Which numbers matter in digital student recruitment -- and which numbers you can ignore.
Why metrics matter
Too many professional marketers would rather think that great results are more a question of luck than strategy -- but that’s not the case at all. Gone are the days of rolling out a campaign and crossing your fingers. These days, marketers can use real data to figure out what marketing strategies actually work, and which ones don’t
Smart marketers use test-and-learn marketing (A/B testing) and other analytic tools to gain insight into what messages and offers actually stick. Because inbound student recruitment marketing is digital, it lends itself well to being measured, tested, and -- over time -- improved.
Before you even begin your efforts, you should set goals, which may include reaching certain target numbers of applicants, or recruiting students from particular demographics or for particular academic and athletic programs. In other words, you need to know what you’re aiming for.
Then, you’ve got to make sure your marketing campaigns are going to be measurable. With traditional outbound marketing, it can be hard to measure which messages stick and why. But online inbound marketing platforms make it easy to determine which efforts are most worthwhile.
And as you go, adapt: the beauty of digital marketing, of course, is that you can change course midstream.
The metrics that matter
Marketing metrics aren’t the same as website metrics -- although some of the same information basic to website metrics can be important for marketing. Here are the numbers the smart marketer will pay attention to.
Metric #1: High Bounce Rate
Your ‘bounce rate’ is the percentage of visits in which the visitor only looked at a single page -- or left your site from the landing page.
If pageviews are all about quantity of visitors, the bounce rate can be taken as an indication of the quality of each visit -- how long that prospective student or her parents chose to stick around and learn more about your institution.
A high bounce rate tends to indicate that your landing pages aren’t relevant or compelling -- that there’s nothing your visitors feel like sticking around to see. Additionally, high bounce rates suggest that your content isn’t well-tailored to your keywords and meta descriptions. If you’ve got some webpages with high search engine rankings -- and a high bounce rate -- there may be some mismatch between your keywords and your actual content. And that means that when visitors arrive, they bounce away because what they’ve found isn’t relevant to the terms they were searching for.
Take another look at pages with a high bounce rate. Do the title tags match what the page is actually about? Remember, SEO isn’t just about getting the Google algorithms to love you -- it’s about optimizing your pages for the people you’re trying to reach.
Metric #2: Conversion Rate
Lots of high quality visitors is great -- that’s why, as we discussed above, it’s important to make sure that your pageviews, bounce rates, and other basic page metrics are flowing well. Even more important, though, is your conversion rate.
While some marketers use ‘conversion rate’ to refer only to leads closed into sales, we think it’s appropriate to use ‘conversion rate’ to refer to the percentage of visitors that ultimately take the action you wanted them to take. In this second sense, the ‘conversion’ can be the conversion of a visitor into a lead, or the conversion of a lead into an applicant.
What this means is that it’s possible to speak of a ‘conversion rate’ for any call to action -- whether you’re asking people to opt-in for email, download a video, or talk to an admissions counselor -- and that it’s important that you pay attention to the rates at which target demographics are responding to your messaging.
And your work isn’t over once you’ve gotten people to convert -- it’s then that you need to figure out what drove them to convert, and replicate it wherever possible.
Metric #3: Social Media Reach + Influence
Your social media reach is simply the number of people following you on social media: your ‘likes’ on Facebook, your followers on Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and your blog subscribers. However, you shouldn’t assume that every follower is really listening to you. That’s why your ‘reach’ metric isn’t as important as metrics indicating your influence.
Engagement -- people liking and sharing your individual posts, people retweeting and otherwise sharing your content, people responding on social media with comments -- all of these things are helpful indicators of how your efforts are working. When someone’s willing to share a particular piece of content on their own social media feed, it’s an indication of how valuable they find it, and the comments that accompany such posts can offer your team valuable insight. Plus, the more often people discuss your page, the more you’ll show up in your followers’ feeds.
Tools like Feedburner (and Facebook analytics) can help you measure not just ‘reach,’ but the more important metric: influence.
The metrics you can ignore
Don’t worry too much about pageviews and Facebook ‘likes’ driven by the wrong sort of traffic -- it’s far more important to generate high-quality leads than to generate a high quantity of poor-quality leads. Remember the goals you set at the beginning. It’s not about being great at social media, after all: it’s about student recruitment.
To sum up:
Metrics are very important to a successful student recruitment campaign. You don’t want to fly blind! But not every number is meaningful, and you’ve got to know which ones matter and which ones you can safely ignore. By setting good goals and focusing on the most meaningful metrics, you’ll be well on your way to smarter marketing.Unsure of whether your marketing efforts are having any results?