It’s safe to say that the vast majority of teenagers in the United States aspire to attend university or college one day. Even if they may be too young to really see the enormous benefits of furthering their education, it’s highly likely that their parents or caretakers will be looking out for their best interests… and where are they all looking? Online! The bulk of the population, from hopeful teens to anxious moms and dads are online searching, at this very moment, for an educational institution to meet their needs. All of these institutions, however, are competing for new enrollments. Think about how many universities and colleges there are in your state alone. That’s a lot of competition. So, what are they all doing to attract sign ups? What are they doing to target prospects online? Surprisingly, not a whole lot…
Marketing Weaknesses of Universities and Colleges
Based on our research, educational institutions are really not taking full advantage of the authority they have online. Most of the CMS’s (Content Management Systems) they use are outdated. The content is not well optimized for Google to be able to crawl and index accordingly. They have a lot of server issues. The calls to action are too weak to convert prospective students into enrolled students. The web based sign up forms are not user friendly. The list goes on. And to top it all off, there is little, if any, coherency across departments, which leads to consistency issues. Think about a university with 50, 000 students. The college of business has no idea what the college of engineering is doing with regard to marketing efforts. They have separate budgets, separate systems and separate people. Politely put, it’s a mess.
Taking Advantage of the Authority
Why do universities and accredited colleges have such high online authority? Simple. They have .edu sites. These sites are filled with professors with all the citations in the world. Search engine giants such as Google, Bing and Yahoo see .edu sites as authoritative simply because they’re run by educational institutions. The more authority you have online, the greater chances you have of ranking on Page 1 for select keywords that your prospective students type into the search query box. Once you rank for these targeted terms, you will have greater online visibility and you will drive more targeted traffic to your site. Targeted traffic yields greater conversions, i.e. enrollments, in the case of educational institutions.
Unfortunately, due to the technical and operational weaknesses mentioned earlier, these institutions are not using the authority they have to their advantage. So, the question is how can universities and colleges improve their advertising / marketing efforts? What can they do to be more competitive online and to get in front of prospective students?
Here are 4 suggestions to help get you started:
1. Identify Goals
First and foremost, you need to ask yourself the following question; what is your ultimate goal? Let’s be honest. There is only one real objective of any university or college from a financial standpoint; new enrollments. How can you get these enrollments online? Form submissions? Catalog requests or phone calls? How many will you need to attain your enrollment goals? What are your enrollment goals? How much are you willing to invest to achieve your enrollment goals?
2. SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
How does it work? SEO enhances your web presence by making it easy for the search engines and people to understand your .edu site and also, so that it can compete amidst the millions of competitors’ on the Internet. It is also imperative that you optimize your website, making sure that all pages communicate with one another and with the search engines. This means making it easy to navigate for both users and search engines. Conducting keyword research and including those keywords in your titles, descriptions, and meta data will further optimize your website. However, there must be a balance. You don’t want to over-optimize your website because that will ultimately hurt your visibility. The best way to ensure that your site is crawled, indexed and ultimately made visible by Google is to publish and promote informative, relevant and original articles about different aspects of the educational system and all of the different niches your college or university is involved with.
3. Sponsored Search
Sponsored search is otherwise known as Paid Search or PPC (Pay per Click). This strategy utilizes the ad space on the first page of results. By bidding on targeted keywords, such as the name of your institution and/or different programs you offer, you can increase your visibility and generate more leads for different programs you offer. The key is to make sure everything is relevant. Your keywords must be relative to your niche, your ads to your keywords, your landing pages to your ads and so on and so forth. The best thing about PPC is that you can track your efforts. By calculating the CPA (cost per acquisition) and the CPM (cost per impression (the number of times your ad is shown)), you can determine how effective your ads and landing pages are at generating leads and conversions. It’s all about being relevant and providing attractive offers.
4. Social Media
Social signals have been confirmed by Google as a factor that weighs heavily in the search results. You must be active on popular social media networks; especially Facebook. It’s a goldmine. Unfortunately, however, it’s underutilized. There are countless opportunities for educational institutions on Facebook. For example, if you’re the School of Music, it’s as simple as targeting teens between the ages of 15-18 that like the violin, for instance. If you’re the School of Business and Finance, it’s as simple as targeting teens between the ages of 15-18 that like numbers, mathematics and finance. You can get as deep and as targeted as you want. You can even target by location if you wish to only attract people from your state, if you are a state school, or get even more targeted, focusing on local towns if you are a community college.
… So there you have it. There are a handful of other advertising channels that can be utilized online. However, the strategy and the structure need to be accurate. You can’t just do all of the above and not have good lead tracking system or a follow up system. Contact us and we’ll build you a customized, advanced marketing / advertising strategy.