Enrollment Marketing at Illinois Tech

Hi all,

It has been a while so I thought I’d provide an update.

I haven’t had a lot spare time lately. If I did, I would have commented on an actual article someone wrote and hit publish on article comparing higher ed’s use of digital marketing to Russia’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 election (yes, actually) but I’ve been busy learning the ins and outs of undergraduate recruitment.

It’s been about 3 months since I moved to Chicago and started working at Illinois Institute of Technology (Illinois Tech). It’s a really cool place.

There has been a lot to learn, and as you can see from the job description below, significant opportunities to analyze and revise print and digital outreach to recruit undergraduate students.

It’s an opportunity to combine my skill and experience and apply it directly to making a measurable impact (today is the scholarship deadline for domestic first year (freshmen) students, by the way). It’s been great so far and I’m excited to continue and improve upon the great work that’s already been done.

The Assistant Director of Enrollment Marketing Analytics and Strategies will create, implement, and manage communication and marketing programs that lead to the successful recruitment and enrollment of undergraduate students. Will assess campaign analytics, identify new markets, text mine data, and analyze competitors to develop targeted and effective outreach to segmented audiences. Serve as the liaison between undergraduate admission and campus departments to source/create/edit content for marketing materials. Manage online content and digital marketing platforms. Schedule digital and print communications.

Education & Experience

Bachelor’s degree required, Master’s degree preferred; 4-7 years experience.

Knowledge & Skills

  • Strong writing, editing, and proofreading skills are essential.
  • Excellent organizational and planning skills with ability to work on multiple projects at one time.
  • Excellent attention to detail and accuracy.
  • Strong IT skills.
  • Excellent research skills, proven analytical ability and strong business reporting skills.
  • Strong knowledge and understanding of current trends in digital media/social media.

Key Responsibilities

Develop, implement, and manage a marketing and communication plan for the recruitment and enrollment of undergraduate students.

-examine campaign analytics for ROI and revised strategies
-identify new market opportunities
-analyze marketing metrics to identify cause and effect relationships
-analyze competitors
-text mine admission essays and letters of recommendation to inform targeted marketing messages
-use website analytics to track target audience activity and develop customized outreach

Serve as the liaison between undergraduate admission and campus departments to source/create/edit content for marketing materials.

-meet with faculty, students and other parties to source targeted content to segmented audiences in the admission funnel
-create and edit copy for marketing materials

Manage online content and digital marketing platforms.

-ensure undergraduate websites are updated and contain effective recruitment content
-advise academic and other campus departments on website enhancements for recruitment initiatives
-manage digital partnerships

Schedule digital and print communications.

-create, edit, and schedule email/text templates within CRM
-schedule print material mailings
-coordinate internal campaigns (print/digital) with timing of external digital partnership campaigns


[P.S.: One day I’ll share some Tableau dashboards with dummy data. (I’ll have to review material from the Tableau Desktop II class I took make it presentable first.) In the meantime, I highly recommend enjoy Higher Ed Data Stories.]


How to get a job in higher ed marketing

For people wanting to get a job in higher ed marketing, “breaking through” can be a bit daunting. Now that I’ve learned a few things, I figured I’d share. So, I wrote a post for the Higher Ed Experts Blog entitled “4 tips to market your way to your 1st (or next) higher ed marketing job“. I hope you find it helpful!

Enrollment Marketing Automation Case Study

Here’s the enrollment marketing automation case study (PDF) I wrote for CASE. Here it is online (paywall). Let me know what you think.

Program-specific Google Analytics Dashboards

About a year ago I wrote about what could be included in a web report. It was somewhat general to be relevant in a number of cases.

I’d like to provide a specific update to list specific widgets and segments that should be used for various reports. This is by no means the be-all end-all of reports as dashboards should always be customized depending on your specific situation and business objectives. However, for admissions/administrators and program directors wanting to understand prospective student actions on the website as a whole (including before they enter a traditional admissions funnel or CRM, the including the following widgets and settings in a GA dashboard could be helpful as a starting point to understand a little more beyond top-level and vanity metrics.

I realize this is just a starting point. What else would you recommend as a starting point for people putting together 1-page program-specific GA dashboards?


