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Digital Marketing for Universities

Content Resources for Universities

Digital Marketing for Universities: Tapping Your Content Sources

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In previous posts in this digital marketing series, we’ve discussed SEO basics, goal setting and social platforms to help you reach some of your goals. In this final post, we’re going over all the content sources available to higher education institutions and how to use them.

Importance of Content Marketing

In the U.S., there are nearly 5,000 institutions of higher learning—that’s a lot of competition your school is up against. And you each have three common overall goals:

  1. Attract and retain quality students and staff
  2. Maintain good relationships with alumni and receive donations from them to support school programs
  3. Build brand recognition.

To stand out from the enormous crowd of colleges, you need to put content marketing at the center of your digital marketing efforts. Businesses aren’t the only organizations that need and benefit from innovative content marketing strategies.

You need to educate as well as entertain people with your unique content. You need to use content marketing to share your story as a university. With good storytelling, you form an emotional connection with your audience through compelling stories, helping you attract and retain students and staff.

And there are several forms of digital content you can create. The following are possible content types universities should embrace:

  • Website
  • Blog posts
  • Infographics
  • Videos or mini documentaries
  • Podcasts
  • Mobile apps.

Taking Advantage of Content Sources

So now you know the digital content you need to be creating—but where do you start? What sources are out there to help point you in the right direction?

Answer: The people at your university.

Nobody knows your university, its students and prospective students and what students want from your university better than those who work directly with students, who attended your university and who are currently attending.

Admissions Officers and Counselors

The number of enrolled students is extremely important to every higher education institution. It dictates, well, everything. In order to effectively market your school to potential students, you need to understand the buyer’s journey, which in this case is your potential students’ journey to your school.

The students and their families are going to spend endless hours researching various schools—the good, the bad and the ugly—so the right schools to apply to are selected. Part of their research is talking with the school’s admissions office. Potential students talk to admissions officers before applying, asking questions about the school and/or finding out about the admissions process. They then talk to an admission counselor for needed nurturing, like guiding them through the application steps and making their application process as easy and enjoyable as possible.

Those in the admissions office talk to potential students via phone calls and emails. They hear their wants and concerns as they’re researching schools and applying, so they’re a go-to source of knowledge to help you create the content that answers their questions during this part of the journey to your school.

Tour Guides

Campus tours are an effective recruitment tool. Tour guides have face-to-face experience and conversations with potential students, as well as their parents. They spend hours upon hours each day walking and talking with those interested in your school. They share their knowledge about the wonderful scenery, classes and social life your university does, but they also spend a good chunk of each tour listening to and answering questions.

Your campus tour guides have a wealth of knowledge about everything prospects want to know about your university, whether it’s buildings, programs, events, what the best foods in the cafeteria are, etc. They spend time with a handful of new prospects each day, so it’s in your best interest to use their knowledge as you create a content marketing strategy.

Alumni and Current Students

Alumni and current students are two other content sources you can’t pass up talking to.

Alumni did their time attending your school. They’ve taken classes, attended games and events, eaten on the quad and lived the complete college experience. No matter how long ago they attended, they remember what they wanted to know about your school before they applied and what they liked receiving from your school while attending. Alumni are also one of your target audiences, so you can also email them a survey or call them to find out what types of alumni content and topics they’d like to see.

Likewise, current students are there right now. They’re easy access because they walk your sidewalks and hallways every day. Their admission process wasn’t long ago, so they can provide helpful tips in that area, as well as giving feedback as to what content types, channels and topics are important to them now as current students.

To rise above the competition, you need a solid content marketing strategy and need to create unique, helpful content for all your audiences. Tapping into the content sources—the people at your university—readily available to you is how you’re going to know where to start with your content marketing efforts.

Identifying Platforms for Higher Education Digital Marketing Efforts

Digital Marketing for Universities: Platform Identification

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In an earlier post in this series, we went over all you need to know about goal setting and strategy within your higher education institution. Now, we’re going to provide a list of platforms to help you reach those goals you’ve hopefully set.

