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Setting Goals for Digital Marketing in Universities

Digital Marketing for Universities: Goal Setting & Strategy

By | Digital Marketing for Universities | No Comments

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.


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 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
STRYDE | Adaptive Content-  The Latest Adaptation of Content Marketing?

Adaptive Content- The Latest Adaptation of Content Marketing?

By | Content Marketing, Digital Marketing, Food for thought, Our Process, Strategy, Uncategorized | No Comments

While the technology support can be a little slow to evolve, content marketing strategies and techniques are taking new shapes to identify the ideal target audience and to guide customers through a shortened sales cycle.

Adaptive content offers an edge to the creation and distribution parts of the process. This content strategy is designed to support meaningful, personalized interactions across all channels. Moreover, it’s not a strategy that is built only around the characteristics, goals, and challenges of buyer personas, but also around the mood of the buyer – Noz Urbina.

We know that personalization is key to reaching the ideal buyer. In fact, 94% of businesses say that it’s critical to their success. Here, we begin to merge a closer union between the buyer persona and sales cycle, in an attempt to reach a target so narrow, that we can understand how it feels.

The Matrix

If you already have a few content marketing campaigns under your belt, you’re probably all too familiar with creating and marketing to buyer personas. With adaptive content, there are a few more variables to consider in the Content Mix Matrix:

Content Mix Matrix
Personas Buying Stage Format Channel
Billy Awareness Text Social
Willey Attraction Video Mobile
Nilly Close Podcast Websites
Tilly Retain Infographic Email
Advocate Images Print
Presentation In-person

In this model, the content catered to the buyer persona is strategically created in the most sensible format, at the most relevant stage of the buying cycle, and distributed through the most appropriate channel.

In the content creation process, you might consider:

  • Is it better to start with a general piece of content and to later personalize it to each persona at every stage?
  • Should I start with a fleshed out piece of content and then notate which segments will be adapted to fit the next format?

This is the manual part of the equation that requires more in-depth research into, not only the buyer personas’ characteristics, but also, their personal journey and it’s up for you, the marketer, to decide what works best for your audience.

Going Green

Putting an adaptive content process into place can take a substantial amount of time but the beauty of it is that, when planned properly, adaptive content has the means to be evergreen. We have to remember to apply the R’s and when it comes to content, we do it in a most creative and practical way.


The amount of time spent on content creation can be greatly reduced when you already have a hearty piece to edit and adjust. Slim down the content that you have and focus it on just one phase of the buying cycle. The load will feel a lot lighter.


The content topics you already have are completely reusable when you promote them through a variety of channels. Social media, for instance, can serve as a great outlet for reshares; especially Twitter, where posts tend to be pushed out more regularly.


You can further stretch the reach of your content by repurposing it in various forms. Try going for something more visual by converting a whitepaper into an eye-catching infographic.


Once you have a good grasp on where your buyer personas are in the buying stage and the best channels by which to to reach them, be sure to record and recycle the process. It will always be in motion, so be flexible and make the necessary adjustments as you go along.

Adaptive Content implicates techniques that are too smart and too personalized for any tool to master alone. It is a practice that will take time to put into place, but with a clearly defined strategy and a good grasp of its fundamentals, it has the potential to be one of the most personal and powerful marketing practices yet.

Online marketing practices are always evolving. What are you seeing for the future of content marketing and how will you adapt for what’s to come?
We’d love to hear your thoughts!

Social Media and Being Genuine

By | Social Media | No Comments

Hands are making indecision signalsIf you scrape the surface of Twitter, you’ll find countless articles with the with headlines proclaiming “7 Social Tips You Need!” and “If You’re Not Doing *This* You’re Failing At Social!” Overwhelming right? Even worse, after reading these articles rarely does anyone come away away with any sense of relief, or, “Wow, that was so helpful and enlightening!”

Content, consistency, relevance, interest- all of these things are spoken of ad nauseum. And for good reason, as you do need be aware of these elements when carrying out your social strategy. But too often people do not seek to convey a sense of being genuine: speaking in simple and transparent terms. People are smart and if you’re a phony, customers will let you know by tuning out your message. Really, the best social media advice one can receive is the same advice my mom has been giving me for years: just be yourself, honey!

Okay, “be genuine.” It is easier said than done. Furthermore, it’s certainly a concept you need to FEEL out (important because so much of marketing is inspiring feelings in your audience). However, there are a few things that almost always come across as disingenuous:

  • Not interacting with followers through comments, questions, mentions, etc.
  • Relying solely on scheduled posts
  • Posting the same exact content over and over again
  • “Always Be Closing” mentality

Being genuine is a tactic that all firms, of any size, can accomplish. And oftentimes it is even unintentional. Harper Perennial, the New York publishing company, executes its social with a hilarious level of “genuinity”. It has over 40k Twitter followers, yet still interacts on a real and personal level.

On a smaller scale, the Pittsburgh hot dog shop Franktuary is another stellar example of authentic interaction. The good people at Franktuary engage consistently on Facebook and Twitter. All of which is done with a friendly and somewhat irreverent tone.

Essentially, social media is a 24/7 networking event with the typical cast of characters. One person works the room effortlessly, begins conversations with everyone and never once seems like they’re selling themselves. Another feels terribly awkward and stands up against the wall. While another particularly abrasive individual is pushing into conversations and relentlessly pitching themselves. Clearly you don’t want to be the wallflower, so avoiding those disingenuous actions will help you from becoming the infomercial pitch man on the other end of the spectrum.