Many admission and marketing professionals face challenges when measuring conversions from a digital ad campaign to gain ROI insight. Unlike retail, conversions in higher ed don’t always translate to a purchase or deposit. After all, a college education isn’t the same as dropping a pair of sneakers into your shopping cart on Amazon. And the indicators that a student is a likely prospect can be a little harder to detect on your website, so it may require some creativity to figure out how to measure a clean funnel.
Thus, the conversion conundrum settles in among higher ed professionals. Here at Carnegie we are often asked, what are some typical admission goals important to measure from a display or Pay-Per-Click campaign? How do you set up a campaign for success? And, finally, what do conversions really indicate at the end of an advertising run, and what do you do with the data? Here are a few tips to follow as you navigate a conversion path this recruitment cycle:
Define your goals
Many admission folks are so focused on enrollment numbers that it’s hard for them to take a step back and define a more measureable, manageable goal as a result of, say, a small Retargeting campaign. For many institutions a conversion action might mean someone subscribing to a blog, downloading a view book, or signing up for a tour. Since every school, calendar, and marketing campaign is unique, it’s important to identify which actions are important to your institution and set goals from there. Ideally, every campaign should have a goal, even if it’s simply to create branding and awareness, as there are ways to measure that impact as well!
Ensure your creative messages and calls to action speak to the conversion goal you have in mind. Through finely tuned copy and images, relay the benefits of a virtual tour and why taking one is a valuable next step to the prospective student. People likely won’t click on a banner ad or e-mail link without seeing the value or incentive. So be clear, while also following best practice guidelines when it comes to design elements: keep it simple, avoiding too much text or “click here!” calls to action.
Navigate and track
Point prospective students to a landing page that will allow them to easily take the desired action with as few clicks as possible. Completing that conversion should not only be doable but enjoyable cross-device. For example, if your goal is to get students to download a virtual tour experience, make sure the landing page has easy access to do so, doesn’t take too long to load, and works on tablets and smart phones. Then, place tracking on the custom landing page and conversion page. We advise placing both Google Analytics code and a conversion code that will communicate to your campaign’s delivery platform. Tracking will ensure attribution goes to that banner advertisement, e-mail, or other campaign source. And we always advise using UTM codes to help with campaign tracking in your Google Analytics! (Read more about UTM parameters here!)
Evaluate and optimize
Now it’s time for the fun stuff! (Well, it’s fun for data-hungry people such as myself!) Analyze the campaign conversions and other KPIs. Are clicks and conversions lower than you hoped? Bounce rates too high? Re-evaluate your creative and landing pages, as well as your target audience, to adjust program parameters accordingly. Maybe the landing page has too many competing calls to action, so downloading the virtual tour gets lost. Or maybe you are serving Retargeting ads to the wrong audience segmentation. Between the analytics and any campaign tracking parameters in place, you should be able to gain insight on why students are bouncing or converting as a result of your online marketing efforts.
Establishing a solid marketing campaign and conversions strategy that measures up to your recruitment goals requires some expertise. So if you’re having a little trouble measuring yours, let the higher ed experts at Carnegie help you out!