A Beginner’s Guide to Google Analytics for Private Schools

I get it—Google Analytics can be overwhelming. There’s a lot of data, charts, buttons, numbers, percentages, and terminology. But if an English major (me!) can use it successfully, so can you. I promise.

In this blog post, I’m going to cut through the extra graphs and gizmos and highlight the five most important Google Analytics elements for school marketers.

1.     Data Comparison by Month

At the top of every screen in Google Analytics, you will see a dropdown date with a date range. The date range you select up top will filter all analytic results to include only that time period. Until you exit Google Analytics or select a new date range, any other buttons you click within analytics will display the same date range.

I recommend choosing the “last month” option and sorting dates from the first of the month to the last of the month. This allows me to see data trends in the lifecycle of the school—a lifecycle very much controlled by the calendar. If our site visits drop off from May to June, for example, I can surmise that students have left for the summer and not visiting our website as frequently.

2.     “New” and “Returning” Visitors

New website visitors are “unique users” (i.e. “one person”) arriving on your website for the first time. Of course, there are exceptions—someone using a new computer, browsing on coffee shop Wi-Fi, etc.—so there is a margin of error. That being said, a new user is generally someone coming to your website for the first time. This could be a prospective family, a job seeker, or even an employee of a competitor school.

A returning user has been to your website before. It could be a school administrator, a current student, or an alumnus, but it could also be a prospective family coming back to your website for more information. The decision to apply to an independent school is an important one, and many families will visit your site multiple times before applying.

3.     Acquisition

Acquisition measures how people get to your site. Do they come via Google search (“Organic”)? Do they click on links to your site from other websites (“Referral”)? Are your school’s social media outlets successful (“Social”)? What about your print, word-of-mouth, and email campaigns (“Direct”)? For example, if you release a direct mail campaign with www.cheshireacademy.org/summer on the postcard, you will be able to track the number of times users directly type this address into their browser and end up on the site.

Navigate to Acquisition > Overview to see a broad overview of your acquisition channels. You can click on each one for more detailed information.

4.     Detailed Acquisition Information

This is the most important tool for school marketers. Detailed acquisition information will show you which marketing campaigns are driving people to your website. It also shows the number of new and returning users for each channel, allowing you to see where new leads are coming from.

From the data below, we can see that we achieved 93 unique new leads from social media, most of which were from Facebook. However, we can also see that very few returning users arrive at our website from WordPress, which we use regularly for our student-run #ScratchUp blog. In looking at the blog, I saw that very few articles contain links to our website. This would prompt me to talk to our social media manager and ask her to include more links to our website in blog posts.

5.     In-Page Analytics

Perhaps the most useful tool for beginners, in-page analytics simplifies the behavior flow chart into a more concrete experience by allowing you to see click percentages on the actual website. Navigate to Behavior > In-Page Analytics to launch your website in a new window. Little orange boxes by each link will show which link has the highest percentage of total clicks. You can also select each percentage to see the total number of people who have clicked on each link.

You will need to re-select the date range while browsing in-page analytics, which you can do from the top bar. In addition, you can click other pages and see how successful the links on your internal pages are.

Google Analytics is a powerful tool that can help drive decision making for marketers in independent schools. However, many marketers shy away from using the big data simply because all the clickable options can be so overwhelming. By using this guide, you can start exploring Google Analytics and putting the data to work for your school’s marketing strategy. 

If you like this post, you'll love our newsletter, the Daily Jolt. Sign up here.