Marketing Analysis for Cape Breton University – Opportunities & Ideas

Hi CBU, it’s Colin MacInnis.

I’ve noticed a great wave of energy in your brand over the last few months and thought I’d lean in and offer an outside perspective to your marketing operations (hope you don’t mind).

Short and simple, I used some tools to collect data from your website and promotions. The data isn’t 100% accurate, but in my research of the tools, it’s about 90% correct.

From there, I combed through the data and included my notes for your review.

Next, I compiled all the findings and created a list of recommended projects/tasks that could give your marketing a lift.

These recommendations are displayed as a bullet-point list with a focus on improving marketing metrics related to student enrollment.

While digging in on your org did take up some time, I don’t expect you to implement any of my suggestions. This is simply my own perspective as a marketer operating outside your operations.

All the best and keep up the good work!

Colin MacInnis

State of Enrollment at CBU

Kicking things off, I wanted to learn more about enrollment at CBU. After some quick research, I’ve highlighted the following summary from The Cape Breton Post’s recent article on Foreign Currency at CBU (Published March 19, 2019):

  • 4,700 Students enrolled for Fall/Winter Semester (2017)
    • 2,059 Students (43.8%) enrolled from Canada
    • 2,641 Students (56.2%) enrolled from an International Country
  • The countries with highest enrollment were India (1,797), China (564), and Vietnam (68)
  • 28% of students choose their university based on attractive programs
  • 24% of students choose their university based on Canada’s reputation
  • 22% of students choose their university based on Education cost

With this data, I have made the assumption that CBU wants to increase enrollment from international countries (namely India) while striking a balance in the classroom with Candian students via domestic enrollment.

CBU Website Assessment

Translating revenue targets to strategy, let’s take a look at how CBU is doing with digital marketing.

Top-Level Website Performance

The first part of the website assessment is a top-level overview. For this section, I used tools to gather insights of CBU’s website performance.

According to SimilarWeb, CBU.ca received 203,900 website visits in the last 6 months (Dec 2018 – May 2019). Of that traffic, there was an estimated Average Session Duration of 00:06:14. The pages per session were estimated to be 5.67 and a Bounce Rate of 36.06%.

Here are my feelings about those numbers:

  • Total Visits of 203,900. This is fine. CBU is not having a traffic problem. People are going to their website.
  • Average Session Duration of 00:06:14. This concerns me slightly. I checked out CBU’s blog and, no offense, there’s nothing there that really “wow’s” me as far as content goes. My hope is that the number is high because people are browsing the programs and pages.
  • Pages per Visit of 5.67. This could be considered good and bad. On the good side, people could be digging into more pages to learn about CBU. On the bad side, this could be a website experience issue where people can’t find the information they’re looking for. I recommend checking this and confirming the assumption.
  • Bounce Rate of 36.06%. This is too good. A decent bounce rate floats around 70%. This tells me CBU might have an internal traffic error, meaning internal staff and students are being included on the website data. This would skew the data.

Traffic by Countries

Looking at where the traffic is coming from, I’m seeing a dominant presence in Canada. This struck me as odd considering the majority of enrollment is international students. We can see in the chart below that India only accounts for an estimated 5.60% of website visits.

Here are my feelings on traffic by countries:

  • Outbound Recruitment. If the majority of enrollment is coming from overseas, CBU must have a strong outbound operation focused on aggressively recruiting international students. Either that, or they work with a list of recruitment partners.
  • Inbound Marketing. Does CBU have an inbound strategy for international students? If not, I would recommend implementing one.

Traffic by Sources

The next report highlights the channels where people entered CBU’s website.

Direct traffic means people directly typed in “cbu.ca”. Referral traffic means people entered CBU’s website from another website. Search generally means people entered CBU’s website from Google (organic search results or paid result). Social means people entered CBU’s website from social media platforms. Mail means entered CBU’s website from email links. Lastly, Display means people entered CBU’s website from display advertising on Google Adwords.

From this chart, here’s what I’m gathering:

  • Direct Traffic. This number is high but considering CBU has visitors who are likely community members, potential students comparing options, and existing students accessing resources, a portion of the traffic could be justified.
  • Referrals. It’s possible that other websites are linking to CBU’s website and traffic is coming from them.
  • Search. There is a lot of organic search and I’m curious to know what people are searching to arrive at CBU’s website.
  • Search, Mail, and Display. These are all pretty low.

Traffic by Referrals

Alrighty, we have our first issue discovery: CBU’s website analytics tools are not configured to exclude internal traffic from staff.

This chart shows us where people are entering CBU’s website from. You’ll notice Datavalet, Microsoft apps, and Novanet are present on this page.

If CBU configures Google Analytics to exclude traffic from an IP address that matches their wifi networks, they can remove these visits from their reporting data.

My notes on the topic:

Internal Traffic Skewing Data. I’d recommend cleaning this up to gain a more clear view of your website analytics. In your reporting, I suggest removing 30% of traffic totals. It’s not the accurate amount, but you can at least state you’ve accounted for the difference.

