- General Best Practices
When I was in college, one of the most random but interesting things I learned was about the architecture of malls: the location of stairs, escalators, elevators and doors are all strategically placed so that if you enter the mall through one set of doors, in most cases, you must venture through almost the entire mall to make your exit.
Malls are not built for someone to run in, grab something and run out — they're built to encourage visitors to stay, explore, and continue to find things that meet their needs, even if they came only looking for one thing.
Grocery stores and stores like Target (ESPECIALLY TARGET) follow this same strategic architecture.
Yeah...we've all been there.
Imagine the possibilities if you implemented this same logic on your website. Someone visits your website to learn about your sports programs...but ends up submitting an inquiry. Or, a parent comes to find the date of this weekend's soccer championship, and ends up donating.
When you think of your website as a place to create a journey, rather than a place that encourages visitors to come-and-go quickly, you have the potential to increase engagement, clicks, and visit duration — here are three simple strategies for doing so.
1. Think like a publisher.
Every school does the same exact thing with their news posts: it's either placed in a page pop, or sent to a second page where they can ready the content of that news story...and that's about it. There's no clear path as to where to go next, no further reading, no other related content. This is such a lost opportunity.
It's time to take a lesson from Buzzfeed, The New York Times, and even the Finalsite Blog: never let your news content (or any content for that matter!) live on a dead-end page.
On the website page for each news story (or blog, or student profile), share other related content and calls-to-action to keep them engaged, like Choate does here for Athletics news:
If you're using Finalsite Composer, this set-up is extremely simple whether you are using Posts or News Manager.
- First, examine your news categories: How many are there? Which are the most popular? In which categories do you post the most? Is there any you can consolidate?
- Then, based on those categories, create fresh News Post pages in Composer for each category, e.g. athletics news, lower school news, upper school news, etc. Because your homepage most likely includes a variety of different categories, it is best to create a "homepage" category or board that will have its own news post page design.
- In Composer, I recommend using this two panel layout:
- Using this layout, bring in related news posts, testimonials, photos, videos, calls-to-action or a social media mash-up that is relevant. To save time, copy-and-paste content from related sections of your site.
- Once you have your pages set up, edit your News or Posts settings to display content on the page you built — and, viola! You're on your way to success.
Website Content Planner
2. Create "Thank You Pages" for Form Submissions
"Thank you" pages are one of the easiest and most effective ways to increase website engagement, click-through rates, and time spent on your website. Because you've already gotten a conversion (AKA, a form submission) you already know a little bit about your website visitor's interests.
For example, if someone signed up for a fall open house, you know they're a prospective student interested in learning more about your offerings. If a parent registered to volunteer at an event, you know that they are looking for opportunities to get involved. When alumni donate to your annual fund, you can infer that they may also be interested in attending an event, or supporting in some other way.
Regardless of the situation, the strategy remains the same: when a website visitor raises their hand, and says "hello, I am interested in this enough to give you my information," you should not let that conversation end — it is like leaving money on the table! Rather take this opportunity to provide them with more website content that further engages them.
Here are a few ideas of additional content you can add:
- Recent news stories related to the form submission: e.g. alumni news on an annual fund donation
- A video: For example, if someone filled out a form to attend an open house, a video on a "thank you" page would get them excited about the next step!
- Testimonials: Don't allow anyone to have conversion-remorse. Add testimonials to "thank you" pages where they count — particularly for admissions.
- Give them something they could have only gotten by filling out the form: If you want to make form submitters feel extra special, on your "thank you" page, provide them with a sweet offer or opportunity that makes them excited to engage with your website and brand more often!
Need help building your "thank you" pages? We wrote an entire blog on that already! Read it here.
3. Use a social media mash-up
Because school marketers already know social media is so important, they often feel the need to bring a lot of attention to their social media buttons. However, social media buttons lead visitors away from your website...and all of a sudden, they're on your Facebook...and then they're on their own Facebook...and they're back to reading posts from their friends, not from your school.
Today's generation is full of consumers with extremely short attention spans, so your success depends on your ability to keep their attention on your school. That's why more schools are leaning putting an emphasis on social media mash-up pages, and social media feeds on their website, rather than just linking off to their external networks.
Designs with integrated social media are a great way to keep uses on your website and provide them with authentic, recent, and interesting content.
In short once you have someone on your site — you don't want them to leave right away! But, tackling these strategies at once can certainly be overwhelming, so a good place to start is Google Analytics. Look at your top Exit Pages (the pages through which visitors leave your website most frequently), and determine if any of the strategies listed above would help further guide visitors to a page. From there, keep an eye on your analytics, including Exit Rates and Visit Duration to determine what works and continue to improve.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
As Finalsite's Content Marketing Manager, Mia plans and executes a variety of inbound marketing and digital content strategies. As a former TV and news reporter, freelance cinematographer and certified inbound marketer, Mia specializes in helping schools find new ways to share their stories online through web design, social media, copywriting, photography and videography. She is the author of numerous blogs, and Finalsite's popular eBook, The Website Redesign Playbook.
- Social Media