Manaferra Wins 2 Awards in European Search Awards

May 26th found the Manaferra team in the heart of Barcelona attending the event held by European Search Awards. It is with great pleasure that we announce that on that night, Manaferra took home not one but two reputable awards, Best Use of Search for the SEO campaign on higher education and Best Small SEO Agency (Silver). 

While this isn’t the first time Manaferra’s work has been awarded and held in high regard by industry experts, it certainly isn’t any less important. The awards Manaferra brought home, in Prishtina, will serve as a token of recognition and appreciation for the constant hard work delivered by all of Manaferra’s team members. The award has confirmed once again what we have been claiming all along that we bring results; we deliver work that speaks for itself. While we aim to be a humble agency, there are moments like this that make us not so humble. Jokes aside, we feel incredibly lucky (even though luck has little to do with it) to have brought home awards like these.

As for the event itself, the European Search Awards is a yearly event, part of the awards series “The Search Awards”. It welcomes entries from all European countries with the intent of celebrating agencies and companies in the field of SEO, PPC, and Content Marketing. Individuals chosen to be part of the judging panel are highly qualified experts from all over Europe. The Search Awards are pretty competitive, and even getting nominated is a big deal, let alone becoming a winner. 

It has definitely been an otherworldly feeling to be part of the event itself in Barcelona and then also have the chance to get on the stage in front of some of the greatest in the industry and accept the award. All I could think at that moment was how appreciated I felt by the judges who chose us and our work to get awarded among other agencies nominated and how we should keep doing what we do best. Evidently, when you love what you do and give your all, you will get rewarded.

Diana Bajraktari, Content Marketing Manager

Manaferra

Not to forget that the other part of the team was back home watching the event online. As proud as I felt about myself there, I felt as proud of the team I work with. 

I can’t find the words to describe the moment we heard our name being called through the screen. What I can remember is the boost of motivation to keep pushing our goals and objectives further and keep delivering work that will win awards like this one and the one we got last year. Our commitment to delivering growth and investing in our team are paid off through results and awards like this. I’m proud of the team we have built at Manaferra.

Granit Doshlaku, Co-Founder, SEO Director

Manaferra

A big congratulations to the agencies that won European Search Awards! You can have a feel of that beautiful evening by going through this photo gallery. Also, have a look at the list of the winners for this year and those that were shortlisted

Thank you to the team, clients, and Search Awards for the euphoric feelings. 

Google Analytics 4 for Education: A Step-by-Step Guide to Get Started and Stay Ahead

As digital transformation continues to reshape higher education, university administrators and marketers must continue analyzing user behavior, monitoring ROI, and devising effective marketing strategies. One of the most-used tools by higher education marketers for such analysis is Google Analytics.

The current version of Google Analytics (a.k.a Universal Analytics) will stop collecting new data starting from July 2023 in favor of the latest version. However, In October 2020, Google announced a new version of Google Analytics called Google Analytics 4. Unless you consider moving to another analytics platform, you would need to migrate to Google Analytics 4 ASAP to avoid losing data.

We have put together this guide for higher education marketers looking to migrate accurately from Google Analytics 3 to Google Analytics 4.

Let’s get started!

What’s new on Google Analytics 4 (GA4)

Since Google Analytics’s inception in 2012, many things have changed with the rise of mobile apps, consumer behavior shifts, privacy regulations, big data, and the way we collect and analyze data. Google needed to consider and reflect on how its current Analytics tools evolved to fit market changes and demand. This must have required a 10.000-foot view of the whole spectrum, starting from how the data are collected and presented, to deliver seamless insights and data-informed decision making.

Saying that Google Analytics 4 is an update or an upgrade from Universal Analytics would be an underestimation of reality. The best way to think about it is as a completely new product, built on a different data model, made for scalability, machine learning, privacy, and customization. 

To understand how those two versions of Google Analytics differ from one another, we will break down some of the main differences, so you can have a clear picture of the new platform before starting to migrate to GA4.

Data Collection

The ability to analyze data depends highly on how those data are collected and organized in the first place. The better they are organized, the easier it will be to make further data manipulation and analysis. 

Data collections represent a fundamental difference between Universal Analytics and Google Analytics 4. 

Universal Analytics (or GA3) organized all of its data into Sessions and Hits. All information that went to Google Analytics belonged to a Session, which belonged to a User. This data modeling doesn’t give you much space to collect and organize information around your users and their behavior, especially across multiple devices. That’s because you had numerous data layers that were not communicating with each other, and making it work required A TON of custom work.

On the other hand, Google Analytics 4 has an entirely different data model, which is simpler yet powerful.  Any interaction on your Web or Mobile is organized under Events (Event scoped), which belongs to a User (User scoped).  A Session is an event, a Page View is an event,  a File Download is an event, an Ecommerce sale is an event, and so on, you get the idea.

In GA4, when someone views one of your website pages, a page_view event is triggered, and that event will be saved under a specific User in GA4. Here is how previous hits translate to Events in GA4.

This data collection model gives Google Analytics 4 an edge over its predecessor in analyzing user behavior across multiple devices and building custom reports. This is because GA4 can link all interactions to a User, and enables you to organize them the way it fits your needs. That’s why GA4 needs more customization setup than GA3, where you had a ton of pre-defined reports built with a “one size fits all” approach.

Data Retention & Privacy

One of the most significant changes from UA is user data retention, or “how long does Google save user interaction data”. In UA, the default option for data retention was “unlimited”, however, in GA4, the longest you can hold on to Events and User data (including conversions) is 14 months

Having a maximum of 14-month-old data might freak out a lot of higher education marketers as they won’t be able to make YoY comparisons; however, there are workarounds to this, such as integrating GA4 with tools like BigQuery and reporting them via tools like Google Data Studio. BigQuery allows you to export raw data unsampled to conduct a much more granular analysis with confidence in your data, which I highly recommend before your data expires from GA4.

This limitation in data retention does not apply to standard aggregated reports, where you will be served reports based on sample data. 

AI + Machine Learning

Google uses Machine learning (ML) on GA4 to fill in data gaps and make predictions by looking for patterns, feeding those data into AI algorithms, and predicting the future behavior of your users. 

However, In a cookie-less and privacy-conscious world, tracking users’ activities is not something platforms like GA4 can ignore, and that’s where Machine Learning comes in. It fills out the data gaps and provides predictions by putting users into different cohorts and creating a composite overview of how people with certain traits move through your university website.

This is very helpful for universities as it allows them to predict their university’s growth by making predictions on potential students (leads) you could get next semester. If you have conversion rate data from your past activities, you can easily make necessary calculations that would lead you to predict enrollment numbers.

Machine Learning also powers up Automated Insights, which helps you observe trends and keep an eye on changing user behavior. For example you can be alerted to changes in application numbers, which might lead you to understand that the application form isn’t working as expected.

Recommendation:

Do not forget to create anomaly detections when you set up GA4.

Cross Device Tracking

Cross-device tracking is at the heart of GA4. The new data model enables GA4 to consistently store data from multiple sources and report them back into the same Analytics property for further analysis. 

