The truth is that the education sector has lagged behind other industries in implementing digital marketing. That’s not to say traditional marketing doesn’t have its place, but one could argue that marketing today is inherently digital. No longer an optional channel for educational institutes, a robust digital marketing plan is now a critical piece of marketing infrastructure.
15 Best Digital Marketing Strategies for Education
According to the Simpson-Scarborough Survey, universities now spend between $429 to $623 on marketing per student enrolled. In order for digital marketing to be viewed as a revenue driver and not a cost center, education leaders should identify the digital marketing strategies that will best grow enrollment and retention.
We assembled the top 15 digital marketing strategies for education to help you attract top leads, increase enrollment, and foster engagement with both current and potential students alike.
1. Optimize for Mobile
A staggering 63% of organic online searches now originate on mobile. That means your website must perform just as well on a mobile device as it does on a desktop.
Google wants to provide its users with helpful and relevant content. Websites with a frustrating or confusing user experience result in site bounces and potentially removal as a school choice. A “mobile-first” approach allows visitors to focus on the most important thing: the value provided. However users land on a site, they are presented with a good experience and appropriately sized site that considers the nuance between a desktop and mobile experience.
2. Execute on Email Marketing
Email is easily one of the most valuable and reliable assets in your digital market plan. In fact, research shows that email outperforms popular social networks by 40 times.
When students apply or request program information, you now have their permission to stand out from the competition. Aim to provide value using a series of emails that highlight unique differentiators and alumni case studies.
3. Tell Stories Through Video
Video marketing allows you to show a visual story that words cannot. Not only does it give you better storytelling ability in communicating why you are different, but video is also the preferred method of content consumption on most platforms.
The benefits of video marketing cannot be understated:
- 80% increase in conversion rates upon including videos on a landing page
- 90% of customers say video helps them make purchasing decisions
- 82% of consumer web traffic is estimated to stem from video.
The beauty of video content is that you can build a library of content that can be trimmed and packaged into evergreen assets for use across different formats, platforms, and channels.
4. Play the Long Game on SEO
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of writing your website in a way that generates qualified traffic to your site.
Even though it takes time to see the fruits of your labor, you are building equity in the form of more website authority. Keyword research, technical SEO, backlinks, and on-page and off-page optimization all factor into whether you climb to page one or languish on page two and beyond.
The University of Colorado Boulder has been playing the long game on SEO with excellent results placing them on the front page of Google for people searching for colleges in Colorado.
5. Make Livestreaming Consistent
It’s impossible to ignore the meteoric rise in popularity of live video with apps like Tik Tok and Meta’s Reels. Live video is real, authentic, and more interesting than pre-recorded videos.
The numbers don’t lie either. 80% of people prefer watching a live video over a blog post and spend 3x more time watching live videos compared to recorded videos. Social media algorithms are weighted to promote live content and reward brands that use popular and newly released features. Take advantage of the algorithm, don’t fight it.
6. Boost Brand Awareness Through Display Advertising
The most successful billboards are no longer alongside the highway but on your audience’s favorite websites. Digital ads are 35% more effective than traditional billboards, and significantly easier to determine if they are working.
If you’re looking to expand awareness, one of the best ways to grow your reach is by using Google Display Network. Comprising over 2 million websites, the Google Display Network can target prospective students based on their search histories and reach around 90% of the total internet users around the world.
7. Advertise Where People Spend the Most Time
The state of the internet today is social media, so it only makes sense for your social media marketing to advertise where people are spending most of their time online.
Effective social media marketing includes both organic content and paid advertising across the entire content lifecycle. Whether you’re sharing your mission and vision, or taking the opportunity to show off state-of-the-art investments, pulling different content levers will move your target audience through the customer journey.
8. Position Value with High-Quality Content
Content marketing gives every institution the ability to educate, solve problems, and give actionable next steps for their audiences.
Every content piece must have a goal that ties back to your business goals. This helps minimize rudderless content, build authority, and share unique insights that set you apart. Communication Strategy Group (CSG®) is an education marketing agency leader in the world of brand communications, PR, and content marketing, and our experience in this field has given us unique insights on content that moves the needle.
Developing tailored content for specific segments of your audience can drive strong results when executed properly. eLearners.com and CSG partnered to generate leads for their partner colleges and universities. CSG identified those single working moms as a group that could benefit strongly from higher education.
CSG and eLearners.com created Project Working Mom to highlight the stories of moms seeking higher education, and specifically created content designed to overcome the main barriers for single working moms: time, money, and confidence.
Not only did Project Working Mom garner brand exposure with over 500 million media impressions, including placements on CNN.com, but the numbers of enrolled single working moms also rose significantly:
- 600,000 unique scholarship inquiries
- $10 million in full-ride scholarships awarded
- 3,000 new students enrolled
- $2 million in earned media value
Leveraging high-quality content marketing and PR strategies designed to remove obstacles for your audience should be a critical piece of any institutional digital marketing plan.
9. Create Content to Convert CRM Lists
Many educational institutions and brands have huge databases but aren’t optimizing their messaging to those contacts.
Develop conversion content tailored to segments within your CRM to move prospects closer to enrollment. Eduventures Research found the top 7 reasons as reported by 80% of the students for enrolling at their college of choice:
- Offers desired program
- Reputation/academic quality
- Career outcomes/job opportunities for grads
- Value of education for the cost of attending
- Feeling like I would fit in
- Close to home
This kind of data is a goldmine of potential content to highlight how your institution meets their needs in these areas.
10. Serve Up Ads at the Right Time
Programmatic advertising leverages in-depth data insights and automated technology to serve ads at the ideal moment and price to a target audience.
