Using your university website as a recruitment tool
“A smooth mobile-responsive website acts as a trust signal for students, encouraging them to find out more about your institution”
Recent research from UniQuest revealed that 91% of international offer holders at partner institutions were “stealth applicants”, meaning they made no contact with the institution before applying. What’s more, over half of the students only used the university website when deciding on where to study.
Prospective students often use multiple sources of information and more than one device, which can make tracking their journey to application incredibly difficult. Universities must increasingly invest in sophisticated multi-channel tracking and attribution modelling, in order to gain insightful data on students and leverage the information sources that influence applications.
However, the research also highlights the importance of providing students with informative and engaging content across your website, as well as an excellent user experience. Some universities are already taking advantage of this, with the University of Sussex and Keele University both launching new websites for their respective International Study Centres.
I’ve had the privilege of utilising digital marketing to recruit students internationally for over ten years. Here are my top tips for higher education providers who want to boost international student recruitment with their website.
Have a mobile-responsive design
As far back as 2015, Google announced that mobile searches had overtaken desktop searches. In response to this, Google updated its algorithms to test websites for “mobile friendliness” – meaning your page will rank lower in search results if it isn’t mobile friendly.
Time spent writing keyword-optimized blog posts to encourage students to visit your website will be wasted if they don’t appear on the first page of search results. A smooth mobile-responsive website also acts as a trust signal for students, encouraging them to find out more about your institution. A poor mobile website will encourage students to go elsewhere.
Live chat functionality
Live chat is something consumers have come to expect, rather than a nice add-on. It’s popular because answers can be provided instantly by a dedicated team. Live chat is especially important in the realm of international education because many prospective students (or their parents) may not want to make a long-distance phone call. Install live chat to encourage students to reach out and engage with your team.
“Live chat is something consumers have come to expect, rather than a nice add-on”
Bolster your blog
Keeping your blogs up to date can feel like a chore, but they’re important for prospective students to be able to read to get a sense of what they can expect at your institution.
Online application forms
It’s important to give international students the ability to apply online. Forms can be implemented via a relevant plugin – just make sure that it’s accessible for those with disabilities and is easy to fill in on mobile devices and desktops. Also, ensure you include plenty of calls-to-action on relevant pages to encourage students to apply.
A smooth user journey
This might sound obvious, but websites need to be intuitive and easy to use. Ask current students and users for their feedback. A/B testing (measuring the effectiveness of different versions of the website) is key to ensuring you are maximising your website’s potential to recruit students.
“Make sure that it’s accessible for those with disabilities and is easy to fill in on mobile devices and desktops”
Students also expect personalisation in their digital journey. Harness the personal data they share with you to follow up with personalised emails and relevant content. This content should answer any questions they may have about your institution or studying abroad and promote your USPs.
International students bring great cultural and economic benefit to universities, so don’t lose out on them by having a poor website. Your website is an important recruitment platform – give it the attention it deserves.
About the author: Tony Lee is Digital Marketing director for Study Group