GA4 bases its cross-tracking mechanism on something called “Identity spaces”. It tries to identify a user using multiple data points without revealing its identity. This is done by using three different types of identifiers, which enables it to stitch them together into a single unified cross-device user journey:

GA4 creates a single user journey from all the data associated with the same identified identity. Because this identity is used in all reports, they allow you to de-duplicate users and tell a more unified, holistic view about their relationships with your university.

For example, suppose your university offers a login area for your students. In that case, you can assign User IDs along with the interaction data you send to GA4 when a student enrolls (you might need the help of a developer to implement this) and later map the entire journey of that student in Analytics.

If you don’t have a User ID to assign to events, you can enable “Google signals” and all data sent to Google Analytics will be associated with that user. However, Google will only be able to assign these User ID’s for signed-in users who have consented to share this information.

If you do not enable Google Signals, the only option left for Analytics will be to identify users based on Device ID; however that alone might not be enough to allow cross-device identification.

FREE RESOURCE

Download Our Free Step-by-Step Guide to Setting Up Google Analytics 4 for Universities

Learn what you need to know, from migrating your UA data to configuring conversions and filtering

Audiences

GA 4 lets you build custom audience segments based on your site visitors’ behavior and interests. They are groups of users created based on dimensions, metrics, or events that you can use during your analysis and show ads to them via Google Ads.

As your Google Analytics keeps receiving data about new users from your university website, audiences are constantly reevaluated to make sure that they meet the criteria you have defined when you have created that audience.

You can use your custom audiences in Google ads only if you have linked GA4 property with a Google Ads account (and you have also enabled Google Signals), 

Integrations

For the time speaking, GA4 lets you integrate your analytics data to more than ten other tools, including some tools of its suite. However, GA4 is still under massive development, and we expect to have more integrations available soon.

These integrations mean that you can synchronize data between GA4 and another tool of your choice to make robust analysis and facilitate your decision-making process. For example, you can link GA4 with Display & Video 360 or Google Ads to see the entire student cycle, from how your future students interact with your ads to how they finally complete the Request More Information form on your site. You can also use your custom audiences for display/search advertising and synchronize conversions between two platforms. 

To deal with the data retention limitations, you can connect GA4 with Big Query, and store all Analytics data in BIgQuery. Once you connect to Big Query, you are the sole owner of that data, which you can use to make further in-depth analysis and YoY comparisons. This is a paid tool, but its cost is super cheap. I have data assets that constantly process more than 1TB of data, and I have never spent more than $10/m. Yes! That’s how cheap it is.

If there is one recommendation I would make about integrations, is to connect your Analytics with BigQuery ASAP, so you do not start to lose important data when you reach the data retention limit (which is 2 or 14 months, depending on how you configure it)

Pros and Cons of switching to GA4

As with every tool out there, GA4 has its pros and cons. It’s a constantly evolving and improving tool that will take some time for you to adapt as a higher education marketer.

On the PROS side, this entirely new Analytics product outperforms its predecessor in many areas. Its extra layers of analytics capabilities are built for a world where data and marketing are increasingly crucial for the success of higher education institutions.

On the CONS side, there are some things you might need to consider before taking the next step of migrating to GA4. Because GA4 is built on a data model made for scalability and Machine Learning, it’s not an out-of-the-box solution that you can meaningfully use right away after you set it up. You need to tweak it based on your needs and build custom reports (most of the reports you are used to seeing in Universal Analytics do not come out of the box in GA4). You might need to be patient as you go through the learning period (it will take some time, trust me) and let the data flow within the tool, so you benefit from AI/Machine Learning capabilities of GA4.

Setting up GA4 for Universities

Now that you have a bigger picture of how GA4 works, let’s dive deeper into how to set it up so your university can take advantage of all the new features that the tool offers.

If you are reading this post by the middle of 2022, the chances are that Google Analytics 4 is still not mature enough to be used as a standalone analytics tool. Hence, you should use both tools (UA and GA4) at the same time, so you feed data into the GA4 ASAP, but at the same time, use the reporting you are currently using in Universal Analytics (so that you can make the transition easy for you)

However, if you are reading this post in late 2022 or even more in the future, it will probably be mature enough for you to switch to Google Analytics 4 completely.

UA will stop collecting new data from July 2023, so every day of not setting up GA4 means a day less with data you could use for analysis and decision making. So make sure you are pushing data to your GA4 account ASAP. Otherwise, you will lose YoY data.

Let’s learn how to set up the GA4 account first.

How to set up a GA4 Account for my University?

There are two ways you can set up a GA4 account. One option is to create a whole new property (it will be a GA4 by default), and the other option is to use GA4 Setup Assistant. This time, I’ll focus on creating a whole new property because the result will still be pretty much the same, and I can walk you through the entire process.

Creating a new GA4 Property

Go to the Admin section of your Google Analytics interface (by clicking the Admin at the bottom-left corner) and then (in the Property section) click Create Property.

Then enter the name of your University, choose your University’s main campus country, reporting time zone, and the main currency your University operates in, and click “Next”, 

Then, fill out your business information. Suppose you are a university of 11-100 employees. In that case, we recommend the following setup, as GA4 will adjust some configurations and enhancements based on the category of the business and the intent of how Analytics will be used.

Once you click “Create”, your GA4 property will be ready. However, there are still some setups you need to make to start using it.

Data streams

The next step to complete is to configure your first Data Stream. This tells Google the data source from where it will get the data before sending it to your Google Analytics 4 property. You can have multiple data sources in a single property. For example, 3 web properties, 1 for Web, 1 Android app, and 1 for an iOS app. However, for most universities and colleges, 1 Data Stream (web) will be enough.

While on the property that you just created, click “Data Streams” and choose “Web”

Once you enter your university Website URL and Stream Name (Example: My University Name – Website), you will be able to enable/disable default events that come as part of “Enhanced Measurement.” These out-of-the-box events that GA4 automatically sends to your data warehouse without requiring you to implement them via GTM or asking a developer.

When enabled (which is the default option), Enhanced Measurement will automatically track the following events for you:

If you prefer, you can enable/disable such events manually by clicking the gear button on the right bottom side of the gray widget

When you are done with the above configuration, click the “Create stream” button, and you will automatically be presented with tagging instructions.

GA4 Tag Installation

Each of your Data Streams has a unique “MEASUREMENT ID” that you will need to use to send data right into your Google Analytics account. You can install the GA4 tag manually on your website or use a platform like Google Tag Manager (our recommended way).

If you are doing this in 2022, MAKE SURE your Universal Analytics code is still running so you are collecting data for both UA and GA4 simultaneously.

Let’s see how we install GA4 via Google Tag Manager

Installing GA4 via Tag Manager

While on the Data Stream details page, copy the “Measurement ID” as you will need this to add to your GTM account.

Go to your Google Tag Manager container, click “Tags” -> New” and on the “Tag Configuration” box, choose the “Google Analytics: GA4 Configuration.” tag.