As the competition in higher education jockeys for top prospective students, programmatic media buying provides institutions with a cost-effective way to target customers based on their specific attributes and demographics.
11. Leverage Influencer Marketing
Research shows that students are heavily persuaded by the case studies and stories of previous graduates who landed prestigious jobs and opportunities.
Look through your alumni list to find the most successful individuals, and ask them if they would be interested in partnering with the university as a local influencer to promote the programs you’re trying to highlight.
12. Claim the Top of Search Results
Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is using paid advertising to promote your school, product, or service at the top of Search Engine Results Pages (SERPS). Bidding on certain keywords you want to rank for will then allow your institution to show up as a result of that search query.
70% of students turn to search engines when researching schools and degree programs. Allocate money for search engine marketing to give your institution a greater chance at attracting brilliant prospects.
13. Write Effective Content for Press Releases
Public Relations (PR) is integral for developing brand awareness, promoting thought leadership, and highlighting faculty expertise.
Higher education PR outreach means working with reporters, editors, and faculty to bring attention to the novel research and which headlines will “stop the scroll.”
PR is an essential piece for institutions that want to flex their intellectual capital and give a bigger voice to their expertise. EDUCAUSE, the world’s leading non-profit association in higher education IT, came to CSG wanting to expand its public profile and amplify its message of being the leading community and resource on education and technology issues.
Leveraging EDUCAUSEs subject matter experts thought leaders, and community members, CSG and EDUCAUSE developed messaging that created a continuous cycle of positive press from reporters, influencers, and earned media coverage in leading trade journals.
14. Educate and Entertain with Organic Social Media
Not only is social media a chance to showcase your institution’s “Why,” but it also helps set the tone and culture for current students both on campus and off by posting consistent educational or entertaining content.
Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Tik Tok, tailoring your content strategy to how content is consumed on that platform either educates or entertains your audience will ensure your message resonates with how your audience uses that social media application.
15. Demonstrate the Value of Education
Just like you need clear business goals to help steer the direction of an institution, you also need to clearly demonstrate the value of a program or degree if you want to drive enrollment.
Use success stories of previous alumni with data-driven messaging that articulates the real-world benefits of the program. Statistics like graduation rates and salary expectations can help persuade students of the benefits of the program you want to promote.
How to Measure the Success of Your Digital Marketing Strategy
So how do you determine whether or not your efforts are working? Establishing Key Performance Indicators and reviewing them monthly helps you spot trends, identify opportunities, and make tweaks when performance is off. Here are five KPIs to keep in mind:
- Website Sessions – Total number of visits to your institute’s website
- Average Position – The average ranking of your website’s URLs for specific search queries.
- Conversion Rates – The percentage of visitors who have taken the desired action versus the total number of visitors to your website.
- Number of Conversions – This is the number of desired actions that your audience has taken.
- Admissions Inquiries – This is the number of prospects who have converted into inquiries.
Tips for Having an Effective Digital Marketing Campaign for Education
Want to give your campaigns the greatest chance of success? Read below before getting started.
Understand Your Target Audience
- What is most important to your avatar customer? What frustrations, fears, wants, and desires drive them?
Create Consistency with Your Brand
- Ensure your team is on the same page with the tone and voice of your brand messaging.
Be Concise, Relevant, and Real
- Compelling content people want to share all have these things in common.
Segment Your Database for Effective Messaging
- Segment audiences so you can tailor messaging to specific needs.
Get Help from a PR Agency
- One of the biggest keys to success with digital marketing for education is knowing what success looks like. With short-term and long-term business goals as a north star, working with a marketing agency that specializes in education PR and digital marketing can help you reach those goals faster.
FAQs About Digital Marketing Strategies for Education
What is social media marketing for educational institutions?
Social media marketing for educational institutions is no different from social media marketing for any business. It is a means to communicate targeted information, gain referrals, and cultivate strong brand connections with existing and prospective educational products or service users.
What are the advantages of digital marketing for the education sector?
Digital marketing provides cost-effective, compared to traditional marketing methods, ways of introducing new educational products and services to a wide range of audiences. Allowing for both wide reach and precise targeting as well as accurate performance tracking of the campaigns.
Why does your educational product or institution need a mobile-friendly website?
Most of the content on the web is accessed from mobile devices, meaning that anybody who wants to succeed in bringing a new educational product or service to market can not afford to not have a mobile-friendly website with an optimized landing page.
How to use online reviews as an education marketing strategy?
Online reviews provide an invaluable opportunity to identify and address any issues with the product or service early on, highlight your brand’s strengths and competitive advantages, build relationships with existing customers and show potential customers how much you care.
How to market education services with video content?
Listen to your audience, they will tell you what kind of video content to produce and where to publish it. Use analytics tools, like Google Analytics, to keep an eye on engagement metrics such as the number of views, average view duration, average completion rate, audience retention, re-watches, click-through rate, subscriber growth, peak live viewers, and other audience engagement KPIs.
How do I do digital marketing for higher education institutions, like colleges?
To carry out digital marketing campaigns for colleges, marketers must:
- Optimize college website for search engines
- Target keywords that are long-tail in nature
- Come up with a strategy to earn backlinks
- Target your customer: undergrad, grad, and protective students. Also parents.
Bring in the Experts
All of this content creation can be overwhelming with limited internal marketing resources, and there’s only so much you can get done without burning out. That’s where we come in.
With post-pandemic enrollment numbers climbing less than hoped, and many education marketing teams working with limited time and resources, CSG specializes in digital marketing strategy for education. We partner with institutions to develop and execute a digital marketing strategy that helps them drive business goals. Want to get started? Contact us to learn more.