Website customization in higher education is curating an online experience that offers the appropriate material to the right students at the right time—in such a manner that they believe your college or university is “perfect for me.”

Colleges and universities must use website personalization to develop emotional connections with students to stand out in the increasingly competitive higher education landscape.

Students feel more like individuals when websites are personalized, particularly in higher education. 89% of potential students state that they enjoy seeing their names on marketing materials and value the ability to tailor the content on websites to their interests.

Website personalization will assist your higher education institution lay the groundwork for effectively enticing, and onboarding prospective students.

Before diving into the details of higher education website personalization ideas, let’s find out what website personalization is and how you can increase traffic and enrollments through it. 

What Is Meant by Website Personalization?

Website personalization is the process of customizing an online experience to meet a user’s individual needs. By creating a tailored and interactive experience, businesses can better engage with their customers and create a more enjoyable user experience. This can be done through various methods, including using consumer data to personalize content, displaying tailored ads, and using customer feedback to adjust the website’s layout. 

Additionally, many businesses use personalization technologies like cookies or machine learning algorithms to track consumer behavior and serve them with personalized content. By collecting data on user preferences, businesses can create an engaging website environment that better meets the needs of their customers. 

Types of Website Personalization?

There are three main types of website personalization: 

  1. Machine-Learning Personalization
  2. Rule-Based Personalization
  3. Rule-Based and Machine-Learning Personalization Combined

Let’s look at all three in detail to get a better understanding.

Machine-Learning Personalization

Personalization based on machine learning is a more advanced kind of personalization that caters to individuals rather than segments.

It employs algorithms to provide a tailored online experience for each user. It accomplishes this by actively gathering and analyzing data in real-time. This allows it to forecast what a site visitor will require at any given time.

Because it is more scalable, machine-learning personalization is gaining popularity among many companies and even in the higher ed marketing industry. For example, it may tailor degree programs’ content suggestions, search results, advertising campaigns, etc. based on the prospective student’s needs.

Rule-Based Personalization

Personalization of this type allows higher ed institutes to manually construct preset rules that control what experience each portion of your audience receives.

For example, if a specific subset of your audience is mainly interested in SEO writing suggestions. Then, you can create rules to ensure that they receive recommendations for SEO-related material. Other portions of your audience will not be affected by this regulation.

You may also use it to tailor your visitors’ experiences based on their referral source.

Rule-Based and Machine-Learning Personalization Combined

Both personalization methods are significant in online personalization and may provide spectacular results whether used independently or in conjunction.

One must partially replace the other since both play roles in the same personalization processes. As a result, when combined, they can provide an excellent personalization experience that keeps your website visitors returning.

Ideas of Higher Education Website Personalization to Grow Traffic

Personalization of a website extends beyond just recommending degree programs in the higher ed niche to increase awareness. This method can also improve higher education enrollment

For example, by adopting website personalization for potential students, Charles Sturt University boosted applications by 127% while lowering cost per acquisition by 32%.

Here are a few examples of how higher education institutions might use this marketing technique to boost applications and enrollment while decreasing the cost per acquisition. By staying updated with the latest trends in higher education marketing, institutions can leverage new and innovative strategies to reach their target audience more effectively.

Using High Converting CTAs

The ultimate benefit of website personalization for you and your higher ed institute is high conversion rates across CTAs. According to BCG, organizations that provide tailored experiences receive at least a 6% revenue gain, which is also true for higher education enrollments. Website personalization is high-effort, purposeful, and actionable labor with high ROI expectations. If you take the time to do it correctly, the odds of success are in your favor.

The targeted call to action for a higher education website is to provide a personalized experience to prospective students that can help them become interested in your institute and courses. For instance, a student searching for an admission option can be enticed by the “Apply” option. 

converting cta for higher education websites

Using  Converting Landings Pages

Educational landing pages, particularly those for higher education institutions, are expressly designed to present potential students with a dedicated homepage that delivers timely, relevant, distinctive, and appealing information. The purpose of high-quality landing pages is to generate high-quality leads for your institute.

These pages are often developed with student identities and audience habits in mind to not only market course content but also to attract traffic from search engines through both paid and organic marketing.

A great example of converting landing pages comes to us from UCLA. The information provided by UCLA about all of its higher education programs is very clear and concise. All the information is readily available at a glance and simple to understand, including the course’s duration, the semesters it offers, and the format it offers.

converting landing pages for higher ed websites

Leveraging Google Analytics Tracking

It’s easy to set up goal monitoring in Google Analytics. Setting up a few key goals can assist your school in better understanding what is going on with its website and how it may be improved. But remember that without action or application, data is simply a collection of statistics. 

Thus, the key to implementing goals in Google Analytics is to put the data you’re provided to use. For example, you may utilize heat mapping to enhance user experience on your website and identify areas with untapped potential.