Enter the ID ID in the Measurement ID field that you just copied in the GA4 interface. If you want GA4 to track pageviews automatically, keep the “Send a page event”  enabled. If your website is built as a Single Page App (ask your developer), you might need to disable the “page_view” event as it will not get consistently fired on the user navigates on your site.

In the Triggering section, select “All Pages” click “Save” and then name the tag according to your naming convention: “GA4 Configuration – G-{your measurement id}”

Testing GA4 Integration via GTM

Let’s test our integration.

While on your GTM, click the “Preview” on the upper right side of the windows, and you will be able to enable GTM Preview mode to test the integration.

Once you type your website URL and click Continue, you should see the new GA4 tag among fired tags.

Once you see your fire being fired in GTM Preview, ensure the event is being sent to GA4. You can test it by going to GA4 -> Configure -> “Debug View” and waiting for events to fire (you might experience some seconds delay until the data starts to appear in Debug View). If everything has been appropriately integrated, you will see something like this:

Once you ensure that the data is coming in and shown correctly in GA4, you should submit your GA4 changes in the GTM container and publish it. 

Publishing GA4 Integration via GTM

To publish changes, go to your Tag manager container, and on the top right side of the page, click “Submit”, type a version name of the deployment (optional) and a description of changes you have done (optional), and click the “Publish” button.

When you publish changes,  you should soon start seeing data coming in your GA4 real-time reports.

Congratulations! You have just set up GA4 with Google Tag Manager. However, GA4 needs a lot of customizations, remember?

Installing GA4 on your University WordPress Site

There are two ways you can add a GA4 tag on your WordPress site. One is by placing a direct “gtag” code directly on the <head> HTML part of your website, and the other by installing it via a plugin. Let’s cover both of them.

Installing GA4 tag code manually on WordPress

Go to your GA4 Property and click “Data Streams”, choose the Website data stream you just created to get stream details. 

On Tagging Instructions, copy the Global Site Tag and place it into the <head> section of your HTML code (you might need the help of a developer to do this)

FREE RESOURCE

Download Our Free Step-by-Step Guide to Setting Up Google Analytics 4 for Universities

Learn what you need to know, from migrating your UA data to configuring conversions and filtering

Installing GA4 tag code using a WordPress Plugin

You can use multiple plugins to install the GA4 tag on your University Website. However, we recommend using the “GA Google Analytics” plugin as the most straightforward WP plugin to integrate Google Analytics into your WordPress website.

Once you install the plugin, go to its Settings page, add your tracking Measurement ID under “GA Tracking ID” select “Global Site Tag” and then click “Save Changes”.

That’s it! You have now installed GA4 on your WordPress site. Make sure you receive real-time statistics by going to your GA4 -> Home and see if your current traffic is being reported.

Installing GA4 on your University WIX Site

If you use WIX on your university website, you need to add your Measurement ID on your Marketing Integrations page. You can do it by following the instructions below:

  1. Copy your Measurement ID under Web stream details.
  2. Go to Marketing Integrations on your site’s dashboard. 
  3. Click Connect under Google Analytics. 
  4. Click the Show More icon in the top right corner of the page
  5. Click Edit
  6. Paste your Google Analytics 4 Measurement ID in the pop-up.
  7. Click Save.

Congratulations! You have just installed GA4 on your WIX site. 

Installing GA4 on your University Squarespace Site

Squarespace has a built-in feature to connect GA4 without too much hassle.

To install GA4 tag on your Squarespace site, follow instructions below

  1. Go to Settings
  2. Go to Advanced
  3. Click  External API Keys
  4. Paste your Measurement ID under the “Google Analytics” input

You can paste both UA and GA4 code on the same field, separated by a comma..

Test your installation by opening your website URL in a new window and opening the GA4 -> Home report to see your real-time statistics.

Filters

Filters in GA4 allow you to limit or modify the data before entering your Analytics account, and they do not work retroactively. Unlike Universal Analytics, where you could create a “raw view” account without filters and another one with certain limitations, filters on your GA4 are applied in the property level. As we are writing this post, there are no Views in GA4. That makes testing your filters in GA4 more critical than in Universal Analytics.

Currently, there are only two types of filters in GA4:

  1. Developer Traffic
  2. Internal Traffic

Filtering Developer Traffic

Develop traffic is the traffic generated by your website administrators/developers while developing or debugging the website.

This is done by adding a specific event called “debug_mode” or “debug_view” (with a value of 1) every time your GA4 code is executed during your developing/debugging sessions. You will still be able to watch that traffic coming through in Configure -> Debug View, but you will not be able to see it across other reports in GA4.

Filtering Internal Traffic

This is the traffic generated by people directly or indirectly connected to your university who are not your targeted audience. Those can include your faculty members, administrative staff, services providers, and vendors. As such, including their traffic on your Analytics can skew your analysis.

Currently, you can only filter your internal traffic by IP addresses (way more limited than it used to be in UA). To do that, you should:

  1. Go to the Data Stream you previously created
  2. On “Additional Settings”, click “More Tagging Settings”
  3. Click “Define internal traffic”
  4. Click “Create” Button
  5. Add your IPs under “IP addresses” section and click “Create”

Events

Because of the way  Universal Analytics was built and its data structure model, there were quite some limitations regarding data you could send via events (eg. only event_cateogry, label, and value). This made it challenging for higher education marketers to collect data across the whole student journey and analyze in-depth data on the scale.

This has changed, and Events are now the core of Google Analytics 4. But, before going further on events, let’s make sure we understand what an event is and how they work.

What is an Event?

An event is an interaction of the user with your Web or Mobile App. All interactions on your website/web such as clicks, visits, downloads, form submissions (leads), student applications [and more] are considered “Events”.

The data model of GA4 offers much more flexibility when it comes to tracking events and sending additional information with it.

In Universal Analytics, you could only send up to 4 event attributes of an event to Google Analytics: 

As discussed earlier, everything in GA4 is considered an Event. Depending on your scenario, you can send up to 25 additional parameters with an event without limiting how you name them. For example, let’s say that a future student is reading a program page and decides to fill out a “Request More Information” form. You could send the following event:

The last four parameters on the list above are custom events you can send along with your event, which you can later use to do performance analysis on your Analytics account.

Apart from custom events, GA4 also comes with a set of default events and recommendations for you to follow. Let’s go through them and see how you can utilize them to structure your GA4 configuration better later on.

Categories of Events in Google Analytics 4

There are four categories of events in GA4:

  1. Automated Events
  2. Enhanced Measurement Events
  3. Recommended Events
  4. Custom Events

Here is how to choose between event categories in GA4:

Automated Events

Automatic Events on GA4 include interactions that Google must collect to perform its fundamental analysis on the tool. Those events are automatically triggered by GA4 itself on some predefined user activities. This includes session_start, first_visit, scroll, or user_engagement and other mobile app interactions such as app_update, ad_click, etc. You can get the full list here.

Enhanced Measurement Events

Those are additional automatic events by GA4, with the only difference being that you can enable/disable them on your property level.

You can enable or disable them (they come enabled by default) when you configure your web Data Stream in GA4.

