I know you have heard it before — “understand the sales funnel”. It is a phrase that has been thrown around many times for keyword selection in paid search advertising, brand development through social media advertising and content marketing for an enhanced user experience. When building a digital marketing strategy for universities, there are key considerations that should be acknowledged to truly alter life-changing decisions.
Do: Use Omnichannel Measurement & Reporting
Choosing a university to attend is not something most people take lightly. Many factors need to be taken into consideration: cost of tuition and living, degrees offered, location, and whether their football team is nationally ranked. The length of the sales funnel means potential students are exposed to a breadth of traditional and digital advertising, so its vital to utilize an omnichannel approach to effectively get in front of the right people.
Recently, our agency, AVX Digital ran a campaign dedicated to driving new applicants to a nursing program in Newport News, VA. We found some staggering results. Direct, Referral and Paid Search seemed to have the highest flow of conversions, despite later finding that our last-click attributed reports overvalued these channels when other channels helped round out a holistic marketing experience. Overall, organic efforts drove over 50% of the campaigns assisted conversions. Would these conversions have happened regardless? Potentially—however, we noticed that the most commonly viewed pages were blog pages, which were targeted to provide users with a wealth of information related to their decision-making process. In the end, we realized that blogs were an introductory channel for users, and other channels were the actual point of conversion. This understanding allowed us to leverage content with targeted messaging, aimed at continuing the decision-making process to other channels such as social media.
Don’t: Use the Same Message for All Levels of Education
University selection is the first step toward career growth and development. When crafting messaging for prospective students, it is vital to understand their current education level. Those looking for bachelor’s degree programs are looking to kick-off their career, while a master’s degree applicant might be looking to take their existing career to the next level. When mocking up ads for a master’s degree program, a user is far less likely to resonate with a message based around starting up a career.
Do: Develop Hyper-Focused Content Marketing Strategies
To take this further, if a potential student won’t identify with messaging that doesn’t apply to their education goals, then generic messaging about the university won’t resonate either. There is a chance that the end user has been dreaming of studying culinary arts for over a decade. They know what they want, and they want to see what they want. They want to see content that relates to their goals and aspirations. Typically, our team uses keyword syntax that is often a variation of “[level of education] + [program] + [geography]”. Using the example mentioned before, when developing hyper-focused content, it would be wise to target keywords such as “associates culinary arts degree in Baltimore”.
Paid search is known for being able to target low-funnel leads, but content marketing can do the same. By building content around a focused group of keywords, our content is now likely to index on the Search Engine Results Page for users who have a deeper understanding of where and what they want to study, which tends to be much lower on the sales funnel, as mentioned before.
While content marketing often drives organic traffic, it can also boost paid efforts by increasing your quality and relevancy scores. Additionally, long-tail keywords tend to drive down cost per click, while increasing conversion rate based on where in the sales funnel you are targeting!
Don’t: Provide Fluff SEO Content
Everyone has done it – stuffing pages with puff pieces for Search Engine Optimization to build website content or reach a target word count. Students hunting for a college education do not trust fluff. They need to see direct benefits and costs. Provide what searchers are looking for. Content is still seen as king, but keyword optimization can be done in so many other ways than traditional content. Create value-focused content that relates to what the users are searching for and then layer in additional “SEO juice” by taking the time to ensure key website elements such as image alt text, header optimization, etc. are aligned with best practices and rich with keywords. To take content to the next level, elevating authority with structured data such as Schema markup and URL-specific link building initiatives will help get the most out of your content!
If you are worried about your SEO Content Marketing, fear not! We’re recognized as a Top Search Engine Optimization Company on DesignRush.
Do: Focus on Mobile First
You know what they say – “if you are not mobile-first, you are last”. Okay, maybe that is not the line, but marketers know that the mobile revolution has come and gone. We are no longer moving to mobile. We are here and have been on mobile for a while. Users who are considering universities are not making the decision solely through desktop research. They are in high school classes. They are at work. In one way or another, they are on the go. Ensuring your content and paid channel landing pages are optimized for mobile users is as important as ever, especially when running a social-focused campaign. For truly effective mobile advertising, it would be even better to consider aligning your content with AMP-guidelines, putting maximum focus on site speed.
Don’t: Discredit Voice Search Optimization for Universities
Right now, Voice Search is where mobile was 10 years ago. We are in a process of guess and check. That being said, there are some great strategies that can be considered when optimizing university websites for Voice Search. The first was covered already; create content that is hyper-focused to specific areas of study.
Additionally, content should target position 0. In large part, position 0 has been used to answered questions in Voice Search networks such as Amazon Alexa and Google Home. As shown below, answering key questions related to the university selection process, websites are put in a greater position to appear higher in the SERP, as well as within Voice Search responses.
In the end, the main digital marketing tip for university advertisers would be to ensure that your content is extremely targeted – to the level of education, geography, area of study, etc. Without a well defined messaged, marketers will struggle to find a message that truly sinks in with the target audience.
If you are a university looking to elevate your student’s university selection process, feel free to contact us today and speak with one of our digital strategists!