Reading Time: 12 minutes

A good digital marketing strategy allows a school to have a strong online presence, resulting in more prospects exploring their website and social media channels for a potential fit. Leveraging these efforts can result in better lead generation for colleges. Here, you’ll want to make sure that the prospects you attract end up becoming more engaged—ultimately signing up for more interactions with your school and applying to become one of your students.

The process of working to better convert prospects and current website visitors can be referred to as conversion rate optimization. When done right, it can significantly impact the number of inquiries and applications your school receives. In this way, you can increase your lead generation and convert more students. 

To get you closer to this goal, we’ll be diving into key areas and steps related to pushing your website visitors further along the path to conversion. Here’s how your school can get started.

New call-to-action

Taking a Closer Look at Your Admissions Recruitment Funnel Stages

Understanding your admissions recruitment or enrollment funnel is a good starting point when trying to increase your school’s conversion rate. This step requires data and observation, and you can start by noting how many inquiries, applications, and enrollments you receive. 

You can take this a step further by calculating the conversion rate for each of the stages you outline in your enrollment funnel. If you want to be even more precise with your data, you can tailor the funnel to reflect your unique admissions process, adding new stages or creating more funnels to focus on different lead segments or programs.

Below is an example that outlines how leads move through the different student recruitment stages to reach enrollment:

This admissions recruitment funnel shows the general student enrollment journey.

At the top of the funnel, you’ll have prospects who have just visited your website or social media accounts. Typically, they’re in the awareness stage until they make the active decision to engage more with your school. This can take shape in the form of an email newsletter subscription, info session registration, a campus tour, or a personal call with your admissions team. After they provide their contact information to your school, prospects now transition into leads—reaching the middle of your funnel. 

Here, your school should aim to provide support and helpful resources to continue engaging your leads. The goal is to keep igniting their interest and push them closer to starting their student application. Once they do, they move closer to the bottom of your enrollment funnel. This is where your school needs to motivate and encourage its leads to complete the application, eliminating any barriers or challenges in their way.

By taking the time to analyze how many prospects you attract and how many move onto the next stage in your funnel, you can determine where your team is succeeding and where you can put in more work to generate better results. For instance, if your school is not generating enough leads at the top, then your next step is to boost your brand awareness (i.e. developing a stronger content strategy). Alternatively, if you need to generate more leads in the middle or near the end of your funnel, then you should be more focused on improving your outreach and engagement (i.e. email marketing). 

The insights from your admissions recruitment funnel can help guide you towards creating a more impactful digital marketing strategy, giving you the push you need to optimize your digital presence. 

Boosting Lead Generation for Colleges by Optimizing School Websites

Many prospects visit your school website to discover your program offerings and learn more about the student experience. Lead generation for colleges gives you the opportunity to showcase your strengths, generate new quality leads, and push your website visitors closer to converting. By understanding their search intent and catering to their needs, your school can better engage leads and keep them wanting more.

Create Engaging Website Copy to Attract and Maintain Your Leads’ Interest

Keep a consistent brand voice that resonates and actively engages with your audience, capturing and maintaining their interest throughout their interactions on your site. You can use your website copy to highlight your USPs, showcasing your school’s strengths. Consider taking this opportunity to emphasize your competitive advantage and value proposition in an appealing and eye-catching way. 

Your website’s copy can also be used to encourage key actions. This is where CTAs come in, drawing attention to the actions that direct prospects and leads to where you want them to go on your site.

Example: AOLCC highlights the benefits prospects would gain by outlining its proposition value and emphasizing its unique selling points. The content further expands on each point to captivate interested readers and keep them on the page for a longer time.

student lead generation

An image of unique selling points listed by a college, improving student lead generation.

Source: AOLCC

Optimize Your Landing Pages and Forms to Increase Conversions

A landing page is different from your school’s homepage. The homepage acts as a base for all the key links on your website. However, a landing page is designed to maximize conversions—appealing to specific prospects instead of general website visitors. As a result, these landing pages typically generate more conversions than other pages on your website. 

Landing pages are a key aspect of a school’s digital marketing strategy. In fact, research shows they contribute a 4.5% conversion rate in the education industry—that’s slightly higher than the average rate across all industries. Because they play such a big role in converting students, it becomes more important than ever to make sure your landing pages are well-optimized. Here are a couple of things to watch out for when optimizing your landing pages:

  • Create a mobile-responsive landing page
  • Increase your page speed 
  • Add eye-catching visuals to improve your web design
  • Include a single CTA
  • Create clear and compelling copy (use bullet points)
  • Add student testimonials or university rankings for credibility

Canadian Business College incorporates some of these key points on its program page. The page content automatically resizes to fit the screen, and a hamburger menu is added to create a mobile responsive page. 

higher education lead generation

This mobile optimized website can facilitate higher education lead generation.

