You're reading your Google Analytics reports correctly. That's a 30-day dip in your website traffic — and it's accelerating.
We analyzed a segment of GA accounts with year-over-year comparison (2019-2020) during March and April. We found that most colleges and universities are suffering from double-digit drops in pageviews and sessions related to admission, financial aid, applications, and campus visits.
SimpsonScarborough's national survey indicated that 74% of students have already decided where they are going to college. If students are making decisions sooner, that could account for a portion of the dip, but certainly not all of it.
The course toward a correction has little to do with how well your existing marketing funnels are set-up or how curated your user experience is for prospective students and their families. The content we have on our admission websites just simply isn't as relevant right now.
We shouldn't really be too surprised. Junior & senior visits are canceled. Mom and dad aren't hunting around the website looking for directions to campus. High school guidance counselors are not sitting down students each day and recommending college websites to visit. Most students are not scouring the web to compare and contrast their options. You need to help them find their tribe from afar. They can't feel the spring air on campus or get that tingling feeling walking across the quad. While virtual tours are essential, their impact is questionable.
If your marcomm team hasn't shifted their focus toward retooling your website for a world without campus visits and face-to-face interactions, the time to do that is now. Your admission teams have likely changed their strategies, but has the institutional website responded in the same way?
In our same national poll, we asked high school seniors their preferred ways to engage with colleges. Here's what they said:
Here are five things you can do right now to improve the performance of your admission website during the COVID-19 crisis.
- Modify your campus visit web pages to describe new offers for digital visits. You are not going to be hosting visitors anytime soon. Archive all that content about what to do before you arrive and where to park.
- Create opportunities to easily sign-up for a one-on-one meeting with an admission counselor or financial aid officer. Don't simply list an email contact, use a web form.
- Talk about your COVID-19 admission response plan on your admission website. We've seen a lot of universities segment this content to specific COVID-19 pages. Your accepted and admitted students (and their parents) are likely not going there first.
- Create a statement about what you're doing for financial aid for families impacted by COVID-19. Families need to know and shouldn't have to inquire if you have a policy in place.
- If funding exists, develop a microsite that aggregates all of this content into a digital visit experience. This isn't a short-term investment. If the doors are open, you are going to see fewer families traveling to campus this fall.
This isn't a temporary situation. We all need to realize that the absence of campus visits and other traditional web-centric admission processes need to be wholly reconsidered. High school juniors should be on your mind just as much as admitted seniors. Your admission website is relevant more than ever for this audience, and those who focus efforts toward their website and related marketing and advertising strategies are going to yield deeper engagement and greater returns.