Top 3 findings in the #highered Analytics Benchmarking Report (Aug 2014)

October 1st, 2014 Karine Joly 20 Comments

Higher ed web analytics benchmarking & me: a long (love) story

Since 2010 I’ve developed an unhealthy interest in anything related to the use of web analytics in higher education (long before we actually launched Higher Ed Experts’ 4-week online course on Web Analytics for Higher Ed) including several surveys on how you use Web Analytics and a 1-year long benchmarking project in 2010-2011.

benchmarking_aug2014-1So, last Thursday, when I finally realized that real benchmarking data was finally (finally!!!) available and accessible specifically for Universities & Colleges from any good Google Analytics account sharing its own data, my heart skipped a bit.

(Want to learn how to access this data for your site, I created a 4-min screencast to show you.)

And right away, I started compiling data to work on my first monthly industry-level benchmarking report.

I tried to make the findings as visual as possible to capture the attention of everybody in higher education digital marketing and communication (not just the data lovers in our community).

More than 25 hours of work later, I’m happy to present the result to the world: The Higher Ed Web Analytics Monthly Benchmarking Report – August 2014, available on this web page and as a 12-page PDF download.

Here are my top 3 findings after spending some time analyzing this data.

1) Organic Search is the top digital channel driving visitors to higher ed websites

US - channels - august 2014

If your digital strategy doesn’t cover search engine optimization (SEO), you are definitely missing a huge opportunity to make the scale tip in your favor.

When 39% of the total traffic on universities & colleges websites come from organic searches (= links from the top search results displayed for keyword searches), SEO is NOT something you should do only once everything else is crossed over on your list. It should be a priority.

With Google Analytics new benchmarking reports, you can actually find out how you are doing compared to higher ed websites similar in terms of web traffic and location.
So, check out your own reports to find out how to fine tune your strategy and if you want to learn more about SEO, read what our alums say about our 4-week online course on search engine optimization for higher ed.

2) Social is driving a marginal part of new traffic, but as much as search paid ads

NEW US - channels - august 2014

Social media accounts for only 4% of the total web sessions for new users – which is slightly better than its share for all users (3%).

Yet, the social media channel generates as many web sessions from new users as paid search ads.
Given the fact that most schools use this digital channel more for engagement than for straight conversions, it’s pretty good.

I’m really looking forward to seeing how this is going to evolve throughout the recruiting cycle over the next few months. I’ll make sure to keep an eye on this in my future Higher Ed Web Analytics Benchmarking Monthly Reports.

3) Mobile devices (phones) are used for almost 1/4 of all the web sessions on higher ed websites – even more by new users

US Devices used aug2014

NEW users US Devices used aug2014

While desktops are still used for the majority of web sessions logged on higher ed websites, we can’t ignore mobile devices anymore.
The mobile share of traffic has increased dramatically from 9.3% in 2012 according to Higher Ed Experts 2013 survey on the State of the Mobile and Responsive Web in Higher Education (n=174).

With this kind of breakdown in device usage, your higher ed website needs to be a 1-size-fits-all. That’s why a responsive website should not be considered as a nice-to-have, but a must-have. As result, most redesigned higher ed websites are now responsive (also one of the reasons why our 4-week online courses on responsive web design for higher ed has been quite successful over the years).

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