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Does Your College Really Need a New Website? Factors to Consider

2020-12-03T16:20:22+00:00July 10, 2020|

Maybe enrollment has dipped, inquiries are down, or web traffic is lower than you’d like. There are many warning signs of a poor website, and it’s easy to quickly jump to the conclusion that your only solution is to make a fresh start. But it’s possible there are smaller, less costly improvements that can be made to optimize your existing website

So how do you know if it’s time to throw in the towel and invest in a brand new website or just revamp your existing one? It all depends on your current situation.

We enlisted Adam Dince, director of digital experiences at Collegis Education, to help us lay out all of the considerations schools should make when evaluating the need for a new website. Keep reading to see what he has to say.

Identify the root of the issue

Far too often, colleges and universities don’t pay enough attention to their websites. A lot of money gets invested in various marketing tactics to drive traffic to your site, and if it doesn’t perform, you’re left confused. Are you targeting the wrong audiences? Should you invest more money?

The answer is usually “no”. The real issue is often the website itself. Here are common red flags that signal an underperforming website:

  • Important pages (i.e., program pages) have low conversion rates
  • Page load times are exceedingly low
  • Important pages (i.e., admissions or tuition pages) aren’t getting much traffic, indicating that users can’t find it
  • Pages have high bounce rates, suggesting users aren’t getting the experience they need
  • Keyword rankings decline over time, bringing less visitors to your website

These issues are certainly troubling, but they don’t necessarily add up to a death warrant for your website. Rather, think of them as indicators that there is plenty of room for improvement.

Before you spend the money, whether on social or email marketing, draw people to an experience that maximizes the opportunity of the traffic.

Adam Dince

A website is a long-term investment – one that pays off again and again over time. With all of the money and effort you’re putting into bringing visitors to your site, you should be investing just as much into ensuring you’re providing those visitors an engaging, informative and user-friendly experience.

If you’ve lost faith in your current website due to one or more of the issues outlined above, you have a decision to make: invest in updating your current website or start from scratch with a new one?

Things to consider when evaluating your website

There are plenty of factors to assess about your website before making a decision. Dince suggests starting by examining your website’s maturity curve.

1. The foundation

First, take a close look at your technology. This includes your customer relationship management (CRM) system, Google Analytics and other tools.

Ensure these are all integrated properly so your data can appropriately pass through the technology stack. These serve as the foundation of your website and are critical to understanding how it performs.

2. The performance

First, assess analytics based on conversion rates. Are you taking advantage of the traffic coming to your website? Low conversion rates mean that your website is generating traffic, but not leading to any prospective student inquiries. This is essentially leaving money on the table.

Dince recommends assessing the user experience of your school’s website. Consider the following questions:

  • Is it easy for a visitor to find the information they’re seeking?
  • Is the navigation intuitive?
  • Are similar pages strategically located next to each other?
  • Does on-site search work appropriately?
  • Are links working or are they broken?

Also evaluate the content perspective of your website. Answer questions such as:

  • Are your web pages accurately speaking to their intended audience?
  • Is your content student-focused? Or is it written in a scholarly, academic style?
  • Is your website providing users with the information they need to make an informed decision?
  • Is your brand promise clearly articulated? Is it meaningful?

3. The web content

Next, look at traffic to the website from an organic search perspective. Keep in mind that higher education is one of the most competitive industries for search, making your content incredibly important.

Ask yourself:

  • Are you attracting users from a variety of channels?
  • Is there a breadth of content on your website?
  • Do you have the right content that people are searching for?
  • Is your site optimized for organic search?
  • Is your content covering the entire buyer journey – from awareness, to the consideration stage, and into the close phase?

4. The personalization

This is an area of digital marketing that colleges and universities have rarely ventured into. But it has the potential to be incredibly valuable.

If someone visits your website and expresses interest in a business program, do they have to repeat the entire process when they return? Or will they get a personalized experience bringing them back to the business program page? This level of personalization could have a significant impact on your conversion rate.

Answering questions like the ones above can give you a good sense of why you’re experiencing poor performance on your website. Once you pinpoint your weaknesses, you can begin to assess the most cost-effective solution.

Price your options

You’re certain of one thing: your website isn’t performing as strongly as you’d like today. What you’re not so sure of is whether it’s salvageable or needs to be replaced entirely. You’re looking for the most affordable way to improve your school’s digital presence.

The short answer is that it depends on how many resources you’re putting into optimizing your current site. When you add up the cost of implementing all of the necessary optimizations, you may find it’s more economical to just start from scratch instead.

Web performance experts can help you weigh your options to ensure you’re making the best decision for your school’s website.

Enlist the experts

As you can see, there’s a lot that goes into determining the best route forward for your school’s website. With so many different factors to evaluate and considerations to make, enlisting the expertise of a third party can help give you the impartial guidance you need to make a sound decision.

“If you don’t have a strong in-house team for analytics or website performance, work with a strategic partner with index experience. Work with a partner that knows the ins and outs of what it takes to boost ROI for your website, understands prospective student needs and can make smart recommendations based off of both,” Dince advises.

Find a partner like Collegis that is performance focused and knows how to convert traffic into inquiries.

Adam Dince

Collegis Education has more than 20 years of knowledge and experience to help you identify and implement the perfect solution for your school’s website, whether it be improving upon the existing foundation or building new from the ground up.

Let our experts help you find the solutions to overcome your school's website challenges.

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About the Author
Kristina Ericksen
Kristina Ericksen is a content writer with four years of experience writing for higher education. She holds an English degree from Gustavus Adolphus College.