How to Optimize Your School’s CTAs for Student Conversion
Date posted: January 1, 2020
CTAs (calls to action) may be small, but their impact on the enrollment journey is too big to be ignored. These buttons are the digital bridge that bring prospects to your website, enable them to download resources, and even direct them to your application forms.
Since CTAs are so important, it can be especially frustrating when they don’t perform as you expect. It’s happened to the best of us: you create some well-designed CTAs in the hopes of converting more website visitors, only to be disappointed with mediocre click rates.
These simple buttons can often be the trickiest web elements to get just right. But with the right placement, design, and copy, you can ensure your CTAs generate the student conversion outcomes you want.`
Improve Student Conversion with a Variety of CTA Types
If you want to optimize your website for student conversion, you should strive to include a wide variety of different types of CTA. By utilizing different designs, and offering different resources, your website visitors will feel like they are receiving something new and exciting each time they visit your site – even if you are simply presenting the same messages in different ways.
When people think of CTAs, they likely think of the button design first. However, there is a whole world of CTA formats out there that you can use to frame your content offers.
Let’s start with the most popular of the CTA designs: the classic CTA button. These CTAs are usually short and sweet, and don’t include much beyond a short phrase. Despite their size, you can still customize the colour, shape, and style to fit with your school’s website.
Example: Delfin English School takes a modern approach to the classic CTA style by using square buttons with stylish icons.
These banner-style CTAs use a visual design to frame their message. Often, they include a smaller, button-style CTA inside. Since you can customize the size of image CTAs, they are great to use when you have a lot of text you want to include.
Example: This image CTA from Manchester College entices prospects to learn more about its logistics and automotive programs in a visually striking way.
These helpful CTAs allow prospects to type information directly into them, usually to receive some sort of an offer or connect with a school.
Example: This fillable pop-up CTA from WU Executive Academy allows prospects to directly enter their information and sign up to the school’s newsletter – without having to leave the page they’re currently browsing.
Inline CTAs seamlessly blend into your website content and present an offer in the form of a hyperlink. Although these CTAs are subtle and simple, they are highly effective for that very reason. Since people are inundated with ads online, inline CTAs help reduce banner blindness by naturally presenting offers within content your prospects are already reading.
Example: After reading a makeup artistry blog post from the International Beauty Institute, prospects are gently urged to learn more about the school’s course offerings.
These CTAs appear when you’ve reached the halfway point on a page. Since slide-in CTAs only pop up when a visitor has shown interest in your content, these calls to action are a great way to pique your prospects’ curiosity even more.
Example: This HubSpot slide-in CTA doesn’t disturb your blog reading experience, but is sure to catch the corner of your eye as you scroll down the page.
Just as there are a wide variety of CTA designs available, there are also many ways you can integrate them into your student conversion strategies. By presenting various types of offer in CTA form, you can strategically invite prospects to work their way down the enrollment funnel.
Let’s start at the top of the funnel. Before prospects decide on your school, chances are they’ll browse – and perhaps download – some resources to learn more about it. Resource CTAs allow prospects to take a look at brochures, admissions checklists, price lists, or any other downloadable content your prospects would appreciate. HubSpot calls these “lead magnet CTAs” because they offer website visitors something of value in exchange for their contact information – a win-win for your school and its prospects.
Example: This resource CTA from Durham University features a picture of the prospectus that students can download. Not only does this make the CTA more visually interesting, but it gives prospects a glimpse of what they could be getting if they click.
CTAs can help you promote events like campus tours, open houses, and conferences by driving prospects to sign up directly.
Example: Each program page on MidKent College’s website includes these three staple CTAs, including one for their open house events.
You can also use CTAs to promote webinars, info sessions, and other online events.
Example: Prospective students can click on this CTA to learn more about life at the University of London by attending an online Q&A.
