Five Clever Ways to Use Google Analytics in Higher Ed

Our analytics team loves to learn, and they love to apply what they’ve learned. One of our managers of marketing technology, Dan Antonson, is known to have wired his refrigerator door to Google Analytics, simply for the fun of it (and to ensure he’s up to date on his supplies). Another of Antonson’s experiments involved syncing the dog cages at a pet shelter with Google Analytics to find out if there was any correlation between the number of times the cage door opened (signifying a visit by a potential pet adoptee) and views of that particular pet’s online profile. His goal was to connect physical behavior with online behavior, a goal that remains challenging for all marketers.

The exercises above led to a discussion of the potential of Google Analytics for higher ed. Below are five clever ways any college or university can use Google Analytics.

  1. Connecting Google Analytics directly to your CRM for enrollment analysis

Did you know that you can connect Google Analytics to your customer relationship management (CRM) system? Doing so will help you gather more information on where your inquiries are coming from. Did the prospective student get an email from your school? Did they see an ad? Such information helps your admissions team do more effective outreach.

Another benefit is that you may be able to better track inquiries by volume and by date over time. It’s always helpful to know where the surges are so that you can staff for busy times.

Yet another benefit is that you might be able to better segment and track your prospects in order to creating remarketing lists. See the Google Analytics site for general information about the tool and see this article for more information on how to integrate Google Analytics with your CRM. Of course, it all comes down to what you are tracking and how well optimized your site is.

  1. Measure donations from alumni

You probably know how many alumni your school has. You probably know how many alumni donate to your school, how often, and the dollar amount. But is that connected with your online analytics? Do you know if alumni visit your website? If so, do you know why? Having these answers could strengthen your understanding of which marketing campaigns are effective. You may even get insights into creative new ways to connect with alumni. This article from the Guardian summed it up well: Data alone can be misleading or inappropriately impersonal. But when data on key activities is captured from multiple angles, you are less likely to be misled by isolated metrics that may lack context.

  1. Use Google Analytics to measure learning management system activity

Online courses have become more prevalent. Even residential students take online courses at times in order to accommodate scheduling needs. As this area evolves, there is a new world of data available to help understand students, content effectiveness, learner proficiency and more.

Colleges can home in on so many types of metrics — we recommend you revisit your online learning data on a regular basis so that you can adjust in response to your findings. For example, some schools might adjust homework deadlines, or add modules if students seem to be struggling with a particular concept. Try this article from eLearningIndustry.com to get you started.

  1. Measure and monitor data from the Internet of Things

Google describes the Internet of Things (IoT) as “a sprawling set of technologies and use cases that has no clear, single definition.”

A mix of devices and networks that track physical elements for online reporting or analysis, the Internet of Things gets to what our manager was exploring with his refrigerator door sensors.

On campus, for instance, a college could apply analytics tracking to building environments that have physical elements connected to the Internet of Things. This could then inform which rooms to heat and when, or which rooms might need more frequent cleaning. Alternatively, a college could put sensors on information kiosks or brochure holders to integrate information on their use with other metrics tracked in Google Analytics.

  1. Track and attribute phone calls to key departments

Why not track incoming phone calls to in-demand departments, such as admissions or tech support? The benefit to integrating the information into Google Analytics is that you will then be able to run reports and make comparisons to behavior related to similar requests via web forms, e-commerce, events or other conversions. You may also be able to determine what type of device the caller is using or where they are calling from. More information about connecting phone calls to Google Analytics is available on this site.


As you can see, Google Analytics can be applied to all sorts of data sources. The more you experiment, the better you get at identifying opportunities for data collection.