Fifteen Symptoms of a Sick Education Website [Part 2]

Fifteen Symptoms of a Sick Education Website [Part 2]

Your education website is the heart of your digital marketing strategy. Is it suffering from any of the 15 symptoms of a poorly performing website?

If it is, I highly recommend that you correct the performance issues you see in your education website as soon as possible. For Generation Z, it’s not a question of if they will visit your site, it’s when.

In my last blog post, I covered seven out of 15 symptoms of a sick education website.

Here are the rest of the symptoms that might be in the way of your enrollment marketing success.

8. Stale, old content

When you haven’t updated your education website with new content, your site will feel stale and out-of-date. As a result, your education brand will feel stale, too.

Now every education website should have some evergreen content that never goes away.

There are certain questions that your audience will always have, and you should have cornerstone content available for them at any time.

However, you need to publish new content to your site frequently.

Fresh content does a lot of great things. Here are just a few:

  • Keeps your audience coming back to see what’s new
  • Projects a feeling of vibrancy and creativity to your brand
  • Improves your website’s search engine rankings (Google’s algorithms favor websites that are updated regularly.)
  • Creates opportunities for feedback from your audience
  • Gives your audience more chances to like and share your content on social media
  • Provides content for your social media channels
  • Builds a repository of your brand’s best content

One word of clarification here: General announcements should not necessarily be considered new content.

There’s nothing wrong with posting news and events somewhere on your site. But your site’s target audience — prospective students and parents — have different concerns they’re looking for you to address.

Make sure you are posting content that speaks directly to the questions they have.

9. Annoyingly fast photo sliders

It astounds me how often I see this problem on education websites.

Photo sliders can be a tremendous visual element, but if your photos change every 0.25 seconds, it will be extremely difficult for visitors to engage with the message of each of your images.

In fact, some photo slides change so quickly, I don’t know how a visitor could click fast enough to catch the image link!

Photo sliders should change at a leisurely pace so your visitor can read any text or be drawn into your photography and call to action. One more thing, keep your image text brief and benefit-driven.

10. Lack of rich media

Multiple new technologies are making the Internet a medium-rich experience. HTML5, 360-degree photography, and cheaper DSLR cameras that can record HD video as well as take beautiful photos are opening the door for more organizations to produce inspiring visual content.

Besides the fact that your visitors are coming to expect a rich media experience on your site, you are also competing with hundreds of other educational sites out there with only copy and imagery.

Because of that, rich media is a real marketing advantage. For an example of a school that leverages video content well, check out Houghton College.

11. Hidden brand essence

Your biggest competitive advantage as a school is… you!

What are the programs, qualities, and characteristics of your school that some might consider being a disadvantage?

  • Are you too small?
  • Are you too quirky?
  • Are you too geeky? (For example, does data technology, obscure historical research, or Amazonian insect species get your motor running?)
  • Are you too sold out for a cause?

If these aspects of your school are (mostly) permanent, then they are a part of your brand. Instead of hiding them, embrace them and put them front and center in a positive light.

12. Uploading new content is a headache

If your staff would rather volunteer for a root canal than upload new content to your site, you’ve got a big problem.

As we’ve mentioned, posting new content frequently is a vital part of the performance of your education website.

When you provide your staff a CMS (Content Management System) that’s intuitive and simple to use, they will be more likely to post new content more often.

The results we’ve seen our clients experience from changing them from a custom website platform to a proven, user-friendly CMS like WordPress is astounding.

For instance, Carolina College of Biblical Studies used to wait up to two weeks to get changes uploaded to their website. Now, they upload new content in minutes — and without getting slapped with an upload fee!

To see how CCBS improved their education website, click here.

If that doesn’t convince you, consider how 30% of all websites worldwide run on the WordPress platform. Even the most popular higher education institutions use the open-source platform as well.

13. No metrics

An education website without a way to track page views, repeat visits, traffic sources, click rates, and visit duration is like a plane without flight instruments.

Having these site analytics gives you the information you need to improve your education website content and get insights into your target audience.

Use analytics tools like Google Analytics (free) or paid landing page services with metrics baked right in like Unbounce or LeadPages to see where your visitors are coming from, what they’re doing on your landing page, and where they go afterward.

14. Too much stock photography

We’ve talked about the need to have rich media like images and video on your education website, and one of the ways to get all the visual content you need is stock photography like Adobe Stock oristockphoto.

However, sites with too much stock photography begin to look generic.

And since you can now buy great cameras at reasonable prices, it’s well worth the investment to buy the equipment you need, spend a couple of days shooting new photos, and use these original images to show visitors what your school is all about.

If you don’t have photography experience, I highly recommend hiring a photographer or videographer to come and do the shooting for you. You might even have these artistic resources already available in your student body.

Many of these freelancers can also take breathtaking drone aerial shots that are sure to leave an impression on your site visitors.

15. Little to no contrast (typography, colors, graphics, etc.)

One of the most important visual design elements is that of contrast.

Contrast (or the more formal term, hierarchy) helps your visitors discern quickly which elements of your education website are the most important to see and then how the other elements rank in priority compared to the top of the list.

Visual clues showing your visitor how the elements of your pages rank in priority draw them from the essentials into the details like following a current downstream.

So, does your website have…

  • Different font types and sizes that distinguish headers and body copy?
  • A clear palette of contrasting colors?
  • Enough space between elements to break up the page and allow the eye to “breathe”?
  • A defined text header hierarchy (H1, H2, H3, etc.)?
  • A variety of short and long paragraphs to pull the reader into the content?
  • Strategic images placed in long articles to break up the text and attract the reader’s eye back into the article?

If not, then your education website performance will suffer.

Most visitors navigate quickly from websites with little or no contrast because our natural impulse is to shun any media consumption that’s too much work.

