Take a look at the bounce rate of your school’s tuition page in Google Analytics. If it alarmingly high, you’re not alone. A school’s tuition page often receives some of the highest website traffic, and is accompanied by one of the highest (if not, the highest) bounce rates on your website. When we noticed this trend on school websites, we wrote the blog, 4 Strategies To Create Independent School Tuition Pages That Convert, back in 2016, recorded a podcast later that year, a recurring Finalsite University session in 2017 and 2018, as well as a couple of live webinars on the topic.
But since high bounce rates on tuition pages still seems to be a topic of discussion and a frequently asked question, it seems appropriate to touch on the topic again with a clear goal in mind: let’s lower independent school tuition page bounce rates.
What is a Bounce Rate?
To meet this goal, it’s important to understand the term bounce rate. A bounce rate is calculated by the number of individuals who visit a landing page on your website, without visiting a second page. In other words, a tuition page with a high bounce rate means that individuals are only visiting the tuition page on your site and then leaving.
What is a Normal Bounce Rate for School Websites?
Our research indicates that the average overall school website bounce rate is between 30-40%. Most tuition pages will have a bounce rate that exceeds this amount — somewhere in the 60-70% range. (Or higher in some cases.)
Is a High Bounce Rate Really an Area of Concern?
High bounce rates are generally an area of concern, but not always. One of the reason’s your tuition page has a high bounce rate is simply the page’s nature: prospective families come to get a particular piece of information, and then leave — and that’s that. Your page is serving the purpose, even if it has a high bounce rate.
For example, if a prospective family did a search for “portsmouth abbey tuition,” they are likely in the “consideration phase” of the marketing funnel, comparing Portsmouth Abbey School to some other options in the area. In this case, they are likely coming to your tuition page to take a note, and continue on with their own research. So, they have no need to go anywhere else. This is the most common scenario and doesn’t necessarily represent a major area of concern as the page served its purpose to your website visitor.
However, high bounce rates may also be a result of issues that should be addressed, such as the content on your page or your website’s user experience.
In either case, the strategies addressed in this blog are meant to help your prospective family find the information they are looking for, and stop them from immediately hitting the back button.
But wait! Before we get to those best practices, let’s talk about a potential drop to your tuition page’s overall website traffic due to that pesky Google algorithm, again. Many independent schools’ tuition pages are now serving up content in Google’s Instant Answer Box, located above any search results on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP). The answer box’s location has also earned it the term “position zero.” This means one result now gets two spots on page 1 which is pushing the rest of the search results down, lowering CTR for the remaining results in positions 2 - 10.
Prospective families who are still researching their options and making decisions simply based on cost might never visit your website at all if this quick answer box steers them away — which means they never see awesome content, like this:
And unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do about this. A well-structured and optimized page is likely to lead to your school’s tuition showing up in this Quick Answer Box.
So...Should We Remove our Tuition Costs?
No!! If you think your school’s tuition is a deterrent for prospective families, you might be inclined to remove actual costs from your tuition page. (And hey, you might even trick Google, right?) Bad move.
I mean, how would you feel if something you were shopping for didn’t display pricing?
Removing the tuition can annoy and deter website visitors, something you never want to do in this oh-so-important consideration stage of the admissions funnel. So while displaying the tuition might not actually help to lower the bounce rate, it does help your tuition page serve its intended purpose, which is important.
Tips for Lowering Your School’s Tuition Page Bounce Rate
The key to lowering your tuition page’s bounce rate is truly understanding who the is visiting that page. When we look at the inbound marketing funnel, we can infer that most individuals visiting your school’s tuition page are likely in the “recruit and/or convert stages”. These two stages are often also known as the “consideration” stage of the funnel.
This means that families have already done their preliminary research into schools, and are now making their decisions as to where to inquire or apply. Keeping this in mind, lowering your tuition page bounce rate in many cases, means earning a conversion. Now let’s talk about how we can make that happen!
1. Use a Timed Page Pop
We all know that page pops can have an intrusive user experience — but a timed page pop can offer an incentivizing, relevant piece of content at the right time in the visitor’s page-visiting experience. With a timed page pop, you can have a page pop display once someone has scrolled 50% of the way down a page, or after a set number of seconds have elapsed. (I usually prefer the latter!)