The journey of a prospect might be helped or hampered by a website’s user experience. So, you can use GA to figure out what methods prospective students use to browse your website or ask for further details. By displaying where users click, what they are searching for, and if they are successful in getting the information they are looking for, heat mapping visualizes these interactions.

tracking for higher education websites

Using Personalized Content Structure

Potential content marketing strategy for website personalization will assist your higher education institution to build the basis for enduring partnerships that begin with recruiting and last through graduation and beyond by presenting pertinent content quickly.

You may tailor content depending on returning visitors, the sites they often visit, and their geographic location. This dynamic content may be accomplished by switching out entire content blocks, substituting text, and using page forwarding.

Using like-user recommendations, where calls to action are offered based on similar users, you can utilize artificial intelligence (AI) to propose content. You can also add personalization at different points of the enrollment funnel.

In the context of student recruitment, this means showcasing your institution’s unique offerings and highlighting the benefits of choosing your university. For instance, highlighting the innovative recruitment strategies for students that your university has implemented, or showcasing testimonials from current students or alumni, can go a long way in convincing potential students to choose your institution.

For example, the prospective student would, for instance, always see Cybersecurity programs first in the dropdown menu if they had previously researched Cybersecurity programs on the website. Or, if a visitor looked into art programs on a previous visit, the website might show photographs of art or offer homepage material that is specifically about art on a subsequent visit. Each of these instances leaves the consumer completely unaware that the material is highly targeted because their experience feels so completely familiar.

Building Urgency

It’s not just excellent for your higher ed institutions to advise prospective students to enroll right now rather than wait. It also makes use of psychology to your advantage by utilizing two fundamental social psychological concepts—fear of missing out and scarcity.

FOMO, or the fear of missing out, is the anxiety of missing out on a desirable opportunity. Similar to an economic deficit, psychological scarcity exists. In other words, when it comes to urgency, people feel a sense of shortage and believe they must act immediately.

For instance, first-time visitors are greeted with a generic message like “You belong here”. On successive visits, they are shown material with a greater sense of urgency, such as setting advisor appointments and deadlines. A customized website detects the student’s previous browsing habits and initiates alternative calls to action.

build urgency for impulsive action in higer ed websites

Using Popups and Lead Forms

Website popups are extremely helpful in gathering information about prospective students’ desires.

Popup lead forms allow higher ed institutes to immediately capture a prospective student’s information. Popups are highly versatile and may be utilized in various contexts and customer journey phases.

You might, for instance, display a popup with two different offers to your visitors. You may learn what customers search for on your website from the one they select.

Popup windows can also collect visitor data, such as email addresses. This way, you have a second opportunity to target them more effectively with more specialized offers if you have their email address.

For example, you can use popups to announce Open Days. By proving a signup button on your popup, you can gather leads for universities and then make the initial content. 

pop ups for higher ed websites personalization

Use Geotargeting

Geotargeting lets you send information, product suggestions, and other services to your website visitors, depending on their geographic location.

One of the simplest types of data to acquire is location information. You may receive location data by directly asking your visitors via tracking cookies, corporate records, social media, etc. In addition, there are several ways to use it to provide your visitors with a customized experience.

This information may be used to provide customized suggestions, welcome messages, search results, and even course prices. It can also assist you in customizing the language of your website, like King Abdulaziz University does in this example:

geo location tageting example for higher education website

Collecting Data

How can you gain sufficient insight into your visitors’ particular requirements and preferences to provide them with a customized online experience?

The straightforward response is data collection, particularly in real-time. Unfortunately, although it may help you understand what your audience wants, the basic demographics (primary data such as income range, gender, geography, age, etc.) of your audience won’t be sufficient to create a thorough customization plan.

Any personalization depends on data as its foundation. The greater your website personalization, the more information you have about your visitors.

As long as you get the correct information, personalization is simple. It’s easier than it sounds to gather data. Your internet visitors continually leave hints that might tell you exactly what they want if you use the proper tools and the appropriate locations to search.

For example, surveys are a quick and affordable way to gather data. Most institutions offer online survey delivery software (such as Survey Share, or Survey Monkey).

data collection form example for higher ed websites

Detail Navigation Hierarchy

Many colleges and universities design website navigation as a last-minute addition after creating pages and content. Only 50% of internet users in a recent survey were able to anticipate the exact location of their desired content based on the navigational structure of a typical website.

A major UX issue arises if half of your prospective students are unable to locate the page they are looking for. As a result, higher bounce rates, less time spent on the site, and lower conversion rates will incur. 

Visitors can easily discover the page they’re looking for on a website thanks to the usage of menus and internal links. Thus, an effective navigation system is crucial to a user-friendly website.

A good example of a detailed navigation hierarchy comes to us from South University. As you can see from the image below, all relevant information is easy to find and the page hierarchy is easy to navigate. 

navigation for higher ed websites

Personalized Videos

Users may retain up to 95% of a message from a video, compared to 10% while reading text. Therefore, videos offer advertisers the best return on investment. By combining video and personalization, you can deliver messaging to potential students that resonate with them. 

