Recently, Net Natives partnered with Times Higher Education to create the Higher Education Marketing Survey (HEMS), which gathers insights from higher education marketers across the globe.

When asked about the biggest challenges they face, nearly 50% of US marketers revealed they struggled with meeting recruitment goals. 

While plenty of universities are advertising to attract prospective students, many aren’t truly understanding the impact of awareness channels on their enrollment funnel. It’s easy to center your focus on direct response, because it’s what can be measured through Urchin Tracking Module (UTM) codes. If you want to gain a better view of how advertising affects your brand, however, it’s time to adopt ad serving and multi-touch point attribution. 

Multi-touch point attribution offers a comprehensive view of how users engage with your brand. When done correctly, it can determine which channels are generating the most applications, helping you maximize your budget and ultimately exceed enrollment targets. Let’s take a closer look at the different types of attribution reporting, the benefits of multi-touch point attribution and how Net Natives can help you meet enrollment targets. 

1) First and last interaction attribution 

As you can probably tell from the name, first interaction attribution reporting gives credit for conversions to the very first source of engagement. Last interaction attribution, on the other hand, credits the final source of engagement. 

The main problem with first and last interaction attribution is that they ignore middle sources of engagement. There are several touchpoints that may have convinced the prospective student to apply, but they’re not receiving any credit. 

2) Linear attribution 

Linear attribution reporting is a multi-attribution model that assigns equal credit to every source of engagement. This means every single touchpoint of the prospective student journey – from emails and phone calls to paid advertisements and social media posts – is considered equally important in influencing the student to apply. 

The major flaw with linear attribution is that, in reality, some touchpoints are more important than others. If you give every source of engagement the same amount of attention, you may end up wasting your budget on marketing channels that aren’t actually effective.

3) Multi-Touch point attribution 

Like the linear model, multi-touch point attribution considers every touchpoint. However, instead of assigning equal credit, it uses artificial intelligence to assign fractional credit. In other words, it gives more credit to the most effective touchpoints. 

Generally, multi-touch point attribution is considered one of the best models because it examines every touchpoint and shows you which areas deserve the most focus. However, despite its benefits, most analytical tools (such as Google Analytics) rely on last-click attribution reporting, which doesn’t provide an accurate view of the student journey. To better illustrate the benefits of accurate reporting, let’s look at a real-life example.  

Attribution Reporting Case Study 

In this report, we examined conversions that happened in December 2021, January 2022 and February 2022. Our overarching goal was to accurately capture conversions and attribute them to the appropriate platforms (which mainly consisted of programmatic advertisements and Google Search). Here are the key things we learned.

1) Last-click attribution reporting underestimates the impact of programmatic ads 

The first thing we did was measure programmatic ads (which involve using automation to buy digital advertising space) against Google Search ads. Under the last interaction model, programmatic ads were responsible for 1,130 conversions, while Google Search ads were responsible for 585/

 However, if we use the first interaction attribution model, programmatic ads are attributed with an additional 28 assisted conversions (conversions that have more than one touchpoint). Similarly, if we use the linear attribution model, Google Search loses over 50% of its assisted conversions to programmatic. 

This discrepancy demonstrates how effective programmatic ads are at pulling users down the marketing funnel (especially when leveraged early in the user journey). However, GA and other analytic tools tend to exaggerate the number of conversions attributed to the final touchpoint (search), thus neglecting the contributions of other channels. 

2) Advertising across multiple platforms helps maximize conversions 

Through attribution reporting, we learned that 1,263 conversions (73.3% of all conversions) were assisted conversions. Of these, 255 involved multiple channels. This means that Google Search and programmatic ads supported each other to deliver approximately 20% of all assisted conversions. 

The key takeaway here is that advertising across multiple channels is ideal. Not only does it enable cross-channel conversions, but it also reaches more audiences who only interact with ads on their chosen channel. A good way to keep your channels active is through display ads – these can be used to retarget users who have already clicked search ads, but have not yet converted. 

It’s important to note that we can only see the value of multiple channel advertising through accurate reporting. Under the first and last click attribution models, the user’s journey from programmatic ads to search ads to conversion is reduced to just a single touchpoint.

3) Conversions are most likely to occur within 10 days of the first touchpoint 

When examining time lags (the time between the first touchpoint and conversion), we learned that programmatic ads had a longer average time lag than search ads. In general, 50% of users converted within five days after the first touchpoint. In terms of assisted conversions, about 52.66% occurred just 10 days or less after the first touchpoint. 

So, what does this tell us? First, it suggests that programmatic ads work well for raising awareness and pulling users down the marketing funnel over time. Second, it demonstrates that to drive conversions, users should be served multiple ads within 10 days of their first touchpoint (with a greater emphasis on those first five days). The longer you wait, the less likely they are to stay engaged with your brand. 

Ultimately, multi-touch point attribution does more than just assign credit to certain marketing channels. It offers a comprehensive view of your marketing strategy, giving you a better idea of which platforms to use, where to allocate your budget and the timeline to follow. Of course, this is easier said than done – especially when most online tools use inaccurate reporting methods. Fortunately, our experts can help.

How Can I Track My Enrollment Attribution? 

If you want to maximize your budget and exceed enrollment targets, accurate attribution reporting is essential. At Net Natives, we offer a supportive team of industry leaders who have years of experience in helping universities track marketing spend to enrollment. Using our marketing technology, we can segment applications and enrollments into media channels, allowing you to do the following: 

  • Visualize full-funnel reporting on a channel-by-channel basis
  • Make real-time, informed budgeting decisions that improve enrollment performance 
  • Optimize real-time advertising against cost per application and enrollment
  • Identify bottlenecks within every stage 
  • Increase conversion rates, track campaign performance and improve ROI 

If you’d like to learn more about how we can help you achieve your recruitment goals, get in touch with one of our experts today.