University Website – #1 Online Tool for Student Recruitment
University Web Sites
A university’s website is its most valuable recruiting tool. If you don’t already believe that, consider that according to a recent study by Hanover Research, “Institutions are now dedicating far more attention to university marketing and branding than in previous years, and the largest area of innovation and growth in higher education marketing and branding, as well as in recruitment, is in the online and digital space.” In short, as Hanover Research puts it, an effective and intuitive website should be considered an institution’s “ultimate brand statement.” It’s no exaggeration, it’s a fact, and online branding is becoming more crucial for institutions every day. This is where Atlanta Digital Studio can help…
College Website Design
There’s a lot to consider when creating or even improving a university’s online presence. Starting with the website design, there are some fundamental questions that need answering. First and foremost, does your institution’s website clearly communicate what/where the university is and what its values are, and does it accomplish this on the primary landing page? In other words, how quickly does the website’s copy and imagery tell a visitor everything they could want to know about the institution, and is that copy and imagery compelling and captivating? Does your university’s website look like another university’s site (Are you using bland or unoriginal stock photos? We hope not!), or does your university’s brand have a one-of-a-kind vision and voice? To better understand, consider this list of the “14 Best College Websites”. The first website on the list belongs to the University of Maryland, whose homepage immediately shirks convention by employing beautiful typography and a simple, straightforward motto. This kind of design choice is unexpected and memorable, yet professional – just the kind of approach Atlanta Digital Studio is all about.
Web Optimization & Ease-Of-Use
While we’re looking at exemplary websites, let’s talk about intuitive design. Is your university website’s design easy to navigate? Does it point visitors to the information they came looking for? Like the University of Notre Dame’s, is it optimized to look just as good and to be just as responsive whether a visitor is on a desktop or a mobile device?
The latter consideration is especially important. Why? During the 2013-2014 academic year more than 50% of college juniors were already defaulting to mobile as their primary online access medium, and 62% of 2014 grads reported that they preferred to access a university’s website via mobile (Cappex)! College students and college-bound students are highly connected to all things digital, it’s no secret. What many universities may not realize, however, is that it’s not just important to have a website-it’s essential for that website to be accessible and useful via smartphone and tablet, mediums that college students have long begun to prefer.
Another thing to consider is keywords. How compatible with Google and other search engines are your website’s keywords and tags? When someone searches for your university, or even a competitors’, is your university’s website effectively competing for visibility in searches?
Content & Engagement – Enrollment Marketing
We’ve mentioned content before – that it’s important for a great university website to really captivate and make a connection when recruiting students for college and earning traffic even just by virtue of design, copy, and imagery. But what about making a deeper, engaging connection? Students aren’t going to be sold on an aesthetically pleasing website alone. They came to be sold on an education and an experience!
According to Cappex, “students want to get the authentic campus experience, even if they aren’t in a position to travel to your campus. So they can’t get enough peer-to-peer video.” To illustrate that point, 64% of 2014 students said they would be interested in viewing vlogs (video blogs).” What this means is that a good university website should include rich media that tells an accurate and engaging story about your university’s unique experience. What is student life like? What incredible opportunities are available to a student beyond their classes and degrees? What’s the campus culture like? How about the local culture? It’s always better to show than tell, which is why your university should seriously consider including student testimonials among its other content. Also, before an official college visit, a prospective student may consider browsing the university website for a virtual tour of the campus. View the virtual tour showcasing the experiential campus of North Carolina Central University.
In this regard, Youtube is a great companion channel for your website. A continually updated and curated stream of videos representing your university brand, all in one place, is highly attractive to potential students who may be too far away for a campus visit, especially if these videos are made by students, for students. Check out Georgia State University’s YouTube playlists. We particularly like their “Explore GSU” and “Minute With a Professor” ideas.
Social Integration for Student Recruitment
That mention of YouTube and video content actually helps to bring us to one final and terribly important point: social integration. Let’s assume that your university has a great website, one that would make that top 14 we mentioned earlier. Fantastic! But is it integrated with your university’s social media accounts? If you answered “no”, then there’s an entire component of website design and a slew of recruitment opportunities you may have missed! According to Spredfast, “98% of US universities have Facebook pages, while 84% are active on Twitter.” Additionally, “72% of incoming high school seniors reported that they researched their prospective colleges on a social media site.” Although your university’s website should be the “hub” or “headquarters” of your university’s online presence – it’s the easiest medium with which to control your brand – it also doesn’t have the social power that your affiliated social media accounts do. If your website is your main show floor, so to speak, your institution’s social channels are your online salespeople, the ambassadors that reach out to potential students and invite them to come and see what your institution has to offer. They’re what help to ensure that potential students can hear and find your university through all the other “noise”.
College Student Recruitment Strategies
Atlanta Digital Studio is not just about great website design. We’re about great online presence and experience. Online marketing and branding has changed and continues to evolve. The impact of the traditional website has changed. Digital is more about unique brand voice, great brand experience, and personal and social engagement than ever before. How well does your university make use of what’s current and what’s reaching today’s college student online? If you’re unsure, or even if you think yours could be doing better, Atlanta Digital Studio is ready and excited to help you with recruiting college students. The best university websites are online, optimized, integrated, and original. And, great online brands are made in Atlanta! Contact us today to discuss your online marketing and student recruitment strategies.