Digital Marketing for Higher Education

Because the education sector is about creating an environment ripe for learning and exploring concepts, many outside the industry forget that it is also a business. Whether you are a school administrator or run the marketing department at a major university, getting your message out to parents, students, and even investors is paramount to the survival of your institution.

According to Siteimprove, higher ed is behind other industries in their adoption of digital marketing.

  • Though the recent years have accelerated adoption, higher ed lags in digital transformation
  • There is increasing scrutiny on budgets

Your Challenge: Marketing Your School

There are many loops to close — often with a limited budget that must effectively stretch across various initiatives. You may have trouble customizing your website to fit the specific needs of your program, or you may also face challenges transitioning your staff from more traditional media techniques to the digital world. At Search Influence, we are experienced in working within the parameters of a larger organization while still serving the core purpose of your campaign. Depend on us to find the balance you need to amplify your voice.

As digital marketing experts in the education industry, Search Influence will connect you to your target audience with a collaborative approach that ensures you are getting measurable results. We know every college or university is unique, with a wide range of goals in mind. Looking to increase enrollment and retention or target alumni and fundraising opportunities? Contact us! Our experienced team can provide marketing strategies for higher education, technical colleges, and beyond.

The Best Higher Education Digital Marketing Strategies

Digital marketing is all about increasing your higher ed institution’s brand awareness. Some of the most trusted digital marketing strategies that can help get your institution recognized by potential students include utilizing digital ads, user-friendly websites, and informative e-blasts.

The key here is not only to keep potential students informed — it’s as equally important to track your consumers’ journey, all the way from initial exposure to institute enrollment and beyond.

Your Higher Education Digital Marketing Budget

According to a SimpsonScarborough survey, higher education universities typically spend an average of between $429 and $623 on marketing per enrolled student each year. However, this threshold varies depending on an institution’s individual marketing goals. As a general rule of thumb, universities looking to maintain their current position should budget around 5% of their total net revenue on marketing efforts, whereas colleges looking to grow their enrollment numbers should budget a higher percentage — closer to 10%.

Best Practice Higher Education Digital Marketing Strategies

From integrated marketing plans to targeted ad campaigns and social media development, we specialize in finding where we can add the most value to let you focus on what you do best — positioning your students for excellence!

Planning & strategy

Be strategic about what messages prospective students are seeing, where, and when. We’ll conduct an analysis of your target market, define your student personas, and create a strategy to meet your goals.

Cohesion across marketing materials

Increase trust with prospective students by making information consistent and easy to locate. Often, we see more detailed information in our clients’ printed brochures than on their websites. By coordinating digital strategies and printed marketing materials, you can create a cohesive experience for current and prospective students.

Search engine optimization

According to a Google study, 58% of students turn to search first when they begin research for higher education. Our deep roots in technical SEO and local search optimization will help potential students find you when they begin that journey.

Increase your search engine visibility

Search engine visibility is the amount of traffic that your institution’s website receives from its rank in the organic search results. Some tactics we may implement into your digital marketing strategy to help improve your search engine visibility include targeting your pages for keywords, evaluating your website for mobile-friendliness, and crafting compelling page titles.

Aim to rank for featured snippets

To quickly answer a user’s query, featured snippets are spotlighted clips of text that are automatically pulled from a webpage and presented at the top of Google’s organic search results. By optimizing your content for specific featured snippets, we can help impact your SEO efforts by increasing your university’s brand visibility and organic traffic to generate more leads — and applicants!

Optimize existing content to rank higher in search results

No matter how great your institution’s marketing efforts, an existing degree program or faculty spotlight web page may just seem to lose its traffic as time passes. To help improve the quality and relevance of your web pages, we’ll review and update your site’s existing content by:

  • Rethinking content structure and substance
  • Optimizing images and keywords
  • Assessing internal and external link-building opportunities

Invest in SEO to witness long-term results

Although SEO for higher education marketing may be one of the most cost-effective ways to get your university noticed by your target audience, it’s a long-term project that requires time, discipline, and strategy. To help build your university’s website authority and drive results, our team will develop a plan for a higher education SEO strategy that entails keyword research, internal linking opportunities, technical audits, and more.

Follow Google Search trends

Google Search data helps signify where your target audience is in the marketing funnel, as well as where your institution’s advertising efforts should be. Our team will keep a pulse on Google Search trends as they relate to your university and recommend the next steps for effectively targeting your audience.

Paid search competition’s impact on organic search

Although education-related organic searches have been proving to decline year over year, paid ads are increasingly grabbing the attention of prospective university students. Our team will help your institution set paid search goals and maintain a robust strategy that reaches the right audience to drive conversion rates upward.

