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Spring is a popular time for campus visits. In April, campuses everywhere swell with high school upperclassmen, parents in tow, taking part in information sessions and embarking on campus tours. It’s an exciting time, filled with intrigue and possibilities.
A successful spring campus visit season is a result of much hard work, coordination and planning, especially by your school’s admission staff. As the flagship marketing asset, however, your higher ed site also has a lot to do with getting prospective students on-campus.
In the months prior, students and their families scour college websites, looking for insights into a multitude of different campuses. A user experience geared specifically to a prospective student’s interests can go a long way in helping your school stand out from the crowd.
Imagine a prospective student logging on to your homepage and being welcomed by a greeting featuring her first name. Or, an international prospect seeing a welcome image matching his time of day six time zones away.
Personalization is a powerful marketing force. But, tailoring your homepage experience for multiple audience groups can seem like a bit of a daunting proposition.
With a bit of strategic analysis and creative brainstorming, however, the process loses its mystery. All it takes to create an effective personalized web experience is applying what you learn about your audience groups to a slightly more sophisticated tracking setup. After that, you’ll need to teach your website when to fire up the right web experience for the right type of visitor.
Step 1: Identify Your Prospective Student Groups
In order to create a personalized experience, you’ll first need to identify your audience groups. Your admission staff can provide initial guidance on which major prospective student groups exist within your school’s typical applicant pool. Odds are, your school will have one or more of the following prospect groups: high school, international, transfer and graduate.
As the content expert on your school’s website, you’ll then need to identify which collection of pages each distinct prospect group is most likely to frequent. While all prospective students are likely to access admissions and financial aid information, international students, for example, may also visit pages with information about student visas. Transfer students, on the other hand, are likely to be interested in credit transfers.
Identifying the distinct mix of pages for each group is a key part of the process. The wrong step here can lead to confusion on the part of the end-user – or worse, a complete loss of interest. It’s helpful to engage several people in the brainstorming and examine user journeys and needs from as many angles as possible to get the full picture.
Step 2: Segment & Analyze Your Prospective Student Groups
Once the target pages are defined you’ll be able to do two things: 1) analyze historical data for further insights into each group (thru Google Analytics segments), and 2) set up tracking to segment incoming visitors for future analysis (via Google Tag Manager custom dimensions).
Make use of the historical data to confirm the assumptions you may have made about each group earlier in the process. You may also discover additional interests that may not have been obvious before.
Make note of trends in the data, such as geographical location, what other platforms or websites users are coming from and even type of device being used. Details like these will help you further determine what type of content will meet the needs of each group. Use this information to guide the design and creation of each personalized homepage.
Setting up the custom dimensions in Google Tag Manager is what will enable the cueing of the right personalized homepage to the appropriate prospect group.
Step 3: Build Custom Experience for Each Prospect Group
You’ve identified your prospect groups and learned the distinct needs and expectations of each. All that’s left is designing the actual personalized content.
Start small. Custom greetings and introductory text are among the easiest to customize. Once you have put those pieces in place, you can customize by the interests identified in the earlier stages.
High School Prospects
Give this group lots of student life shots and direct access to on-campus happenings. This is the audience that wants to see that award-winning sunset over the stadium, or the spring festival on the main lawn. Links to a frequently asked questions page and information on housing and majors are also likely to be of importance.
Often, parents or other family members will also be searching with this group. This demographic might be interested in information on cost, class size and selection, campus safety, etc. You might consider adding a panel just geared to this audience on the high school prospect homepage. If this audience segment is large enough, it may warrant its own personalized page.
These students have a longer journey to campus. In many cases, there are also new language and cultural elements to get used to. This group may need to feel reassured that your school is worth the challenges. These visitors are likely to appreciate content that makes them feel welcome, secure and a part of the campus community.
You may want to feature images of other international students and multi-cultural events on campus. Information about various international communities that may be active in the area will let international prospects know that they are not far from a taste of home.
This group may also be looking for international student visa information, or any special international housing opportunities.
Transfer students have already been in the college system. They are goal-oriented and in search of a better academic experience than where they came from. This group may be the most primed for a deep dive into the academic choices your school offers.
Greet them with classroom shots, or images of student creations and accomplishments. They are also likely to appreciate quick access to academic programs, transfer and degree requirements, post-graduate employment opportunities and accommodations.
You may also want to add links to extracurricular activities – social, physical and academic – to showcase ways they can get involved on their new campus.
Beacon Knows Custom Audiences
Need help segmenting and tracking your high-value audiences in Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager? Beacon can help. Give us a call, we’ll be glad to talk through your questions.