4 Tips to Use Your University Website to Engage Alumni
Cultivating a strong alumni community is important for universities. Graduates tend to think fondly of their alma mater, and having a dedicated alumni section on your website offers an opportunity to stay connected with university activities. Your alumni website is also a great resource for connecting with potential alumni donors and showing appreciation for their ongoing support.
Nowadays, most alumni outreach takes place over online platforms. Your alumni network likely spans across the country and even worldwide, and the internet is one place where everyone can easily stay connected with your institution.
Plus, 93% of online experiences begin with using a search engine. That’s why your university’s website must be optimized for search engine performance as well as engaging alumni digitally. In this guide, we’ll review top tips for engaging your alumni using your website:
- Review your Google Analytics.
- Improve your website’s user experience.
- Incorporate strategic calls to action.
- Showcase engagement benefits.
Most top college websites include a link to their alumni website in the top navigation bar. This means it’s important to optimize your alumni information on your overall website and on the alumni website itself. Keep this in mind as we explore each tip. Let’s dive in!
1. Review your Google Analytics.
You probably have a wide range of alumni who interact with your university, and you should take the opportunity to determine who they are and what they want out of your website. Remember that many alumni are potential donors, so learning more about them is crucial.
Review these metrics in your Google Analytics to learn more about your website visitors:
- Average session duration. This measures the average time users spend on your website in a single session. If this metric is low, consider adding engaging visual elements to your website such as videos or an event calendar.
- Bounce rate. This is the percentage of users who view only one webpage before leaving your website. To decrease your bounce rate, you can implement more enticing calls to action (CTAs) that encourage users to interact further with your content.
- Most popular traffic sources. This metric tracks how visitors find your website— through a search engine, social media, direct URL search, etc. Consider adjusting your marketing approach for less popular traffic sources.
- Top landing pages. Your top landing pages are your website’s most popular pages. Use this metric to determine what visitors seek when they visit your site and further optimize those pages for even greater engagement. For instance, if many visitors explore your chapter map, take additional steps to ensure that the page is easy to navigate.
- User demographics. This tracks your website visitors’ demographics, such as age and gender. If most of your visitors are young adults, perhaps you could promote your alumni program through social media platforms like Instagram. If most of your visitors are older, you could consider making your site more accessible to older audiences.
By examining your Google Analytics, you can learn more about how your university’s website can better serve its visitors by determining the most and least effective elements on it. Ultimately, when you get to know your user audience and alumni visitors better, you can design your site in a way that encourages them to engage with your content.
2. Improve your website’s user experience.
Streamlined, user-friendly design can go a long way toward inspiring alumni to explore your site. An enhanced user experience (UX) allows them to quickly find the information they need and discover all the opportunities for engaging with your institution. Plus, streamlined UX helps your website perform better in search engine result rankings.
Here are some tried-and-tested UX design tips for your website:
- Reduce your website’s load speed. You can do this by compressing images and minimizing HTTP requests. The current recommended load time is two seconds or less—ideally, your site should load in half a second.
- Use a simple, uncluttered design. Your site should feature a minimalist navigation bar and plenty of white space. This will make it easy for visitors to read and navigate through your site.
- Optimize your website for mobile. The majority of search engine queries nowadays occur on mobile devices. Use a responsive design template and check the formatting of your site in the mobile view to ensure there aren’t any readability issues.
- Make your website accessible to people of all abilities and ages. Include alt text for images, transcribe videos or include captions, and ensure your text has enough contrast with your background colors. This ensures that your site is user-friendly for all, including older alumni who tend to have more money for donations but are also more likely to need better accessibility.
- Ensure your forms are user-friendly. This includes your online donation page and event sign-up forms. Consider why you’re collecting information and if you’re asking questions you don’t need the answer to. Think about all your form fields and if you could make them more inclusive, and ensure that they are usable for people of varying abilities.
Your alumni website doesn’t need complex design elements or flashy graphics to be effective. A minimalistic design with a focus on accessibility will allow alumni to navigate your website easily and connect with your programs and opportunities faster. These updates are easy to make when your university is using a top content management system like Drupal or Wordpress. Both CMS platforms offer features like accessibility tips and a mobile editor to ensure an optimized user experience.
3. Incorporate strategic calls to action.
By implementing strategic calls-to-action (CTAs), you can help alumni easily find the information they’re looking for on your website. CTAs are typically buttons or menu links on your site that direct visitors to different pages. You can use CTAs to direct users to donate, register for mentorship opportunities, read recent news articles, or sign up for your newsletter.
Your CTAs should:
- Stand out against the rest of the content on your page with bright colors.
- Use active phrases, such as “Connect With [College Name] Today” or “Get Involved.”
- Offer unique opportunities, such as gift-matching programs or invitations to chapter events.
Here are some websites with examples of effective alumni engagement CTAs:
The University of Georgia’s alumni website includes multiple CTA buttons that pop against the background and include clear instructions for different actions that visitors may want to explore.
The University of Arizona’s alumni website features multiple CTAs under the “Get Involved” section that point alumni to different groups they might be interested in joining.
Georgetown University’s alumni website incorporates quick link CTAs near the top of the page, making it easier for visitors to navigate to what they’re looking for.
For more inspiration, take a look at Kanopi’s list of best college websites to see how other institutions incorporate unique, engaging CTA design and language.
Clear CTAs make it easy for visitors to figure out how to engage with your institution. Whether you want to recruit alumni to help plan a fundraiser or volunteer for your mentorship programs, making sure that alumni have an easy time navigating your site encourages their continued involvement.
4. Showcase engagement benefits.
Ultimately, to make your website as engaging as possible for alumni, you must put their interests at the heart of your content. Consider embracing the concept of alumni centricity— the process of building relationships with alumni that aren’t just based on loyalty to their alma mater, but also on the value that your program brings to their lives.
You can build even longer-lasting relationships by orienting your website content around the value that alumni involvement in your opportunities and programs will bring to the lives of former students. Here are a few benefits you can offer:
- Mentorship programs. These programs allow alumni to form personal connections with other alumni and students and provide continuing education, professional development, and resources.
- Homecoming events. Homecoming events allow alumni to return to their alma mater and participate in games, concerts, and much more.
- Networking opportunities. This can be as simple as letting alumni find others through an online directory or as involved as hosting networking events or professional development panels.
- Volunteer events. For alumni who want to be more involved with their alma mater, these events allow them to give back and make a lasting impact.
By striking a balance between donation requests and offering other opportunities such as mentorship programs, homecoming events, and networking opportunities, you can provide just as much value to your alumni as they provide to your university.
As you adjust your website content to appeal to alumni, be sure to continuously assess your data to determine what’s working and what needs improvement. This allows you to keep up with the evolving needs of your alumni base and avoid having to conduct major website overhauls. When your website is optimized, promote it through email newsletters and social media updates to drive more traffic. This allows you to engage alumni effectively, even if they’re located across the country or globe.
As Founder and CEO of Kanopi Studios, Anne helps create clarity around project needs, and turns client conversations into actionable outcomes. She enjoys helping clients identify their problems, and then empowering the Kanopi team to execute great solutions.
Anne is an advocate for open source and co-organizes the Bay Area Drupal Camp. When she’s not contributing to the community or running her thoughtful web agency, she enjoys yoga, meditation, treehouses, dharma, cycling, paddle boarding, kayaking, and hanging with her nephew.