Deciding what information takes the stage on your homepage is the most difficult part of the deployment process. While it's easy (and important!) to be sure that your homepage answers these five questions, choosing how to answer them is what can lead to some sleepless nights — the biggest one being: "how can I learn more?"
We're pretty sure that deciding how to answer this question has led to some week (or month) long battles among admissions and communications staff — which is completely acceptable considering there is really no right answer to this question.
But, to prevent you from hashing it out with your co-workers over "what works better," we developed four questions that will prompt a less heated discussion, and (hopefully) help you to choose the homepage call-to-action that works best for your school — and makes admissions and communications staff homepage happy.
1. What is the level of commitment?
In a perfect world each prospective student that visits your website is ready to apply, but chances are at first they are just perusing — and comparing you to other schools. With key metrics (and a little bit of common sense) you'll be able to determine the overall commitment of most prospective students when they're visiting your website.
If you've been using Google Analytics you'll be able to take a look at the average time spent on your homepage and the bounce rate. For example, if the call-to-action you've been using isn't giving site visitors a reason to stay and engage with your site, it might be time to switch it up.
Even better than Google Analytics, is your own website data. Taking a deeper look at the information submitted by prospects can help determine which CTA is right for your homepage.
If you've been using an "Apply Now" button that's yielded a high number of incomplete applications, that may suggest that students who are applying do not have a high level of commitment, adding a simpler CTA like "Inquire Now" may work better for your audience.
Try adding both buttons to your homepage like Brentwood Academy does and track traffic to see what calls to action work best for your school.
2. What kind of data are we looking to yield?
In other words, what is the ultimate purpose of the data you are getting from students? The data you're seeking to obtain from prospective students will determine which call to action is on your homepage, and which one is on your Admissions page and other lower level pages.
Having an "Inquire now" or "Request More Information" dropdown is likely to get you more submissions than an "Apply Now" button because it requires less commitment.
For example, when Wilbraham & Monson Academy redesigned their website this past year, they used a quick and easy Request Information form to generate leads. However, the admissions office wanted more qualified applicants, rather than a bunch of inquiries.
Here's the rule of thumb:
A "Request Information" form is the perfect tool for inbound marketing. If your goal is to obtain data to start sending emails, making phone calls, and inviting them to make a campus visit, a "Request Information" tab is all you'll need. However, if you're not looking to get prospective students in a marketing workflow, and only looking to obtain data from students with a high level of commitment, an "Apply Now" will better suit your needs.
In Wilbraham & Monson Academy's case, they ended up taking the latter route.
3. What are our competitors doing?
If you're still torn on what calls to action to have on your homepage, your competitors serve as a good benchmark for tilting the scale in one direction or another.
If all your competitors are using an inquire button versus an apply button, you should too. If a student is in the early stages of researching and applying, being able to request information from all schools — including yours — will put you all on a level playing field. However, if you only provide the option to apply, there is a chance that you could lose numerous prospective students to your competitors because it was too much work to learn more.
4. How about both?
To put it simply: yes, why not. It's important to appeal to all website visitors at the same time. Someone might just be shopping around, while another is ready to commit. However, because call to action buttons are meant to stand out and point prospective students on a single course of action, be sure to make a clear differentiation between the two.
While studies suggest that when you use multiple calls to action, nothing stands out — we think that offering different options appeals to different groups — therefore, opening up more avenues of communication, rather than forcing someone to take an individual course of action.
For example, we love this panel on Forman's website. With the header "Learn More About Forman," it introduces three calls to action for three different audiences.
However, depending on the time of year, you could switch up the text on your homepage CTA. For example, during the summer months and off-recruiting season, you could use a "Request More Information" CTA, while deep into recruiting season (when most students are looking to apply) it could be an "Apply Now" CTA.