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3 Scary Things Happening on Your Site That Are Totally Normal
Red Abbott

In my role at Finalsite, I spend a *lot* of time looking at website stats for all kinds of tuition-driven schools in the K-12 universe. Every site is different, but there are some remarkable consistencies in how people behave on them.

Some of those patterns are surprising to many school folks who have always relied on intuition to decide how to construct the user experience for their many constituent groups. I'd like to share three of these patterns here, with my commentary on what they mean for you as a school website manager or marketing professional.

Scary Things Happening On Your Website That Are Normal

1. 1/3 of website visits last only one page

"The Bounce Rate! The Bounce Rate! What! Is! The Bounce Rate?"

"Bounce rate" is all a trustee has to say to turn a marketing/communications office into a passel of Mad Hatters scrambling for some way to explain that the website experiences thousands of "bounces" a week.

But let me lay down some context:

Bounce rates (that is, the percent of site visits that last only one page) are very consistently in the low-to high-30s on a percent basis. Many people freak out about it, thinking that there is something wrong with the site and people are so disgusted by their first impression that they flee in large numbers.

In fact, there are many perfectly acceptable instances of bouncing:

  • Hundreds of visits to the lunch menu per day (from bookmarks)
  • On-campus browsers set to open to your home page by default
  • People who google "yourschool tuition" are, in fact, seeking a piece of information that Google is pretty good at landing them on —so they get what they came for on the first page

In general, I think bounce rate is a terrible metric at the macro level and should be thrown out of most schools' reporting. Rather, it should be analyzed on a page-by-page basis. For example, high bounce rates on a homepage are much more concerning that high bounce rates on your lunch menu page.

And on the other hand, I have a lot of ideas about how schools can reduce the bounce rate on specific pages.

High Bounce Rates Stranger Things

(Any one else watching Stranger Things on Netflix?)


Free SEO Worksheet

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2. More people enter your site through the tuition page than any other Admissions content

There are a couple of reasons for this, and none is likely to be "we're linking our online ads to our tuition page directly." Am I right?

The first is that people are lazy — but that's only part of the story. When people are looking for your site, they often use Google. And even when they know exactly what they want to do on your site, they'll most often just Google the school name and navigate to the desired content from the home page. Lazy.

On the other hand, the real go-getters will Google a combination of the school name and the thing they are looking for. And you know what's almost always the most popular combo? Yes. "yourschool tuition" is the winner. And Google has gotten really good at saying, "Gee, I can make you really happy if I send you directly to the page that will satisfy your query, and Bang! your tuition page is the #1 result the googler sees."

But wait, there's more! Go back to those lazy folks. If they do a good enough job of typing the school name that Google is very confident they mean YOU (and not one of the other 300 St. Andrewses in the world for example), your result at the top of Page 1 will be *headlined* by your home page, but it will also contain two columns of interior links below. These are called sit elinks, and they're Google's way of saying, "Look, chances are you already know where you're headed on this site but were too lazy to tell us, so we'll hep you out."

Google Search Results

3. A lot more people go to your off-site inquiry form than submit it

If you're using an off-site inquiry form, chances are it's been generated by your Student Information System. These forms average anywhere from 10-20 (and in some cases, more!) form fields. While all the fields might not actually be required, that's an intimidating form, especially for folks who are, at this point, just kind of interested in your school.

Now, we know — your data and admissions team (for whatever reason) NEED to use the SIS inquiry form. But really, you're hurting your ability to connect with new families, and the proof is in the data:

  • There is a 120% increase in conversions when you reduce the number of form fields from 11 to 4
  • There is a 20% conversion rate on forms with only 3-5 fields
  • The average conversion rate on a form with 11+ fields is only 5.4%

So, chances are, if your inquiry form has a ton of visits, but not a lot of submissions, you're most likely scaring away families with an intimidating form. For tips on increasing conversions with your form, read this blog post.

Take a deep breath — all this is normal.

While all these things might be normal, there are strategies you can implement to break the mold. You can improve your tuition page to lower bounce rates. You can shorten your inquiry form. You can provide more engaging content that inspires prospective families to stay awhile. To help, here is some further reading to help you:

Still need help? That's what we're here for.


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Red Abbott

Red leads our team of experts who have your back when it comes to organic online searches and ads. With a long history in independent schools — as an alum, former teacher, dorm parent, coach, and now a current parent — his passion for helping you is rooted deep in his own experiences. Alongside his degree in engineering and a master's in school leadership, it's easy to see why clients say Red "gets them" when they discuss marketing strategy!

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