All posts by Maddie Shepard

Google Analytics Intelligence: Making Data More Accessible for EDU Marketers

Have you ever been asked a question about your Google Analytics data and had no clue where to find the answer? Have you ever wondered if you’re missing a big change in your data? Have you ever felt overwhelmed by your data in general? You’re not alone. And luckily, Google has your back.

Google recently introduced a new Intelligence feature to its Google Analytics homepage designed to solve all these problems. Say goodbye to the days of getting lost in all the reports, filters and dimensions, because now you can simply ask a question.

Intelligence sits in the top left of your homepage. Once you click, a small pop-out appears. 



Here you have several options. If you already have a question in mind, you can type it directly into the bar at the top. For example, let’s say you’re curious how many goals were completed on your website last week. Type it in, and Intelligence will give you a response. 



If you’re not sure what to ask, Intelligence provides a list of frequently asked questions. These can help point you in the direction of KPIs and stats that you should monitor.



When you don’t have any specific questions, Intelligence helps you check in on the health of your site. Under the ‘New’ header, Intelligence provides alerts of unusual activity, suggestions for improving your reporting and performance comparisons. Clicking on one of the notifications provides more information, as well as suggestions for improvement.



Once you’ve opened a notification, it is saved in the ‘Read’ header. If you want to save the insight and address it later, simply click the three dots within the notification and select ‘Save Insight.’ 



Intelligence being so user-friendly opens the data doors to everyone in your organization. Even if you aren’t familiar with the Google Analytics interface, you can extract insights about your site. And for those who are savvy Analytics users, the tool shows you exactly which metrics need a second look.

In its current form, Intelligence can answer questions about website traffic, goal completions, device usage and other basic topics. As more complex requests come in, Intelligence will adapt and learn how to answer those questions, too. The sky’s the limit, and Intelligence is getting smarter by the minute.

A Day in the Life of Data

You arrive at your office bright and early on a Spring morning, ready to start your day. Before grabbing any coffee, you sit down to check your calendar. You nearly shudder. Right there, in the middle of your morning, is an important meeting with the Dean and Provost. Even some program directors have RSVP’d. These meetings can get intense and leave you feeling drained—sometimes people just don’t understand the numbers, no matter how hard you try.

But then you remember your new secret weapon: data visualization. Instead of your usual number-heavy reports, this time you create reports that are not only informative and visual but easy to understand and interpret. You’re confident that your visualizations will make your conversations go more smoothly.

10:00 AM

Meeting time. Though you normally get a bit nervous about these meetings, this time you’re excited. You’ve been living in this data since your last recruiting trip, and you’re excited to share it with your colleagues. And with the help of your visualizations, you know they’ll be impressed.

You begin by discussing your admissions goals. Instead of simply stating your progress, you show them. You walk through your admissions dashboard, making sure to note that total enrollment is up.



Using some of your dropdowns, you highlight the enrollment of each college. You also speak to the trends from the past few years. At this point you’re usually bombarded with questions—repeating yourself many times, and the numbers don’t seem to stick. Today, you see everyone in the room nodding. They understand what you’re saying. You field a few clarifying questions, but the conversation goes more smoothly than ever before.

You move on to the next section of your presentation. Earlier in the week you heard the Provost mention that she was curious about which geographic areas your incoming class lived in. Instead of simply telling her how many students came from the East Coast and how many from the South, you want to wow her. You talk through your next visualization, showing which areas of the United States are best represented at your school. You compare this with your travel schedule, showing that you and others in admissions spent the most time in the West region, which is reflected by the growth of application from that region. Instead of the usual conversation about how to interpret the numbers, your visualizations allow you and the Provost to have a strategic conversation about where admissions should visit next year and backs up your idea to increase travel to parts of California and the Pacific Northwest.



You click to the final slide of your presentation. You know that one of the program directors was starting to worry that he would need to hire additional staff to accommodate all the new students. In order to calm his fears, you put together a graphic showing not only the number of admitted students, but melt data as well. This helps him to see that, although many students have already been admitted, he shouldn’t be concerned with staffing since historical data shows the class will melt to his ideal class size by opening day. You also walk him through how many more spots you expect to be filmed, and his fears are calmed.

After a few more questions about strategies and goals, the meeting concludes. The Dean thanks you for helping everyone to understand the data so easily and requests that all your reports be visual from now on. You agree, and walk back to your office. You realize that instead of feeling drained, you feel energized by the meeting. You return to your desk, excited about the next visualizations you want to create.

By using data visualization, you can clear up any confusion and share your data in an easy-to-understand way. To learn more about the all the ways your school can utilize data visualizations, head over to our blog!

3 Ways Machine Learning Is Improving the Education Experience

Big Data. Algorithms. Predictive Analytics. The latest round of buzzwords in the digital space may sound daunting. Once you have large sets of data, what are you supposed to do with them? How do you even create algorithms? And how do you take data from the past to make predictions about the future? Thanks to developments in computer science, there is one solution for all these problems: machine learning.

Machine learning is based in pattern recognition. It is a method of analyzing data to make future predictions based on historical trends. The computer learns patterns, analyzes them and makes predictions without explicitly being programmed to do so. The computer learns and adapts as it is exposed to new sets of data. Sound complicated? Maybe, but you interact with machine learning more often than you think.

