Online forms are a crucial part of every school’s enrollment process. Most often, they are the first opportunity for admissions teams to gather intel and connect with prospective families. There is a fine balance between gathering as much helpful information as possible and making the form too long which decreases form engagement. These “tried and true” admissions forms may actually be the largest plug at the top of your admissions funnel.
Making small changes to your school’s admissions forms can make a big difference:
- There is an average 120% conversion increase when you reduce the number of form fields from 10+ to 4 or less
- There is an average 20% conversion rate on forms with only 3-5 fields
- The average conversion rate on a form with 11+ fields is only 5.4%
Are your online forms seeing these same performance numbers? Let’s explore the top 6 best practices to get your school there:
1. Gather Only What You Need
Your online inquiry form is towards the beginning of your school’s admissions funnel. The initial conversation with prospective families is about building a bond through learning about their interests, needs and concerns. That information is better collected through personalized conversations via phone or in-person – not through a lengthy form during the research phase of their admissions journey. The only true pieces of information you need to collect in order to advance in the funnel are about how to contact them. This includes:
- Student Name
- Parent/Guardian Name
- Parent/Guardian Email
- Parent/Guardian Phone
Prospective families might not be ready to dedicate that much time and effort to an online form with 10+ fields when they don’t even know if boarding school is the right option for them. Instead of scaring them away, collect what you can quickly to ensure the opportunity to nurture the relationship later down the funnel.
2. Build a Multi-Form Strategy
Your school website and online admissions forms should be designed within a distraction-free environment. Each step within the admissions funnel should be on its own landing page with a single form asking to complete a single action. There is no need for the general inquiry form to ask about availability for a campus tour when those are two completely different steps within the admissions process. A strategic multi-form structure will help prospective families through the admissions funnel at a low-commitment rate each step of the way.
3. Design a Whole Landing Page
When trying to increase online form submissions, you have to look at more than just the form itself. The entire page should be strategically designed with content that tells your school’s story and mission. The goal of a landing page is to keep website visitors on the page long enough to feel confident in completing the call to action. Web pages with nothing but an online form are likely to have a higher bounce rate than a full webpage with content, images or interactive media. Your school website’s bounce rate is the percentage of users who land on a page on your website, then leave immediately without interacting. A healthy bounce rate falls between 26% and 40%. If your bounce rate is too high, it can negatively affect your search engine rankings.
4. Think Mobile-First
As of February 2023, it’s estimated that over 60% of all global internet traffic comes from mobile devices. If your school’s web pages are not mobile-friendly, you’re cutting off more than half of the potential traffic your school could be receiving. In fact, search engine algorithms actually follow mobile-first indexing – reading and ranking the mobile experience of websites in search results over the desktop experience.
Thinking mobile-first doesn’t mean creating a whole separate user experience just for mobile. In fact, the overall purpose and structure of your school’s website should be the same across all devices. True responsiveness is about creating a seamless experience regardless of the device used to find your school’s website. When planning, designing and building your school’s online forms, think of how you use your favorite websites everyday across devices:
- Page Length – Mobile pages are naturally longer due to stacked content and require more scrolling. If your desktop pages already require a lot of scrolling, think of how long your mobile pages will become. Your users would never reach the bottom.
- Interactivity – Forms, buttons, links and videos are all ways to keep users on the page longer and convert them from website visitors to leads. Where they are placed among all the page content and how they’re designed will impact the percentage of users who actually reach and use them.
Making the content and design decisions with a mobile-first perspective will make it much easier to increase form submissions and achieve your SEO goals.
5. Track Activity with Heatmaps
Heatmaps are a useful analytics tool to better understand page activity and form drop-off. Heatmap software can show how far down the page your visitors are scrolling, what they are clicking on and just as importantly, what they are not clicking on.
Knowing how your users engage with your content will impact the overall experience across all devices. Analytics will show the best form placement, button design and page layout. Heatmaps can also analyze the online forms – which fields are being filled in and where along the form do users quit. Simple A/B testing of landing pages will help your marketing and communications team make smarter decisions to increase website engagement and form completions.
6. Don’t Forget the Thank You
Getting an online form submission is only half the admissions battle. Your website experience and online forms should be structured to move prospective families along the admissions funnel. A simple and easy way to nurture the relationship without too much extra outreach is through a thank you after an online form submission. A thank you page is more than just an opportunity to confirm the form submission. An engaging thank you page will set expectations of how soon your school will respond, what to expect next and provide other resources to browse through while they wait.
Traditional online admissions forms are no longer an effective way to resonate with prospective families online. Your school’s landing pages and online form strategy should reflect the segmented audiences within your admissions funnel. Using your school’s website analytics, your admissions and communications team can build an online form strategy that is specifically designed to increase form completions, decrease bounce rate and improve search engine rankings.
Blue Baden is the only marketing and consulting agency specializing in helping independent schools grow by offering website development and maintenance services. With a full service team, we are equipped with designers, developers and content writers to build the website of your school’s dreams. Contact Blue Baden today.