If your institution is looking to expand your reach online and visibility within the community, then a good starting place is to review your catalog analytics. While a catalog’s online presence is important for institutions of every size, it is especially important for small institutions and community colleges. When your catalog site is easily found online, it means you have a leg-up when a prospective student is searching for a nearby institution to take coursework.
By default, we use Plausible for catalog analytics — most of our clients find it more straightforward to use, and it's GDPR compliant out of the box. That said, we have an option to use Google Analytics if that works better for you.
Check out a few metrics that you can easily review (even if you don’t have a background in marketing or analytics!) that will give you a better idea of how your catalog is performing online.
Number of Catalog Users
The number of monthly visitors to your catalog site is a very important metric for catalog success. Usually, a low visitor rate indicates that your catalog has some issues on the front-end. If your catalog is clunky to navigate, difficult to find online, or the formatting makes it hard to use, then it’s likely that both current and prospective students will avoid using your catalog. Not only does this make your catalog ineffective, but it may even deter prospective students from enrolling if they don’t have easy visibility into your course offerings. A low user rate is a very clear indication that your catalog needs revamping.
Where are your Users Coming From
More importantly than the number of visitors, you need to know where your visitors are coming from. You will be able to view the number of users who accessed your catalog site from a direct link, a search on a search engine, from a paid advertisement, social media, email, or other channel. The key is how many users are coming from a search engine search. If not many users are coming from Google or another search engine, it likely means your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is lacking. SEO is, generally speaking, a search engine’s way of ranking websites in search results based on the quality of those websites. You want your institution to be ranked highly in search engine results so that you have greater visibility online and in your community to prospective students. If your catalog site adheres to modern web standards, formats content correctly, integrates the appropriate keywords, and has top-notch accessibility, then you will be on your way to great SEO.
Page View Time
A very telling metric for your catalog’s user interface is how long users spend interacting with your catalog site. Is the average engagement time just a few seconds, meaning it has a high bounce rate? Or do users typically stick around and click through a few pages? A short engagement time can stem from various reasons, though a common one is that your catalog site isn’t user friendly. Whether this is due to an outdated format, a lack of screen responsiveness, or generally not being accessible or easy to navigate, it means users are not interacting with your catalog site. Improving the user-friendliness of your catalog is the first step in improving this metric, which will have resounding positive impacts on other metrics, as well.
Most Popular Catalog Pages
The most popular and least popular pages on your course catalog will give you insight into what content students are looking for. By identifying the most popular course, degree, program, and content pages, you know what information is in high-demand and you could benefit from expounding on. For example, if your engineering degree page has lots of traction online, you may consider running local digital advertisements for that degree or adding a curriculum guide for that career path. Knowing which content is resonating with students will help you better understand your target audience and leverage that into a stronger presence online.
While this level of analysis is by no means necessary, Plausible or Google Analytics can be a tremendous tool in helping understand your digital catalog’s online visibility. Clean Catalog software was built in accordance with modern web standards and SEO best practices, which are helpful in improving each of the metrics listed above. We frequently release updates to ensure your catalog is in keeping with the ever-evolving digital landscape, so that your team can have peace of mind that your catalog is performing well online, all without you needing to lift a finger. If you’d like to learn more about Clean Catalog and develop a better understanding of how your current catalog is actually performing, don’t hesitate to reach out to us.