The page also includes engaging copy, which resonates with visitors’ interests and motivations and naturally guides them to scroll further. A student testimonial is added along with an organized list of bullet points that introduce what students can expect from the program.

education lead generation

Student testimonials as seen in this image can help colleges boost education lead generation.

It should be emphasized that the forms on these pages are essential, serving to increase lead generation for higher education. You’ll want these forms to be short, simple, and painless to complete. This means only asking for the information you need. It’s a good idea to include a lot of white space, using the right number and type of form fields to create a positive user experience. 

The form on Canadian Business School’s website is well-positioned, eye-catching, and easy to fill out, making it more likely for prospects to follow through and convert.

lead generation for schools

An example of forms on a college website, allowing lead generation for schools.

Source: Canadian Business College

Take Advantage of Chatbots and Pop-Ups to Boost Lead Generation for Colleges

According to HubSpot, 47% of marketers use bots. That’s likely because chatbots provide a great service, giving your prospects the support they need whenever they need it. Interestingly,’s research shows that 57% of students would willingly share personal data with their school to receive individualized support—giving it great potential as a lead generation tool for colleges.

Chatbots can help push the leads in the middle or bottom of the admissions recruitment funnel closer to enrollment, answering any questions they may have 24/7 and directing them to helpful resources for continued engagement. This way, any concerns can be quickly addressed and any barriers can be more easily removed, streamlining the admissions process.

Example: Algonquin College uses a virtual assistant to help students and prospects with basic inquiries on its Students Support Services page. When the live chat option is unavailable, students or prospective students still have the opportunity to leave a message and receive helpful answers once someone becomes available. This method ensures that they get the attention they need, pushing them to become qualified leads as they engage further with your school.

lead generation for colleges

Lead generation for colleges can be encouraged with a live chat feature, as shown here.

Source: Algonquin College 

On another note, your school can optimize its conversion rate by integrating eye-catching pop-ups or banners with a “lead magnet.” Lead magnets can be defined as a free resource or downloadable item that prospects can access once they provide their email or contact information. In your school’s case, this can be a program curriculum, school viewbook, or career guide. Using this method can be an effective way to quickly attract your prospect’s attention and motivate them to convert.

Example: Shillington appeals to its prospects by creating an “ultimate” career guide for those already interested in pursuing graphic design. The engaging copy, introducing the guide as well as confirming their email subscription, makes it even more compelling—prompting prospects to more readily convert.

education marketing

Adding a lead magnet as shown here can be an effective approach to education marketing on a school website.

Source: Shillington Education

The key is to make sure these pop-ups and banners add significant value—offering your prospects valuable information and opportunities that would make sharing their personal information worth it. Keep in mind that you want to avoid creating distracting or annoying pop-ups and banners, which means making them easy to exit and move out of sight.

Using Marketing Automation to Build Stronger Relationships with Your Leads 

Marketing automation, particularly automated email workflows, can be a great way for your school to build quick and meaningful relationships with their leads. Research shows that 76% of companies have used automation in 2021 and that 53% of marketers believe email to be the most effective channel for early-stage lead generation.

By automating certain marketing activities, such as email newsletters or messages, your team can regularly follow up with interested prospects and provide the push they need to convert. This means sending them personalized content tailored to their needs and interests or providing additional resources and tips to motivate them to start an application. 

With a strong CRM for education, your team can more easily manage working with a growing list of new contacts. By setting up effective automated email workflows, you can make sure that the right leads are being nurtured in the right way, creating a positive impression that ultimately increases lead engagement as well as their loyalty to your school.

The image below is an example of an email sent by Oxford College to engage its leads. Here, a compelling image immediately captures the viewer’s attention and the addition of social media links makes it even more interactive. Engaging copy and an eye-catching CTA make this email more effective in driving results. 

crm for education

CRM for education can be used to send prospects compelling email messages, as shown here.

