Roadmap of higher ed goes beyond the basics of digital marketing analytics

A new approach to measuring the internet effectiveness of colleges and universities
By: | Issue: March, 2017
February 24, 2017

How would you rate the digital marketing analytics process at your institution? Is marketing measurement all squared away? If I had to guess your answer, I’d say probably not.

No matter how good you are, you can never check off the analytics box once and for all. Measuring digital marketing performance is not a project. It’s an iterative process.

This process has become complex due to the explosion in the digital marketing landscape. Messaging platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat), channels (social media, digital ads) and new measurement tools have resulted in an ever-changing digital marketing environment over the last decade.

Unfortunately, the majority of schools are only scratching the surface of measurements. Data is collected, numbers are shared and reports are created, but not much is done with all this data. There is so much of it.

A recent study of 2,575 university websites found that only 31 percent running Google Analytics use Google Tag Manager (GTM) as well. But, about a third of these schools run their tracking code outside of the GTM container.

This counterintuitive use confirms that we’re missing some critical basic analytics expertise in higher education.

A new road map

I’ve spent the past seven years trying to develop the general analytics expertise of the higher ed digital marketing community, so it’s quite humbling to see how little progress has been made. This is what led me back to the drawing board in my quest to close the analytics expertise gap among digital marketers.

This gap prevents decisions from being informed and driven by data.

Early this year, I set out to draw an updated road map of higher ed marketing analytics. I read books and reports, upgraded my own analytics skill set, researched several analytics models, and had conversations with a few higher ed professionals whose analytics practice has reached a high level of maturity.

I introduced this digital marketing analytics road map at the Higher Ed Analytics Conference I host each year.

How the road map works

Whether you’ve been asked for more data to justify your budget or you’re just not sure what to measure, this road map will show you what needs to happen for your marketing team to go beyond the basics in digital marketing analytics.

By breaking down best practices into simple steps, I’ve tried to reverse engineer what would be an ideal process. It won’t work in 100 percent of cases, but it can provide the direction so many teams badly need, because they don’t have the time or the resources to reinvent the wheel.

By offering guidance on the process, I’m trying to help focus efforts on what matters for performance measurement and ultimately for higher ed digital marketing.

That’s why the road map includes a few signposts to inform your journey on the road to performance measurement: the metrics wish list, the data source audit, and the analytics dashboard outline.

Join the project

Finally, I’ve built a companion online assessment based on the road map, so you can assess your use of digital marketing analytics.

Now in beta, this questionnaire was designed as a practical first step to improving your analytics process. With questions that are more specific than in most analytics maturity models, this assessment will increase your awareness of best practices.

If you complete the assessment, you will receive your score as well as the complete “Digital Marketing Analytics Roadmap” report. You’ll also contribute to a larger benchmarking research study I’m conducting this year on digital marketing analytics practices in higher education.

In a few months, I will share the results of this research in a column on higher ed analytics. The results will be used to design the next version of the road map and to improve the online assessment as a teaching tool.

If you want to participate in this research and receive a free copy of “Digital Marketing Analytics Roadmap,” please complete the assessment at