How One University’s Website Became Its #1 Recruitment Tool

The Challenge

How One University’s Website Became Its #1 Recruitment ToolThough highly regarded for its health programs, this particular institution — a private university — was struggling with enrollment. Having peaked in 2008 with its largest first-year class of 225, numbers declined steadily since then and the 2013 first-year class totaled 154. As members of the university’s marketing and enrollment team at the time, Calculate’s founders proposed a complete overhaul of the existing website utilizing inbound marketing strategies.

The Goal

  • Develop a marketing-focused website to build enrollment
  • Implement strategies to
    • Attract high-quality leads
    • Convert leads to applicants
    • Keep the user’s experience at the forefront


The old site was dated in terms of content, design, architecture and function. The user’s ability to navigate the site and complete a task (e.g., to apply) was greatly compromised. In short, the site lacked a clear and cohesive strategy.

Additional problems included:

  • Site not mobile friendly
  • Lack of SEO-friendly headlines and content
  • Decentralized model: campus departments maintained their own sections, diluting the institutional brand and key messages
  • Text heavy (more than 8,000 pages) leaving the user frustrated and unable to find important content
  • No opportunities for easy user engagement and conversions
  • Calls to action buried too deep within the site (example: the application form took 4 clicks to access)
  • Lack of a cohesive and active voice
  • Inconsistency of design and content within sections

The Solution

We believed the university’s website would and could function as its primary marketing & recruitment tool. In creating the new site, we implemented the following:

  • Strategy: developed and adhered to a strategy designed to attract and convert high-yielding prospects
  • Content: completely re-wrote the site with lean, active, marketing-driven language
  • Implemented web- and SEO-friendly headlines and bulleted, scanable text
  • Added easy-to-see calls to actions throughout
  • Added simple engagement forms on key pages
  • Launched a responsive design to cater to the mobile audience
  • Reworked the architecture for an easy, intuitive user experience
  • Implemented a new design to facilitate user interaction; images, graphics, and buttons draw attention and motivate action
  • Moved all content intended for the internal audience to the university’s intranet
  • Eliminated unnecessary external links, thereby reducing the opportunity of losing users before they completed an action
  • Created a centralized model where the university’s marketing team could control the top levels of the site and review all updates for approval

The Results: Immediate & Lasting

  • During the 2014-15 recruitment cycle, 54% of applicants who filled out an engagement form either enrolled, deposited, were admitted or accepted.
  • In the first year of the site, 5,600 engagement forms were completed and sent to the Admissions team.
  • For the 2014-15 recruitment cycle:
    • First-year enrollment increased by 42%
    • 37% of all applicants came through engagement forms
    • 36% of enrolled graduate students cited the engagement forms as their primary source of access to the university
  • Because of the centralized model, the website has maintained its ability to serve enrollment and experienced minimal degradation.

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