When this feature is enabled, Enhancement Measurement will automatically track the following events:

You can enable or disable each one by clicking the gear button on the right side of the Enhanced Measurement section.  Moreover, you can also customize some of them to fit your university website needs.

Page views:

This event is sent to GA4 when a new page loads or the URL of the page changes without reloading the page (a.k.a. history change events). Suppose your university website is built on SPA (Single Page Application) where your entire page doesn’t refresh when pages are changed. In that case, you need to ensure that your website is changing pages/URLs and changing the browser’s history events (you might need a developer’s help here).

Scrolls:

GA4 can automatically send events when a visitor scrolls below 90% of the page height. If you need to track scroll on a different scale, you might need to do that via Google Tag Manager manually.

Outbound clicks:

This event is automatically triggered when a user clicks on a link redirecting them to another domain. This is a great feature you can use to see which of the websites you have linked on your website content are helping your students answer their questions.

If your university operates in multiple domains, set up cross-domain tracking (via GA4 property > More Tagging Settings > Configure your domains) so clicks on your own domains are now considered outbound/referral links.

Site search:

This event allows you to track searches performed by your current and potential students on your university website. When enabled, it will automatically send a “view_search_results” event to GA4, if the page loads and the URL of the page contains a query parameter, such as q, s, search, query, and keyword. 

If you are using WordPress for your website, there is nothing you need to change on the “Search Term Query Parameter” input, as the letter “s” will automatically get the job done. Otherwise, make sure you include your search query parameter on the configuration. For example: if your website search looks like https://www.my-university-webste.com/search?term=tuition-fees, you need to enter the word “term” as an option in the above configuration.

Video engagement:

This is built to track the user’s interaction with Youtube videos on your website. However, due to some technical reasons, this feature will not work by default unless your developer changes how those videos are served.

File downloads:

GA4 can automatically detect the download of files on your website and send an event when your link url contains one of the following extensions:  .pdf, .xls, .xlsx, .doc, .docx, .txt, .rtf, .csv, .exe, .key, .pps, .ppt, .pptx, .7z, .pkg, .rar, .gz, .zip, .avi, .mov, .mp4, .mpe, .mpeg, .wmv, .mid, .midi, .mp3, .wav, .wma.

Once you’re done with all of the above configurations, click Save, and your GA4 will automatically start to track those events once you set up the GA4 tag on your website.

Recommended Events:

Those are events recommended by Google for different business categories but not enabled and configured by default. You will need to follow recommended naming convention and set them manually on your web/app and Analytics to benefit from additional features google may introduce to the platform.

If none of these we have previously listed in Automatic and Enhancement events doesn’t fit your needs, then look at the recommended events Google has published in its documentation. For the time being, Higher Education institutions can use the following recommended events based on their needs:

Google recommends that you implement their recommended events when it makes sense for you because it can use those them to better understand your web/app performance during its Machine Learning analysis. 

FREE RESOURCE

Download Our Free Step-by-Step Guide to Setting Up Google Analytics 4 for Universities

Learn what you need to know, from migrating your UA data to configuring conversions and filtering

Custom Events

If none of the previously discussed events fit your needs, you can create custom events. They work pretty much as the above events; however, they are some things you need to consider before deciding to use custom events: 

For the time being, GA4 does NOT allow you to edit or delete your custom events. So make sure you have a thoughtful events strategy in place before reaching out to the 500 unique event limit

Let’s see how a higher education institution can use custom events to measure its marketing performance.

Tracking Conversions on GA4

Before going further, let’s set the table about what a Conversion is for a Higher Education Institution. 

A conversion is a significant interaction you want your visitors to complete on your website. That can be a micro-conversion, Conversions that put your visitors one step closer to the main (macro) conversion (such as subscribe, download, chat discussion), or a macro conversion, a final conversion on your website (such as leads, or student applications).

By tracking these conversions (and others), you are in a better position to measure the performance of your marketing activities and make decisions based on data. 

In GA4, you can, for example, create a segment of visitors who have read a page about a certain degree who didn’t request more information and then use custom dimensions to understand their behavior compared to the ones who converted.

Now, In Universal Analytics, you used to track conversions by setting up Goals. You may have had a thank you page for your Request Information Forms, and used that page as a trigger to create a goal. 

In GA4, all conversions are tracked via Events. So, before a Conversion becomes “a Conversion”, it has to be an Event. You can use a pre-defined conversion event (such as “generate_lead”) or create a custom Event and mark it as a conversion by going to Configure > Events and marking a specific event as Conversion. 

Alternatively, you can go to Configure > Conversions, then press the New conversion event button and enter the event’s name, for example, application_submitted.

Once you do that, wait for up to 24 hours, and you will start seeing conversion data in the list of all Conversions.

When it comes to tracking conversions for Universities and Colleges, here is a list of events that we recommend creating and mark as conversions:

GA4 Tracking Strategy for Higher Education Institutions

The ultimate goal of events is to take actions. If you have an event or metric on Google Analytics for which you cannot answer the question, “if I have this information I could do this” then the chances are that you are using a vanity metric, and you won’t be seeing value out of it.

When it comes to deciding what metrics are essential for your university to track, it might be necessary to take a step back, look at it from a broad marketing and business perspective and ask questions like:

Once you answer these questions, it might be time to start thinking about how you can translate them to concrete actions on Google Analytics. Using a framework like QIA to identify the right metrics for your school can be helpful. Start by asking these three questions:

  1. What Question do I want to answer?
  2. What Information will I need to get the answer?
  3. What Action will I take based on the answer I get?

Let’s take an example of a scenario many higher education marketers face: What is the conversion rate of students for each channel? (Q)

You would need to figure out what information (I) you need to answer that question. In this case, you would need:

Is that information already stored? Do I need to track it and keep it in Google Analytics? If you don’t have funnel conversion tracking set up, for now, you might need to add it to your @todo list.

Great! Now that we know what information we need let’s decide about the most critical part of the framework: Action (A):

  1. How will the answer be presented? How will the report look?
    Who is the report built for? What format do they prefer?
  2. “What actions will I take if the answer is ‘X’?”
  3. “What actions will I take if the answer is ‘Y’?”

You will need to plan actions based on answers to these questions. For example: 

“If the conversion rate from Organic Search is 2% or higher, we’re doing well. If it’s lower than 2%, we’ll re-evaluate funnel pages, the effectiveness of the call-to-action and the SEO strategy to see how we can improve it”.

Answers like this will help you build an action plan with specific actions on implementing this tracking strategy, from defining events to conversion, account setting, and reporting.

Reports in Google Analytics 4

Reporting in Google Analytics 3 takes another level due to the flexibility of its data model.

In Universal Analytics, you have had numerous ready-to-use reports that, even though you might have found practical, were very limited in capabilities and pretty much the same for everyone. 

While you now have much less ready-to-use reports in GA4, its flexibility in adapting and creating advanced custom reportings based on your needs is way beyond what we are used to seeing in the previous version of Analytics. 