Your goals will slightly vary compared to other institutions, but every institution is sure to have goals centered on recruitment and retention, and using more content, emotive stories, various forms of mixed media and social media to help you reach your goals. And the following are platforms your institution should be implementing if you aren’t already.

Social Media Platforms

Today’s teens and young adults are online several hours each day. They do their banking, shopping and researching online, but they more so use their connected devices to communicate with their friends. Social media use continues to grow amongst high school and college students. Social media is where students are, and it’s where you need to be.

Facebook

Facebook is the most used platform in higher education; and for good reason since a 2014 survey revealed approximately 87 percent of high school students use Facebook. It’s by far the most used social media site for American teenagers. Facebook allows you to post photos and videos, as well as links to content you’ve written or that’s relevant to your prospective and current students. But even better, it’s a great tool to keep engaged with your alumni, which Ohio State University discovered after launching their Facebook page and saw that the most interactive and engaged members of their Facebook audience were alumni.

Twitter

Twitter is another top platform. Prospective students use Twitter as part of their researching methods to decide which higher education school they’ll attend. Help prospective students choose your school by posting links to your content on your Twitter account, interacting with them when they ask your school questions or make a statement about you and tag you in their tweet or use one of your hashtags. Twitter is also a great platform to reach everyone in your school’s diverse audience, bringing together future, current and former students using creative hashtags.

YouTube

Video is one of the most consumed forms of content. Your prospective students can watch hours of videos a day; some may even be up-and-coming YouTube stars. Most likely, as they scroll through their Facebook newsfeed, they’ll pass statuses and other wordy updates, but if they see a video, they’ll stop to watch. You can use YouTube to showcase school events, interview faculty and even to teach classes using webinars.

Hootsuite

If you’re going to effectively engage with your future, current and former students, you need a tool to manage all your social media accounts. Hootsuite is a great platform to keep all your social media efforts organized. With Hootsuite’s Enterprise feature, you’ll have access to unlimited social profiles and enhanced analytics. You can easily and securely send updates via various social media platforms, listen to the online chatter about your institution and collaborate your efforts with multiple team members. Hootsuite even provides a Higher Education Social Media Toolkit to help you get started with your social strategy.

Content Management Platforms

Maintaining your website (looking for how you can get more out of it, having the right content on it and reflecting your school’s best assets in a unique way) isn’t an easy task. It’s demanding, but with a good content management platform, you can alleviate some of that demand and stress.

OmniUpdate Campus

OmniUpdate Campus is used by more than 700 higher education institutions around the world that use this solution to manage their school’s website. This system, specifically designed for higher education institutions, has an array of first-rate features, including an easy content publisher, extension modules and helpful tools and gadgets to make your everyday site tasks easier. With its functionality and extensibility, OmniUpdate Campus can be your perfect solution in the content management sphere.

Hannon Hill

Founded back in 2001, Hannon Hill was one of the originators in the CMS solutions in the education sphere. Like other CMS platforms, you can expect quality features, like content publishing and editing, workflow management, personalized administration dashboards and scheduled publishing. But, one thing setting Hannon Hill apart, and that it prides itself on, is going above and beyond with its customer support. They encourage you to contact them as often as you want with problems and questions you have, and they don’t give you limitations on who you can talk to in terms of platform support.

Web Analytics Platforms

Understanding and being able to view all your web analytics is vital to tracking and measuring the progress of your institution’s digital marketing goals. From admissions information requests to your blog to your engagement goals with your website content, you’ll quickly see what’s working and what’s not with the right analytics tool. There are several platforms at your disposal, so we’ll present the facts and let you choose which one is best for your situation.

Google Analytics

Google Analytics offers a free version, as well as a premium version that costs $150,000 a year. That yearly cost may not be in your budget, and if it isn’t, it’s OK. The free version still provides plenty of data and tracking capabilities. With Google Analytics you get real-time data, tracking APIs, campaign measurement, Adwords integration, multi-channel reporting, mobile tracking, video measurement, custom reporting and more. With the premium version, you of course get more bells and whistles, such as more support services and integration options.