Custom Segments

  1. Program subsite visitors (one per program)

Simply segment just to program subsite visitors

Segment: Degree Subsite Visitor

Condition: Sessions include page contains program.website.edu/PROGRAMNAME.* (regex)

  1. Completed goal (however you set up inquiry form completion)
  2. Completed goal (however you set up application completion)

Monthly reports for each program: 

12 total (3 variations for each program with the above segments)


How many users?

Widget title:  Sessions

Standard: Metric

Show the following metric: Sessions

How many pages did visitors view on average?

Widget title: Average pages viewed/session

Standard: Metric

Show the following metric: Pages/session

Average Session Duration

Widget title: Average Time on Page

Standard: Metric

Show the following metric: Avg. Session Duration

Where did traffic come from?

Widget title: Source/Medium

Standard: Pie

Display the following columns: Source/Medium [dimension], Users [metric]

Show up to: 5 slices

Popular Pages and Avg. Time on Page

Standard: Table

Display the following columns: Page, Pageviews, Avg. Time on Page

Show a table with 5 rows

Users by City

Standard: Table

Display the following columns: City, Users

Show a table with 5 rows

Users by Day of the Week

Standard: Pie

Display the following columns: Users, Day of Week Name

Show up to 5 slices

Users by Device Category

Standard: Pie

Display the following columns: Users, Device Category

Show up to 5 slices

Users by Page Depth

Standard: Pie

Display the following columns: Users, Page Depth

Show up to 5 slices

What goes into a web/analytics report for higher ed?

Last week, I posted about Key Performance Indicators for independent school and higher ed admission advertising. Those figures can be used together to measure the performance of online advertising efforts and their impact on conversions and overall business goals.

Today, I’d like to discuss how things like those metrics and other insights can be combined into a seasonal, quarterly or annual web report that tracks progress and provides useful insights. Unsurprisingly, it’s difficult to find recent examples of insightful web reports in higher ed. As you know, colleges are increasingly competitive and (aside from conferences, and the like) can be unwilling to share their playbook so how others can copy their success.

When it comes to showing off performance- when hard work pays off – there are often case studies released by partner organizations. For instance, when helping my school plan our use of HubSpot, I referenced the Proctor Academy’s example and got in touch with Scott Allenby, their Director of Communications and Marketing and their Inbound Marketing Specialist (yes, a title at an independent school) Lesley Fisher about their success. They were very helpful and gave insights into their progress.

In other cases, when it’s the routine reporting that can ultimately to these changes, there is less information available. At FCS we’re doing well in terms of improving our performance in key areas, I’m still not sharing inside information that could be helpful to our competitors.


What I can share, and what there are many examples of, including a great guide on digitalgov.gov, is an example of things to include in a web metrics report.

Those guidelines can be very helpful and I think a lot of schools could incorporate a lot of those examples. One issue in transferring the report to indy school/higher ed world, which may not have been an issue for government agencies, is that the report is long. Yes…in 2016, eight standard (letter) length pages is too long. The report I made for Fall 2014 was 12 slimmed down slides and that was too long. When making anything it can be easy to write more than necessary because it interests you but chances are the report is written for people that have only a small fraction of the interest or the responsibility that you do. While it’s nice to have more details available, it seems most useful to have highlights up front as other may not have time to examine smaller details (or watch a 40-minute video on making that report). That being said, individual circumstances vary and the applicability of this advice subject to a school’s individual needs and should adjusted in length depending on the level of breadth and depth required (program-specific web/admission information, etc).

Keeping in mind that these everything online is subject to change and individual circumstances (what YOUR school finds important). Also, these are only excerpts and the examples are dated and don’t include advances this academic year (sorry, competitors).

Comparative numbers can be “period compared to last” unless otherwise noted. The numbers for your likely primary audience (defined as a segment in GA) can be included alongside total numbers.

Examples of points to include in a web report

Main website: (# of sessions by filtered audience, users, pages/session, avg. session duration, % increase in sessions/session duration compared to last quarter, and new sessions). Include why traffic may have changed. This page can include a daily visits to your website with annotations explaining spikes in traffic.

Search: What people search for on your site. Thankfully I added Google Custom Search to our site. This could lead to navigation changes or notes that your audience may prefer searching for their terms rather than navigating.

Path/User Flow Analysis: This could be an entirely separate report so keep it simple. Start with the standard landing page as the start.

Engagement: Mention bounce rate on key pages this period compared to last.