Search Traffic Analysis

The search traffic report tells me what percentage of traffic comes from search engines and what keywords they’re searching for. It also shows what keywords CBU pays to rank for.

From the report above, we can see that CBU is ranking for terms containing its brand name.

Here’s what’s on my mind looking at this:

Marketing. Whatever the marketing department is doing, it’s yielding search queries on Google for the brand name. Depending on the strategy they’re playing, this can be a good thing. However, it would have been nice to see they get organic visitors from keywords like “mba program canada”.

Traffic from Social Media

This report shows us what social media channels website visitors are coming from.

As is clearly articulated above, Facebook and YouTube generate the most amount of traffic.

Here are the things this report tells me:

  • No Traffic from International Social Media Platforms. Facebook and YouTube are leading the charge on traffic. Considering the international student market, shouldn’t we be seeing traffic from others apps like Weibo Yukou, and WeChat?

Let’s dive a level deeper into CBU’s YouTube content.

YouTube Insights

Getting right into it, CBU is posting regularly to YouTube. This is excellent considering the attention and engagement video yields on social media.

But when diving into individual videos, we see there’s a lot of room for improvement. For example, here’s a video of student success story.

This video of Kenzie produced 126 likes on Facebook and 617 views. Not bad, but it could be better. Continuing down the page, we see this:

Notice how the about section is thin? Notice how there aren’t any links to CBU’s website or programs?

In some marketing departments, they would classify the purpose of this video as “brand awareness”, but even in those videos its still important to include relevant links. This is a publically available video afterall!

The next section I want to draw attention to is on the right-hand side.

Notice how there are a lot of X’s indicating missing video SEO items? Including these on videos can make a big difference. Furthermore, look at the “Tags” section. These are the tags that CBU used on the video.

Video tags that include a green square mean that this video will show up on Google when searching for those specific terms.

Something CBU could do is view other videos ranking for “CBU review” and see what tags those videos use that are green. Then they could go back to their video and update it to include those tags. This would help their video appear in the search results for “CBU review”.

Advertising Insights

This section of our review is short. Based on my findings of CBU’s marketing, my tools tell me CBU doesn’t get a lot of traffic from digital advertisements (if even running them at all).

As an attempt to find some sort of advertisement, I dug into Facebook to see if CBU was running any ads.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear CBU is running ads right now. This could be because it’s summer or because they weren’t converting. Either way, there are a lot of opportunities for Facebook advertising and domestic student recruitment.

Don’t discount ads CBU!

Recommended Marketing Projects

Finally, here is my list of recommended marketing projects for CBU. I selected these projects based on what I assume are CBU’s goals and marketing team size.

As of this writing, LinkedIn tells me there are 6 people with job titles associated with marketing at CBU. This might seem like an adequate amount of people, but it feels short to me. Considering these people do marketing for an entire university with thousands of students, award ceremonies, press releases, alumni, and more, I imagine they’re strapped for time.

Project 1: QA Your Website’s Browsability

  • Why are Pages per Visit 5.67? Is it hard to navigate the website and find useful sources of information about programs and costs?

Project 2: Optimize Your YouTube Videos

  • Download the VidIQ or TubeBuddy Chrome Extension and update your existing videos to check all the boxes of video SEO.
  • Write detailed descriptions that include links to relevant parts of your website.
  • Research other videos that rank for CBU testimonials and reviews – use the video tags that they are ranking for.

Project 3: Configure Your Website Analytics Platform

  • Remove internal traffic visits by excluding traffic from the IP address that matches your workplace’s wifi IP address.
  • Exclude traffic from internal system URLs like Novanet.
  • Create custom segments to identify student-visitors and prospecting students.

Project 4: Run a Facebook Ad Campaign to India

  • Create ads (in English) for each of your program pages.
  • Write a sales-oriented message for the ad.
  • Run the ad to people in India.
  • Read the results and see what ads received the most attention.
  • Optimize the ad and messaging (run it again).
  • An ad-budget of $100 per week would be sufficient for this experiment.


Having looked through CBU’s website and data, I think their marketing team is stretched for time, energy, and resources to really execute on an international inbound strategy (what I believe will unlock the next stage of growth for them).

Think about it.

When CBU’s president makes an announcement, someone has to write the Press Release. When something significant happens in the community, someone has to cover it (video, media, images, etc). As people visit CBU’s website, they need to make sure remarketing, content, and navigation are optimized.

The list goes on. The things I mentioned above are only day-to-day activities. I didn’t even get into planning a professional marketing strategy to increase market share.

I think the projects I’ve highlighted above are a healthy start to optimizing CBU’s marketing operations, but they’ll need more people and talent to execute on the rest.

Perhaps the solution is technical training for digital marketing or a change in the marketing management structure.

Either way, I wish them all the best overcoming their internal challenges and making the marketing amazing at CBU.




  • We didn’t mention or reference the work of anyone in this article. If you think there’s someone we should highlight, please let us know by contacting us.


  • There were no academic sources listed in this article. The tips and advice mentioned in this post came strictly from our marketing experience over the years helping startups, small businesses, and large enterprises build and engage their audience.

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