Audience Engagement and Personalized Content

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Last Updated: Feb 2, 2023 11:00 AM

Increase Higher-Ed Audience Engagement with Personalized Content

Have you ever looked at your college or university website and felt it wasn't tailored to the specific needs of your target audiences? Maybe the layout was confusing, or the programs recommended were too generic.

That's where website personalization comes in.

By customizing a website's content and layout to each individual visitor, higher education institutions will provide a more enjoyable and efficient experience for their key audiences and increase engagement. 

For example, when prospective students feel like a website is tailored to their interests and needs, they're more likely to spend more time on the site and explore different programs and offerings. Of course, when students and their parents spend more time on your site, it leads to higher conversion rates and, hopefully, more enrollment for the institution. 

Website personalization improves visitor satisfaction.

By providing relevant content, programs, events, and agendas for your key audiences, colleges, and universities ensure that they serve the content their visitors want. With website personalization, colleges and universities can target specific groups of stakeholders with targeted messages rather than providing generic messages to all visitors.

But first, who is your taget audience? 

In higher-ed marketing, an audience refers to the group of individuals or organizations that a university is trying to reach and persuade through its communication efforts. This group can be defined in a number of ways, such as by demographics, behavior, interests, or psychographics.

Understanding the target audience, both internally and externally, is crucial in creating effective marketing campaigns and messages. 

For example, a school that wants to increase enrollment of Gen Z, or create awareness for Gen A (Alpha), students would likely have parents and caretakers of prospective students as their target audiences.

A school that exclusively offers online programs would target non-traditional students, such as working adults trying to obtain a degree on their timeline without having to adhere to class hours imposed by a faculty member. 

Knowing a target audience helps to direct the marketing efforts to the right people and the right channels, and tailor the message, tone, and style of the content to effectively communicate with a particular audience segments.

Implementing personalization tools, such as Clive, to serve the right content to the right audience at the right time, increases the likelihood of becoming a strong contender in the person’s search for a college or university. 

Higher-ed marketing campaigns that don't take internal and external target audiences into account or try to appeal to too broad of an audience are less likely to be successful in achieving their desired results. 

Examples of higher-ed internal audiences 

Internal audiences at universities typically include:

  • Students
  • Faculty
  • Staff
  • Administrators
  • Alumni
  • Board Members

These groups may have different roles and responsibilities within the university and may have different needs and interests in terms of the information they receive. Additionally, internal audiences may include students, particularly graduate students who may be involved in research or other projects.

Examples of higher-ed external audiences

External audiences at universities include a wide variety of groups, such as:

  • Prospective students and their families
  • Prospective faculty and staff
  • Donors
  • The media
  • Employers
  • Government officials and funding agencies
  • The general public and community members
  • Businesses and organizations that collaborate with the university on research or other initiatives.
  • Professional societies, Accreditation bodies and other universities and academic institutes.

Each of these groups have different interests and needs in terms of the information they want to receive from a university, and universities should have different goals in communicating with each group.

How to use personalization to target your higher-ed audience

Personalization will soon be the key differentiator in the enrollment race and should be used to target internal as well as external audiences in a number of ways, such as:

  1. Segmentation: Segmenting your audience into smaller groups based on demographics, location, behavior, interests, or other criteria will help create more targeted and effective marketing campaigns. By segmenting your audience, you can inform in-state students about upcoming campus events, and out-of-state students about scholarship opportunities.
  2. Personalized messaging: Personalized messages in higher ed marketing refer to the practice of tailoring marketing messages and campaigns to the specific interests, needs, and behaviors of individual visitors or groups of visitors. Personalization can take many forms, from using a student’s name in an email to providing customized viewbooks based on their interests Creating personalized messages and offers based on the interests and needs of specific segments of your audience can increase engagement and conversion rates.
  3. Personalized content: Serving personalized content, such as blog posts, videos, or infographics, can help to build trust and credibility with your target audiences.
  4. Personalized emails: Personalizing emails with the recipient's name and other information can increase open and click-through rates. But it doesn't end there. Personalized emails should also be tailored to the specific interests, needs, and behaviors of the particular individual who visited your site.
  5. Personalized web experience: A personalized web can take many forms, such as customized landing pages, personalized product recommendations, and personalized content.

By targeting internal as well as external audiences with personalization, universities create more effective marketing campaigns that resonate with their target audiences, which will lead to increased engagement, enrollment, and loyalty. 


In today's digital world, website personalization is becoming increasingly important for higher education institutions. According to a study by Ellucian, 87% of students who received personalized communications said that it was an important factor in their college decision. Additionally, personalization can increase the effectiveness of marketing campaigns and improve the visitor experience, leading to increased engagement and conversion rates.

Colleges and universities that can deliver relevant and personalized experiences across all touchpoints will be better positioned to build stronger, more meaningful relationships with their key audiences.

However, institutions need to be transparent about data collection and use practices, and provide consumers with clear opt-out options. Additionally, businesses will need to ensure that they are complying with data privacy laws, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), which have strengthened consumer privacy rights.

Overall, website personalization can benefit both prospective students and higher education institutions by providing a more efficient and enjoyable experience. As you work on your 2023 marketing strategies, think about how website personalization can better meet the needs of your target audiences.

To learn more about how colleges and universities utilize our personalization tool, Clive, to build great user experiences, view our presentation delivered during HighEdWeb’s Annual Conference, or schedule a personal demo by filling out the form field below.


Photo of Chris Rapozo

Chris Rapozo
Marketing Specialist


Content Marketing