Reporting in GA4 is divided into 2 sections, that can be found on the main left navigation

  1. Default Reports
  2. Explore

Default Reports

Google offers numerous default reports on GA4 to help you kick off analysis faster. However, to fully utilize the benefits of the tool, you might need to customize such reports based on your use cases and needs. 

For example, if you do not directly monetize your university website, you don’t need to see the monetization charts on your reports. You can go to Reports > Library > Edit Collection and then remove/add the necessary report from the main navigation.

While on Library, you can add two types of new reports: Overview and Detail Report

Overview report: A dashboard (comprising a set of cards) that summarizes a detailed topic report (A topic can have only one overview report.)

Detail report: This can have up to two visualizations and a table with dimensions and metrics.

You can also customize individual reports, to only show what’s important for your university. You can do that by going to a specific report and clicking on the “Customize reports” icon on the top right side of the page. From there you can add/remove cards (widgets) and set dimensions/metrics as per your needs.

As you can see, there are certain limitations on the number of widgets, tables, and customizations you can make on default reports, and that’s where custom reports come in.

Exploration reports (Custom Reports)

Exploration is one of the best features of Google Analytics 4. It’s a collection of advanced techniques of analysis that can help your university create advanced reports and reveal deep insights about your future students and their behavior.

You can access exploration reports by going to main navigation and clicking on Explore. You can create a fully customizable report (if you are short on time or now sure how to start), or you can use built-in templates.

Let’s explore some of built-in templates, so you can have a better understanding of their benefits.

Free form

Use this template to find out more about your website visitors. You can visualize data in a table or graph format, use multiple dimensions, segments, and metrics, and compare.

Funnel Exploration

This template is pretty helpful for visualizing the steps your students took before converting to a lead or application as part of a pre-defined conversion funnel.

Path exploration

Use this template when you want to discover your students’ interaction toward a conversion. You can also do a reverse analysis and find out what your students do before converting.

Segment Overlap

This template allows you to show and compare the relationship between (up to 3) segments.

The learning curve to creating custom reports may be long for many higher education marketers. However, once you go through built-in templates and do some trial and error, you will start discovering new insights that will lead you towards better decision-making.

Final words

Now that you know the main differences between GA3 and GA4, you’re better positioned to migrate your university website from Google Analytics 3 to Google Analytics 4.

GA4 is an entirely different beast from its predecessor. It’s more flexible, more powerful, and more capable of making data-driven decisions. However, it’s not a simple migration process; you need to make sure you are making the right strategic decisions before starting the migration and have all the necessary information to set it up for success.

If you are just starting with GA4 in general and you are not sure where to start or how to properly migrate your university website to GA4, feel free to reach us, and we will be happy to help.

My Journey from a Content Writer Intern to a Full-Time Content Associate

I don’t know about you all, but I strongly believe in destiny. Why, you might ask? Bear with me and you’ll understand. 

So, for four years, I was a student of the English Language and Literature program at the University of Prishtina. While this major wasn’t my first choice, I realized I had made the right educational decision when I was introduced to Translation(my first love). Despite loving translation as a profession and working as a translator for a few months, I decided to give it a go and try something else. Who could have thought that even the other job I would grow to love would be related to writing? Not me, that’s for sure. 

So, this is me telling how I found my newest love—Content Marketing—here at Manaferra. 

Initial Contact with Manaferra

Now that I think about it, the whole thing about me joining Manaferra is a kind of drama in itself. That’s why I’m going to tell the entire story because I don’t want to leave something out. 

I believe, at the time, a friend and I were looking for jobs we could apply for and stumbled upon an internship program whose deadline, unfortunately, was over (obviously, it wasn’t that unfortunate). 

Scrolling through different job portals for job vacancies, I think I saw the ad for the internship program in Manaferra first in the socials but can’t really recall why I didn’t apply right away. Luckily, the friend I mentioned sent me the link after a few days. Once again, I had before me the announcement that Manaferra was looking for SEO and Content Writing interns (talk about destiny). 

One thing that was interesting to me at the time was the fact that they didn’t have that many requirements for prospective candidates. They were looking for people that were proficient in English and were eager to learn. Knowing that I had both of these qualities (not to mention the endless stalking and scanning I did on their socials), I was convinced I should apply for it. 

The First Interview

Upon application, after a few weeks, I got a callback notifying me that I had passed the first round of selection for the internship program and that an interview was scheduled for me in a few days. 

In the email they also included a few resources I had to read and prepare for that interview. Even though I already knew that the interview wouldn’t be “conventional” as I had previously read an article written by one of my colleagues here on her experience of being an intern at Manaferra.

Long story short, the day of the interview came. I read all the resources and felt prepared, but still was quite anxious about it as it was my first official job interview. Arrived at their office just on time. Once there, I realized I had nothing to worry about. One of the interviewers who was also a colleague I had in university—who would also become my supervisor—welcomed me and introduced me to the other interviewer.

The interview took place  in the meeting room that they called “Oda”. Besides the polite small talk we exchanged, I was asked about the resources they had sent me—what I thought about them, what I had learned while reading them, and had a sort of a quiz. Both of the interviewers were nice, polite, and made me feel that everything was going well during the entire interview. But being a perfectionist (which at times can really be a “curse”) made me feel as though I could do better. 

The Assignment

Although I wasn’t that satisfied with my performance at the interview, I was informed through email that I had passed the interview successfully and was expected to do a writing assignment so that they could get a feeling of my writing. In the email were also shared the instructions of what I was supposed to do and given a few days to deliver it. Everything was clear from beginning to end, which was a plus in my book for Manaferra. They had thought of what we could have difficulty understanding and simplified everything for us. 

The Second Interview

The writing assignment went quite well. I knew I did my best and was waiting for confirmation on it.  After a few days, I got an email confirming that I had passed this stage too, and was scheduled for a second interview. In my head, I didn’t expect a second interview as I thought the assignment was the final step to the final decision. However, their goal was to choose the best of the best and that’s why the process was divided into numerous stages. 

Now,  moving on to the big day. Unlike the first interview, this time, all of the management was present in the interview. They informed me from the beginning that they would be focusing on me, who Diana is as a person, her personality, her views, and beliefs. 

Like anybody who is asked to talk about themselves, I felt somewhat nervous. But as the conversation went over, I got comfortable as I was feeling listened to and my opinions being valued. 

Getting the Good News

In a matter of a few days, I was emailed back with the good news about me being chosen for the 2-week testing period. I was excited, to say the least and couldn’t wait to start this new adventure. 

The 2-Week Testing Period

So the big day came, me and the other 7 applicants arrived at the Manaferra office. Most of the applicants were female and surprisingly half of us were English majors, while the other half were students of other faculties. We were warmly welcomed by the management and the team. I remember we formed a circle and went on to introduce ourselves. The environment, the people were beyond anything I had imagined. After that little introduction play, we were led to Oda where management had prepared everything to introduce us with the company and the field. At noon they took us out for lunch and there we had the chance to talk with each other and found out that all of us were huge fans of tv-shows. 

