3 Ways to Engage Student Prospects with Your College Website

Published October 23rd, 2023

By Anne Stefanyk

As a college recruiter, there’s no doubt that you understand the vast potential of digital recruitment strategies. With the rise of affordable website builders, web conferencing platforms, and other recruitment tools, you can transform your online outreach strategy to connect with prospective students across the world.

That said, your most important digital asset to engage students is your college’s websiteAs your virtual hub, potential students can access everything they need to make an informed opinion about your school. However, you’ll need stellar web design and interactive features to truly wow potential students and make your college website stand out. Let’s explore how to enhance your college website to supercharge your recruitment efforts.

1. Level up your site’s front-end components.

When it comes to recruitment, first impressions are everything. In fact, studies show that it only takes website visitors a mere 50 milliseconds to form a subconscious opinion of your school. With such little room for error, your website has to impress from the first click. 

Fortunately, you can make a great impression by elevating your website’s front-end components and user experience. NonprofitsSource recommends optimizing the following aspects of your site’s front end:

  • Navigation. You have a lot of information to include on your website, so it’s crucial that it’s easy for potential students to find and traverse. Ensure your site navigation is clear and groups content logically. Consider using a sticky menu bar so visitors can always get back to your homepage easily.

  • Multi-device compatibility. Chances are a good portion of your potential students use mobile devices for the majority of their web browsing. Make sure your website can be viewed on tablets and phones to capture the most engagement.

  • Loading time. Reducing code is an important part of speeding up load times and improving site performance, and though it's part of the backend, you can improve it by configuring some front-end elements. For instance, you can implement lazy loading so images only load when the visitor wants to view them.

  • Accessibility. To resonate with the most website visitors, you need to make your front-end elements accessible to people of all abilities. Accessible websites don’t rely on a single sense, such as sight or sound, to convey information. Instead, ensure that each front-end element has multiple ways to convey information, such as using alt text for visual components and subtitles for audio components.

  • Personalization. A potential drawback of digital recruitment is the lack of personal interaction between you and potential students. Fortunately, you can tailor aspects of your website to provide a more personal experience for your visitors. For example, you could collect browsing data to recommend relevant content based on each visitor’s preferences. Or, you can integrate an AI chatbot that can provide students with custom advice and guide them through the application funnel.

  • Graphic design elements. While graphic design helps you fortify your brand identity, it’s also important for keeping visitors on the page. For instance, you can intentionally use negative space to break up large blocks of text or pick high-contrast images and text to boost the page’s readability. Don’t forget to make your visual elements compatible with dark mode so students can access your information whenever they’d like. 

Providing your visitors with a positive user experience on your website can make the difference between a secured application and an abandoned one. Your front-end components are your first line of defense, so ensure that everything’s in top form before launching your site.

2. Ensure your CMS has the right capabilities.

The quality of your website depends greatly on your content management system (CMS). Your CMS should make updating front- and backend elements easy for your higher education web designers. Some specific features your CMS should have include:

  • Integrated analytics reporting. You should be able to monitor elements such as your click-through rate and newsletter signup so you know where to focus your improvement efforts going forward.

  • In-depth support resources. Learning how to leverage all of your CMS features can be challenging. Your chosen platform should have customer support representatives and robust training resources to help answer your questions.

  • Integrations with other platforms. The most customizable CMS platforms can adapt to each user’s needs. Ensure your platform can integrate with other plugins made for higher education websites.

  • Tiered pricing. Every university’s recruitment strategy is unique, and you shouldn’t have to pay for features you don’t need. Check that your CMS doesn’t charge you for unnecessary capabilities.

If you find that your CMS isn’t the best fit for your needs, consider switching to a more ideal solution. Kanopi’s guide to migrating CMSs states that some common reasons for wanting to leave your CMS include lack of necessary features, high costs, or lack of integration with your other solutions. Migrating to a new CMS is a significant task, so consider working with a nonprofit web design consultant who can help you select a robust CMS and ensure nothing slips through the cracks during the transition. 

3. Keep SEO best practices in mind.

With the sheer volume of colleges online, it can be difficult to attract your audience’s attention. However, if you leverage search engine optimization (SEO) best practices while building your website, such as keyword implementation, you can connect with potential students who are searching for like-minded schools. Here are the benefits of a strong SEO strategy for your website:

  • Higher visibility. The massive volume of traffic on search engines makes results pages a valuable marketing tool. By targeting relevant, high-volume keywords in your front- and back-end elements, your recruitment pages are more likely to climb the rankings and attract attention.

  • Local outreach. If your school attracts students from a certain locale, you can optimize your pages to appear in location-bound search results. This is especially useful for colleges that want to recruit students from untapped areas, too.

  • High-quality website content. One of the best ways to improve your search traffic is to create high-quality educational content on your site. This means branching out beyond promoting your school. For instance, if you’re recruiting for performing arts programs, you could write blog posts about general audition scheduling best practices. This gives your potential students a better idea of what your school is like and allows you to become a thought leader in the online higher education community. 

Ultimately, a strong SEO strategy will match you with the right potential students and allow them to connect with your college as quickly as possible.

Wrapping Up

Remember that while recruitment is a big responsibility for you, so is picking the right school for your potential recruits. Give your potential students peace of mind by streamlining your recruitment website. As long as you provide a great user experience and make it easy to find crucial information, they’ll be more likely to put your college at the top of their list.

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