Referrals (where traffic came by referral source including details on social sources)

Behavior (most popular pages, and notable changes in device used)

Geography (notable mentions regarding where your audience is physically)

Notable sections (Changes to pages that affect target audience, including UX (simplifying Admission sections, altering the workflow for users, etc), and future work in those areas.

Campaigns: # and % increase of important measurements, # of conversions due to ads vs. other efforts, % increase in important campaign-related metrics/micro-conversions (time on site, page visited), results (ex. event registration increase, event attendance increase, increase in admission inquiries, etc). Consider adding a goal flow analysis screenshot starting with source/medium for the campaign page for a conversion you’d like to highlight.

NB: This section often includes the sources of conversions (discussed in a previous post) doesn’t necessarily need to include all of a campaign’s constituent parts (email campaign details like email open/click rates) or details of digital advertising KPIs).

Mobile (top-line figures to be cognizant of changing ways your audience experiences your website)

Other web

YouTube: Top videos by views, avg. % viewed

Facebook (new fans, impression breakdown, use by day (to inform future posting)

Twitter and Facebook (most engaging posts (different examples (top shared, clicked, post views, etc depending on type)

Summary including and issues and next steps to work on.

Things to note

It’s important to have your audience in mind. Do all the recipients of the report care about each section equally? Of course not. Should you report cover the basics for the areas of your responsibility and top-line figures that people you report to would be interested in? Of course. I’ve found that since I began assembling reports like this (starting with Cision in 2012), that good internal reports lead to interesting questions that can be answered later in depth (how do those who create an admission account differ from website visitors who do not?) or discussed in a formal presentation (like the follow-up to my report).

These reports can be made in addition to providing customized dashboards (like this one I created that could answer the above admission question) or reports shared regularly.

A note to regular readers: yes, a year ago I did say the sort of ‘vanity metrics’ recommended above aren’t enough. That’s still true but I meant that in terms of having a full grasp of improving the user experience and taking steps to improve your performance, these numbers are necessary but not sufficient for a complete understanding on your part.

In terms of a report, they’re necessary preface to a larger conversation. The changes you made that led to X larger change can be discussed in response to larger questions. Remember: think of your audience first: they often want a bird’s eye view, not necessary your view from the thickets.

The difference between placement and other ad targeting options

If you clicked on this link you probably either have a steady understanding of the basics of PPC (AdWords) digital advertising. You’re probably hoping this post has some specific information about what effective placement targeting is for independent schools or higher ed. Unfortunately I can’t tell you that. It depends on your specific situation and how much you’re willing to spend (or reallocate from print ads).

I can share some evidence that I know the basics of AdWords through my re-certification (which I’ve noted would be a problematic qualification in isolation (without the related experience in managing effective digital campaigns for my school)) and some notes on managed placements (usually manually- or batch-selected websites on which to pay to have display ads).

I can tell you that I’ve found success in using managed placements, choosing websites that our prospective parents are likely to visit normally or visit in the course of choosing a school. Once you have some experience with different targeting settings, you may find that having granular control over what websites you’d like to advertise on (and even how much you’re willing to bid for your ad(s) on that site.

The placement targeting option below will choose a group of websites on or related to the chosen topic.


There is middle ground between the largely automated and primarily manual options, there’s a middle ground that entails choosing topics and keeping a close eye on the performance in the Display Network-> Placements tab and adjusting bids and excluding placements that don’t make sense for your needs. The Daily Egg post is correct in that that approach means a lot of manual work. Here’s more on that option. Best of luck!

KPIs for Higher Ed Admission Advertising

The title of this post could have been “17 must-have metrics you need to be measuring that matter”. That’s the kind of result you find when looking for KPIs. This post will hopefully clear up why picking KPIs first is imperfect (but provides a few, to provide a basic understanding).

If your job has to do with website or content management, you’ve probably (hopefully) been asked to provide some measure of your or your organization’s performance. Some platforms provide some built-in basics (WordPress.com’s post-views and other generic dashboards), but you’re likely (hopefully) looking beyond the basics. This not a com

I first started actually using Google Analytics when I was blogging for my alma mater in 2008, what was then called “Advanced Segmentation” and Custom Reports were introduced. Then when I shared information it really wasn’t much.

Hopefully you’ll forgive me. In seven years the web analytics industry has undergone a tremendous transformation. Google Analytics was released in 2005 and has become the most popular analytics software among top websites on the internet and over 27,000,000 sites are using it.

Still, despite the massive increase in usage, not everybody “using” analytics has a real understanding the importance of measuring what matters.