Machine Learning in Action

When you upload a photo to Facebook, it suggests that you tag the friends who are in the picture. But how does Facebook know exactly which friends are in the photo? Machine learning. Based on all the previously uploaded pictures Facebook has learned to identify your friends’ faces and recognize them in new pictures, even if the lighting, their ages or their hairstyles are completely different.

Machine learning methods have been making their way into the education space. Here are three ways machine learning has had an impact on education so far:


1. Personalized Instruction

A challenge that teachers have always faced is that every student is different—what makes perfect sense to one student might be a complete mystery to another. Since teachers don’t have the time to instruct each student one-on-one, some students might slip through the cracks or lack the attention they need. Enter machine learning. With machine learning, students receive the personalized instruction they need. Digital tools and assessments allow students to learn at their own pace and to learn with methods that are most effective for them.

Case Study: Teach to One: Math
This company works with middle and high schools across the country to teach math in a personalized manner. Their assessments and lessons utilize machine learning to teach to students’ strengths and needs.

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2. Student Recruitment

Machine learning can impact every aspect of a student’s education experience, and college recruitment is no exception. Choosing a college can be an overwhelming and challenging task. Even if the student is confident in knowing which major they’ll declare, it can be difficult to decide which college is right for them. With the help of machine learning, companies are aiming to solve that problem. Machine learning matches the values and characteristics of an individual student with those of an institution and recommends which schools will be the best fit.

Case Study: GoSchoolWise
GoSchoolWise aims to help international students who often can’t visit a US campus before enrolling. With the help of IBM Watson, GoSchoolWise analyzes application essays and other writings to extract personality characteristics and career goals and then find the colleges that would be the best fit.


3. Student Retention

Through machine learning, computers can examine all the data concerning current students and alumni and identify factors and trends of the most successful students. So, when prospective students apply, the computer can use its knowledge of successful students to determine if the student is likely to be the right-fit and graduate at the institution. This helps colleges focus their energy on recruiting the right students instead of guessing.

Case Study: RiteClass
RiteClass developed an Insights App that deals with predictive admissions. The app produces a “Prospective Student Fit Score” to determine if a certain student should be recruited or not.



As machine learning continues to become smarter, the impacts in the education field will be even greater. These are just a few examples of the many opportunities at our fingertips with new tools and technology. Our industry is evolving every minute.

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Are you using any of these apps on your campus? Tweet us about it. To hear more from our education experts, head over to our blog.

3 Reasons to Collect Data on Your Alumni


It’s easy to keep your focus on prospective students when collecting data. They are the people you want to attract to your school and the group you’re most focused on winning. However, they aren’t the only ones who deserve attention.

Your alumni network can provide insights that are just as valuable as insights gained from prospective students. By collecting and analyzing data on your graduates, you can learn and understand their behaviors and plan for their future actions.


Your alumni network is a great pool of potential donors. But are you tracking details about the donations you receive? Collecting and analyzing data about donations can lead to valuable insights.

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By identifying patterns and trends, you can create a marketing strategy to drive even more donations. Have you noticed that a specific major donates at a much higher rate than other majors? Target them. Is one group of alumni not donating until at least twenty years after graduation? Create a campaign to encourage that group to donate sooner.


case western

CASE STUDY: Case Western Reserve University’s institutional marketing team is leveraging Google Analytics goals to track donations, contact and corporate relations and contribution forms. This data is helping them identify the impact areas that are driving the most traffic.

Your graduates have strong ties to your school and are already more likely to donate. Look for patterns in how they donate and you’ll be able to strategize ways to encourage even more donations.

Grad School

You should also track the frequency at which your graduates attend grad school. Analyzing this can help you create campaigns to bring alumni back to you as graduate students.

What percentage of alumni have received their graduate degrees? How many years after graduation did they enroll? Did they enroll with you or choose to attend another institution? The answers to all these questions are important and can help craft the perfect marketing strategy for your graduates.


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CASE STUDY: Avila University in Kansas City, MI, has a segment setup in their analytics that allows them to see which institutions are driving traffic to their site and what traffic is coming to the site from their own campus.

For example, if you look at the data and notice that 60% of your alumni begin their first year of graduate school five years after finishing their undergraduate degree, you can start to advertise your graduate degrees to them four years after graduation. This way your brand is in the forefront of their minds. And if you notice they primarily attend other institutions, you can be sure to tout what you offer that other schools don’t.

Success Stories

If you want plenty of success stories to promote in your marketing channels, you need to keep track of your graduates. This group is where you’ll find the bulk of stories that will entice prospective students to attend your school.

Do 95% of your graduates have a job in their field within six months of graduation? Do 80% of your alumni receive a promotion within their first year on the job? These are the kinds of statistics potential students care about hearing. By constantly collecting data on your alums, you’ll find successes like these that will convince students to attend.



CASE STUDY: American University’s We Know Success campaign highlights student outcomes by program. Their team is using analytics to track engagement with different types of outcomes content. The number one thing users click on who visit the site is salary.

Collecting data can seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. Data helps your marketing efforts be more targeted and more impactful, leading to positive results.

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Want to learn more about creating targeted marketing campaigns? Feel free to reach out to us!