To infer what a “good” number of seconds would be, take a look at Google Analytics. On average, how long do individuals stay on your tuition page before they bounce? Maybe 10 seconds? 30 seconds? In either case, take that average and subtract 3 seconds so that you can catch them just before they were going to leave. So, if the average time someone spends on your tuition page is 13 seconds, have the page pop display after 10 seconds.
Keep in mind that this page pop should offer something incentivizing or relevant enough to individuals in this “consideration” phase to entice a click.
Some good content to add to the page pop would be:
- A link to your financial aid page
- A link to view upcoming open house dates
- A short form to contact an admissions representative with any questions
Some not-so-good content to put here might be:
- Inquire now!
- Apply today!
- Register for an open house!
Individuals who are in the consideration phase still need time to...well, make some considerations. And asking for a big commitment, such as an inquiry or application, will steer them away.
Learn more about Finalsite's Timed Page Pop Feature on Composer
2. Offer Something of Value on the Page
If you don’t have the ability to add timed page pops to your tuition page (yet) offering something of value on the tuition page itself can help lower bounce rates. Because you are trying to earn a conversion during a phase where your prospective family is still weighing their options, providing them with a relevant content offer can lower your bounce rate and position your school as a leader.
Examples of a Good Content Offer for Your Tuition Page:
- Viewbook Download: Ask page visitors to submit a simple form (such as first name, email, and enrollment year), to download a PDF copy of your school’s viewbook. This way, you can get their information, and send them to a second (and potentially third!) page on your website, thus lowering your bounce rate.
- Helpful Whitepaper: When individuals are in this stage of consideration, they have a lot of questions — and you can help answer them! Why attend an all-girls school? Why is the private school investment worthwhile? Offer a piece of content that answers these questions, as it would be appealing to individuals in this stage of the funnel. If you don’t have the capacity to create a whitepaper, simply write a blog post on the topic and link to that.
In most cases, asking someone to inquire or attend an open house might not yield the same results as a piece of content that is helpful. However, you can try one of each, and do some testing of your own.
Place the content offer in a place visible to all website visitors, and don’t be afraid to add it to the page twice! In our own research, we’ve found that displaying the same call-to-action twice on the same page leads to higher click throughs! We recommend placing one of these calls-to-action about one-third of the way down on a page, and then again at the very bottom.
3. Link to Helpful Resources and Relevant Pages
The trick to lowering your bounce rate is getting them to visit just one more page on your website. In our first post on tuition page strategies from 2016, we shared that “ending your tuition page with a call-to-action” was a best practice because it encouraged visitors to visit another relevant page on your website, such as financial aid or scholarships. This best practice still holds true today (and probably will indefinitely).
In a separate document, make a list of the pages on your website that would be relevant to someone in this recruit/convert stage of the funnel. These pages might include:
- A page on scholarships and financial aid
- Parent testimonials
- Your school’s differentiators
- A school blog
- A financial aid workshop
Once you have your list, figure out a creative way to link to them within your tuition page. You might simply add an element to your right-hand column called “Additional Helpful Resources,” or “Next Steps.” You may also find it helpful to integrate this information in appropriate locations throughout the content using call-to-action buttons and callouts.
For example, McCallie School has a Financial Aid Workshop they offer to current and prospective families. The workshop's details and calls-to-action are located in a panel on the tuition page, right above the tuition information.
The key to lowering your school’s tuition page bounce rate is understanding who your audience is, and providing them a way to find new content that is relevant to them. Try one of the new strategies introduced in this post, and keep an eye on your metrics for the next couple of months to see what is most effective with your website visitors.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
As Finalsite's Content Marketing Manager, Mia shares innovative and helpful content that helps schools and districts create captivating online experiences that increase brand awareness, student and faculty retention, and school-to-home communications. With more than five years experience in the industry, Mia has written more than 200 articles, eBooks, and reports about best practices for schools on a variety of topics from social media to web design. As a former TV and news reporter, and wedding photographer, Mia specializes in sharing how to use storytelling to power your school's admissions funnel. When she isn't busy creating content or hosting her #LIKEABOSS Podcast for FinalsiteFM, you can find her hiking with her Boston terrier, running an army wives meeting at Fort Campbell, or enjoying a well-deserved savasana on her yoga mat.