Kissmetrics

Another analytics option is Kissmetrics. This web tool offers people tracking, unlimited reports, user segmentation, a mobile app and a dedicated learning center. With Kissmetrics, which gives you four pricing options, you’re able to properly engage with your audience and accurately analyze which of your goals and actions are working and not working from the beginning across all devices.

In order to efficiently reach your goals, you need to the right tools to help you do so—we know from personal experience. The return on investment is high when you leverage these platforms, so use them and look to see a happy and productive year of attaining all your digital marketing goals.

Setting Goals for Digital Marketing in Universities

Digital Marketing for Universities: Goal Setting & Strategy

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In this installment of our Digital Marketing for Universities series, we’re going to tackle goal setting.

Setting goals seems like a simple enough task, right? For some it is, but for most of us, being able to set challenging yet attainable organizational goals over and over again doesn’t come naturally; it’s an acquired skill. It takes practice, persistence, focus, creativity and lots of fine-tuning.

So how do you set challenging, attainable goals? How many should you set? It is hard enough to stay focused on them month to month while dealing with the day-to-day operations, let a lone find time to execute the plan you have in place.

First step — don’t panic. We’re going to answer all your questions by showing you how your higher education institution should set goals and set standards across your institutional departments to actually achieve them. Here’s what we’ll cover in this post, feel free to click on any link to be taken to that section:

  1. Defining Goals
  2. Number of Goals to Set
  3. Resources Needed to Attain Goals
  4. Establish a Cohesive Front Across Departments

1. Defining Goals

How To Define Your Goals

Most of us know the five traits your goals should possess:

  1. Clear— Goals must be well defined so everyone understands them.
  2. Authentic— Goals need to be unique to your brand, relating to your institution and what you stand for.
  3. Actionable— Clear action needs to be taken to accomplish your goals.
  4. Achievable— Goals need to be realistic and attainable for those required to attain them.
  5. Time-bound— Goals need specific starting and ending times.

But how do you effectively analyze what you did the previous year? What you are going to focus on this year? And how much you can impact traffic and leads to the Universities site?

Understanding Your Data First

It is important to first begin analyzing the past performance and results of digital marketing efforts and website traffic. Here, you’ll need to head to your analytics tool. First off, you’ll want to ensure that there are filters in place to not include traffic from certain IP addresses. In addition, there needs to be annotations marked to track major events like website changes, search engine algorithm updates, media buys, and anything else that may have impacted traffic both negatively or positively.

In Google Analytics, setting up notations is easy:

  1. Head to the Admin section of Google AnalyticsGoogle Annotations Step 1
  2. Under the far right column ‘VIEW’ – All Website Data – select ‘ANNOTATIONS’Google Annotations Step 2
  3. You’ll be taken to the create annotations page, where you’ll select ‘+ NEW ANNOTATION’Google Annotations Step 3
  4. Create your annotation and select ‘Save Annotation’Google Annotations Step 4
  5. Your annotation now appears in your reports!Google Annotations Step 5

Building a Case for Projections

Google Keyword Trends

Once you have an understanding of the past data trends, you can begin to formulate goals for the upcoming year. When analyzing potential traffic growth, you should take into consideration projected search volumes for SEO and PPC. A useful tool for understanding whether a keyword or sets of keywords are being searched on more is Google Trends. For example, using Google trends you can see how the Universities brand is doing:

Google Trends

Additionally, you can compare search terms, website types, and interest as recorded by Google since 2004. You’ll also see state-by-state breakdowns and related search terms.

googlekeywordtrends

Analyzing Current Keyword Performance

Once you have an understanding of keyword trends in your space, you should analyze where you currently rank for the keywords you are targeting. One tool that allows you to quickly gather data is SEMRush. SEMRush can give you a quick snapshot of where you currently stand along with the potential traffic you are missing out on.

