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Episode III: 3 Things every enrollment professional should do to improve their university website’s conversion rate.

Conversion rate optimization (CRO) is a simple concept with huge implications. For most universities, CRO is defined by the number of website visitors who take a desired action, in this case filling out an interest or application form.

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Here are the 3 things you need to begin implementing as a higher education professional to increase your website

 conversion rate:


1. Correctly measure conversion rates.

Conversion rate optimization (CRO) is a simple concept with huge implications. For most universities, CRO is defined by the number of website visitors who take a desired action, in this case filling out an interest or application form.

Whatever percentage of website visitors take the desired action is known as your conversion rate. So, where can you get the data to find that percentage? Your website is, hopefully, equipped with something like Google Analytics (GA). Let’s take a quick deep dive into how you can get started with GA.  

Getting started with Google Analytics.

Measuring conversion rates can get complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. In order to accurately measure your website’s conversion rate you only need two things:

  1. An Analytics Account (we recommend Google Analytics)
  2. Conversion Goals

If you don’t have a reliable way of measuring website visitors today, get started with a free Google Analytics account. For more information on setting this up, check out our in depth blog.

What should my goal conversion be?

Every university is different, and sometimes your target actions on the website may vary by the time of the year. The key is to identify the actions that are most important for driving applications and enrollments.

For most enrollment management and marketing teams, setting a goal conversion of form submissions is a straightforward, fast, AND highly impactful metric to measure and optimize for. 

2. Optimize your environment.

Choosing a goal is the easy part. What we’ve seen in working with enrollment management is that the most successful programs strive to understand the student journey. With so many distractions for the average website visitor, great conversion rates require a laser focus on the needs of your website visitors at the very moment they land on your site.

In a recent HALDA research study, we found that the average university website visitor seeks to answer three primary questions as they begin their research.

keymoments grad static

As you think about your website visitors, and the pages they visit, focus specifically on what their intent might be behind visiting a page on your website. For example, if they visit an admissions page they are most likely trying to answer the question of whether or not they can get in. If your call-to-action on these pages is “Apply Now,” then it’s not going to resonate with your users.

By breaking down who is visiting what page on your website and seeking to understand why you’ll be better prepared to answer the questions your prospective students are asking at the moment. Answering their questions not only improves your conversion rate but helps you build trust with potential students from the moment they reach out.

Is your website designed for conversion?

Design is subjective. But what’s not subjective is the conversion rate. Having a well-designed website doesn’t mean that it’s beautiful. In fact, some studies show that ugly websites actually convert better than beautiful ones. 

Calls-to-action can have a meaningful impact on conversion rate if they’re well optimized. If you’re still using these CTAs, then you are missing out on potential conversions.



By optimizing your website CTAs for the student journey and focusing on delivering value to real visitors you can rapidly improve the conversion rate across your entire site.

3. Optimize your forms.

Almost every institution uses the same type of RFI form that requires everything from a prospect's first name all the way down to their blood type. Ok… maybe not their blood type, but data shows that these giant forms that ask for their full date of birth as part of the first form they ever fill out with you are costing you thousands of web inquiries each year. 


If the form above looks remotely similar to your forms, then there is a lot you can do to improve your outcomes by thinking hard about 1) What you are offering, 2) How you are presenting the offer, and 3) What do you require from students in order to receive the promised value.

For a lot of universities, the offer for prospective students is vague and underwhelming. Why would a potential student fill out a form 25-fields long without knowing what they’ll get in return? While this approach may have worked in years past it’s not the best way forward.

Keep in mind that today’s undergraduate applicants were born in 2003. This means that they likely took a laptop to elementary school. They probably learned to use the internet and smartphones before they learned cursive. If your offer isn’t on par with today’s best-in-class marketing technology then your university is going to suffer.

Here’s an example of a HALDA Smart Form. It’s mobile-friendly, offers specific value, and asks users only for the required information to send a follow-up message.

The takeaway here is to really understand your user’s journey on the website and test valuable offers at each stage. No matter what type of form you use, you can increase conversion rates by providing a valuable offer and focusing on optimizing what’s above the fold.

What’s the takeaway?

When HALDA first started working with the University of Clemson’s Graduate program, it noticed a chance to unlock untapped potential by offering more immediate value to prospective students. The resulting Smart Form helped nearly double Clemson’s inquiry volume without any change in the advertising budget.

If you’re wondering how to improve conversion rates on your website, it’s not magic. First, you must identify exactly what it is that you want to improve. Improving conversion rates starts with accurate measurement and good data. Next, you have to focus on the student journey. Next, focusing on the student experience on your website and designing a path towards conversion starts with providing real value. Finally, audit your forms—are they responsive, specific, and concise, or a little long in the tooth?

Done is always better than perfect, and that couldn’t be more true than in conversion rate optimization. So get started today, with a free 30-day trial using HALDA’s Smart Form software and see how much difference a small increase in conversion can make.

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