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Tim Lorang Blog

Marketing for Higher Education: The Homepage

Posted by Timothy Lorang on Wed, Aug 10, 2011 @ 02:00 AM

Student on Homepage Higher Education MarketingIn Monday’s blog: Marketing for Higher Education: Online Expectations I took a quick overview of 2011 E-Expectations Report: Students and Parents a study by Noel Levitz and National Research Center for College and University Admissions. Over the next few blogs I am going to examine this study in a bit more depth and make some recommendations on the best way to do marketing for higher education based on the results of this study. When we look at recruiting students and college marketing the place to start is the first place students and their parents look, the school’s homepage.

Negative Website Experiences

According to the study 20% of the students and 13% of the parents said that a negative experience on the school’s website caused them to take the school off of their list and 57% of the students said that a positive online experience made them more interested in the school. According to the study the school’s website was the first destination for many prospective students and what they considered vital was that the site look appealing, be easy to navigate and that it have the information the students needed most. What was that information? Here are the results as reported in the study.

What is the first link you’ll look for on a school’s Web site?

Students

 

Parents

 

 Academic programs      

38%

 Academic programs

42%

 Enrollment and admissions information

24%

 Enrollment and admissions information

21%

 Cost         

8%

 Cost

13%

 Scholarships

7%

 Financial aid

10%

 Other information

7%

 Student life information

6%

 Student life information

7%

 Other information

5%

 Financial aid

5%

 

 

 Campus visit details

3%

 

 

 Housing details

1%

 

 

 

Your Homepage

We know that most people looking for a school or university are going to just type: THESCHOOLNAME.EDU and get directed to the home page. The conventional advice is to optimize your home page for prospective students. I have been involved in higher education enough to realize that recruiting prospective students is only part of the job of a school’s home page. Many people come to a college’s home page for different reasons. The homepage visitor may be a prospective graduate student looking at a professor’s profile; an alumnus looking for information on the alumni reunion picnic; donors wanting to make a contribution to the school; researchers looking for an academic paper; basketball fans searching for Sweet Sixteen tickets; and parents trying to find the residence hall advisor. No single page can do all this. When they try the web page often becomes a jumbled mishmash that is impossible to find anything on and where most visitors become hopelessly lost. There are several things that can be done.

Identify the core actions

Identify the core actions you want people to do on that page and give them clear directions on where to go and what to do. For example have a tab or button for prospective students and have the information they need on the prospective student page. The tab or button should for this and all other functions should be clear and obvious. Any student or parent coming to the main page should, within a few seconds find the link that says: Prospective Students. On the page dedicated to prospective students they will clearly find links leading them to the Academic Programs, and to the Enrollment and Admissions information. The other information such as costs, scholarships, student life, financial aid and so-on are important but the first and most prominent links should be Academic Programs and Enrollment information.

Don’t try to have one page do everything

Having one page do everything will make that one page good at nothing. Consider having a special page that is geared to high school students, and another one geared towards their parents. Deal with returning students and adult students on a different page. Don’t put all of the information on one page but make links to the information. In other words don’t have so much information on the page that the prospective student or parent needs to scroll down to read it. Consider having detailed information formatted in a downloadable .pdf format or on a separate page.

Consider having specific landing pages dedicated to prospective students or subgroups of students and direct them to the landing page rather than to the schools home page. For example if you send high school students a flyer or an e-mail do not direct them to the school’s main web page, direct them to a landing page that is specifically designed for their needs and gives them the options and information that they need. Know what actions you want the visiting students and their parents to take and clearly make those options available. They want to know about the academic programs and enrollment. You may want them to sign up for an orientation. Give them what they want but also make options that you want them to act on clear and easy to do.

Our goal at Image Media Partners is to help websites attract more visitors and turn those visitors into customers. In higher education marketing to achieve the goal of recruiting students you need to make their visit to your website positive and informative. Contact us for a free analysis and consultation of your educational website. Let us know in the comments below what you are doing on your website to help prospective students.

Photo Credit: Corbis

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Topics: Online Marketing, Website Design, Higher Education