To do this, add your website into the tool and start the analysis. Once it has finished you will get a dashboard that looks something like this:

semrush getting started

The organic search section allows you to quickly see your organic position distribution:

sem rush organic keywords

This is an extremely valuable chart for quickly understanding future growth. In the example for walden.edu they have a huge potential, see details below:

organic distribution from semrush

keyword distribution table

The amount of keywords ranking in position 4 – 30 totals is 24,230 terms.

Now comes the fun part. By selecting the position distribution in the SEMRush graph you can quickly see a list of terms that fall into that bucket. For example, when I select the 4-10 bar chart the following report populates:

semrush organic search positions report

You might notice that branded keywords are pulled into the report. You can filter the results more by excluding branded keywords to clean things up a bit. The result will give you better data to analyze.

semrush organic search positions branded excluded

By filtering out branded terms you are able to export the new list and run some basic numbers. Exporting the list above you are left with 6,104 keywords ranking in position 4-10 of Google. When you add up the total search volume for all 6K+ keywords you have a potential of 937,160 monthly searches. Yes, you heard correctly, nearly 1 million searches monthly.

Monthly search volume

If Walden were to drive even 1% of the total traffic volume to their site they would drive 9,371 additional visits each month. Further, if they could convert 1% of the total traffic that would result in 93 more leads a month. This is only keywords ranking in position 4-10 of the search results. By following the same process for each group of keywords e.g.- keywords in positions 11-20, 21-30 etc. you could start to get an idea of how much potential traffic you could drive to the site month over month. Comparing that with analytics data you would start to get a picture of how much growth you could see YOY and now you have a data driven growth plan.

Online Growth and The Competitive Landscape

When projecting online growth, it helps to look into what the competition is doing . SEMrush is a fantastic online tool to identify and assess the competitive landscape:

SEMrush

SEMrush provides a plethora of competitor data around organic and paid keywords. It also gives you a more comprehensive viewpoint of where your university stands compared to top competitors.

Once you analyze past results and future potential, you can start to figure out projections for future growth.

2. Number of Goals to Set

We can’t tell you an exact number your institution should set. That depends on your specific objectives and overall digital marketing strategy.

But, we can tell you that you should never have too many goals you’re working on at once. Too many goals is chaotic, confusing and increases your chances of not reaching any of your goals because you don’t know where to focus your efforts.

The book, “The 4 Disciplines of Execution” communicates the need in every business to focus on the Widely Important Goals (WIGs). Businesses tend to focus on too many goals, because of the desire to impact everything at once.

However, the key is to focus on less and work from lead measures of success. It helps to start by selecting 1 to 2 goals that matter most to the university as a whole and focus solely on fulfilling those.

3. What You Need to Attain Your Goals

Once you have narrowed your focus to your Widely Important Goals, you need to figure out the plan to achieve them! Here’s a process we use at Stryde:

Step 1: Develop an Action Plan

Determine objectives for each of your goals, and then develop an action plan to achieve each goal. While your team develops a plan of action, ask yourselves the following questions:

  • What is our start date and deadline?
  • What does this goal entail?
  • How are we going to accomplish it?
  • What resources, i.e. people, money and materials, do we need in achieving this goal?
  • Who is responsible for completing each task?
  • How do we measure the results? What key performance indicators (KPIs) will we use to track our progress?
  • What is the competition doing to impact market share?

Here, it can be particularly useful to build a quick chart to inventory the team’s capabilities and resources you have at your disposal. For example, for our team at Stryde, a snapshot of teams and a handful of the tools we have access might include:

stryde tools

Step 2: Analyze Industry-Specific Digital Landscape

It is important to analyze the digital landscape to know what is happening and how it could change over time. Things to look (and tools to look at them with) at include:

  • Keyword Rankings
  • Social Following per Channel
  • Links to Site
  • Content Frequency & Types
    • Tool to use: Google site:www.website.com
  • Content Promotion & Distribution
  • Local Citations/Business Listings
  • Email Strategy
    • Just sign up for their emails!
  • Paid Search Strategy