Online advertising

With students increasingly relying on online sources for help locating their perfect school, digital advertising campaigns are a segway into boosting your university’s inquiry and enrollment rates. To help your higher education institution obtain steady website traffic, we’ll craft campaigns that connect with your prospective student personas and select the right digital channels for all your paid marketing messages.

Leverage your lookalike audiences

Because these groups share similar demographics and interests with existing students, lookalike audiences are considered the most likely to engage with your content — and even enroll in your degree programs. Using data from your institute’s existing students, we’ll develop online advertising campaigns that help broaden your university’s reach to the students most inclined to take action.

Utilize proprietary data for ad targeting

From halts to annual search term reports to privacy limitations, Google, Facebook, and Apple have recently made sweeping changes to the accessibility of tactical data extracted from ad networks. Amidst these changes, our team can support your ad targeting goals by focusing on proprietary data to effectively tailor each campaign to your audience segments.

Focus on your responsive ads

According to data from Google, advertisers can expect to witness 10% more conversions, on average, when incorporating the multiple components of a responsive display ad. Because our digital advertising moguls acknowledge the performance potential of responsive ads, we’ll work with your team to create responsive ads that drive relevant leads to your higher ed institution.

Incorporate inquiries into your lookalike audiences

Inquiries from prospective students — whether by submitted forms or emails requesting more information — can help fuel the development of your university’s lookalike audiences. By uploading inquiry lists into these builds, your final dataset can help map your ads to users with similar inquiries, attracting students who are more inclined to apply.

Build brand awareness through display advertising

While Google’s Search Network may be one of the best ways to capture your user’s intent, not every web surfer will automatically know about your university. This is where the Google Display Network can lend a helping hand. With Google Display, our team can help you invest in building brand awareness for your college using comprehensive audience research and targeting techniques.

Website, user experience, and conversion optimization

Improve the experience and make it easier for potential patients to contact you. Our team will evaluate your website as well as your collateral and recommend necessary updates to increase conversions. Sometimes it’s as simple as making it clear to the user what you want them to do!

Transform your higher education website into a core marketing asset

According to a 2021 Siteimprove survey, the top three factors improving a higher education’s website performance include content, QA, and SEO. So, what do these findings mean for your digital marketing efforts?

It starts with reenvisioning how you reach prospective students with your content, its quality, and its efficiency. As part of your team, we’ll help you execute your university’s digital transformation by auditing and optimizing your existing content, aligning your web content with the search intent of students, and more.

Enhance your website design

Your higher education website is your school’s leading marketing tool when it comes to communicating with your community. If your site is out of date or complex to navigate, prospective students may bounce from your site as soon as they land on it. To keep your website accessible, informational, and engaging, our development team can work with you to:

  • Maintain your institution’s brand within the website design, including color scheme and tone
  • Incorporate visual content (e.g., alumni photos, video testimonials by passionate students)
  • Create easy-to-navigate paths for prospective students, current staff and students, and alumni
  • Make it accessible to all and optimally functional, no matter the user or device

Google’s Core Web Vitals: What You Should Know

In 2020, Google announced the rollout of its Core Web Vitals, a set of user-focused metrics that assess a web page’s “health” — or how well it provides a smooth, seamless user experience. These metrics consist of three components:

  • Content loading speed
  • Interactivity
  • Stability

With gradual advancements to the algorithm, Google has been able to analyze small details like these metrics to provide the best content and results in response to relevant search engine queries. The sooner your institution’s website moves toward a user-centric approach and optimizes for these Core Web Vitals, the higher it’ll rank according to Google’s standards.

Establish efficiencies

There’s always room for opportunities to target efforts toward more intentional SEO or paid strategies, but how can your institution dedicate time to each priority? Oftentimes, the best higher education marketing strategy is one that breaks down silos and creates efficiencies across platforms. By streamlining your team’s effort, your higher education university can reduce marketing costs without reducing your enrollment potential.

Content Marketing

Content marketing involves any type of content that serves to educate and inform a reader, primarily for marketing purposes. For your higher education institution, content marketing can help raise brand awareness, promote a new degree program, or drive new students to your site by organic search, social media, or even email newsletters.

Repurpose content that just works

Quality content doesn’t always need to have a short shelf-life. Get more out of your institution’s best content by repurposing it! Whether it’s a blog post turned infographic, or a webinar turned Twitter post, we’ll help you recycle the content that truly counts and attract more leads, all while releasing content that feels fresh and unique.

Create long-tail content

As an effective part of any strategic web marketing campaign, a long-tail content strategy focuses on narrow and direct searches that prospective students, parents, and community members are intentionally scouting the web for. Our team will work with your university to develop a long-tail content strategy that combines target keywords, target market segments, and target geographies to deliver high-quality content to individual users who are more likely to be engaged leads.