As you can see in this screenshot, there are a great many claims on what metrics you need to/should be using. Let’s take a step back though. Back in 2008, experts like Avinash Kaushik cautioned people that “Analyzing data in aggregate is a crime.” It is still being done by companies to this day.

Digital Marketing and Measurement

Whenever there is knowledge that’s not self-evident and there’s money to be made in ‘expertise’, you tend to see a lot of quick answers. True, for many, there are some key ideas and commonly used KPIs (Key Performance Indicators), and I’ll cover them below.

The problem with starting with the data or the tool is that you’re not putting meaningful thought into what objectively measures success or failure. Here I need to include some high-level process that’s crucial to having an effective model in place. The following is from Avinash’s aptly-named Occam’s Razor website:

“Step one is to force us to identify the business objectives upfront and set the broadest parameters for the work we are doing….

Step two is to identify crisp goals for each business objective….

Step three is to write down the key performance indicators….

Step four is to set the parameters for success upfront by identifying targets for each KPI….

Step five, finally, is to identify the segments of people / behavior / outcomes that we’ll analyze to understand why we succeed or failed.”

Many start with the behavior/outcomes first and seem to have some web data spin-off of shiny toy syndrome. Adopting some magical web metrics isn’t going to lead to optimal decision-making. Figuring out what’s important to you and then figuring out what most accurately measures that is a better process.

That being said, that’s not a good answer if you need to provide an web/digital update by tomorrow. Here’s a simplified guide to identifying some key metrics/measures of success you can look at in order to explain the outcomes of different marketing efforts (some of this advice assumes you’re in independent school or higher ed admission marketing but can be used more broadly). Specifically, this post looks at paid advertising numbers that are often used with other web metrics (time on page, bounce rate, conversions..more on how to connect the two later).

Digital Advertising using Google AdWords

Managing digital advertising (AdWords, in particular) is a service that some outsource to different vendors, which may or may not understand your specific situation and consequently may not have AdWords campaigns optimized to meet your goals. Conversely, if your vendor understands your business objectives, how the various ad options help you reach them, and what results are expected, it may be more cost-effective for you to let a vendor do the technical work of implementing that plan.

Let’s say you have the collateral together (all the images/copy you need) for a specific campaign, and know how much money you’re willing to spend over which time period. For simplicity’s sake, let’s also say that your ultimate goal is an x% increase in event registrations compared to the same time last year. Having those basic decisions made helps the data can help sharpen the focus of whoever is planning or analyzing the success of a campaign. Below are some columns you’ll see across different ad platforms. The availability and specific definitions of these metrics may differ, but the primary concepts carry across platforms. The following list are a few (not all) of the important metrics you’ll likely to include when reporting on AdWords effectiveness.

Impressions: The number of times your ad was served. For brand-building campaigns, this is the important measure (and one can often optimize for impressions and pay per thousand impressions). This should not be confused with the number of times your ad was viewable. Viewable ads are bid on with the vCPM option. For campaigns made for event registrations (or form completions, etc), this number in isolation is not the most useful.

Clicks/CTR: I prefer to discuss these together because clicks (simply the number of legitimate (however your platform defines that) an ad got can be put into context with the clickthrough rate (CTR). CTR is the number of clicks divided by the number of impressions and can be used to gauge how well your ads are doing/whether the audience you chose finds your ad useful/relevant. In AdWords this is important because it contributes to your keyword’s expected CTR (which is a component of Quality Score).

Average CPC: The amount paid for your ad divided by the number of clicks.

Average Position (AdWords): Where your ads rank compared to other advertisers. If your/your competitor’s quality score are the same, you’ll have to bid higher to place higher than that advertiser.

Conversions: The number of times an ad led someone to an action you find valuable (ex. event registration.

Cost per conversion: The total you spent on an ad divided by the number of conversions.

Depending on the Bidding Strategy you choose (set at the campaign level), you may not need to focus on some of the above. For example, if you choose to focus on clicks, you’ll bid on clicks, whereas if you focus on conversions you’ll pay per acquisition (CPA).