Help your visitor enjoy their experience on your site by creating clear and consistent contrasting elements.

Need an education website diagnosis?

It’s not easy to diagnose website performance issues. There are a lot of moving parts!

That’s why we’re here.

We love helping private schools, colleges, and universities like yours identify the problems they face and create marketing solutions that boost enrollment.

To see how we can help you, let’s get in touch. No obligation, and no consultation fee.

Is your website well?

How does your education website hold up to this list of symptoms? How are you addressing the various performance issues that you see in your digital marketing strategy?

Featured image by Rawf8 via Adobe Stock

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Pick for U.S. Supreme Court Has Light Record of Education Rulings

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15 Symptoms of a Sick Education Website – Part I

15 Symptoms of a Sick Education Website – Part I

How do you know when you need to revamp your education website? Here are 15 symptoms of a poorly performing education website.

Your education website should be the heart of your digital marketing strategy.

It’s your digital storefront where you want the traffic you generate from social media, guest posts, and advertisements to arrive. It’s also where your audience is directed to the information they’re looking for from you.

Since your education website is so important, it’s imperative that you keep its performance healthy and strong.

A poorly performing website can waste all the energy, resources, and time you’ve put into traffic generation.

So how do you know if you need a doctor to help revive your website?

Here are the common symptoms I hear about from education marketers all the time. Do any of them describe your website’s performance?

1. Enrollment is low on the priority list.

The rest of this list is not in any particular order — but this one is definitely first for a reason!

When enrollment is just one of the many objectives of your education website, performance will suffer.

Enrollment must be the number one priority for your education website.

Everything comes last compared to this primary goal because enrollment is the surest way for schools to improve their financial health, both now and in the future.

All other forms of income, like development or advancement activities, are tied to the success of enrollment.

In our work, we’ve seen up to a 22% increase in traditional admissions just by focusing the education website on enrollment.

2. Poor web writing.

Long sentences that take forever to get to the point, passive tone, third-party voice — all of these are bad for web writing.

They may be the hallmark of academic writing, but ban them from your website. They will not move your visitors to action.

Read more about the characteristics of good web writing:

3. Clumsy navigation.

Too often, navigation is left to the final phase of web development when it should be considered in the design phase of your education website.

Every website needs to consider the navigation first and foremost. Your visitors have got to find what they’re looking for quickly, and your website’s hierarchy can make that experience a pain or a pleasure.

And if you need more proof when asking for the resources to correct clumsy navigation on your site,studies have shown that nearly 79% of prospective students would remove a college from their list of considerations if they couldn’t find the information that they were looking for.

Navigation is a big deal. That’s why we use a proven process when we design our client’s site navigation.

4. False advertising in your calls to action.

If your visitor clicks on a link on your website, they should land on a page that answers their question or concern.

Too often, visitors click on a link expecting answers, but the landing page only gives them more links to click on. No answers.

This happens quite often on financial aid pages.

The visitor clicks on a banner ad that says there is financial aid available. They land on a page with little more than 100 words telling them to learn more by clicking the links below.

But that’s why I clicked to get here in the first place! It’s a real bummer to land on a page that leaves you with more questions than you came with.

Don’t disappoint your visitors, even if you have to send them away from your site for the real answer.

For example, if you have to direct your visitor to the FAFSA site…

  • Describe what they’ll find there and what to do with that information.
  • Give them testimonials of students who’ve benefited from the financial aid process.
  • Share with them the various ways students have financed their education.
  • Inspire visitors with what they can do with their education afterward, and make the price an investment rather than a perceived cost.

The bottom line: Always deliver value when your visitor clicks through a link.

5. Poor or nonexistent search capability.

Closely related to site navigation, your site needs a quality search bar so visitors can quickly find what they’re looking for.

Clearly tag the pages and blog posts you create to help populate search results with relevant content.

6. Slow loading times.

Time magazine published an article declaring that our attention spans are now worse than that of goldfish. If your page takes forever to load, you’ll lose a lot of potential visitors to your site.

Make sure your landing page isn’t bloated with super large images, video files, or performance-sucking plugins or code. Keep the backend clean so the user experience is fast.

If you still experience load speed problems, check with your host provider to see if there’s anything about your hosting package that is limiting your bandwidth or speed.

7. Can’t find “Give” or “Apply” button.

Educational websites face tremendous challenges to fit all the copy and imagery necessary for visitors to know where to go next on their home pages.

Admissions, Academics, Alumni, Development, Student Life — most organizational websites don’t have to serve so many audiences with so many needs.

As a result, the “Apply Now” or “Give” button can become an afterthought, or be forgotten altogether. Don’t let this happen to you!

Make the two primary calls to action on your homepage — Give and Apply — easy to find by increasing their size a bit, contrasting their color, and placing them near the top of the page.

Save yourself from a poorly performing website.

As you read through this list, you might realize that your education website suffers from a few of these maladies. This is a marketing hazard you should fix as soon as resources and time allow.

It’s safe to say that nearly every prospective student who wants to know more about you is going to visit your website. A high-performance website will motivate them to start their student journey, but a poor-performance website will send them away with a terrible experience with your brand.

At Caylor Solutions, we’ve been helping private higher education and primary education institutions turn their websites into high-performing lead generators — and we’re proud of the results our clients have experienced!

Let us know if you need to revive your education website. But before you do, download our free Guide to Website Redesign Planning!

Stay tuned…

Part 2 is coming up next week with more common mistakes marketers make on their education websites.

But until then, what mistakes do you see a lot of? Did I miss anything here that you’d like us to address in a future blog?

Featured image by Rawf8 via Adobe Stock
College enrollment image by via Adobe Stock
Guy holding head image by amixstudio via Adobe Stock

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