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How to Increase Your University Website’s Visit-to-Lead Conversion Rate

Zach Busekrus

You have spent that last twenty-months re-designing your institution’s website. The project was supposed to be complete in no more than twelve months, cost about half of what it ended up costing, and be a “peaceful” and “organized” process.

Had someone mentioned you’d sprout a hundred new grey hairs over the course of this project, you would have delegated it to Sally (you know, the Assistant Marketing Manager who always seems to have extra time on her hands).

But, the day has finally come: your beautiful, mobile-optimized, user-focused site goes live and BOOM the new inquiries start pouring in!

If only it were as simple as that.

Here’s the reality: you don’t just need a prettier website. In fact, a beautiful website without a conversion-centric, content marketing strategy just won’t do much for you. The whole “if you build it they will come” mentality no longer applies to web development — there are just too many fish in the Google-indexed sea of content.

So how do you get more out of your website? How do you dramatically increase your website’s visitor-to-lead conversion rate? Here are five things that work:

Become a thought leader in your industry

Today’s prospective students expect a lot out of a website. Websites need to be easy to navigate, conversion-centric, personalized to the needs of your personas, and full of engaging content that organically nurtures visitors through the enrollment marketing funnel.

Some universities are known for incredible retention rates and others are renowned for their MBA programs. It’s essential that you take the time to discern what your school’s superpowers are and develop a plethora of resources that speak to the value of this point of differentiation in a way that is authentically educational, and not sales-y.

You want your website to be a place where industry news is discovered, innovative ideas are shared, and deep learning can happen fluidly. As you do this, analyze key terms on page headings and other site content that people are finding through organic searches. Making your content easier to find by optimizing the titles and keywords in your content improves your ranking on search results and makes it more likely that your genuine thought leadership will be discovered.

By positioning yourself as an authority on a few niche areas, you will attract, convert, close, and delight more of the right students at the right time.

Design and develop content with the user in mind

You don’t want your website to be challenging to navigate. Interest decreases when visitors can’t find the information they need. The motive for creating an ideal user experience isn’t just to make a person happy — it’s to persuade people to perform an action, like filling out an inquiry form or starting an application. Prospective students and other site visitors expect a school’s content to be useful, easy-to-find, credible, and accessible.

On a smaller but still significant level of importance, you should think about the style and branding of your site. This is the face, the appearance, of your site, which should be visually appealing to your target group. Experience and interface work hand-in-hand, and visitors are more likely to be drawn in by sites that have an even balance of the two.

If you are struggling with conversion rates on your website even after redesigning it, organizing it,and providing your site visitor with engaging content and content pathways, it might be time to think about if your branding style is speaking to the audience you want to attract.

Manage your social media

Social media has become one of the most important sources of new lead generation in the past several years. You may have heard organic reach on Facebook is expected to reach zero rather soon, so it’s crucial that you are prepared to “pay-to-play.” That said, you don’t need to drop thousands of dollars to win the lead gen game on Facebook or any other social network for that matter.

Publishing regularly, and intentionally, on social media will enable you to gain real insight into the demographics AND psychographics of website visitors and help you discern what to publish, when to publish, and how often to publish.

Looking for more information on how to leverage your social content for new prospect generation? Check out our post: What We’ve Learned After 12 Months of Social Media Promotions: A Handy Reference for Enrollment Managers.

Lead nurturing and content pathways

Clutter doesn’t cut it in marketing, and organization is a best practice for nurturing prospects. Creating content pathways can organize your institution’s valuable content to be distributed to your prospects in a way that is genuinely personalized.

By using a marketing automation platform like HubSpot, you are able to serve personalized, “smart” content to different website visitors depending on where they’re at in the three stages of the Applicant Journey: Awareness, Consideration, or Decision.

If you DON’T know who a contact is (if you haven’t captured their email through any sort of form), it’s important that you assume this is someone checking you out for the first time — so it’s best to present them with an offer to download an “Awareness” resource (like a “Everything You Need to Know About Going to Business School).

If you DO know who the contact is, serve them something more personal and appropriate for the “stage” they are in. For example, if a contact is subscribed to your blog and has already downloaded the aforementioned Everything You Need to Know About Going to Business School consider offering them the opportunity to download the “ROI of a Graduate Business Degree at [YOUR INSTITUTION].”

There is no one set pathway to use, but look at the ones that work and decide what paths are the most common, the shortest, and the most profitable.

Offer premium and interactive content

“The customer is always right,” or, in this case, the user is always right. If you want to continue to have a steady flow of traffic through your site, premium content offers can provide more variety than the forms visitors are often asked to submit. Premium and interactive content can be tracked and can convert prospects, too. These offers come in many shapes and colors, but here are a few to give you a head start:

  • Surveys & Quizzes: Whether light-hearted or business-oriented, questionnaires are a popular type of interactive content. You might find out more about site visitors, and in some cases, you can convert these people by asking for their information in order to view their quiz results.

  • eBooks: While eBooks tend to be heavier reading material, you can still convert them into a lighter interactive experience. Universities can provide a wealth of knowledge to applicants and other users who want to know more about a specific program, department, or maybe the school in general.

  • Videos: Believe it or not, many younger people, including some college applicants, find video content more visual appealing than text. This is your opportunity to appeal to that demographic. Pre-recorded webinars, tutorials, and testimonials are good examples of video you can implement on your pages. Video-hosting platforms like Wistia offer tools that can embed lead generation forms into your video, gating viewers from watching until they enter their name and email or offering another piece of content after watching.

  • Calculator: Since the tuition and time required to earn a degree are big factors in deciding on a school, a calculator can benefit applicants who are browsing your website. Students can use this tool to gauge how much money they might need to pay for their courses, housing, meal plan, etc. Some calculators help determine how long it would take to earn a degree depending on how many credits a student takes each semester. Improve your visitor-to-inquiry rate by offering to send the results to the user and/or offering additional information.

Your website is your greatest asset in the digital age. It is the face, the heart, and the soul of your institution’s online presence. Thinking in terms of these five strategies helps you ensure that your institution’s online presence not only makes a great first impression, but draws the reader into a relationship with the your institution that can last a lifetime.

Topics: Content Strategy, Marketing Analytics

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