Putting it all together

Many of the above metrics are the same of similar when managing or reporting on Facebook and Twitter ads. While I haven’t seen a perfect way to combine all of one’s advertising and the result in one place, some companies are offering paid add-ons (HubSpot) or standalone services (AdTaxi) that aim to do just that. While not the holy grail of digital advertising (a clear ROI), an integrated part of online advertising that everyone should consider is to use UTM parameters on all of your ads to measure what your paid visitors do once they get to your website, in detail, compared to other channels. By linking Google Analytics and AdWords, those details carry over (and allow you to see more information in AdWords as well). If you put in the work, you can track the effectiveness of individual Facebook and Twitter ads. Unless you’re using  a 3rd party service this will involve work on the Power Editor (easier than the regular ads manager) and ads.twitter.com.

Web measurement is an imperfect art/science regardless of which service you use, but hopefully the above has given you an understanding of some of the more important metrics (and an understanding you should start with a discussion about your goals before picking numbers).

AdWords Search Certification

If you know anything about paid digital advertising, you likely know Google accounts for the vast majority (78%) of US search ad revenue. If you are doing paid search, you’re likely running AdWords.

I recently passed the Search Advertising exam (again). It’s a pretty thorough exam covering the following areas:

  • Consumer behavior and the impact of search
    • Trends and opportunities
    • Campaign types
    • Account organization
    • Ad formats
    • Text and mobile ads
    • Keyword matching options
    • Negative keywords
    • Building a keyword list
    • Targeting geo locations
    • Budgeting
      • Bid strategies
      • Manual CPC
      • ECPC
      • Bid adjustments
      • Automated bidding
      • Maximize Clicks
      • Target Search Page Location
      • Target CPA
      • Target outranking share
      • Target ROAS
      • Daily vs. monthly budget (30.4 times daily, etc)
    • Managing campaigns
      • Scheduling, rotation & frequency capping
      • Different types of URLs
      • Conversion tracking
      • Remarketing for search ads
      • Multiple accounts and bulk changes (AdWords manager accounts and AdWords Editor)
    • Measurement
      • Finding insights
      • Evaluating performance
      • Clicks and impressions (and impression share)
      • Conversions and ROI
    • Reporting
      • Search terms report
      • Paid and organic search results
      • Attribution reports


AdWords Display Certification

I recently passed earned Google’s AdWords Display Certification. While Facebook leads in display advertising (and has its own ad platform LMS I’ve also used), the massive scale, measurable performance, contextual engine for ad placements, and targeting options make it incredibly valuable.

The AdWords Display Advertising Exam covers the following areas:

  • Google Display Network
    • Breadth and depth
    • Contextual targeting
    • Display Network ad auction
    • Search Network with Display Select/opt-in (JUST SAY NO)
    • AdWords Ad Gallery
    • Bidding on GDN
      • vCPM, ECPC
      • Bid adjustments
      • Automated bidding
      • Dynamic display ads
      • Lightbox ad
    • Targeting
      • Managed placements
      • Targeting by topic
      • Negative keywords
      • Language targeting
      • Ad Scheduling
      • Device targeting
      • Display Planner
      • Audience Interest
      • Similar audiences (similar to Lookalike audience in FB)
      • Demographic targeting
      • Remarketing (including dynamic)
      • Dynamic retargeting
    • Evaluating performance


AdWords Mobile Certification

Most Google searches are on mobile devices. That’s been true for nearly two years now. That means, in addition to the necessity for a mobile user-friendly website, you need to ensure your advertising is optimized for mobile.

While not everyone needs to increase mobile app downloads, businesses need to take advantage of mico-moments (I-Want-to-Know, I-Want-to-Go, I-Want-to-Do, and I-Want-to-Buy).

I recently earned Google’s AdWords Mobile Certification. The Mobile Advertising Exam covers these key topic areas:

  • Consumer behavior and the impact of mobile
  • Mobile trends
  • Changes in mobile decision making
  • Promoting an app
  • Driving calls
  • Increasing online or store sales
  • Building awareness
  • Best Practices
  • Mobile bidding and targeting
    • Mobile bid adjustment, keywords, targeting, flexible bidding (maximize clicks, target search page location, target outranking share, target CPA, enhanced CPC, target return on ad spend), and remarketing
  • Mobile ad details
    • Search network, display network, YouTube
    • Ad extensions
    • Ad formats
    • Mobile display
    • Interstitial/video
    • App promotion
    • App engagement
  • Measurement
    • Conversion actions (website sign ups/purchases, iOS and Android app downloads/actions, phone calls (from ads, calls to a forwarding number on website, and phone clicks on mobile site), and importing offline conversions