How to Improve Your Prospective Student Conversion Rate with Website Copy & Design
It happens more often than you'd like to think. A prospective student visits a university's website to learn more about its offerings, but after a few clicks, the student is gone – without completing the information request form or engaging further.
Capturing a prospective student’s information is a critical step in an admissions team’s process to effectively engage with them and help them become an enrolled student. However, if the prospective student doesn't feel compelled to submit their information (i.e. name, email, phone number) to learn more, your institution must determine why. An important first step towards addressing this problem is examining your website content and design.
What your institution presents on its website and how it’s presented can dramatically impact your conversion rates. The easier it is to gather key information and answer questions quickly, the more likely a prospective student is to feel informed enough to submit a form to learn more. A few specific adjustments to the institution’s website copy and design can effectively help increase prospective student inquiries.
Below is a list of factors that can affect prospective student conversion:
- Give them what they want. Quickly. Prospective students first visit a university's website looking for straightforward answers to the following questions:
1) “Does this school have the degree I want?”
2) “How much will this cost me?”
3) “When do I graduate?”
4) “Which courses does the program include and are there any pre-requisites?”
- Explicitly state your school’s unique value. An institution's website needs to answer “Why this school over another school?” Prospective students will do extensive comparison shopping as they research schools, and a clear, bold, and unique value proposition can have a direct impact on their likelihood to convert to a prospective student lead. If the website reveals only general information, students will have a harder time differentiating you from other institutions and programs.
- Create a sense of real urgency. To raise urgency and encourage prospective students to inquire when they are visiting the website, use graphical or page elements that highlight upcoming application deadlines and program or class start dates. Suggest that there is a need for the student to act now to increase form completion rates.
- Smooth out any “friction”. Ever encountered a web page with two competing buttons or two different calls to action? It's confusing and hard to know what to do next. When there is something physically impeding the user from committing, that's known as user-experience (UX) friction. Avoid this by having only one call to action and making web copy stand out for easy readability (i.e. a light-colored font over a dark background). A frictionless website environment can help to raise the conversion rate.
- Reduce concerns and anxiety around forms. With major data breaches occurring more frequently, prospective students can be hesitant to fill out a form that requires sensitive information, such as a home address. If you must gather this information, be sure to let users know that the information stored on your servers is encrypted and secure.
An institution's website conversion rate will no doubt be affected by the questions asked on the request form, so attempt to keep them to the minimum number necessary. The form itself should be short enough so the student doesn't need to disclose too much personal information or scroll down to complete a lengthy (and tedious) form.
- Ensure the website is easy to navigate. For university websites, the primary challenge typically centers on how the pages and content are organized. The website's architecture or navigation can be quite massive, and prospective students can get lost and frustrated searching for basic information on costs, degree options, and modalities. Avoid elaborate menus, and aim for simplicity.
- Optimize buttons, forms, and menus. Conversion rates can be significantly impacted just by changing the wording on a button. Instead of “Submit”, use “Learn More”, “Request Brochure”, or “Download Brochure Now”, all of which are more specific and create a greater sense of urgency. Placing the “Program of Interest” field at the top of a form also makes a big difference as it allows a prospective student to quickly confirm the available degree programs.
- Practice the “less is more” rule. If a website user experiences cognitive overload, this often leads to decision fatigue – meaning a prospective student may give up on researching your institution. Streamlining the website can be as simple as removing a video, a piece of content, or a call to action. Prospective students don’t want to sift through ten minutes of reading – they just want to get their questions answered and move on to the next step.
An institution's website must be easily searchable and deliver the most essential information from the moment a prospective student arrives. Conversion rates are most likely to increase when a student feels informed and knowledgeable, and request forms are short, un-intimidating, and to the point. In sum, always keep prospective students' need for information in mind while streamlining your website's design and content so that your admissions team can start building direct relationships with interested prospective students.