Turn Your School’s Website into an Application Generating Machine

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Picture your website as a home. Your prospective student database lives in this home. You want your school’s website to gather and store as much information as possible from prospective students. To get these prospects to enter your home (i.e.database) and provide that information, you need to create as many doors as possible.

Your website may present strong content, but does it provide a pathway for website visitors to reach back to your school? Your prospect database’s doors are the calls-to-action (CTAs) you have strategically placed all around your website. Maybe there are no calls-to-action (CTAs), or not enough CTAs, or easily ignorable CTAs.

Maybe you have just one big, honking CTA – a bright red button that screams “APPLY NOW”.

Ouch.

The Enrollment Journey Takes Time 

Most of your website visitors aren’t ready to APPLY NOW. You need to use your content to delightfully nurture them down the path from first visit to application. Not scare them away when they’re already overwhelmed by the thought of just how important of a decision selecting a school is. 

Instead, your website should offer up a variety of offers that align with different points in a prospect’s journey. That means don’t get rid of your “Apply Now” button. After your awesome content stream has gently pushed visitors down the funnel, some of them are indeed ready to apply.

But it also means you need plenty of CTAs for people still wandering around the backyard garden exploring, those settling in the kitchen for a bit for a good chat, and those curious enough to head upstairs. 

When you provide all sorts of doors (i.e. offers) for your website visitors to enter your house, you’re filling the top of your funnel. The more prospects you bring into the top of your funnel, the more pro-active you can be about targeting and nurturing the best prospects into applying and ultimately enrolling.

For more on applicant nurturing, see our guide: From Stranger to Student >>

As long as you keep any given offer on your website, it remains an open invitation for new prospects to enter your database. Even as you sleep, your offers are generating leads and keeping your application funnel working.

So where to build your doors? Here’s a process and some tips for placing the right CTAs in the right spots that will open the floodgates to your prospect database. 

Look at Your Current CTAs

If you only have the “APPLY NOW” CTA, don’t think you can skip this step. Catalog what offers you have where, what they’re offering and how they’re performing. This information will give you some baseline guidance on what’s working and what isn’t.

Where do your “APPLY NOW” buttons convert well – on program pages, but not the home page or campus life pages? Now you know your home and campus life pages need a different kind of CTA to engage visitors. 

You may find that offers for certain types of content convert better than others. Your “Use this checklist…” CTAs absolutely kill. But your “Access your report…” CTAs get ignored. That could be a sign to reformat a long report for more bit-sized consumption, say a slide presentation big on images and bullet points.

Try to figure out why a CTA is under-performing. Maybe some of your report CTAs do well, but you have one that doesn’t. Looking more closely, you see that report CTAs on topics and pages geared towards parents convert, but those targeting young students don’t.

Examine Your Current Content

Look at both gated and un-gated content. Review your best performing gated content, looking at its topic and format. Your best performing content isn’t just generating high conversions, but also quality prospects. Develop those topics and prioritize those formats that are already attracting exactly the sort of student you want at your school. 

Analyze your high performing un-gated content as spots ripe for the right CTA. Do you have a collection of high-powered posts that rank well and consistently attract lots of traffic? Are the CTAs on those pages performing well or clogging up your machinery? If they’re gumming up the works, the CTAs probably don’t align well with the topic of the blog post or its audience. 

If one of your power posts goes into how students can convert their real world experience into course credit, having a CTA to view a video of on-campus housing doesn’t make much sense. Does interest in on-campus housing fit the persona of the older prospect returning to school? Instead, you can create and gate a calculator that helps them estimate how many credits their current experience would generate. Or post a CTA to view a video featuring alumni sharing their school/work balance stories.

Need CTA templates? We’ve got 50 you can download and cutomize >> 

Work Your Best Performing Content 

Select some of your best performing content, gated or not, for your different personas at different stages of their enrollment journey. While you can (and should) add CTAs for this content in other, relevant spots on your website, you can also create separate landing pages for them. 

If you have a collection of power posts on a similar topic, sew them up into an ebook (free templates here) or presentation. Put up a landing page for the now-gated ebook and promote the landing page link via your social media channels as a distinct campaign. 

If the program-page CTAs for your “Setting Up for Trade School Success Tool Kit” convert like crazy, give this content its own landing page to promote as well.  

Aligning Your Offers Boosts Your Numbers 

The CTAs need to make sense for who the visitor is and where he is on your website. What he’s reading or watching are clues where he is in his journey. It’s the ever-important cross section of persona-journey stage to make sure you’re making the right offer at the right time.

Put together a worksheet of all your personas and the topics/questions they have at each stage in their journey. Make sure you have CTAs for each cross section. Then make sure the CTAs are placed on pages with content that connects to that cross section.

If the only door from the backyard garden is an express elevator to rummage around the attic, no one’s going to go through it. Give your website visitors multiple doorways attractive to them, which gives you and your admissions team multiple ways to continue to keep the application machinery producing.

SEO DO's and Don'ts for Schools

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