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8 Best Practices for Optimizing Higher Education Websites for Lead Generation

In the fourth session of Eduvantis’ Lessons Learned virtual discussion series, Ashley Bollhorst, Associate Director of Marketing and Creative Services, delved into the intricacies of optimizing higher education websites for lead generation. Her presentation “Optimizing Your Website to Drive Leads” provided actionable insights and best practices to help institutions enhance their digital presence. 

1. Help Students See Important Information at a Glance

Make key information easily accessible. Prospective students should be able to quickly grasp important details about programs, admission requirements, and financial aid. This can be achieved through clear headings, bullet points, and a well-structured website layout. 

Bollhorst shares, “Make sure information is found where users expect to see it. When you’re thinking about your content, take a hard look at it and consider: Is this where a prospective student would expect to find this?

2. Break Up Long Pages

Long, text-heavy pages can overwhelm users. Instead, break up content into shorter, digestible sections. Use subheadings, bulleted lists, and media to improve readability and guide users through the information. 

Also, consider breaking up very long pages into shorter, more specific pages.

“If you have a main program page that’s trying to be everything, then that means your users have to scroll past a lot of content to find what they want. [Also, for SEO purposes], you don’t want pages to compete against each other. If you have one general page, don’t provide specific information for tuition, financial aid, or plans of study. You can introduce that information, but then direct them to those pages to learn more,” Bollhorst emphasizes.

3. Include Content Focused on Student Experience

Help students imagine themselves as a student in your program by including:

  • Specifics on program content, projects, and personal development opportunities
  • Student testimonials with imagery
  • Images and videos showcasing the student experience

Authentic representations can significantly impact prospective students’ decisions. Use candid photography, student stories, and dynamic content to build a compelling narrative.

Bollhorst shares, “When prospects are shopping among programs, they’re looking for a place where they’ll develop personally, have a positive experience, and have great outcomes. So having a special section in your website dedicated to that is really powerful and definitely recommended.”

4. Utilize Media to Break Up Text Density

Avoid walls of text by incorporating various forms of media. Videos, infographics, and images can provide context, explain complex topics, and make content easier to scan, understand, and engage with.

“The use of images makes the site easy to scan and also hints at the content material. Prospects can get a general idea by reading a heading and looking at the photo,” Bollhorst shares. “They can skip over the things they’re less interested in.” 

5. Be Intentional with Photography

Images should convey authenticity and resonate with your target audience. Highlight real students, campus life, and events. Convey authenticity with candid images (i.e., not posed, subjects not looking at the camera) and show engaging experiences students will have, such as the learning environment, mentorship, and collaboration.

Bollhorst details, “When planning a photoshoot, capture the experiences that students want to be part of. Focus on themes like: connection, collaborating, receiving mentorship, etc.”

6. Simplify Forms and Calls to Action

Keep forms short and focused to avoid overwhelming users while also collecting enough information to qualify leads. The right form length can be situational, varying by institution, so it’s recommended to A|B test different form lengths in order to find the right balance.

“Long forms are more work for users, so they’re less likely to be filled out. However, that said, a more motivated lead is going to jump through more hoops for you. So you want to find the balance. Also, make sure you’re asking enough questions to give your enrollment team what they need,” Bollhorst emphasizes.

Additionally, place calls to action (CTAs) that direct to the Request for Information (RFI) forms in prominent positions, ideally above the fold so it’s fast and easy for users to find and interact with.

7. Leverage Landing Pages for Custom Messaging

Custom landing pages can provide a clear, concise elevator pitch. Sometimes organic websites can be overwhelming with information. Landing pages can tell prospects just the important things to know.

Landing pages can also be tailored for specific audience segments. You can speak directly to, say, early career professionals vs. experienced professionals, aligning with their individual interests and needs. Segmented targeting allows you to appeal to different career goals and objectives, address specific pain points by demographic, and significantly improve lead generation.

Additionally, landing pages offer the flexibility to create a custom layout and implement tracking to support your marketing goals.

Bollhorst explains the measurement benefits, “With a landing page, you have a little bit more freedom. You can place your RFI form high on the page, and easily set up tracking and A|B testing.”

8. Optimize for Different Pathways

The path students take to reach your content will vary. Some students will start from the institution’s flagship site and browse to identify a program they’re interested in. Many will arrive from a search engine result. Some will be on mobile devices. Others will be on a desktop. 

Make sure that—regardless of pathway or platform—it’s easy to navigate, find your program’s information, and access key calls to action (e.g., request information, apply).

Bollhorst emphasizes the importance of review, “Students are going to arrive at your organic site from different starting positions. Test those different pathways, then fill out a request for information, so that you can see how those emails appear for you. During this whole process take notes about what the site does well, if anything was confusing or missing, and ideas for improvements.”

Incorporating these best practices can improve website usability, enhance the student experience, and increase lead generation efficacy. By focusing on student needs and optimizing for clarity and accessibility, your institution can stand out in the competitive higher education landscape.

Interested in learning more about user experience and optimizing your site for lead generation? Ask us your questions here.

To gain more expert insights, check out the full presentation recording of “Optimizing Your Website to Drive Leads” Lessons Learned virtual discussion.