Why worry about your website in the age of social media?

Why worry about your website in the age of social media?

As international student mobility keeps growing all over the world, recruitment activities are changing. Meeting prospective students face-to-face at events and fairs, though still important, is starting to give way in importance to online marketing and social media. The international higher education marketing world is abuzz with training and best practices in online marketing, social media, QR codes, mobile apps, and more. 

But any prospective student from abroad who encounters your institution through these channels is guaranteed to end up at the same place: your English-language website. And what’s the use of developing clever tweets and great campaigns if students get discouraged or confused once they get to your website?

Why worry about the Web?

According to the 2012 E-Expectations report published by the research firm Noel Levitz, more than 50% of prospective students surveyed in the USA said that the web played a significant role in their decision to apply to a higher education institution. And because these were American students looking at institutions in the USA, this percentage is certainly much higher for students researching universities outside their own country. Such students will not have other information channels available, and very few will have the chance to visit campuses abroad before they apply and enrol. Your website is likely to be the single most important thing that shapes prospective students’ entire image of your university or programme – so it’s crucial to get it right!

Translation isn’t enough

Creating an ‘international website’ for your institution means more than just pasting all your existing content into Google Translate and setting up a parallel web presence in English. Besides the fact that they are not necessarily native English speakers, international students simply have different interests, expectations, and informational needs than their domestic peers do. There’s a certain base level of information that you can assume for students from your own country, which just won’t be the same for a student abroad.

Not only that, but your international site isn’t just talking to the students themselves – you’ve also got their parents, professors, and academic advisers reading over the students’ shoulders. And don’t forget about everyone else who is visiting your site from other countries – prospective researchers and professors, partner universities, alumni, and international peer reviewers.

Measure and modify

Simply put: your institutions’ website is a critical part of your marketing and recruitment success. And building a successful international website is a process of measuring, adjusting, and experimenting. It starts by setting clear, measurable goals and asking basic but important questions like “What do I want my visitors to do while visiting my site?” If these important steps are skipped during the process, you will leave the visitor confused. Using measurement tools like Google Analytics brings you up-to-speed with your key performance indicators (KPI’s) and helps you learn whether visitors are actually doing what you previously anticipated on your site – as well as learning where they come from and what the conversion rate is.

If you want to improve your institution’s international website and learn more about building, measuring, and maintaining a website for international audiences, join the EAIE Academy course ‘How to optimise and maintain an international website’ in Riga, from 20-21 April.

By Laura Montgomery and Michiel Doetjes

Laura Montgomery is an EAIE Trainer and Senior Marketing Consultant.
Michiel Doetjes is
an EAIE Trainer and Marketing & Communications Officer at the International Office of Saxion University of Applied Sciences, the Netherlands.