Imagine that you are headed to the world’s biggest recruitment fair. You will be talking to hundreds—maybe even thousands—of potential students about your school.
They have all expressed an interest, but they aren’t committed. You have a matter of seconds to get their attention and make them want to learn more about your school and its programs. If they lose interest, information from your biggest competitors is just a few feet away in the next booth over.
How would you prepare for this day?
You would create slick recruitment collateral. Order a table cover with your logo freshly printed. Get a good night’s sleep so you could summon all your positive energy and enthusiasm on the day of the event.
It would be a big deal. You would want to make a killer impression. Your school doesn’t often get the chance to reach such a large audience of prospective students, right?
What if I told you this insanely important recruitment fair is not just going to happen, it is happening— right now. It’s happening as I type this, and it’s happening as you’re reading it.
It’s your website.
All day, every day, your website presents your school to the world.
Your website is responsible for the widest-reaching first impression your school will ever make. It’s the hardest-working admissions officer you will ever have. It is more important than the glossiest of brochures.
And as the saying goes, you don’t have a second chance to make a first impression. If the first one isn’t great, there probably won’t be a second.
What happens when your school has a sub-par website
If your website isn’t easy to navigate, students won’t try to figure it out, they’ll just give up. This is a generation with high expectations for online experiences.
If your website doesn’t give them the information they want, they’ll find that information elsewhere. Seriously. They won’t take the time to call you to find out. These days, if you’re under 18 you don’t actually call anyone, ever.
If your home page leaves students with no idea what benefit your school brings, they’ll hit the back button faster than you’d believe. Attention spans are at a minimum— eight seconds. That’s one second less than a goldfish.
If your site’s design looks like it’s from ’99, isn’t mobile optimized, or (God forbid) uses Flash, then what you’re saying is your school is old and outdated. Not the impression you want to give to this tech-savvy group who are definitely looking at your website on their phones.
Bottom line: If your website is lacking, you’re headed into the biggest recruitment opportunity in your school’s history unprepared.
What happens when your school has a great website
When important content is front and center you can direct your audience, allowing them to easily find the details they’re interested in.
With great content, you show the reader why they need your school, specifically. You create a connection that you can build on; one that exists offline, too.
When you clearly communicate what you are all about, you will attract the type of student who is a perfect fit.
When your website is strong, your school appears strong.
What to do if your website needs help
A completely new website is ideal, but not always possible in the short-term. So what can you do as you’re waiting for a full website revamp?
If your website design is dated:
Redesign just the home page. While not all your visitors will enter your site through this page, it is the main starting point. A refresh of the copy and visuals can help set a better tone for the entire site.
Start by browsing websites you really admire and finding the commonalities between them. This will help you better articulate and solve the problems with the look of your own site.
If your copy is confusing, boring or riddled with incorrect information:
Look at your analytics to determine the 10 pages with the highest traffic. These are the pages you should revise immediately. From there, continue to use the popularity of each page in order to rank where it falls in the priority list.
If you can’t completely redo the copy, start by correcting errors, clarifying any confusing information and bringing the most important information front and center. From there, add headers, sub-heads and bullets to make the copy easier to scan.
If there’s a serious lack of information on your site:
Sit down with the people in charge of your school’s programs to find out the questions they are most frequently asked. Gather all the details on your current offerings, from courses to extracurriculars.
Once you’ve gathered the information, be selective about what is important enough to include on your site. While lack of information is a problem, so is too much information. Concentrate on providing a comprehensive view of your school’s offerings without getting lost in the minutiae.
If your website is difficult to navigate:
Check into the possibility of making changes to the navigation that create a better structure or provide clarity.
For example, you might be able to add drop-down menus to make pages easier to reach, or rename pages with confusing titles. You can also review your copy for opportunities to cross-link to other content on your site, which makes your website more interconnected and easy to navigate.
If your website only works properly on a desktop computer:
This is one website issue that shouldn’t wait. Almost SIXTY PERCENT of website traffic comes from mobile devices. If your website looks bad or is illegible to around 60% of the people who see it, that’s a problem that needs a solution now, not later.
A website that doesn’t do a great job of positioning and presenting your school can cause your enrollment to suffer. Whether you’re in the position to make short- or long-term changes, it’s worth ensuring that you have a site that represents how amazing your school truly is.
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