Needless to say, two weeks went by pretty quickly. I felt as though I had learned quite much for the industry, which when I first started didn’t even know it existed. During those two weeks, we worked hard, learned a lot, and had fun. That’s why when the end of the testing period came, I started feeling kind of anxious about what was going to happen next. 

Getting the Good News for the Second Time 

Let me tell you, the wait was excruciating. It’s not that I had to wait long for the final answer, but I wanted that intern position so bad that I needed to know as soon as possible. I knew I had done my best, but I also knew that all of the other candidates were quite prepared and hardworking. I didn’t know who was going to be chosen, but one thing I knew was that it would be difficult for the management to come to a decision. 

This time I didn’t get the news through an email, but was invited to the offices for a meeting with the management and my supervisor, Dafina. Once there, they flattered me and congratulated me on officially becoming an Intern at Manaferra. 

I went in without expectations as I didn’t want to get disappointed if the chance wouldn’t be given to me. But got out of there as a Content Writer Intern instead. 

Working From Home

Approximately one month into our internship, our team had to continue working from home due to the pandemic outbreak. While this was an unexpected situation and we had no clue what was going to happen, work-wise we were pretty good. We tried to be productive even in those hard unprecedented times. 

One thing that should be mentioned is the management’s willingness to assist and be with us by organizing virtual daily gatherings in Google Meet, monthly one-on-one meetings, and making sure we all had the necessary work items delivered to our homes. 

COVID-19 was certainly a challenge for all of us, but I can confidently say we managed it successfully, both health-wise (as none of us got infected), and productivity-wise as we all worked hard not to let it affect us. 

Coming Back to the Office

While we surely did our best to keep ourselves, our family and others safe and enjoyed the time we spent working from home, there came a point when we couldn’t wait to come back to the office. We had missed each other, our comfy office and even our working desks. 

So, when the relevant public health institutions decided that the time has come to go back to “new normality”, we returned to the office, while making sure we were obliged by the regulations that the government brought out. However, the office transition didn’t happen all at once. Half of the team was back and the other half was still working from home. 

It was during this time that we, the interns of Manaferra, were near the end of our internship. As we were informed from the beginning, at the end of the program only some of us would become full-time employees at Manaferra. However, thanks to continuous training we got, our hard work, and the expertise we built during those 6 months, most of us were eventually not only hired but also promoted to a newer and higher position (hence me becoming a Jr. Content Specialist).

While the pandemic didn’t give us a chance to celebrate the birthdays of staff members across the months, in August we celebrated the 6th birthday of Manaferra with pizza and cake. 

Team Retreat to Rugova

Manaferra, as a company, wants to make sure that people that work there are enjoying themselves. That’s why we usually organize team retreats where we can get to know and spend more time with each other out of work context. While in normal conditions, we would make our first retreat in the spring, this year, the pandemic forced us to make a change of plans. Instead, the retreat was organized in September, and we spent a long weekend in Rugove. We call it a long weekend, but in reality, it felt like we stayed there for only a few hours.

There we had the chance to hang out with each other, know each other better, play a lot of jenga, uno and not to forget volleyball (realized that some of us had the talent for it) and the swing that we would take turns on. 
We made very fond memories during that weekend, but we know that we will make even more as a team as the months go by. 

Now that I’m writing this article, it’s been eight months since I joined Manaferra. I couldn’t be more proud of the decision I made months ago. Today, I’m even thankful for the missed opportunities because if it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t be here today. Lastly, I hope that you too, one day, will get to walk in my shoes and experience something similar first-hand.

How To Write SEO-Friendly Content That Ranks [The Ultimate Guide]

SEO content often gets a bad rep for being keyword-stuffed and written for search engines only. Well, we’re here to show you there’s much more to it than keywords. Read on to find out in detail what SEO-friendly content really is, what us SEO content writers are really after, and how to write good SEO content step by step.

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Going Back to Where I Came From – An Internship in Kosovo at Manaferra LLC

Every time I am asked to explain who I am, I get an existential crisis… so I’m going to make this short. I am a daughter of immigrant parents, a business student at Turku School of Economics (in Finland), and I like basketball… and bread… probably should have mentioned bread first.

At the end of my Bachelor’s studies, I wanted to take a little break from my student life and started looking for possible internships to apply for. After three years of studying (and half a dozen random student jobs), I figured it was time to add some relevant work experience next to my business degree. All I knew was that I wanted to do a business-related internship abroad, where and what were some things I hadn’t figured out yet.

Like many families that left Kosovo during the war in 1999, we still came back here for almost every summer vacation. Our parents didn’t want us to forget our culture, I guess. After some soul searching and dreaming (as much as the Spanish beaches and French cuisine were tempting me), I decided this would be a great opportunity to understand my home country better. Spending the summers in Kosovo is like a month-long party, but I wanted to know what Kosovo is like without the Schatz-es and the smoke from shishas in every corner. I wanted to know what everyday life in Kosovo looks like.

Applying

Once it became clear where I was going to do my internship, it was time to start looking for “what.” I started looking for different internship opportunities in Kosovo, and I came across an SEO trainee position at Manaferra – neither of which I was familiar with. I noticed that it was the last day of the deadline for submitting the application, so I quickly did some research on SEO and the company and decided it is something I would like to learn, so I decided to apply. The requirements were not too high, so I was feeling rather confident.

After a few weeks, I got an email saying I got invited for an interview. Attached were a few articles to read to prepare myself for it. It was my first Skype interview, so I was quite nervous. The interview was nothing that I expected. It felt more like an oral exam based on the materials they sent than an interview. I understood that it was their way to make sure who is seriously interested and eager to learn since the field is rather new and not many people understand SEO. We had a bit of a misunderstanding when I asked about “pizza Thursdays” that were mentioned on their website. I guess they had forgotten about writing that there and later deleted it. (I took screenshots, though, and made them get us pizza one time… but that’s a different story.)

After passing the interview, came the second phase, which was a link-building exercise. The exercise was sent on a Friday, and I was given three days to finish it. To my bad luck during that weekend, I was in Germany with my laptop back in Finland. Fortunately, they were understanding and pushed the deadline to when I got back.

Then, after a week or so, I got the call to the training period.

Training

From more than 200 applicants, 8 were invited for the training period – 4 of them for SEO. You can read more about how the training period was like for the others in my colleague Dafina’s article “Being an Intern at Manaferra.”

Being the only applicant from abroad, my training experience was a bit different. Due to my studies, I wasn’t able to attend the training when others did. I completed mine during a 2-week stay in Kosovo for the winter holidays. When I came, all the other trainees were chosen and were already in their second month of being trainees. My first impression of Manaferra was very positive: everyone was so helpful and nice. The training revolved around link building, and I guess I did pretty good since, by the end of the training, they called me to the meeting room, aka Oda, and asked me when I would be able to start.

Internship

It’s March 1st. With a Bachelor’s Degree in my pocket, I’m hopping on a plane to Kosovo to start my journey as an SEO trainee at Manaferra. I am very excited and happy to see everyone again, and on Monday, March 3rd, my internship begins. I will be spending the next six months of my life in one of the nicest offices I’ve seen.

