For higher education institutions, digital marketing is an integral tool that, if effectively utilized, can raise awareness of a college’s features and amenities, attract qualified applicants, and maintain (or improve) enrollment figures. To be sure, the vast majority of today’s higher education institutions are utilizing digital marketing, and other institutions yet are planning to do so in the near future.
For as valuable as digital marketing is, marketing professionals—especially those employed by higher education institutions—are rightfully concerned with analyzing the success of their campaigns and reaching as many applicants as possible, and for as little money as possible. Just as marketers of the past (who exclusively used traditional marketing tools) wished to deeply understand their campaigns’ appeal and make appropriate adjustments to these campaigns, virtually all of today’s marketers actively search for as many campaign benchmarks as possible, so their work’s effectiveness can be gauged.
In short, it’d be difficult and unnecessarily costly to conduct focus groups for each digital advertising campaign. Contemporary marketers, and particularly the professionals tasked with meeting enrollment quotas at higher education institutions, must rely on remote sets of data and information to determine which of their campaigns are worth investing in, which should be edited, and which should be abandoned.
The following ways to determine digital advertisement effectiveness will help higher education marketing professionals to learn as much as they possibly can about their campaigns, saving money and optimizing efficiency in the future. Let’s take a look!


Every type of online advertisement, from banner ads to targeted messages, can be analyzed in terms of impressions. Simply stated, impressions refer to the number of times an advertisement has been seen by users. In this instance, “seen” is relatively vague; impressions don’t specify whether a user considered each element of an advert for several minutes or simply scrolled past it to more quickly access the intended content. However, when considered in coordination with clicks, impressions can paint a fairly complete picture of a marketing effort’s success. Many impressions and comparatively few clicks is a troubling sign, especially in instances where impressions themselves are paid for.

Website Visits

Website visits aren’t the end-all in terms of understanding marketing campaigns’ effectiveness, but they are generally indicative of how well targeted individuals are being reached. For instance, higher education institutions may see an uptick in website visits after a campaign debuts, but finding which of these visitors are potential students (as opposed to graduates and parents) can be hard.
Website visits are hardly a definitive measurer of campaigns’ effectiveness. If website visits don’t increase (or, worse yet, decrease) after a digital marketing campaign has debuted, however, it might be worth rethinking the strategy at-hand. The average time users spend on a website, the number of website pages they visit, and similar metrics are also worth reviewing, and can provide additional insight into the effectiveness of marketing campaigns. It should be mentioned that in instances where campaigns signal an increase in website visits but not an increase in website visit time, page visits, or applications, the problem may concern the layout and content of the website itself.

Social Media Interaction

Unlike impressions, clicks, and website visits, social media interaction is essentially guaranteed to result from real, result-producing user responses. Impressions don’t account for “scrollers,” clicks don’t account for non-student interest, and website visits don’t account for either of these things.
Social media interaction is a surefire way to gauge how many individuals an advertising campaign has reached; these individuals’ feedback, level of interest, and likelihood to tell others about the advert (or non-promoted post) can also be viewed for the ultra-affordable cost of free. Last but certainly not least, it doesn’t hurt that today’s college-aged individuals use social media extensively.
Posts that receive many shares, likes, and comments (or their equivalent interactions on other social media websites) have probably been successful; those that don’t receive many of these interactions, or are lacking in one or more interaction categories, are worth reviewing.

“Where’d you hear about us?”

While the previous information refers predominantly to banner and social media ads, many of today’s higher education marketers are utilizing emails to attract potential applicants. A carefully crafted marketing email can prove to be an affordable, efficient way to reach future students. However, the inherent difficulty associated with determining the source through which applicants heard about (or decided to contact) a higher education institution makes asking them a necessity.
When marketers have multiple campaigns running simultaneously (particularly when these campaigns are being conducted on different platforms), determining the most effective leg of the campaign, or the leg of the campaign that reaches the most qualified applicants, can be challenging. To be sure, most calls, emails, and completed applications won’t indicate where the soon-to-be college student heard about the institution at-hand. By asking those who get in touch and/or complete an application, higher education institutions can accurately identify their most effective marketing efforts.
This method might seem “rough around the edges” when considered in the grand scheme of cutting-edge technology and in-depth analytics, but the reality is that today’s leading companies utilize it. Asking where applicants heard about a college is a great way to expand successful marketing efforts, revise those that don’t produce results, and guarantee that enrollment targets are met.
When it’s properly utilized, digital marketing is complex and requires a substantial amount of planning and effort from marketing professionals. However, when properly tended to, this planning and effort produces tremendous results—results that can define the success, atmosphere, and culture of higher education institutions for many years to come.
Remember to carefully develop marketing campaigns, analyze their results, and, if necessary, make changes and improvements. Thanks for reading, and here’s to the benefits of digital marketing for higher education institutions!