15 symptoms of a ‘sick’ school website [part 1]

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

Your school 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 school 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 we hear about from school marketers all the time. Do any of them describe your website’s performance?

1. Enrolment 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 enrolment is just one of the many objectives of your school website, performance will suffer.

Enrolment must be the number one priority for your school website.

Everything comes last compared to this primary goal because enrolment 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 enrolment.

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.

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 school 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.

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 you clicked to get here in the first place! It’s a real disappointment 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

School 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 organisational 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 colour, and placing them near the top of the page.

Save yourself from a poorly performing website.
As you read through this list, you might realise that your school 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.

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