A Retrospective Look: Using Annotations with Google Analytics

Carnegie Higher Ed Jun 16, 2014 Carnegie Higher Ed Persona The Visionary Frontrunner

As the dust begins to settle on campus after commencement activities have concluded, some of the most familiar thoughts crossing any enrollment manager’s mind are inherently tied to looking back at the 2013–2014 academic year and admission cycle through a retrospective lens. How can you best measure and, in turn, improve upon your past efforts?

To plan your enrollment activity during the 2014–2015 academic year, an extraordinary (and underused) tool in Google Analytics, Annotations, can lift the fog to look at what has worked—and, perhaps more importantly, what hasn’t—with your historic enrollment strategy. Specifically, you are presented with the opportunity to indicate when your larger enrollment activities over the past few months have occurred. Once you have chosen the dates of those activities (for example: an event on campus, direct mail piece being released, or e-mail campaign going live), your annotation is viewable throughout the entire Analytics interface to provide you with a visualization of the potential impact of your efforts on your website’s traffic.

As with the “Accepted Student Visit Day” example (below), you might see a spike of traffic to the admission-centric areas of your website. It’s a fantastic indicator of interest that might have been caused by the promotion of the event, the event itself, and the work you’ve done to drive that audience to explore the many benefits of your institution online.

Aside from the excellent data Annotations provides, how else might it be helpful? Well, throughout the admission cycle, there are countless activities, events, and segmented communications shared with specific prospective student audiences.

How could you possibly remember everything? Like this:

In this case, we’ve indicated three separate events that occurred throughout the period of January through May of this year. The text bubble beneath any visualization in Analytics tells us that something happened, and the text below (that we plugged in to define these events) tells us what that was. Over time, the one minute (or less) it takes to create a single Annotation pays off as you look into specific reports, separate audiences (for example, new versus returning), and understand how these efforts had a hand in driving interest to your school’s website.

As one of the most straightforward and easy-to-use tools available through Analytics, Annotations is worth spending some time plugging in the events and efforts of the past year. Moving forward, plug them in on the day of the event itself. Next year, at this same moment, you’ll thank yourself from a fresh, fog-free perspective.

For a great resource on how to set up Annotations, check out this introduction from the Google Analytics team, and please join us for this upcoming Analytics for Higher Education webinar on June 26.  

You can follow me on Twitter @jyoumell; or on Google Plus as Jake Youmell.

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