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Digital Byte: Use Google Analytics to Track Your Open House ROI

As another college open house season approaches, I’m reminded of the many times I’ve heard enrollment marketers say, “We’re going to do another Facebook campaign because that seemed to work last time.” And while that is likely the case, there is a free tool that can tell you exactly which digital marketing channels drove the most event signups: Google Analytics.

Here is how you can use Google Analytics as an ROI tool to take the guesswork out of your next open house marketing success!

Deploy tracking

After establishing your marketing tactics (like Display, social, IP and Mobile Location Targeting), design your organic event and landing pages—all while leveraging SEO best practices, of course! Then it’s time to set up the tracking.

Start by placing your Google Analytics (GA) code on the landing pages, as well as the conversion page. (The conversion page is generally a “thank you” page that appears after the successful registration or the registration button, depending on your CMS and CRM capabilities.)

Then UTM codes need to be created. UTMs are little snippets you can add to a URL; they then allow Google Analytics (and you) to track and differentiate the URLs. That way you can distinguish which types of marketing led to which actions on your website via Google Analytics. We love the campaign URL builder here! You can also use more than the required fields to gain even deeper insights such as which ad variation or call to action led to the conversion, as opposed to just which source. Great for A/B testing!

Create your GA view

Now that GA tracking codes and UTMs are in place, it’s time to create a view within your Google Analytics account that removes your internal IP addresses, so the data isn’t skewed for on-campus traffic, staff, testing, etc. (Unless your event draws heavily from your current student population, this IP exclusion is advised.) Within that new or existing view, you should also create one or more goals that track the conversion page of the event (learn how to set up goals here) and set a monetary value for it by determining how much it’s worth to get someone to campus for a visit. (This is often a much bigger conversation and not always possible; if so, it’s okay to skip the value.) Also consider setting up an annotation in your view so you can easily spot things like when an e-mail blast dropped, a Retargeting campaign started, or you attended a high school fair. This way, when you see those dips and spikes in traffic on a specific day or time, you can recall exactly what it’s attributed to.

Click here for images to help in setting up your Google Analytics view.

Test, test, test!

Google Analytics views and goals cannot be retroactively added, so testing is an imperative step in this process. Test your ads and pages for both technical and user experience troubleshooting. Make sure the code is firing on all pages and buttons, and that the links on the ads and pages work, along with the form. Are the goals capturing? Also test your campaign from a user experience. Is there continuity between the ad, landing page, and form completion? Is anything difficult from a user perspective—is the form too long or not mobile friendly? Even a simple UX snafu can make or break an open house marketing campaign and throw your ROI askew.

Collect and calculate

Once everything is vetted, you can launch your open house marketing campaign, sit back, and watch the data collect! You will be able to check in real time or after the event to see how many goals were met, which ads drove which conversions and from what geographies, devices, and other demographic data, etc.

We all know higher education marketing isn’t a shopping cart conversion, but calculating an ROI can still be done. If you were able to determine a goal value, then it’s a simple export out of GA to see which channels were most valuable through amount returned. If you weren’t able to assign a value, then simply divide the cost of each marketing campaign investment by the number of goals that were completed, and you have a cost-per-lead ROI!

Be mindful of the big picture

Within Google Analytics there are assisting goals and other forms of attribution you can use to get a more thorough view of which channels impacted results. For example, a user may see an open house Display ad but then get back to your site organically through Bing when they are ready to actually sign up for the event. Depending on which platform you’re running your marketing campaigns within and GA report you’re viewing, your ROI calculation might give Bing all the credit here, which isn’t as sophisticated as attributing a percentage of the goal to Display, since that user saw an ad as well.

If this sounds easy to you, great! But if not, you’re hardly alone, which is why we are here. Reach out if you need help setting up your open house tracking and dashboards within Google Analytics, or if you need help with marketing your events. We have a full team of analysts, advertising specialists, and a new service called Carnegie Clarity that can take the guesswork out of your full-funnel enrollment marketing too! 

Follow Angie on Twitter @AngieMayWard

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