For example, a video with student and instructor testimonials is a fantastic approach to show prospective students what they can anticipate from your course. It can encourage potential applicants to apply by fostering credibility and trust.

personalized videos for higer ed websites

Relevance Personalization Tactics

These are triggered based on the prospective student’s identity and behavior on the site. For example, you know that a potential undergraduate student has visited multiple accounting program pages. 

In that case, it makes sense to show additional accounting-related content such as program requirements, alum profiles of former students working in accounting, and local companies that hire accounting graduates. Again, this might be an automated email or information shown in contextually appropriate locations on your website.

alumni profile for relevance tactics in higehr ed website personalization

Applicant Journey Personalization

Personalization based on the applicant’s journey needs a more extensive study of actions and behaviors than relevance techniques, which depend on relatively primary triggers based on preferences or geographic areas. Application journey personalization, however, necessitates understanding what a typical student’s journey on your website looks like as they progress through the awareness, consideration, and decision stages of the applicant’s journey. 

For example, when a potential student goes down the funnel toward applying to your institution, reading more pages, and visiting the site more frequently, speaking with an admissions counselor may be beneficial. Then, when the student is ready to take the next step, you may provide customized information about engaging with admissions personnel by email or phone using data to activate your customization tokens.

cnsumer journey in higerh ed websites

CRM Personalization

You may unleash a new wave of personalization potential by linking your CRM and website personalization engine of choice to help convert prospective students into applicants and enrolled students. 

crm personalization in higer ed websites

For example, assume students were just admitted to your institution or university, and your CRM monitored this information and communicated it with your customization engine. As a result, the students might see a notification prompting them to submit their deposit the next time they visit your website. This simple technique eliminates effort while enhancing yield in the long term.

By combining real-time personalization, you create a one-of-a-kind discussion with potential students that speaks directly to them and inspires them to act. This dialogue might make the difference between a newly enrolled student and a possible loss to a school that better understood their requirements.

Personalized Storytelling in Higher Ed to Boost Enrollments

Nothing rivals the power of video in terms of narrative. Video already accounts for the great bulk of consumer internet traffic.

Zoomers consume the most video, watching 3.4 hours daily, 36% more than millennials. Platforms like TikTok are popular, and this generation is interested in something other than sifting through pages or paragraphs of text to get what they’re looking for. 

Video conveys it faster (the brain processes images more quickly than words), better (it is easier to retain knowledge), and more entertainingly.

But, most crucially, video is a vehicle for narrative. Personalized storytelling elicits a strong emotional response from viewers that is difficult to ignore.

story telling videos in websites personalization

Take a peek at UCLA’s YouTube page where they shared the success stories of the alums. Admission videos can help the institute tell the story in a personalized manner to secure more enrollments. 

 Buyer Persona

You can give your students a better experience when comprehending who they are. Creating buyer personas for prospective students is a fantastic place to start. The next step is to work with your IT staff to tailor your website to each of those personalities. 

buyer persona deinfe in website personalization

Starting with brand profiles rather than specific prospective students has the advantage of requiring fewer data combinations. For example, you may construct five or six buyer personas that use broader categories like the region in which they reside and how many times they visited your institute’s website. 

How Do Universities Use Website Data to Develop a Website Personalization Plan?

To develop an effective website personalization plan, universities need to first use data collected from their own websites. This includes analyzing website usage statistics, user demographics, user behavior, and the overall website design. The data gathered can then be used to create personalized experiences for website visitors.

For example, an analysis of website usage could reveal which pages are most accessed and which ones are least viewed. Universities can use this information to create more user-friendly pages or to make changes that increase user engagement. Similarly, user demographics and behavior can give universities insight into the types of users who are visiting the website, what they are looking for, and how they interact with content.

To tailor the experiences of your audience, establish your website personalization strategy as follows:

  1. Establish clear goals
  2. Research your target audience
  3. Leverage website personalization tools
  4. Create and publish dynamic content
  5. Work on providing recommended content based on the user’s prior actions
  6. To cater to audience interests, use pop-ups.
  7. Track the results of your efforts

The foundation of any website customization strategy is data gathered from your college or institution’s website. Understanding the needs of your higher education website’s visitors will help you provide a more individualized online experience.


Personalization of websites enables higher education institutions to provide the appropriate experiences that potential students anticipate.

Higher ed institutions may leverage hyper-relevant content, images, and videos instead of depending on generic content to convert potential students. Personalization opens up a whole new universe of possibilities for higher education institutions.

Higher education website personalization ideas can help you finalize a game plan and help in identifying the approaches that can help you customize your website. 

If this task seems tedious, you can always reach out to us at Think Orion – a reputed higher education marketing agency. Our competent team of marketing experts has already helped hundreds of higher ed institutes improve their enrolment rate through the implementation of effective strategies and you can reap the benefits of our expertise too!