The atmosphere at Manaferra is very welcoming. All the staff members are friendly, and I got very close to them very soon (I was practically besties with all the girls here within the first week). At Manaferra, the work culture is quite serious – as it should be. Tasks are scheduled at the beginning of each week, and employees are expected to take responsibility for them. Effectivity is a big word here and something that bosses really emphasize each day. They encourage their employees to read and do research to better themselves so that they can be more effective at the work they do. The work schedule is from 8 am to 5 pm. You can be up to half an hour late in the morning (at 8.30 am we have the scrum meeting) but just remember that you should stay as long after work as you were late – in other words: flexible working hours.

At Manaferra, work is taken seriously, but during breaks, we relax. We often go to lunch together, excluding the times when we can’t come to a unanimous decision where to eat (This only happens when Graniti insists on eating hamburgers at Noari). Also, during the afternoon break, we all go out to the terrace or just hang out inside and talk about different topics… or just play Uno.

During the internship, link building was a big part (and by big, I mean more than half of the time) of my tasks. Sometimes a bit boring but yet necessary since backlinks are one of the main factors when it comes to domain authority. When I was not doing link building, I was doing research and various kinds of analyses: competitive audits, backlink analysis, keyword research, keyword gap analysis, on-page analysis, and improvements, etc. I really enjoyed doing different kinds of analyses because I feel like those were the times when I learned the most. Most of the analyses I did were for my main client, and I also got to attend a Skype meeting with them.

Now onto the fun stuff… Ulcinj, Birthday party, Byrek Fridays

In April, we went on a work retreat to Montenegro for a long weekend. It was such a nice start to the internship. The whole staff got to hang out, get to know each other better, chill at the beach, had a barbeque, and played Uno (Uno actually became an everyday thing during our 3 pm breaks after that). It was among the best times spent with Manaferra peeps!

About a month after that, we had a great birthday celebration since my colleague Gramoz, and I both had birthdays in May. His mom made us fli for lunch which is like the best birthday present anyone could get (if you don’t know what fli is, I’m sorry…). After work, we went to have coffee and cake, and it was such a fun time.

I can’t finish this article without mentioning Byrek Fridays that has become a tradition now. I will actually be attending my last Byrek Friday this week… for now.

Conclusion

By the end of my internship journey, my title changed from SEO Trainee to SEO Associate, colleagues have turned into close friends, and I got better at spelling Albanian words. All in all, these last six months have been amazing. It has been such a great experience. I have learned so much about SEO and grown professionally. If Manaferra has done one thing right, it’s that they have succeeded in hiring the best people to work with them. I have made some great connections, but most importantly, I have made lifelong friends that I will never forget.

Content Marketing for Higher Education Institutions

When was the last time you’ve seen a commercial on TV for a University application round? When students want to choose their university, where do they turn to?

According to a study conducted by Business Insider, young people are watching less broadcast TV than ever, and according to the Guardian, viewing of broadcast TV by 16- to 24-year-olds fell 33% between 2010 and last year. Since traditional marketing is becoming less and less attractive, most students turn to the internet when they want to decide where to continue their studies after high school. On the other hand, 93% of teens aged 12‐17 go online.

Content Marketing for Higher Education Institutions

Considering the large audience and their interests, higher education institutions can do a lot with Content Marketing. The main goal that we want to achieve is generating leads and converting more and more students to join their university. All efforts that are done in general have to answer to the main and the most important goal.

Builds the brand

Content Marketing is a great way to build your brand as a university, offer answers and solutions for your student’s questions, and finally create a relationship with your potential students.

How you do Content Marketing reflects completely on the success of your campaigns. The number and quality of leads are a factor in how well you write content, answer the potential student’s needs, and use your unique selling points. Differentiating yourself from the countless universities looking for students is the first step to gaining their trust.

Content Marketing in itself is a conversation. The conversation in the case of a higher education institution is started by the potential student. This is why we have to focus on providing the information that people are searching for, know when to offer it to them, how we want to reach them, and keep them interested in our institution.

Increases search presence

This last one might not seem so important for someone who doesn’t share an interest in digital marketing. But, if you ask an SEO specialist, it is the most important one. The higher the ranking, the more visible you are to potential students. The more visible you are, the more leads you’re going to generate. And, as we have established earlier, leads are what we’re looking for.

Your blog articles are more likely to rank than your program pages. This is another reason to invest in this type of content marketing. These content pieces are easier to rank because other websites are more likely to link them. They also offer valuable information and usually don’t ask for anything in return. Considering that links are one of the most important ranking factors, the need for content is distinct. When you rank higher, the number of leads will increase, and consequently, so will the number of applicants.

What Kind of Content?

Content doesn’t only have to be in blog post format or written form. Different types of content serve different purposes. Guides and Lists are best presented in written form.

Statistics, case studies, and others can be presented best with infographics. Photo and video are other popular content format. If you want to put student testimonials on your website, video testimonials are good practice.

Testimonials are not the only way students can contribute content-wise. Student-generated blogs are a great way to involve them in your content marketing. User-generated content is a quite popular type of content. Tweets, Instagram posts, Facebook posts, product reviews, comments, etc., are all content generated by the user, and universities can do all of that. But you can also assign your students to write different articles that you can later publish on your site, and you can publish their papers.

Who should write the Content?

This is where the expertise and experience in the education system and the importance of content collide for higher education institutions. The content on their sites can be written by people inside the institution, students, alumni, etc. Another thing that higher education institutions can do is turn to digital marketing specialists to create their content. SEO agencies are experts in creating content that ranks; therefore, their content marketing will be more effective.

Higher Education Institutions doing great with Content Marketing

Strayer University

A prime example of great efforts in content marketing is Strayer University. Being an Online University, they value their online presence a great deal. On their blog, they share career development tips combined and other information in the interest of students. Their blog articles are direct answers to what their students are asking while at the same time being SEO-friendly.

Their organic traffic value surpasses $2 million. This means that if they were paying for the traffic they are receiving organically, they would have to pay over $2 million.  

The University of Vermont

The University of Vermont follows a similar strategy regarding the content on their page. They offer their students advice on career, business, and education. They continue to build their brand, which embodies cultural diversity, and they publish stories of traveling. They also have a section on interesting things regarding Vermont, such as the lakes, skiing, farming, etc.

Their career advice blog articles seem to perform best within their blog. The total value of organic traffic on their site is over $500 thousand.

 The University of Idaho

The University of Idaho has a—what they call—Division of Student Affairs page on their website. This is where they offer all the information necessary for their students related to campus activities, health, career, media, etc. They use their content to build their brand and increase traffic on their site.

Their organic traffic value surpasses $400 thousand. This means that if they were paying for the traffic they are receiving organically, they would have to pay over $400 thousand.

Why SEO and Content Marketing Can’t Do Without One Another

The myth among some marketers that perfect content doesn’t need SEO is, simply, a myth. Creating original, thought-provoking, and engaging content is the basis of optimization, and likewise, SEO is strategized around Content Marketing.

