Data Dive: How Do Different Call to Action (CTA) Link Types Perform?

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Niche Premium Profile CTAs


With over 80 million sessions last year, Niche is the most visited platform for researching and engaging with preschools through grad schools. Niche partners have the ability to add 4 custom CTA links on their profiles, and we’re often asked what we recommend putting there. That led to one of our great Product Analysts pulling the data of how they’re engaged with. The data is broken out by the type of profile for more context. June and July have the highest engagement rates during the year for both PK-12 and colleges. Institutions should compare this to their own engagement rates on their sites to determine if this is when they see the highest engagement on their own sites as well or if this is unique to those who are in active search mode.

For PK-12 institutions the most common CTAs are of the format “Why X?” and Apply; while for colleges it is Majors and Programs, Apply, or Tuition, Scholarships, Aid, and Cost. For both types the most common application CTA is Apply Online, but in neither case does it have the highest click through rate. Conversely, for visit CTAs the most common is for Virtual Tours; which also is the highest converting.

Findings: What is most effective?

PK-12 CTA Buttons

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Engagement is highest in the summer and lower in the spring, perhaps indicating when families are considering their enrollment options for the next year. We’ll be releasing survey data in the coming months to help answer that question.

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The highest performing links fall in to the “Why X?,” Academics and Curriculum, and Tuition, Scholarships, and Aid categories. The latter two make clear sense, families want to know what curriculum sets your school apart and if it is not a public school there is always the question of how they will pay. The first can be a little less clear, as families want to know why they should be persuaded to change schools of course, but where the link goes could be any number of things. If you have this type of link, evaluate the performance of that page and determine if you’re meeting or exceeding the expectations of the link. There should be clear differentiators, stories and testimonials, and media rather than just text.

The lowest performing links were all of the same types: Contact, Inquire, and Request. Families who want to connect are likely already using the backpack feature of Niche where they can organize and track their school considerations. Families who want to connect will know how, so focus the CTAs on other that will differentiate your school.

The graph below combines the first two and shows the performance by category by month. You can click any type of CTA to highlight it in the above chart. Social media is interesting in that most of the year there is very little engagement, but it spikes in June to more than double the click through rate of any other type of link. Make sure that your social channels have engaging content over the summer, don’t let it lapse in to obscurity.

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When we specifically look at the language of the links to application pages there are not as large of differences as are seen among the all link types. The best language to use, it appears, is a simple Apply or How to Apply. An apply button should link directly to your application while a How to Apply would be expected to go to directions for applying.

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When looking specifically at visit links there is more variation. Virtual tour/visit is the most productive, as well as being one of the most common. Using the language of Plan or Schedule are the least productive on average, and are less direct as well.

College CTA Buttons

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Students appear to be most engaged in their search in June and July. There are also small increases in February and September.

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There was wide range in the category performance for the CTA types. One of the most used, and highest performing, were links to Majors and Programs. This is expected since one of the most common criteria for students is whether or not you offer their major. Academics and Curriculum links also performed well, as well as Admissions and “Why X?” Students are on Niche to research colleges, so CTA links that help them take that next step and provide more value and context as to why they should consider you seem to be preferred.

Some links that performed very poorly and should be swapped for something else fell in to the categories of Social Media, Videos, Events, and Contact. Niche already has a section for Events and students are already using their backpack to organize their search, so links to contact or inquire are likely being seen as unnecessary. The social media and video links might be less clear, but likely less clicked because students are social savvy and know how to find you if they want to on their preferred social channels.

The graph below combines the first two and shows the performance by category by month. You can click any type of CTA to highlight it in the above chart. Most link categories followed a similar curve with spikes in February, June, and September and some also having a spike in December.

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The phrasing of application links were tightly clustered in performance. One of the most interesting points is the difference between two seemingly similar CTAs: Apply Now and Apply Today. Apply Online was the most frequent text, but was only middling in performance. This could be because students assume they will be applying online already and it’s not as appealing as other copy.

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Unsurprising, given the last 6 months, Virtual tour language is the most common and effective. The less immediate language of Plan and Schedule were the least effective while CTAs speaking directly to a visit were more effective.


Includes data from the past 12 months. We pulled clicks on all custom CTAs in the From the School section on premium profiles, the copy of those CTAs, and the total pageviews on those profiles. We grouped the custom CTAs into categories based on the language in the copy. CTAs that include the world “application”, for example, are categorized as “apply” CTAs.  Click through rate for each category was then calculated as the total number of clicks divided by the total number of pageviews. Static charts were built in Shiny with dynamic charts made in Tableau.


Will Patch

Prior to coming to Niche in 2019 Will served 9 years at Manchester University in roles as an Admissions Counselor, Associate Director for Admissions Operations, Social Media Coordinator, and ultimately as Digital Strategist. Will surfaces tactical insights from user behavior and surveys to help higher ed build recruitment strategies. In addition to the Enrollment Insights blog, webinars, and podcast; Will is a frequent conference speaker and podcast guest. He has presented at NACAC, AACRAO-SEM, AMA Higher Ed, CASE V, EduWeb, and EMA. Will's work has been featured in Forbes, Inside Higher Ed, CNBC, CNN, the LA Times, and The New York Times among other outlets.

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