Best Practices for Higher Education Marketers
As a marketer for a higher education institution, you want to represent your school well online, increasing its appeal to potential students so that the enrollment rate increases. You want to learn how to do marketing for educational institutions more effectively, and how you can harness the full power of the Internet to reach more students and their families.
Online marketing for educational institutions isn’t as difficult as it looks. In this article, we’ll explain some of the best practices in higher education marketing, from website optimization for search engines to content marketing, and also give you some ideas you can use to improve your existing programs.
We’ll start by examining why online marketing for higher education has become so important.
Why Online Marketing for Educational Institutions is the Best Form of Marketing
Years ago, marketing methods like television and radio advertisements, direct mail, paid website banner advertisements, and press releases were preferred. Colleges and private schools relied on these methods to boost enrollment rates and attract students and their families for many years with great success. However, in the past decade, these methods have lost their effectiveness. Why?
This is because two major changes have taken place:
- The way that people can and do learn about topics (including higher education) has changed, and
- People have become increasingly able to tune out irrelevant or interruptive marketing messages.
The first change occurred with the widespread availability of the Internet. Because consumers do not have to rely on mass media, tours, or word-of-mouth to learn about an institution—they can instead get online and read reviews or feedback on social media—traditional marketing cannot have the same impact it once did. It is very difficult to convince someone to believe a commercial stating that a campus is renowned for its beauty when online reviews state it’s ugly!
Additionally, marketing that interrupts or “pushes” a potential student or their family member to pay attention has lost its effectiveness. Now that commercials and postcards are recognized as little more than a marketing ploy, consumers do not often respond to them, or may tune them out entirely.
This is why online marketing has become so effective. Using inbound marketing—that is, a collection of marketing methods that prompt a consumer to take action after they are already seeking you out online—you can educate, instruct, and convince, rather than push and shove.
If you are wondering how to do marketing for educational institutions and your plans do not already include inbound marketing, keep reading! These tips will help you put together a cohesive inbound marketing plan that will allow you to reach, educate, and convince more students and their families like never before.
Inbound Marketing Methods for Educational Institutions
By using inbound marketing, you can reach more potential students naturally through search engines, communicate with them and answer questions via social media, and educate them on topics they’re curious about by creating helpful content.
Let’s examine some of the best online marketing methods for colleges and higher education institutions a little more in-depth, starting with search engine optimization.
Search Engine Optimization for Higher Education Websites
Search engine optimization, or SEO, refers to the practice of improving specific factors of your institution’s website to improve its visibility and rankings in search engines. SEO can be challenging to learn and apply, but it typically has a very high ROI.
The general premise of SEO involves optimizing your website for the words and phrases potential students and their families associate with your institution. For example, if you are an employee of a college in Denver, you would optimize your website for keywords like “Denver college,” “Colorado college,” “college in Denver,” “college in Colorado,” “and so on.
Optimizing your website involves placing these important keywords in multiple locations so that search engines like Google associate them with your site, and thus rank you higher in searches for them. So if “Denver college” appears in the titles of your pages, in your body copy, in your page navigation, and so on, you have a much better chance at showing up in searches for “Denver college” than if that phrase only appeared once on a single page.
SEO also involves some other factors, including the number of links pointing at your website from other sites, how fast your website is, whether or not it is mobile-friendly or responsive, and so on. You can get a very quick overview of search engine optimization in five minutes or less by reading our CEO’s guide to SEO.
Social Media for Universities and Private Schools
Social media is a fantastic way to communicate directly with those who are interested in your institution. Rather than use it as an advertising channel—that is, a way to simply broadcast messages about your university or talk about your newest courses—you should rely on networks like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram to interact with those who are making a difficult decision about their educational future, and show them why your institution is the best choice for them.
Facebook and Twitter are ideal choices for interacting with those who may be interested in your institution already. You should be prepared to answer questions there. Also, as more and more potential students follow your social presences, you may want to curate content applicable to them—for example, blog posts from other websites about study habits, how to prepare for tests, and so on.
Pinterest allows you to get a little more creative, depending on your institution. If you work for a college, you could create a board where you curate pins about dorm decorating. Instagram, on the other hand, would be an ideal place to share behind-the-scenes photos of your campus or institution’s staff, showing what life and studies are really like—and giving potential students more reasons to tour your grounds.
How Your Institution Can Use Content Marketing
If you’ve heard anything about this method before, you may already be wondering how to do content marketing for educational institutions. The answer is a little simpler than you might expect, and it usually involves starting a blog.
Content marketing refers to the act of attracting and appealing to potential customers or leads through the use of interesting, helpful, and unique content. This content could take many forms, including blog posts, articles, webinars, infographics, videos, and so on.
Although content does not often directly lead to conversions or new enrollments on its own, it can increase the trust that potential students or their families have in your institution. Because of its usage of important keywords, it can also help boost your SEO so that your ranking improves.
One of the best ways to start a content marketing program—and the easiest—is to start a blog. This blog can contain a variety of topics, as long as it is relevant to your target audience of students. You could write about events on your campus, educational choices and majors, future career paths, and other related topics.
Reach Potential Students and Their Families with Email Marketing
Finally, one of the best ways to communicate with potential students is through the use of email marketing. This method allows you to engage almost one-on-one with interested leads that have opted into receiving messaging from you.
There are a few ways you can use email marketing. If you offer content on your website, you may find some of it so valuable that you wish to “email gate” it—that is, only offer it for download in exchange for an email address (and subscription to your list). You can then start sending information about your campus or educational programs to the addresses you receive through this method.
You may also consider simply creating an email list where potential students can sign up to receive information, or parents of college-age students can receive updates about enrollment dates, and so on. No matter how you choose to use email, ensure the signup locations are highly visible on your website, and the benefits of receiving messages from you are clearly stated.
Need Help With Your Higher Education Website?
Now that you know all the best practices for marketing your higher education website and programs, it’s time to get started! If you find you need any help with your SEO, website content, or inbound marketing strategy, feel free to contact WebpageFX. As a leading full-service marketing agency, we’ve helped more than 500 clients get more revenue from the web and dramatically increase their visibility online.
WebpageFX doesn’t offer cookie-cutter plans and one-size-fits-all marketing packages to its clients. We’d be happy to build a custom marketing package that suits your needs. Contact us today to get a free, no-obligation quote from one of our expert web strategists. We can’t wait to hear from you!
Learn more how to increase your student enrollment rate with online marketing plans from WebpageFX. Call 888.449.3239 or contact us online today to get a custom quote.