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Topic Clusters: What They Are (And How To Create Them)

The topic cluster model is a content organizing model created and made popular by Hubspot. The content on their website inspired this model. Seeing that they were continually creating content, their website was starting to get crowded. Google was also beginning to favor topic-based content as opposed to keywords.

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Creating a Content Marketing Calendar that Drives Results (+Template)

Creating a content calendar is one of those things you procrastinate on doing, and when you finally do, you see it wasn’t as complicated as you thought it’d be.

You can spend hours browsing the internet or reviewing your existing content just to find an idea of what to write, OR you can have it planned already neatly in your content calendar. What’s left is only to start writing.

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Being an Intern at Manaferra

So, I finished my studies, had my share of traveling, exploring, and living a life with little to no responsibilities. Being 22, it was now time for me to start adulting. And that meant finding a place decent enough to deserve eight hours of my day, where I could be useful in, challenged by, and appreciated in. (One might say I have high standards, but I think when it comes to things you invest time on – friendships, love, work – you should never settle.) Simply said, I had to find a job.

So, the job hunting began. Having studied English language and literature (and a bit of Cultural Studies in my exchange studies) and NOT wanting to work on the traditional professions my degree offered – teaching or translating – I had no idea what I was even looking for while searching on countless job-seeking portals. But then I randomly see this ad by Manaferra looking for interns on SEO & Content writing. Having a great interest in writing on one side and the world of digital marketing on the other, being a content writer made sense. Their requirements were simple, just to be creative, speak English, and be “eager to learn” (or “i untë me mësu”), a slogan I found cool. An internship was not what I was initially looking for, but I was intrigued and decided to give it a go since at least it was a paid internship (which you don’t easily find in Kosovo). So, I applied…

First contact

My first contact with Manaferra was virtual, stalking my way through their website and social media accounts – the natural thing for a millennial to do. I found them professional at first sight and the offices, pictures of which they had recently posted, very inviting. They seemed to really invest themselves in finding the right people to join their staff. They even had this whole program planned out; they’d choose eight applicants to train for two weeks and THEN decide on four of them to actually join the internship. Too much work for just an internship, one might say. One might have found it a hassle, one might have been scared away, I found it challenging. And I love challenges!

The interview

Fast forward to the interview. I had been previously sent some materials to read from on content writing (which my procrastinating self read that morning on the way there). That made me realize the interview would be unconventional, but I still expected the usual ‘Tell me something about yourself’ question. There was, of course, no such thing!

I was asked relevant questions about content writing and the field of digital marketing, which seemed fair enough rather than me needlessly telling them about my hobbies or why I’m the right person for the job. Therefore, skipped were the template answers on what my strengths and weaknesses are, and the unoriginal answer ‘I’m hardworking, a fast learner, and a good team player.’ Anyhow, the interview went well, I think. The interviewers were nice and paid close attention to what I was saying. One of them, Ujëbardha (which is now my close colleague) was even taking notes the whole time. Bottom line is that it went well and I left the room knowing I’d be called back. Humble, I know.

The callback & training period

I was emailed back after a few days being told I passed the interview step. Along came a writing assignment to finish. After submitting it, I got emailed back again with the final Yes, and finally arrived the time I came to the office as a potential intern. It was a Tuesday and I came late. Safe to say, I did not make the best first impression.

I was warmly welcomed, though, and so began my experience at Manaferra. The other seven chosen applicants were also female, which was distinctive but nice, still. They were all smart, young ladies of different backgrounds from whom I also learned a lot from. One had studied Marketing, others Law, Physics and Engineering; it was a mishmash of majors but we all had digital marketing as a common interest. At the end of the day, passions often do not correlate with our majors, so it was good (and rare) to know that there ARE recruiters that care about how eager you are to learn more than about how much experience you have.

Along with a cup of coffee, we were led to the meeting room, or ‘oda’ as they call it. After first making us feel flattered letting us know we were chosen among over 200 applicants, a workshop by Faton (the CEO), Granit, and Ujëbardha followed.

The whole two weeks went by so very fast, yet it was probably the two weeks I grew most professionally. I asked, listened, and learned a lot. Granit was the supervisor of the SEO team, and Ujëbardha was ours, the Content team, however, they both answered to each and every one of our inquiries. They even encouraged us to ask whatever we wanted. A warm and friendly environment was created as a result, yet it was kept professional and strict. Yes, there is such thing apparently. I might be biased since I was one of the ones who went on being interns, but I really did enjoy walking into the office every day of those two weeks.

About content writing

I was already used to writing on a weekly basis, having had various essays and research papers and so and so assignments to do during my studies, but now I was introduced to this whole new world of writing. I call it underwriting. At university, I would have to write as formally as I could since I had an academic audience. In SEO content writing, the audience changes constantly; I might have to write specifically for working moms one day and for environmental activists the other.

But what all of the articles I write need to have in common is being user & SEO friendly. And what that means is basically that I need to write content that people want to read but also rank high on search engines. And that, from what I’ve been taught, is all about optimizing, using the right keywords, and putting the right headings.

The thing I enjoy most is that I get to research and write about various different fields on a daily basis. And who wouldn’t want to do that for a living? I broaden my horizons with knowledge and get to write my take on things every day, and the best thing is that I’m given the platform to have my voice heard.

Apart from content writing, I was also given the chance to contribute to Manaferra’s social media accounts, given my passion for photography, catchy lines, and an overall keen eye for everything aesthetically pleasing.

The actual internship

After the two-week trial period, the actual internship starts. It is supposed to last from 2 to 6 months, but I was told from the beginning that its length depends on one’s own performance and can even only last as little as two months (which I am hoping is the case for myself since I’m nearing the end of my two months).

By the time I was accepted to be an intern, I was already accustomed to the place. I was surrounded by people who I felt proud to be surrounded by. We had this weekend trip to the mountains wherein we all got to know each other a little better and I got to talk to a part of the staff that I hadn’t earlier. Everyone is now friendly, funny and nice.

What strikes me is that we interns are treated like regular employees, and every employee is treated as an equal. Everyone has their daily tasks to finish which everyone has access to, so everything is transparent. We have our daily scrum meeting at 8:30, so it’s best to make it to the office by that time at the latest. The workday starts at 08:00 but the management tries to make it flexible for us commuting sleepyheads that can’t make it on time every day. Therefore, one can come a half-hour later which can be compensated by working till 5:30 and finish one’s eight hours (not including lunch break). As for the scrum meeting, it’s very useful since it makes us work as a team even though our tasks are individual. We share what we did the day prior, what we have planned to do that day, and whether we faced any problems (which the supervisors are always ready to help with after the meeting).

The modern, spacious, and comfortable office really does make a difference in motivation at work. The modern laptops and PCs, too, on that note. We also have a little library in the office (actual relevant books, not just ones for decor purposes) which we’re encouraged to read. On the other hand, Faton makes sure to address each of our concerns such as facilities, work environment, etc.

All these result in making a comfortable environment where we can be our most productive and creative selves. Therefore, being an intern at Manaferra LLC, I am respected, and my ideas are listened to and considered valuable. I feel usefulchallenged, and appreciated—the very three things I looked for from the start.

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