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Optimize! How Optimization Can Boost Student Enrollment

July 28th, 2017 Posted by Higher Education No Comment yet

Take a look at your current student enrollment marketing approach. What does it include? If yours is like most higher-ed institutions, you have a thoughtfully designed website, well-managed social properties, a solid email marketing program, and a paid media strategy designed to attract qualified leads. The catch is that, in the mad rush to launch a new campaign, many institutions drop the ball when it comes to important details that can make or break your marketing plan.

Details like reporting and analytics, creating content strategies that support both SEO and student personas, or using qualitative research to better understand student needs. Optimizing your student enrollment marketing efforts to include these processes can help make more of the time (and media dollars) you’re investing and boost enrollment figures.

Student enrollment begins with measurement

You spend so much time and effort on your marketing. And you’re probably doing a good job. But do you know which tactics drive the most conversions? Or qualified leads? And how different tactics work together to create success? Probably not. Having a solid measurement plan in place will show you which efforts are worth it, so you can allocate resources wisely. It sounds simple, and fundamentally it is. The challenge is putting together a system that helps you track information accurately, and understand where there may be gaps in data.

Improve user experience through research

Whether it’s your website, emails, or content strategy, understanding what your prospects are looking for is more than necessary. The higher education climate is changing, and your approach might need to also. Investing in good user experience and market research is key to adapting your student enrollment marketing approach. Try talking to current students at your institution. Learn from them what made them ultimately decide on you. Find out what they wish they knew that would’ve made their decision easier. Ask them what parts of the process caused the most resistance or increased barriers. Insights like these can inform the type of materials you deliver, the frequency, the medium and more. They can even help highlight the need for more large-scale investments like changes to your application process or information architecture on your website.

Create content that supports SEO and target personas

Creating content is often one of the largest challenges at a higher education institution. You may have a bevy of journalists (student or otherwise) creating articles for your publications. You have faculty writing brilliant (but hardly digestible) reports and research papers. What you don’t often have is content created specifically to support student enrollment, or even SEO. With insights gained from your research, you should have a catalog of topics you can tap into for blogs, short videos, or downloadable resources to share with your prospects. Consider a mix of content that informs users, tells the story of your institution, and communicates necessary messages. In addition to what you’ve learned from your research, think about your target personas. What are their needs? What are they looking for? These ideas should also support your SEO strategy. Create content that syncs up with what users are looking for. Do the necessary keyword research, and ensure your titles, metadata and body copy all align.

Nurture your prospects and applicants

We all know how important yield is. With so much pressure to get applications completed, and oftentimes disconnect between marketing and student enrollment teams. Marketing messaging can easily get lost once a prospect becomes an applicant. This could be the difference between whether that prospect crosses the finish line to enrollment. Make use of the content you’ve generated and the contact information you now have access to. Use email as an opportunity to distribute targeted content to this audience. Invite them to follow your primary or admissions properties on social media. Invite them to online or in-person events catered to them. Use the insights you gained from speaking with current students to understand what might push them over the edge to committing to your institution.

Optimize forever

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that this process will be somewhat endless. In the world of digital marketing, there is always room for improvement. Student enrollment marketing is no different. Try new tactics; adjust your approach, A/B test, and measure, measure, measure. Soon you’ll have tangible proof that your adjustments are working, and will meet (& beat) your student enrollment goals.

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Sarah Johnson is the Director of Digital Marketing Services with Incentric. She’s a recreational sports enthusiast and is driven by the opportunity to connect people through truly impactful digital strategies. You’ll know it’s her by her “irresistible” fake British accent and steady stream of quips.

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