How top college websites fully exploit headlines

April 9, 2012 by

bored college prospect

'I've seen it all before. . .'

I've seen a lot of higher ed websites in the last few days that seem to ascribe to a 'just the facts' approach to writing page headlines and sub-heads.

As in, 'about,' 'courses,' 'public transport.'

What a waste of valuable real estate!

Heads and sub-heads are key elements of every page because:

  • H1 and H2 headlines weigh heavily in search engine rankings
  • Headlines are all that skimmers (which includes all of us most of the time) get around to reading

That means you should be thinking of them as an integral part of your overall website strategy.

And taking advantage of them as an essential place to clearly communicate the benefits of attending/donating to/working at your school.

I wonder if this is the reason more schools don't take this approach ...

Do benefit statements on a college website equal SALES?

We all know that the higher ed environment isn't 'salesy.'  The mere thought of phrases like '20% off fees for MechEng 202 - this week only!' is genuinely cringe-worthy.

But that doesn't mean you shouldn't include benefit statements on your website, especially in headlines.

In other words, your most important job - always - is to answer your visitor's perennial question: 'What's in it for me?'

Let me show you a couple of websites that do this brilliantly.

the best higher education websites make it obvious how their visitors will benefit

One powerful way to do this is to tell stories about what future students will experience if they attend.

Here's the Bennington College homepage, which does a great job at this:


 It's visually appealing, and literally puts students front and center in the series of photos that circulate through its animated banner.

But now let's take a close look at their headline text.

Students can take from this that if they attend Bennington

  1. They can become intelligent and empowered citizens
  2. They can write a book
  3. They can get inspiration from other student stories if neither of those options spark their interest

It's all about them, and the inspiring lives they can live if they attend Bennington.

Murdoch University in Western Australia also takes a very effective student-centered approach.

Here's one of the rotating images on their home page, where inspiration also plays the central role.

Murdoch University home page

Again, students front and center.  Most importantly, students who are leading interesting and inspiring lives through a Murdoch education.

And in a truly brilliant gesture, check out their 'Future Students - Course Finder' page.

course finder

For Murdoch, it's not just about finding courses - it's about figuring out your life!

What 18-year-old won't see that as an almost unbelievable benefit, and the promise is right there.  Impossible to miss in a clear and simple headline.

And clear and desirable benefits = more interest from prospective students.  It's not the only factor in increasing enrolments, but it's one crucial piece of the puzzle.

How well does your university do at exploiting headlines and sub-heads?  Are there any higher education websites you know of that use them particularly well?


Photo Credit: Nicholas via Compfight

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