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Posted by Graeme Wilkinson on 18 May 2016

Learn how to use digital marketing measurements that matter

If your International school has digital marketing measurements in place, then this may be a question that you can answer fairly easily. Possibly you can log-in to your preferred analytics package and check this in less time than it’s taken me to write this introduction – or even better you report on it so regularly that you know the answer without even needing to check your analytics software!

But how accurate is your answer? How confident are you of the data you're gathering?

If you have any doubts on the validity of your conversion data, or if you currently don’t really know how well your International School website is performing then don't panic - with lots of experience in this sector we've pulled together some useful guidance to get you up and running with digital marketing measurements that matter.

What does conversion rate mean?

A conversion rate metric simply tells you what percentage of your visitors are doing something you want them to do. This can be something as simple as making a school visit enquiry or downloading the school brochure, to an action more complex such as completing a detailed application form.

Nielsen Norman Group provide the following definition:

"The conversion rate is the percentage of users who take a desired action. The archetypical example of conversion rate is the percentage of website visitors who buy something on the site".

The desired actions mentioned can cover a wide range of tasks including:

  • a purchase
  • registering details
  • signing up for a subcription 
  • downloading a whitepaper / guide etc
  • requesting more information
  • making a booking 
  • using a certain feature of an application
  • upgrading
  • watching a video

To decide what the important key performance indicators (KPIs) are for your International School you need to define exactly what the objectives of your website are and then what related actions you wish your website visitors to take.

Setting these KPI metrics up is relatively easy using tools such as Google Analytics, the difficult part is interpreting the information properly and working out exactly what these results tell your marketing team about the digital performance of your website.

Can you trust the numbers you are seeing?

It's reasonable to think that once you have your KPI metrics set up that you can simply start implementing your school’s digital marketing plan with the confidence that you are measuring its success by reviewing website conversion rates.

But – how do you know if you can absolutely trust these numbers and make future marketing decisions based on them? Common sense would say that if your website conversion rates are low you should be investing money and effort into improving them or if they are high you should continue with the marketing approach you are currently taking. Unfortunately though numbers can’t always be taken on face value, in fact they sometimes lie (or at the very least can be misunderstood or misinterpreted) - here is a great video explaining how that happens.

Therefore, it’s really important to understand how and why your conversion rate is the value which it is.

Let’s take a simple (and somewhat obvious) example. Say your International School website contains a simple enquiry form that has been created to allow parents to ask any questions they may have, with a successful form submission contributing to the conversion rate of the website. You then run a marketing campaign that sees both your website visitor numbers and conversion rate increase so you naturally assume it was a success and plan your next campaign repeating the same formula.

In isolation it’s easy to think that as the conversion rate increased everything else on the website must have performed well. But, what if at the same time existing parents also completed the same form, asking you for clarification about an event your school is running (so completely separate to your campaign)? They have also completed the form and so contributed to your conversion rate.

Suddenly it’s not so clear any more. How can you make sure your school isn’t wrongly investing in marketing campaigns you thought were working but actually aren’t?

Understand how your conversion rate is calculated

As an international school your primary website audience is likely to be:

  • Parents looking for an International School for their children
  • Parents of children already enrolled

There are other audience types as well but I’ll save looking at them for a future blog.

Let’s assume that one of your goals for the website is a prospective parent completing an initial admissions enquiry form and that you are tracking this goal with two metrics, the number of submissions received and the conversion rate. It’s important to know how the conversion rate is calculated – shown below are a selection of different options of how this could be calculated:

  1. # of submissions / # of total visitors
  2. # of submissions / # of total sessions
  3. # of submissions / # of prospective parent visitors
  4. # of submissions / # of views of the form

The above list could be even longer – but the point is they will all produce different values so without the context of how the value is calculated you will find it difficult to determine if the conversion rate is good or bad.

Don’t just accept the improvement, work out why

If you see an improvement, it can be very easy to conclude that you and your team’s efforts have contributed to this improved performance. Which may well be the case but to know for sure you need to validate, relating back to my earlier point about trusting the numbers, you need to know why the improvement occurred.

For example, let’s say you are using method 2 above to calculate your conversion rate and decide to add a popup to your website. Before you added the popup your monthly numbers looked like this:

Users Sessions Submissions Conversion Rate
800 2000 58 2.90%

After making the change to the website and adding the popup they look like this: 

Users Sessions Submissions Conversion Rate
800 1500 50 3.33%

If you were purely looking at conversion rates then you would see that your conversion rate has increased suggesting that the change to the website has been successful (high fives all round!). But when you delve deeper you discover that the monthly number of sessions and volume of form submissions have actually decreased.  Therefore the form conversion rate increasing is in fact misleading about what's happening on the website. By having a view of all the contributing figures you have access to the facts and can have a more more informed view of site performance. In this example you would then likely do more research into the reasons why session numbers and form submissions are down and take steps to address that issue.

Is Conversion Rate the best way to monitor how good my site is?

As a single metric it can be useful to monitor change but it shouldn’t stop there and we definitely wouldn’t recommend it to be used in isolation. If you view conversion rates alongside other metrics you will benefit from gaining a comprehensive understanding of exactly how well your International School website is performing, and this will equip you with the knowledge to make informed decisions on how to progress with your digital marketing.

Conclusion

So, how good is your International School website at converting enquiries? Well as highlighted in this blog that can actually be a difficult question to answer if you are purely looking at conversion rates. A number of factors need to be considered to understand fully how well your website is performing and whether it is encouraging visitors to take the desired actions or not.

If you understand the how and the why of the numbers, and you are continually measuring these stats and refining your digital presence based on an informed view of the data then you are taking the right steps.

We would love to hear your views so please do share any thoughts you have on the points covered here in the comments below. Or feel free to get in touch if you would like a chat about how we can work with your International School on improving your digital marketing performance.

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