is going on their edu website.

Where do users click after they arrive on the EDU homepage?

This can be one of the most insightful Google Analytics reports for higher education. This report displays the pages users clicked after they arrived on the homepage. To find this data, marketers will need to create a custom report. Custom reports allow the marketer to pick the dimensions (City and Browser, for example) and metrics (Sessions, Pageviews, and Bounce Rate, for example) and decide how they should be displayed [5]. They can start by heading to their Google Analytics Customization tab. In the General Information section, they should title it. Marketers will want to select a flat table as the type of report and set the first green dimensions box as Page. Add another dimension as ‘Previous Page Path’. After that, they should add metrics directly underneath the page and select ‘Pageviews’. The next metric should be ‘Events/Session with Events’.

Below is a screenshot of the customized report settings.

screenshot of Google analytics dashboard displaying the 'Edit Custom Report Screen' settings. The fields match the description in the text in the paragraph above

Next, marketers will need to add the two filters they see above. For the first filter, they should select Include from the menu and select ‘Previous Page Path’ as the dimensions. They should then choose ‘Exact’ to the right of that metric. In the open space to the right of that, they should type /. Next, marketers should add another filter but this time select Exclude from the menu. They should then select ‘Page’ as the dimension and choose ‘Exact’ from the drop-down. They will again type / in the open space to the right of Exact. Next, they will select which view they report on and click Save.

Marketers can use this report to find which links users are clicking first when they get to the college or university homepage.

Google Analytics Reports for Higher Education: In Conclusion

The higher education marketing sector has a unique challenge. No one wants to create ineffective content, but sometimes, it misses the mark. In an industry as competitive as Higher Education, it is crucial to have engaging content that contributes to the overall brand. Before a marketer can create new content, they must first understand how their audience interacts with the content already on their website. Google Analytics can be a useful tool when trying to find the exact answers to these questions.

Thinking about your google analytics Reports higher education strategy? Higher ed website design? Let us know! We’d love to get started!

[1] NEBO10 Interesting Facts About Google Analytics

[2] Wikipedia Bounce rate

[3] OHO2021 Google Analytics Benchmarks for Higher Education Websites

[4] College VineHow Many Colleges Should I Apply To?

[5] Google Analytics HelpAbout Custom Reports


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