After you’ve analyzed the elements of the digital landscape listed above, you can construct your growth plan. Use the projections set during the goal creation process and map out a path to impacting and achieving the Widely Important Goals. A visual example of a growth plan can be found below:

path to growth

Step 3: Establish a Scorecard or Dashboard

How are you going to measure your success month to month to make sure you hit your goals? Setting up and maintaining a digital marketing dashboard is the perfect way to visualize your progress and ensure achievement of your goals. With dashboards (like the template we provide for free here) you’re able to track how revenue is performing month over month and which channels are performing the best. In addition, you’re given comprehensive performance breakdowns by device detailing sessions, transactions, and revenue.

Digital Marketing Dashboard ScreenShot

Step 4: Cadence of Accountability

Along with monitoring your results, you want to monitor who is working on what week to week and how are they performing compared to the rest of the team. This will ensure that any internal issues that need to be addressed will be tended to in a timely manner.

4. Establish a Cohesive Front Across Departments

Higher education institutions are complex organizations, consisting of several departments and teams within each department. The structural makeup of higher education institutions has a silo mentality. Each department tends to only focus on its own needs, goals and challenges.

If your institution is going to be effective at setting and achieving goals, you can’t have a silo mentality, especially when it comes to the content aspect of your digital marketing efforts. You’ll run into numerous problems if department aren’t unified.

Effective, cohesive department collaboration is key. It’s a critical component for any higher education digital marketing strategy. A combined effort of every department working together cultivates visibility across all departments and helps you more efficiently reach your goals.

There are brilliant minds in each department — use them!

Setting goals isn’t the easiest task on your plate, but when you work together with the other departments, don’t give up, focus on the process and enjoy the overall experience, it will start getting easier and you’ll be a skilled goal setter in no time.

Remember, we’re dedicating a series of blog posts to digital marketing for universities! Check out each installment here:

Here’s what on the horizon in this series:

  • Digital Marketing for Universities: Platform Identification
  • Digital Marketing for Universities: Tapping Your Content Sources
Website Audit Header Image

Digital Marketing for Universities: Website Audit

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In our first post we discussed why colleges and universities need to pay attention to digital marketing, now we will discuss some key initiatives for achieving success moving forward.

Before you start any digital marketing efforts, you need to ensure that the website is fundamentally sound. Moreover, that it’s easily crawlable by search engines, both from a technical and content perspective. A comprehensive website audit reveals the full landscape of your university’s website as it stands today.

Conducting a website audit will also reveal any issues impeding incoming traffic, search engine visibility, and so much more. In almost every website audit performed at Stryde, we uncover at least a handful of issues that need to be addressed. For example, take a look at a crawl report for the University of Phoenix’s website.

Please note that University of Phoenix is not a client of Stryde, and this is only for analysis purposes.

Please note that University of Phoenix is not a client of Stryde, and this is only for illustrative analysis purposes only.

A comprehensive website audit consists of two parts:

  1. Technical SEO Audit
  2. Site Optimizations & Implementation

Both of these parts make up the core of search engine optimization (SEO). As Google has explained, “Search engine optimization is often about making small modifications to parts of your website. When viewed individually, these changes might seem like incremental improvements, but when combined with other optimizations, they could have a noticeable impact on your site’s user experience and performance in organic search results.”

Technical SEO Audit

The function of the technical SEO audit is just as you might expect: ensure that search engine crawlers are able to access your webpages . In other words, the elements you analyze here aren’t visible to the casual website visitor. These elements occur behind the screen in the code and other crannies of the website to communicate with the search engines.

A typical technical SEO audit includes analysis of the following key components:

  • General technical issues
  • URL conventions
  • Information architecture
  • Page consolidation

General Technical Issues

There exists a plethora of technical aspects to websites, influencing what visitors see, how they get there, what search engines see, etc. Some most important areas to include in your own technical website audit are HTML markup issues, audit page load times, review canonicalization, server response codes, crawl errors, 404 handling, IP region and Whois location data.

