October 13

How to Use Your College Website to Enhance Enrollment


People often look at their college website from just a technical point of view and overlook how it can be an excellent enrollment marketing tool.

This is unfortunate because your college website can be a truly powerful asset in your content marketing strategy.

For many colleges and universities, the website tends to be like a house built in the mid 90’s where the owners just keep constructing new additions, rooms, or floors.

They might tack on a new landing page, plugin, or some other technological or aesthetic enhancement.

But they really don’t change much at a substantive level.  

Approaching website development in this way can lead to some unwieldy content “monsters.”

I’ve seen even small to medium sized schools with 800-1,000 pages. 

While they might be offering a huge amount of information for potential users, that volume of web pages is simply not necessary for enrollment.

In fact, it could possibly hinder the enrollment process by drowning users in a sea of content.

Joshua Charles, the Director of Web Strategy at Rutgers Business School, shows us how to use our college website as an enrollment marketing tool on The Higher Ed Marketer podcast. So my co-host, Troy Singer, and I reached out to Joshua Charles, the Director of Web Strategy and Technology at Rutgers Business School, to have a conversation on The Higher Ed Marketer podcast.

In his role at Rutgers, Joshua oversees website operations and marketing technology for the whole school consisting of 10,000 students, 400 faculty, 175 staff, and now about 50,000 alumni.

He joined us to discuss how you can utilize your college website for enrollment marketing. 

Joshua brings excellent insights from what they have done at Rutgers University to increase enrollment and retention through their website.  

Rethinking The College Website

While historically successful in many ways, Rutgers was learning how to optimize their college website for enrollment like all the rest of us. 

Joshua was there when they began to rethink the role of their website in the larger content marketing strategy.

I came to Rutgers Business School in 2010, [and at that time] we had a rather static website that tried to do everything for everyone. It was a single website, and that was the only website the school had. 

Fast forward to 2015, we realized we needed a mobile design, because that’s where websites were heading at that time. At the same time, we [saw] this as an opportunity to rethink the purpose of a website altogether. 

At the time [when it came to websites], folks thought [mostly] about the technical aspect. But to me, a website is a marketing platform first and foremost. It has technology associated with that, but its [objective] is to shape communications and marketing goals. 

Thinking of the User First

Before engaging in their mobile-friendly redesign, Joshua and his team went back to the drawing board. 

Rather than asking more technically focused questions, they started from the question of: 

What do we need per audience for their journey?

So we used the 2015-2016 website redesign process as a way to rethink the strategy of our websites so that instead of a single site for every audience, we decided to split that up. 

First thing, we need a website that is for external audiences, primarily prospective students. For example, when somebody is searching “full-time MBA” content, [it leads them to] the main website, the one we really want them to go to. 

We want to help that prospective student journey. We want those audiences to find the right pages and search engines. And once they get onto the page, we want them to be able to have an experience that’s tailor made for what their needs are.

For me and my team, we’re thinking about how the website fits into the journeys for each of the different audiences that we have [like] prospective students, current students, faculty, staff, alumni, corporate partners, and media.

Starting with the Right Questions

We had Jay Baer on the podcast before our conversation with Joshua was released. 

In that episode, Jay emphasized the need for schools to answer the questions people have in their content marketing. 

This goes back to being customer-centric, or rather, “prospective students centric.”

To be audience-centric, you’ve got to do the research and take time to understand these user segments searching for your college website.

A great way to begin is to work with the enrollment team or with Student Services and ask, “What are the questions people ask you?”

Take those questions and come up with a list of 50 or so topics over lunch.

Then write a 500- to 750-word essay answering those questions, and add in a little bit of keyword research. 

Now, you’ve got a blog strategy ready for a year with a lot of really good content! 

Understanding the prospective students’ needs along their student journeys, then figuring out how to get the answers in your content in front of them is such a valuable principle.

This really is the key to Joshua’s successful website redesign.

Starting with the right questions is the substantial change we need to make in order to optimize our websites for enrollment success.

Discover more when you listen to the podcast!

Like all of our blog post reviews of The Higher Ed Marketer podcasts, there’s so much more to learn in the podcasts themselves.

Listen to our interview with Joshua Charles to get even more insights into:

  • How Rutgers Business School is positively affecting Recruitment and Retention via their websites. 
  • How to better address the entire student life cycle through the website.
  • Maximizing results while managing restrained resources.

Want to Improve Your Digital Marketing Results?

Then you’ve got to know how to write for the web. That’s why we want to send you our popular ebook: Writing for the Web: 7 Secrets to Content Marketing Success for Education Marketers!

With this helpful resource, you’ll learn how to: writing for the web ebook

  • Grab your reader’s attention immediately
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In short, you’ll be able to write the copy that makes your digital marketing strategy work for you. Download your copy today!

Featured image via business.rutgers.edu

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