How you can tailor your university website's message to a specific audience

Post by
How you can tailor your university website's message to a specific audience

University websites need to cater for a lot of different audience types – from prospective students to their parents/advisors, staff, alumni and more. 

Many of these audiences will be visiting the same pages, so from a user experience and information architecture point of view, it becomes quite a challenge to surface the right information to the right users. 

You end up with long pages and vast navigational options – in fact, we recently analysed every UK higher education institution’s website and found that the average number of links on a page was 188, with some universities having over 1000! 

With such a blurred user experience, every user sees every message, and this is a real issue.

The reason it’s an issue is that it impacts your website engagement rates – leading to high website exit rates. 

We sometimes see institutions try to target specific audiences with their page design. For example, UK based undergraduates. This approach simplifies the website experience but neglects other critical audiences such as international applicants as this audience often can’t find information relevant to them.  

So, what can be done to improve engagement? 

Marketing managers know their audience and how to communicate with them, it is core to their role. However, what content marketing staff can influence on a university website tends to be quite limited to specific pages and potentially call to action buttons placed in pre-defined parts of the website (e.g. at the top of a course page).

This means to get their message heard they will go to advertising networks, where they can select the audience they want to target. This is a crucial part of the marketing process but it often leaves the potential of the website rather neglected.

The truth is, a lot of people visit university websites. There are many points of traffic referral – from UCAS to word of mouth. Your future applicants will be visiting your website.

When you are providing a “one size fits all” user experience you’re not getting the most out of your website visitors' potential. You could be nurturing them towards viewing additional content, guiding them to the content that really resonates with them. 

Website audience targeting

Going back to running an advertising campaign, a core element of a campaign’s success is the audience seeing the message, because the message is crafted for the audience. A well-defined marketing message targeted to the right audience will see high click-through rates and engagement. 

Now let’s bring that concept to your own university website. allows you to build audiences on your own website, which, over multiple website visits, you can start to communicate with. This lets you guide users towards actions, content and updates that are useful to them.

Here’s a step by step example:

  • A website visitor navigates to a course page on your website.
  • They look like they might be interested in the course.
  • displays a first micro-survey question to the user: What best describes you?
  • The user responds with “I’m looking to apply”
  • We now know the user is a prospective student!
  • then seeks to validate their interest in the current course they’re viewing – let’s say it’s BSc Psychology.
  • The app asks another question, “are you interested in studying this course?”
  • The user responds “yes”
  • We now know the user is a prospective student interested in BSc Psychology!
  • It’s important we guide this user to content that will help them with their application, and does just this, across multiple sessions.

  • But wait! The marketing manager responsible for BSc Psychology has an upcoming webinar hosted by the course leader that they’d like to promote. 
  • can issue a notification to all previous visitors interested in BSc Psychology alerting them to the upcoming event – on whatever web page they’re browsing on your website.


The above example has two threads – the first being always-on content recommendations, which are assigned to an audience making sure they’re viewing relevant content when they revisit the university website. 

The second is the ability to send a notification to users based on who they are and what they’re interested in – giving marketing managers the ability to raise awareness of their campaigns on their very own website. 

Together they boost user engagement because you’re providing an experience for the individual user.

In fact, customers see their average session duration rates increase by 65% for users and pages per session increase by 40%. 

Interested in learning more? We offer 30-day free trials of the platform.