Optimizing Your College Website

Christina Diecidue

Marketing Project Coordinator

The Importance of a User Friendly Site

When a prospective student wants to learn more about your academic program, where do you send them? Probably your website. But just how confident are you in your website? Does it deliver accurate, realistic information? Does it keep prospects engaged as they go about the college application process?

If you’re not 100% satisfied in the user friendliness of your website, or if you really have no idea what your site even looks like these days, it’s time to give your college website some attention.

Luckily, there are many ways to optimize your college website so that it serves the needs of your audience. This way, when you receive questions or inquiries from prospective students, you can confidently point them in the direction of your website which will lead them through the college search.

Let’s explore some of the ways that you can optimize your website and make it more inviting to college prospects.

Define Your Audience

Your obvious audience is mostly junior and senior high school students who want to attend college. But go deeper than that. Do you have programs that are tailored to a specific audience such as adults returning to college? Do your programs fit certain types of college students such as those interested in art or music? Do you have a well-developed program for international students?

Define your target audience so that you can create a specific tone and style of messaging for your website. This will make it feel much more personal and powerful.

Be Relevant to Them

Some colleges and universities spend so much time touting their credentials that they forget what really matters to students. While it’s true that students like to see that the schools they apply to have positive reviews, recognition and awards, there’s only so much bragging that needs to be done.

Think about the things that really matter to students. Your academic programs and how long they take to complete. Your residence halls. Your dining halls. Your professors. Your current students. Prospective students look through different schools to see which ones give them that “feel.” The more you can show the personal side of your school, the more connected they will become.

Include a Search Engine

Not many college websites have a search function, but they should. This helps users find the specific information they’re looking for and encourages them to stay on your website longer. Think of a search engine as a way for students to access your entire website. Also be sure to include the search box in a prominent location, such as at the top of your homepage. Without a search function, prospects have no choice but to navigate through your pages to find what they’re looking for.

Have Quick Loading Times

Young people have short attention spans and are somewhat lazy, which means your website needs to load fast and be easy to follow. If prospects have to wait for your pages to load, or they have difficulty finding the information they need, they will bounce off your site. Nice images and graphics are visually pleasing, but use them sparingly so that they don’t slow down your website.

Keep Lead Forms Simple

In the early stages of the college search, you don’t need to collect much information from your leads. Actually, less is better and can help you increase conversion rates. Make things easy for your audience by asking for just a few key fields like name, email and desired major. This gives you just enough information to send the prospect specific information on the desired degree program.

Be Engaging with Content

If you’re relying on ads, direct mail or other marketing methods to do the talking for you, you’re missing out on key opportunities to interact with your audience. Use content and social media to connect to prospective students and start forming a stronger connection with them. As you distribute regular, valuable content to your audience, they’ll learn to trust you and may eventually choose your university over another.

Send Helpful Reminders

Reminders are a great way to stay in touch with prospects and remind them that you are there. Young students often get busy and distracted after all! Say a student is filling out an application online and then doesn’t finish. They may have forgotten or thought they had completed it. Sending a reminder shows them that you are aware they are taking the next steps but have yet to complete them, and that this is important to you.

You can also send reminders about open houses and other events where your school will be. Give prospects as many opportunities as possible to meet your staff and get acquainted with your school. Those who are truly interested will eventually make something work.

Analyze Your Strategies

Not everything you do will be a win, and that’s okay. What you need to do is learn what works and what doesn’t so that you can keep moving forward and not repeating the same mistakes. Review and analyze your strategies to identify what’s working and what areas could use some improvement. This helps you make the most of your advertising budget and helps you meet your conversion goals.

Final Thoughts

Lead generation is a key component of your higher education marketing plan. One of the best ways to generate leads and keep them engaged is with an optimized website. It sounds fairly easy, but there is a lot involved in maintaining a user-friendly site that your prospects will enjoy using. By following the tips above, you can greatly improve the user friendliness of your website and boost conversion rates. This is how you increase your pool of candidates for enhanced enrollment.

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About the Author: Christina Diecidue

Christina Diecidue is the Marketing Project Coordinator at SEMGeeks.  She holds a B.S. in Business Administration, with concentrations in marketing, advertising, and web design from Rider University.  Known to be a meticulous worker, Christina values each client's individual goals and works to meet their digital strategy needs accordingly.  With valuable knowledge in higher education, alumni engagement, and leadership, she provides an array of skills to the SEMGeeks team.  In her free time, Christina can be found binge watching repeats of Friends and spending time with her family.

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