Source: Oxford College

Pro Tip: Being quick to respond can show your prospects that you take their interest in your school very seriously. Taking the time to set up an email autoresponder can be a good way for your school to indicate that they’ve received the prospect’s inquiry and will follow up shortly. You can use this space to provide relevant links to your website, including compelling CTAs to actions you want them to take. These actions will keep them engaged and help move them further along the enrollment journey.

Analyzing Lead Flow to Promote Better Lead Generation for Colleges

Lead flow describes the lead conversion path, essentially focusing on how well they move through the enrollment funnel. A good lead flow is well-structured and organized, allowing leads to pass from one stage to the other in an organized and seamless manner. In this model, your admissions team is able to efficiently work with each new lead, guiding them along the conversion path without wasting valuable time or missing any great opportunities.

Good lead flow can significantly boost lead generation for colleges, creating a supportive infrastructure for maximizing the potential that each lead brings in. As a result, improving your lead flow can be a way for your school to strengthen its lead generation and lead nurturing strategy. 

To get these benefits, you’ll need to analyze your enrollment process and understand how prospects interact with different members of your team. Here are some things you might want to consider during this process:

  • How many leads are generated through your marketing activities? Does your admissions team share the same data as your digital marketers or are there any discrepancies?
  • How well your admissions team is following up with leads generated through marketing? Are they being nurtured effectively?
  • Is there a common understanding of what a qualified lead looks like between your marketing team and your admissions team?

Getting Started with Better Lead Scoring for Your School

A good way for your school to improve its lead flow is to create a lead scoring system. Lead scoring works by assigning a numerical value to the qualities and actions that your prospects take in order to determine how interested and well-suited they would be for your school. The scoring system is based on a scale of 100—the higher the number, the higher the likelihood that these prospects convert. 

It may sound a bit counterintuitive at first, but this scoring system is subjective. This means that lead scoring can be different for each school. It all depends on what that school prioritizes most, placing the focus on the school’s admissions criteria, preferences, and needs. 

By having a proper lead scoring system in place, you can better identify high-value leads that would be more likely to convert given the right encouragement. Doing so would then enable your school to direct its efforts and resources to where they need to go. This can increase your team’s productivity, boost lead generation for colleges, and facilitate enrollment forecasting—giving you the insights you need to better anticipate future student recruitment numbers and plan for success.

Assigning Values and Optimizing Your School’s Lead Scoring Process

A CRM designed for educational institutions, such as HEM’s Mautic CRM platform, can help schools better tackle the lead scoring process. With a robust CRM, your school can set up a lead scoring model that automatically scores each lead depending on their actions and behaviours. This model can be based on different types of data that you collect about your leads, including their demographic information, online behaviour, and social or email engagement.

Example: Below is a snapshot of how a lead score appears on HEM’s customized Mautic CRM platform. Here, you can quickly view the score at the top and review details that can help you determine the potential of this lead.

lead generation for higher education

An image of lead scoring to illustrate impactful lead generation for higher education.

Throughout this process, you may want to consider the basic criteria for your programs and attribute a higher value to the leads that meet those requirements. Adding negative numbers may also help refine your results. For instance, leads who do not open emails or interact with your admissions team can be given negative attributes that bring their final score down. This indicates to your team that these leads are less likely to engage with your efforts.

The numbers assigned to each lead will not necessarily add up to 100. They only serve to give you an overview, or a general scale, of how compatible your existing leads are with your school and its programs. 

To help you gather more data, you can reach out to your student recruiters for insights on factors that influence enrollment. Similarly, you can survey your students or review your data analytics. Analyzing your attribution reports on Google Analytics or checking to see which channels bring in more leads can help you develop a bigger picture of what works with your leads and what doesn’t.

With this information, your admissions team can pursue the right leads and avoid wasting time, effort, and resources on those who likely won’t convert.

Top Takeaways to Help You Convert More Students

Optimizing lead generation for colleges typically starts with taking a look at your existing infrastructure and data. By taking the time to understand your enrollment funnel and lead flow, you can make more impactful changes that allow you to boost conversions and improve your school’s overall student recruitment efforts.

You’ll want to take active steps to optimize your school website and lead flow. This means optimizing for mobile, creating compelling web copy, designing strong landing pages with painless forms, and incorporating strategies that help you quickly address your prospects’ queries or capture their attention.

When it comes to lead flow, it’s a good idea to analyze your leads and develop a lead scoring system. With that step complete, you’ll be in a better position to identify qualified leads and redirect your efforts and resources to where they need to be most, significantly improving your lead generation strategy.

New call-to-action