Focus on student outcomes

Connect with prospective and current students and guide them through the admissions funnel by emphasizing what matters most. We’ll ensure that your website, social media platforms, and marketing messages boast your institution’s strongest selling points — your students’ career, financial, and academic outcomes.

Social Media Strategy & Coaching

Engage with prospective students of all ages where they expect you to be — social media. We’ll review your social media activity, as well as that of your competitors, and combine tone, frequency, engagement, and branding to produce a strategy based on best practices and experience. Our support can include graphics creation, content calendars, and more to expand your internal resources.

Embrace the metaverse

Blending physical and digital spaces, the age of the metaverse is projected to reenvision the landscape of higher ed learning. Potential challenges aside, developments in augmented and virtual reality provide valuable educational options for immersive classroom experiences, particularly for remote learners.

As the simulated technology continues to advance, your institution will need to consider where the metaverse may find its place in course curriculums and classroom structure.

Understand your student influencers

In today’s Gen Z world, influencer marketing tactics are redeveloping the way higher education institutions reach their target audiences on social media. No longer are students relying on faculty or admissions counselors to hear about all their educational possibilities — they’re shifting focus to those who are most relatable.

Use your alumni network to find reputable spokespeople that can best represent your university, program, or student body and share their post-graduate experiences and opportunities. By strategically leveraging the power of your institution’s student influencers, you can boost enrollment more naturally and reach your audience where it matters most.

Go for student-centric

Your institution’s social media is not just a channel for higher education online marketing; it’s also a direct way to connect with your students at all times.

Because a majority of students incorporate social media into their daily routine, it’s important for your digital marketing campaign to encompass a student-centered approach. We’ll help you consider what potential and current students most want to know about studying at your university, highlight opportunities and educational benefits, and, above all else, make your social media messages personal.

Email Marketing & Nurturing

Convert more prospects and applicants through email marketing by sending messages timed to where they are in the decision-making process and timed to your application and enrollment deadlines. We’ll create nurture programs dedicated to each program of focus to share out the most relevant information with prospects and applicants.

Use email marketing to promote your university

When executed properly, email marketing campaigns can be highly effective for recruiting and retaining students while also engaging your university’s current student body and alumni. No matter how big or small your university campus, we can develop personalized email marketing strategies to target a wide variety of readers and foster long-lasting student relationships.

Create email campaigns for lead generation

Encouraging inquiries and campus visits doesn’t end with simply initiating student interest. Using email campaigns, your university can nurture student interest by delivering consistent messages that meet your recipients where they are in the marketing funnel. To generate and convert more leads into applicants, our email campaigns can include distributing content on upcoming events, program requirements, and more.

Increase student enrollment with elevated campaigns

Getting a prospective student’s email is only half the battle in enhancing your higher education institute’s enrollment numbers. To really drive your students through the funnel — beyond inquiry — you’ll need compelling emails that get the right information to the right people at the right time. By crafting thoughtful and highly targeted email campaigns, your institution can more effectively improve your student recruitment practices while also increasing conversion rates.

Analytics & Tracking

Our Google Analytics and Tag Manager certified team has a high standard for delivery against well-documented, key performance indicators. With monthly meetings to assess our progress, we’ll be agile in our response to market conditions and focus on your most critical metric: enrollment.

Incorporate call tracking into your strategy

From the state they are calling from to how they first found your university, call tracking lets you know exactly who a prospective student may be. By utilizing a call tracking strategy, we can help you shift your marketing campaigns towards a specific target audience, better anticipate rapid-fire questions, and focus on the ads that bring in the most leads.

Emphasize internal tracking

When tracked over time, higher education metrics provide meaningful insights into your institutional objectives and inform future marketing strategies. From how effectively you’re nurturing leads to whether you’re on track to meet enrollment targets, these key performance indicators help your university evaluate its success at each stage of the higher education funnel. To assure your performance metrics signal success, we’ll track everything from impressions and website traffic to enrollments and retention rates.

The new Google Analytics

With Google Analytics 4 (GA4) in full swing, your higher ed institution may be questioning what the best practices for internal tracking will look like in a changing, cookie-less landscape. Because making the leap from Universal Analytics to GA4 accompanies some tracking challenges, we recommend setting up both to run concurrently first. This allows your institution the chance to start collecting data in the new tool for accurate reporting while also giving any third-party tool providers the chance to become familiar with the new Google Analytics.

The Higher Education Digital Marketing Experts at Search Influence Are Here to Help

Are you looking for a higher education marketing agency to help you grow your institution’s reach? At Search Influence, we have years of experience working with higher education institutions of all sizes. Whether through SEO, paid search, or email lead nurture, our team can help you acquire and convert prospective students. Contact us today to learn how we can take your education marketing to the next level.