URL Conventions

URLs are not all equal: some are good and some are bad. A ‘good’ URL structure will be logical, clear, lack parameters and be representative of the page’s purpose. When the URL structure is optimized to label page content and establish hierarchy, search engines and users understand the topic, relevance, and importance of every single page on your website. For example,

  • Bad URL Structure: http://www.phoenix.edu/colleges_divisions/business.html (current URL on phoenix.edu)
  • Good URL Structure: http://www.phoenix.edu/study/business

Information Architecture & Page Consolidation

After an appropriate URL structure is determined, you need to optimize the labeling and organization of your website’s content to conform to search engine guidelines, as well as improving the usability and contextual relevance for your website’s real human visitors. During this time, you’ll also want to review your website for superfluous pages. Consolidating your website’s page to include only what is relevant only positively serves the search engines and visitors to your website.

As you review the university’s website with information architecture in mind, it’s important to consider the algorithmic approach used by search engines to dissect, analyze, and categorize content.

Pertinent signals used by search engines to categorize information include elements like title tags, internal links, and more. We’ll dig into these elements in the following section.

Site Optimizations

A technically sound website is only half of the complete audit process. Part two, the site optimization portion, allows search engine crawlers to associate unique keyword themes to each page on your website. By analyzing a handful of on-page factors, you can optimize each of your website’s pages to their fullest potential.

The on-page elements you should look at when carrying out site optimizations are title tags, meta descriptions, heading tags, image file names, image alt attributes, and contextual internal links.

Title Tags

Every page on your site has a title tag, which functions as a descriptive snippet viewable by search engine crawlers and search engine users. It’s what shows up in search results pages, and it’s typically the first thing any user from a search engine will read about your website.

Title Tag where to find

The title tag (the text in blue) is succinct and includes keywords like online colleges, schools, and classes.

Best practices indicate that the title tag should be between 50 and 60 characters. As well as function as a concise, accurate preview of what’s on the page. The title tag should include the keyword theme of the page it represents.

Meta Descriptions

The meta description functions as a slightly more in-depth preview of the page’s content to both search engines and users of search engines. It lives below the title tag and the URL in the search results and gives users a concise synopsis of the content found within the page.

meta description where to find

The meta description (the black text) falls within the character allotment, and includes relevant keywords.

For meta descriptions, best practices dictate a character count of between 140 and 150 characters. As with title tags, you should include the unique keyword theme in where applicable in the meta description.

Heading Tags

If you think of each unique URL of your website like a book, heading tags function as the chapter titles. H1, H2, and H3 tags describe the topics of your content to the search engines. Furthermore, they allow for ease of scanability by visitors.
Heading Tags
Search engines don’t place a large amount of SEO value on heading tags. That being said, they’re still taken into consideration and provide value to human visitors to your website.

Image File Names & Alt Attributes

With all of the advanced and sometimes even artificial intelligence used by search engines, they still lack ocular capabilities. Since search engines can’t see, they use image file names and alt attributes to determine the content of visual images. Which means your image file names, and more importantly alt attributes, provide additional and critical context to search engine crawlers.

If the images on your site were uploaded with names like “IMG 3480” or something similar, you’ll at least want to give each image a descriptive alt attribute.

Contextual Internal Links

The pages of your website should support each other. One way to show this support is through contextual internal links. In the copy of your website pages, you should link (where appropriate) to other pages on your website. Not only does this show the search engines how the content of your pages work together, but it keeps the visitor clicking through pages of your website and consuming more of your content.
EDU Website internal links

What’s Next?

After you’ve performed the complete website audit process, your university’s website will be foundationally sound and ready for domination of the digital marketing world! But first, you’ll need to set your goals and strategy. You’re in luck, because our next installment of Digital Marketing for Universities, we’re going to tackle goal setting and strategy.

Here’s a look ahead at all of the upcoming Digital Marketing for Universities content:

We’ll see you soon for more! Until then, don’t hesitate to drop us a line or a comment with any challenges you’re encountering with digital marketing for universities.

