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The Website’s Role in Retargeting for Higher Ed Enrollment Marketing

The Website’s Role in Retargeting for Higher Ed Enrollment Marketing
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When it comes to conversion, retargeting wins. Retargeting ad campaigns often perform 10x better than normal ads–and that’s just one retargeting strategy. The fact is, since the audience already knows who you are, you can craft specific offers and CTAs that inspire prospects to take the next steps.

The question is, how do you take full advantage of this follow up activity? It starts with the website. Nearly 100% of prospects access the website at some point, over 60% make a website visit their first action when considering a school, and a lot of retargeting strategies are built to drive prospects back to the site. Therefore, optimizing those website experiences for conversion up and down the funnel should be a massive priority, especially as those interactions become more valuable thanks to current higher education headwinds.

Website lead generation through personalization

The Search Cliff is here and the Enrollment Cliff is on the horizon, so delivering the best experience to the students you attract has never been more important. Web traffic is harder and more expensive to drive, so visitors are simply too valuable to let slip through the cracks. And higher ed marketers are scrambling to find ways to more efficiently turn that limited traffic into consistent lead generation.

Fortunately, new tools allow you to retarget potential students with personalized information the moment they land on the website, so you turn every interaction into a hyper-personalized experience with more conversion potential.

Stephen Ostendorff, Dean of Admissions at Molloy University, a private university in Long Island, NY, employs personalized retargeting to connect with future students on Molloy’s website. He uses the Retargeting Hub, a product by Halda, to provide students with different content journeys based on their previous interactions. This keeps the website experience fresh, flexible, and engaging. 

“The thing about websites is that they’re impersonal,” Ostendorff explains. “There’s a map. You either follow it or you don’t, and there’s nothing about you

He explains that personalized content environments, like the Retargeting Hub, give enrollment management teams the chance to humanize that website experience.

“The beauty of the Hub is that it creates a personalized user journey. I can immediately serve students with information based on their answers to prompts. And even though that information can be found somewhere on the website, I’m putting it in front of them where they can actually see it. That personalized journey is the key, and it’s ultimately what drives conversion.”

Website Retargeting for Different Populations

This kind of content experience has an immediate effect on conversion when it comes to serving returning website visitors. “With the Hub’s retargeting we’re seeing an immediate 7%-8% bump in overall conversions.” He’s also getting those results with an infamously difficult to reach population: Transfer students.

“We always have all this work going for first-year students, and we put plenty of effort on the graduate side,” Ostendorff explains. “But we were going almost nowhere with transfer students, so we wanted a way to get in that space.”

It's providing them with the information they want and, in return, they're giving us information about themselves. -Stephen Ostendorff, Dean of Admission at Molloy University

This boost from the Retargeting Hub helped Ostendorff reverse a trend of declining transfer enrollments. “We’ve seen our number of transfer students decrease every year for the last six years. This last semester we increased by over 60. And I know that students are returning to interact with our transfer page because they’re submitting their information through the Retargeting Hub. It’s providing them with the information they want and, in return, they’re giving us information about themselves.”

Ostendorff continues, “A couple weeks ago I talked to another one of Halda’s higher ed partners inadvertently and I said ‘Oh, you gotta turn on the Hub.’”

Based on his success with the transfer students, he sees this kind of personalized content environment as something that could work for other student populations.

“We haven’t even maximized the Hub yet. I want to get one up for veterans just like we have for transfer students. I want the responses to be even more dynamic. When I get the great information in there, I can make the best case that the Hub will work for our entire graduate student population, as well.”

AI for Scalable Personalization

Tools like the Retargeting Hub use AI to pull specific content from a school’s website to immediately engage students with the information they’re looking for. The AI scrapes the website, then responds to prompts with natural language that back-end users can tweak to best appeal to their prospects. This AI-incorporation allows for scalable personalization that’s specific enough to convert anonymous traffic into leads.

When that engagement comes as a retargeting effort, it’s especially effective for converting students. For Ostendorff, however, it’s not just about conversion. It’s about exercising an empathy for the student that respects their time and resources.

“Ultimately, I think it’s about providing students with the information they’re looking for at their moment in the search. I don’t want to find out about the scholarships I’m eligible for after I’ve already paid a $45 application fee and submitted transcripts. I’d like to know earlier if this is worth my time. And what we’re doing is giving them the information to decide whether this is worth their time earlier in the process, which is driving up applications and enrollment.”

An empathetic, personalized approach makes students feel understood, which makes them want to connect. And that impulse to connect more deeply, well, that’s the goal of great retargeting.

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