The Direct Network


What's the Best Way to Measure Online Success?

Posted by Lori Reese on Apr 18, 2018 5:30:00 AM
Topics: Higher Ed, k12, online bookstore

Bounce rate, page views, conversions, sessions, SEO: What does it all mean? Website analytics can be intimidating. Yet, administrators must have a grasp on essential online metrics if they hope to make smart decisions about what to invest in marketing.

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If you’re looking for a number that will give you a quick and easy understanding of your school website’s success, there’s good and bad news. On the downside, no single figure sheds light on how your site is progressing, partly because the relevant metrics change depending on your marketing goals. Industry benchmarks that apply to those in finance, for instance, won’t necessarily translate into numbers that show how education sites are performing.

The good news is that it’s not hard to target key figures, which will provide insight into your site’s impact. Regularly reviewing your data will inform your decisions, let you know where you need to improve your site and where you might have found unexpected success.

4 Keys to Understanding Your Site’s Success

 1. New Visitors

Although looking at overall page views can be informative, you want to ensure your site is attracting the kind of traffic you aim to reach. If you want to boost enrollment, for example, then it’s critical to track how many newcomers you have on a daily basis. That lets you gauge whether efforts to reach newcomers — who are ideally prospective students — are paying off. There is no industry-wide benchmark for new visitors, but you can set your own target and track your progress toward exceeding that goal. A typical school will have a lot of traffic from current students. This offers insight into whether your site is performing well as a service and possible retention aid. But, for enrollment, you will want to establish a certain percentage of sessions, or visits, you’d like to see from those who have never been to the site in the past

2. Bounce rate

Bounce rate tells you whether a page inspires visitors to dig deeper— move on to another page within your site — or repels them. You know the experience: Sometimes you realize immediately that a site doesn’t have the information you’re seeking and you immediately return to an outside search engine. If that happens often, a page is said to have a high bounce rate. If you find your bounce rate for important recruiting pages is especially high — above 50% — you might want to consider a redesign. It may benefit your school to invest in a full or part-time worker who can help you improve your SEO (search engine optimization). This helps ensure your school turns up in the kind of searches your target students or families create online.  

 Pro tip:

An industry standard bounce rate is about 50%

3. Number of pages visited 

Like the bounce rate, knowing how many pages a visitor encounters on your site in a single session can be illuminating. Again, it lets you know whether people find your site easy to navigate and whether they’re engaged enough to continue seeking out more information about your school.

 Pro tip:

The industry standard is two page visits per session

 

4. Conversion rate

A conversion rate represents the percentage of people who are willing to type in an email address — or other contact information — while navigating your site. This represents a greater interest in your school and allows you to contact them with important information directly. Recruiters can target these users knowing that they want to hear from you.

If you have a page online where you hope newcomers will enter an email address, you want to look at that page’s conversion rate. These numbers tend to be low, because, like all of us, most visitors are reluctant to give information to strangers. 

 Pro tip:

The industry benchmark for conversion rates is 2%

How do you measure an online bookstore’s success?

MBS Direct’s Online Bookstore includes a feature called Service Center, which allows administrators to track student orders. It shows how much students spend, how many are buying books — and whether they’ve received their course materials as promised. Such transparency is critical if you hope to understand how well your official bookstore functions as a student service and revenue source. Most schools receive a yearly commission report from their online vendor. However, if you have no way of knowing how much revenue the store has generated overall, it’s impossible to discern success. A commission that is a high percentage of low sales won’t really boost revenues.

Internally, MBS Direct is also working to constantly improve the student and faculty experience online. For this, we evaluate at least two metrics: Percentage of students using the site and the amount of time it takes for a user to move from the homepage to another relevant place in the bookstore. We’ve found that a full 86% of students engage with our online bookstore homepages. That’s well above retail industry standard. Meanwhile, 73% usually navigate to another page within the site in under 15 seconds. That tells us that students who come to the homepage find it easy to use, which, in turn, boosts sales.

Administrators: Are You Considering an Online Bookstore?

About Lori Reese

Lori Reese is a writer and an educator with 20 years of experience in higher education teaching.

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