Digital marketing for universities

Digital Marketing for Universities: Why Higher Education Should Care

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Think about today’s college student. Can they navigate through their college journey — from researching schools up through graduation — without online interaction? It is highly unlikely. A Google and Compete study in 2013 found:

One in ten prospective students now search exclusively online for classes and programs.

Jump ahead to 2016, that number has likely tripled or quadrupled. Further, a study by the U.S. Department of Education projected there to be 20.4 million students enrolled in degree-granted institutions in 2016.

That alone tells you how important the digital domain is to higher education institutions and why yours should care about digital marketing. But, it’s not the only reason. In fact, it’s quite far from the only reason why you need to care and why in order to make it on the short list of schools of today’s potential students you have to implement a solid digital marketing strategy.

A competitive war is raging.

The higher education market is an extremely competitive one. The University of Phoenix, in years past, has spend between $200,000 and $400,000 a day on ads in Google. With a budget of $100 million in advertising, the University of Phoenix alone has increased the competitive landscape online. And the school isn’t stopping there, check out the video series below about getting started and how the University of Phoenix works.

It’s a war out there amongst every university in the U.S. All are competing for more students, more research funds and more partnerships. Essentially, all are fighting to secure their own personal financial sustainability.

The higher education war is fought on numerous battlefields, but the digital battlefield has grown substantially. In order for you to even compete online, time, planning, perseverance and a durable digital marketing strategy are needed.

Your target market is online 24/7.

Whether sending a tweet via their smartphone, online shopping on their tablet or Skyping their parents on their laptop, your target market is online 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Technology has allowed them to remain connected to their family, friends and the whole world.

They’re always on, so use that to your advantage when creating a digital strategy.

Research is international.

American citizens living in the U.S. aren’t the only ones conducting higher education research. Online research is an international thing.

As of February of 2015, more than 1 million international students were enrolled in nearly 9,000 schools throughout the U.S. We host more of the world’s international students than any other country. These students would never have been able to discover American universities or quickly apply to their desired schools if they weren’t able to do online research.

Approximately 96 percent of students use the Internet, most notably college-related websites, while making their higher education decisions. If your digital marketing strategy isn’t up to par and your online content unique, your school isn’t going to make it on any perspective student’s short list, whether nationally or internationally located.

It’s a way to attract and retain nontraditional learners.

While there is no set definition for a nontraditional student, the National Center for Education Statistics has acknowledged seven characteristics common amongst nontraditional undergraduate students:

  1. Don’t start their higher education right after graduating from high school
  2. Have a GED rather than a high school diploma
  3. Attend only part time
  4. Work full time (minimum of 35 hours a week)
  5. Are financially independent
  6. Are a single parent
  7. Have children or other dependents besides a spouse

Nearly 75 percent of all undergraduate students have at least one of these seven characteristics, making them nontraditional in some way.

To better attract and retain these learners, students valuable to your institution, you have to understand their unique needs and be able to reach and influence them individually. Digital marketing allows you to do all of the above.

It increases applications and raises student satisfaction.

Because your target market is online 24/7, you have to be able to engage with them 24/7. You physically can’t be awake every hour of every day to answer potential and current students’ questions — but your online content can.

Having content that’s easy to find and access and that’s always available is the best way to engage with your target audience. Actively engaging with students is one of the best ways to increase student applications and raise your current student satisfaction level. Online content offers you and your students a win-win situation.

The University of Vermont displays this round-the-clock content approach with it’s popular UVM Outreach blog. Not only does UVM Outreach provide articles and information on business and career, but also college lifestyle content focused on travel, health, and local Vermont activities.

Digital marketing is what keeps your institution alive and breathing. You need a good digital marketing strategy if you want to remain at the forefront of today’s higher education competitive war.

Which is exactly what we’re planning on providing over the course of the next several weeks. Every week on the Stryde blog, we’re detailing an important aspect of Digital Marketing for Universities. Here’s a look at what’s in store:

We’ll see you back here next week for more digital marketing for Universities content!