Once prospects have had a chance to do a little research of their own, they will likely want to hear what you have to say about your school. Online inquiries play a significant role in many schools’ student recruitment strategy, so these kinds of CTAs are of the utmost importance.
Example: Atlas Language School includes an “Enquire Now” CTA on their sticky header so prospects always have the option of reaching out to the school no matter where they are on a page.
Social Sharing CTAs
The best content is not only interesting, relevant, and helpful – it’s also shareable. Social sharing is practically free promotion, so your school should make it as convenient as possible for prospects to distribute your content online. With social sharing CTAs, those that enjoy your content can share it with the click of a button.
Example: Every blog post from Algonquin Careers Academy includes social sharing CTAs that make it easy for prospects to like the post on Facebook and Tweet it. These CTAs also track how many people have completed the aforementioned actions, as prospects are more likely to engage with a post on social if they know that others are as well.
Last, but certainly not least, is the application CTA. This offer is perhaps the most important one of all, and you should take extra care with how, where, and when you present it to prospects.
Example: The green Apply Now button stands out amongst the blue colour scheme on NAIT’s website.
Optimizing Your CTA Placement
Now that you know all the different kinds of CTAs available, the next step is figuring out how you can use them, and where you can place them, in order to generate more leads. This optimization process is all about increasing CTA visibility on relevant pages – without shoving them down your prospects’ throat.
These CTAs are your ride-or-die lead generating tools – the buttons you hope to get the most clicks and conversions out of. As such, they are the ones deserving of the most prominent placement on your website: the header.
If you’ve got a sticky header, then no matter where a prospect is on one of your pages, they’ll always have the option to click those key CTA buttons. If someone is reading one of your admissions blogs, for instance, the Apply Now button may follow them as they scroll.
As a result, it’s crucial to think about what calls to action best benefit your school and ensure they appear on your header. Most schools will have some sort of CTA related to applications or bookings, but there may be others you’ll want to include depending on your priorities.
Example: Those who visit the University of Victoria’s website can easily explore the school’s programs, apply online, and make a donation. Prospects are also invited to apply on Macomb Community College’s header – as well as to contact the school and chat with an advisor.
Content creation boasts a number of long-term benefits. It allows you to develop resources that can be used over and over again, earn your site a higher search ranking, and demonstrate your school’s thought leadership online.
But if you incorporate CTAs, your content can also have a more immediate impact on your conversion rate. Adding CTAs to your blogs is a great way to drive prospects to complete key actions related to the content they’re reading.
There are many different places where you can include CTAs in your blog posts, but it’s recommended to wait till after the first paragraph before adding any. Most prospects will want to read some of your content and begin to trust your school before they take the next step in the enrollment journey.
You may also want to include a CTA in the sidebar of your blog. These CTAs are less prominent than those integrated into your blog, but they still add some visual eye candy that may give you some extra traction.
And once prospects have finished your blog, where do they go next? Effective CTAs at the end of your posts can direct them to other blog posts they may like, provide them with extra resources, or drive them towards certain actions to keep them learning more about your school.
Example: The University of British Columbia invites visitors to donate to the school’s ovarian cancer research after reading a blog about the scientific advancements the university has made. There are also social sharing CTAs at the end for those that want to spread the word.
While there are standard placements for CTAs on blog posts, you will have to get creative with how you choose to use CTAs on your course pages.
Example: On McGill’s Bachelor of Commerce page, you can discover, experience, and learn more about the program with these three CTAs.
You also may want to incorporate program-specific content offers on your course pages through calls to action.
Example: Canadian Business College makes use of inline CTAs on their community service worker page, encouraging prospects to take their career quiz.
By incorporating CTAs to your course pages, you provide extra resources while making it easier for prospects to learn more about what your school offers.
CTA Best Practices for Your Student Conversion Strategies
Your prospects are used to being inundated with content online. This means your CTAs must be visually striking, as well as present a unique offer that could actually benefit your prospects, if you want them to take notice – let alone click.
