Many factors influence individuals’ decisions when selecting a business school to pursue a Master’s Degree. They may go through a wide range of online and offline resources to create a short list of business schools for which they will finally apply. But is one digital channel better than the others for helping MBA schools increase their numbers of applicants—and if so, which channel is it? Should display ads be thrown, should social media be utilized to draw attention to the school, or will a website do the job?
Having analyzed both the traffic sources and attributes of Massachusetts schools’ websites and noting where prospective students pay the most attention, we have concluded that a professionally designed and coded website is vital to have for this purpose.
Let’s see why.
According to available research, university websites are among the most popular sources of information for individuals interested in pursuing an MBA. GMAC states that in 2013, school’s websites were accessed by 80% of applicants. Additional research from the Gulf University for Science and Technology ranks university websites as the #4 source of information, preceded only by educational seminars, magazines and journals, and ads on TV and radio.
However, the analysis of the traffic sources of schools’ websites in Feb 2016 also revealed that less than 50% of visits come from those who type a website name in the address bar. Furthermore, we believe that majority of these visits come from faculty, current students, and people who have already done their research and go to a website directly for a specific information. So how do new people learn about schools they don’t know?
According to the data presented in Diagram №1, nearly 50% of traffic to the websites of schools located in the Boston area comes from search engine results. This, we believe, is how new people come to find these websites.
Diagram №1: Traffic Source of Schools’ Website, February 2016
Someone can argue that search engine results have become the # 2 traffic source due to a lack of schools’ activity in display ads or social media. To dispel any doubts, let’s show a few examples of banner ads. We can assume that display ads comprise the bulk of the HULT International Business School marketing strategy. However, these paid campaigns have not resulted in a significant amount of traffic.
Picture №1: Banner Ad Example, February – March 2016
That is why it is crucial to have an optimized website capable of appearing on the first page of search results. Apart from keywords, title tags and Meta descriptions to push the website up in the search engine rank, it is also important to fill the website with high quality and relevant content which can also help to increase the value of the school in the minds of potential applicants. Another thing to remember in endeavors to optimize a business school website is to develop social media as the search engines utilize brands’ interactions in the social environment to determine more accurate relevancy for search requests.