Did you know that 40 percent of prospective students report a negative perception of university brands, and that 35 percent of prospective students move on to competitor websites?
A college or university’s website is one of the first tools prospective students use to research academic programs, but many schools overlook simple tools that could boost engagement. Simple changes might help viewers find the information they need, and provide insight into what’s helping or hindering their process.
This topic and how to address it was covered in our Oct. 5 webinar. Hosted by Megan Danielson, director of digital marketing, and Dan Antonson, marketing technology manager, the two shared advice on how colleges and universities can take simple steps to enhance prospective students’ online experiences. Below are quick wins they covered that can help boost your 2017 enrollment.
The Three-Second Test
“Three seconds is about what the viewer will give you. If they can’t find out who you are, what you stand for, and get an understanding of next steps, they’ll move on,” Danielson said.
- Brighten your homepage with a prominent statistic that tells a story about your institution.
- Include a few brief lines that describe how your school stands out from the competition.
- Feature a call to action — invite prospective students to request more information by submitting their contact information, or include the dates of upcoming info sessions.
Another barrier to viewer engagement is load speed. Have you ever had to wait for an image or video to download? Unless you’re invested in that image, you’re probably going to move on. Same for prospective students. Fortunately, a few tweaks can make a difference.
- Reduce the number of images on the site.
- Compress images.
- Remove unused or leftover tools.
- Enable browser-caching.
“I’ve seen the back end of hundreds of college sites. No two are the same, but there’s one tool that almost every college has: Google Analytics,” Antonson said. “The trouble is, if you don’t tell Google Analytics what success looks like for your school, you won’t get the data that’s most meaningful to you.”
What Antonson is getting at is that schools often miss out on tracking the user activity that could be most useful to your school’s recruitment marketing plan. Talk to your webmaster about what data is most relevant to your admissions team, and see if they can start tracking it.
- Install the free Google tool, Tag Assistant, to track how prospective students use your site.
- Look for gaps in the paths that Tag Assistant captures — it could mean that not all of the pages on your site are being tracked.
- Talk to your webmaster about what data is most helpful to your admissions team. Then ask, “Is it being tracked?”
Conversion Rate Optimization
“The great thing about web,” Danielson added, “is that if you have a hunch that another headline, or other small change might make a difference, you can set up a simple test to find out how audiences respond.”
Danielson is talking about A/B testing. All your webmaster has to do is measure an existing page with current content, then set up another with the change. The first is your control, and the second will measure the difference in audience reactions. By watching user analytics over time, you’ll be able to see whether there’s a difference and how much.
- Create a hypothesis.
- Create the A/B screens and make both live.
- Measure the performance of each approach.
- Implement the higher-performing approach.
You don’t need to be a programmer to start a conversation with your web team. A few simple questions can get the ball rolling and, chances are, your web team will appreciate being connected to the institution’s higher-level strategies. All of the solutions above are low-cost, high-return steps that most web teams will find easy to do. They could make a difference in how prospective students experience your site — and whether they stay interested in your school.
If you would like to view the webinar slides, click here: https://goo.gl/tpSi3q