If you want to increase your higher education conversion rates, then learning how to optimize your CTA copy and design should be a top priority.
Create Winning CTA Copy
Effective CTA copy makes it immediately clear how your prospects will benefit from clicking.
Instead of saying “Learn More About Different Careers,” for example, you may want to rephrase it as “Find the Career of your Dreams.” The second CTA highlights the value prospects will receive from clicking without sacrificing brevity.
Your CTA should also clearly tell the reader what will happen next if they are to click, whether that be contacting your school, downloading a brochure, registering for an event, etc.
Example: USC Marshall School of Business uses a number of different CTAs on its homepage to direct students and prospects to different parts of its site. Notice how the section headers are very simple – most are only one word – whereas the actual CTA buttons are more descriptive, building off of the heading to entice prospects to click. For example, in the “Research” section, the CTA button says Browse the Latest Research. This gives prospects a better idea of what they’ll be viewing if they do click. In addition, the use of the word “latest” makes the offer more attractive.
Create Attractive CTA Designs
Let’s face it; the look of your CTA matters almost as much as what it says. If you don’t create a design that intrigues, prospects likely won’t pay it any mind when scrolling through your site.
Colour is a foundational element of any good design, and that fact is no different when it comes to CTAs. Choose colours that will make your CTA stand out, while remaining consistent with your school’s branding.
If you have multiple CTAs on one page, you can also use colour to denote which is most important.
Example: The blue Apply to UBC button stands out on the University of British Columbia’s admissions page amongst all the white calls to action.
When creating button CTAs, you should think about what kind of colours you want to use, as well as the size and shape of your CTA. Many button CTAs use a solid colour with a block-style format, but you can feel free to get creative with your design by using patterns, images, and different shapes.
Some image CTAs include full pictures, while others take a more minimalistic approach. There’s no hard and fast rule as to how these CTAs should be designed, but ensure you have enough white space to make your text clear and readable.
Example: The Columbia University Irving Medical Center uses a faded map image to spice up their CTA without cluttering it.
Improving Higher Education Conversion Rates with Dynamic CTAs
Getting more out of your CTAs isn’t necessarily about adding more of them – it’s about making them smarter. Dynamic (or “smart”) CTAs use CRM and marketing automation software to detect who is on your website and show them a CTA that is most relevant to them.
With dynamic CTAs, a prospect who subscribes to a school’s newsletter will no longer see a CTA asking them to sign up. If someone from Scotland visits your site and your school happens to be hosting an information session in Glasgow that month, they may see a CTA promoting that event. And if a qualified lead is on your site, they could see multiple iterations of an Apply Now CTA.
Example: Let’s say someone visits your site for the first time: if you use dynamic CTAs, perhaps this is the sort of offer they’ll see:
Then, later down the line, after that prospect has signed up to your email list, perhaps followed you on social, and maybe even attended one of your online information sessions, they may come across a CTA urging them towards enrollment.
Now let’s say that prospect has long graduated and stumbles across your blog when reading up on their chosen field. At this point, there’s no sense trying to push them down the funnel. But why not see if they’d be interested in giving back to your school?
While dynamic CTAs certainly take more time and effort to create than a regular one, your labours will likely be worth it. These CTAs allow you to target prospects with meaningful and relevant offers.
Regardless of what kind of CTAs you use, though, it’s always considered best practice to routinely monitor how they are performing. Take the time to assess how many clicks your CTAs are getting, and what happens after those clicks.
Are your click rates suffering? Perhaps you want to experiment with your copy and design to make your offer more attractive. If you’re generating plenty of clicks but few people are filling out the form the CTA brings them to, you should probably take a look at the CTA to make sure that it’s clear to prospects where they are being directed to.
With practice, you’ll learn more about the kind of calls to action your prospects respond best to, and can optimize your website CTAs for continual success. Even seemingly small upgrades can have a big impact on your website conversion rate.