Critical Landing Page Web Analytics for Higher Education

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I’ve been amazed and humbled by the positive response to my first article on the importance of Google Analytics for higher education institutions. Many of my contacts at colleges and universities have been asking for a follow-up specific to landing page web analytics.

Marketing Landing Pages Are Vital for Student Recruitment

Landing page web analytics lead to better student engagement outcomes
Photo by Buro Millennial on

No matter what higher education institutions do to attract potential students online– social marketing, search advertising, display ads, you name it – one constant is ubiquitous campaign and program specific landing pages.

Most of the time, these pages are set up on a separate platform and domain from the college’s primary website and are basically invisible from an SEO perspective so the only visits they receive are from marketing campaigns in one form or another. The majority of visitors come in from paid ad clicks and email link clicks.

Without Landing Page Web Analytics, There is No Optimization

Unfortunately, when it comes to improving the performance of most higher education landing pages, I’ve seen the same story repeat itself time and time again:

  1. Social or search ads are run pointing to the landing page.
  2. Potential students click the ads and arrive at the landing page.
  3. They don’t fill out the RFI or interest form, and leave.

When the above is the only data collected during the user journey, college marketing firms are stuck. The only levers they can use to effect change are to:

  • Try different versions of the digital ads
  • A/B test the landing page
  • Randomly change things, hoping for a better result

Nowhere in there is an examination of user behavior on the landing page, because very little user interaction data was recorded in their higher education web analytics. And that’s a problem. Without better data, it’s hard to know what to try next.

I recommend attacking this problem with the addition of three simple on-page metrics, explained below. Combined with the standard measurement points collected by a “stock” Google Analytics setup, these can be used to:

  • Optimize the on-page experience
  • Create more qualified remarketing or retargeting ad audiences
  • Increase the efficiency of digital ad investments

Web Analytics Metric 1: Add A Custom Page Timer

Page timers are great for landing page web analytics
Photo by Mike on

With standard Google Analytics, your bounce rate may be sky high on an advertising landing page, given that there is often very little to measure on the page other than the page being viewed and whether the form on the page was filled out. High bounce rates with no page interactions recorded can also mess with your time on page average by inflating the “zero” counts.

The addition of a custom page timer adds a critical measurement of time spent at an interval of your choosing. Set correctly, this event can also eliminate bounce visits when it fires, helping to separate truly disengaged visits from those that had at least a little bit more.

But how do you decide the length of time for your custom page timer? I go about this two ways:

  1. Look at your site average for time on page from digital advertising, and set the threshold at or slightly above that average
  2. Use your own arbitrary measurement of 15-45 seconds

Both of these methods can be used to build Google Analytics remarketing audiences that are more engaged than the shotgun approach of hitting all users equally. I tend to use option 2 on new sites or newly created landing pages, and option 1 on sites that have a longer analytics history.

Web Analytics Metric 2: Measure Vertical Scroll Depth

How far a user scrolled down a given page is a highly valuable interaction data point for content optimization. Google must agree with me, as they added this to the “enhanced” measurement points available on Google Analytics 4. With the previous versions that almost everyone is running today, scroll depth needs to be added as a custom interaction.

If your landing page is divided into distinct sections with call-to-action buttons or other important elements in identifiable places, you can use your scroll depth measurement to identify exactly which areas were seen during the user’s visit. This is incredibly useful for determining your use of screen real estate and testing changes to the landing page layout.

When you combine scroll depth with the custom page timer above, you get something even more useful: an audience of users who both viewed vital sections of your page and spent a decent amount of time doing so.

Landing Page Web Analytics Metric 3: Attempted And Completed Form Fills

99.9% of all lead generation landing pages for higher education count form conversions on the page. After all, it’s the most important data point for the whole effort. However, not nearly as many are also measuring the attempted form completions.

Form attempts count any user who started to fill out the form and either did it successfully or failed in some way. These failures can include entering invalid information or simply giving up because the form is too complicated or another reason.

Looking at the ratio of all form fill attempts versus those that are successfully completed says a lot about the frustration level of your form. In addition to lead generation pages, I have used this data point on job application forms to great effect. Users who started to fill your form but did not complete the form are also another way to build a separate remarketing audience reminding them to come back.

Apply These Measurement Points to Your Landing Pages Together

Using all of the above measurements on your higher education landing pages will give you way more than what standard Google Analytics provides to help optimize your landing pages. I hope you find them useful. And if you need assistance with web analytics for higher education, contact me for a free consultation.

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