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How to Excel at Higher Ed Marketing (Without Breaking the Bank)

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For digital marketers in the higher education space, the competition is stiff. More kids are going to college than ever before, and institutions are going to great lengths to bring in their next class of students. And whether the budget is big or small, marketers are always looking for the most cost-effective ways to publicize their school. So in the spirit of using your head (before using your wallet), here are 4 ways excel at higher ed marketing – without breaking the bank. 

1. Do Your Keyword Research

There's no better advice we can give to higher education marketers – or marketers in any industry for that matter – than to research the monthly search volume and ranking difficulty of keywords that pertain to your institution's offerings and then provide content with those keywords. If your content aligns closely enough to the searcher's keyword and ranks highly on Google, you'll earn free website visitors month-after-month-after-month.

If your university is well-known for its School of Journalism for instance, you'll want to find out how people search for that term when they're using Google. Which of the following keyword phrases do they most often use?

  • "best journalism schools"
  • "best schools for journalism"
  • "best j-schools"
  • "best colleges for journalism"

True, Google is constantly improving its ability to "read between the lines" and implement semantics into its search algorithm, but the more aligned your content's language is with exactly what people are searching for, the better. 

And, maybe you want to go after keywords that aren't so competitive if you're a smaller school whose website has less domain authority. 

The best free tool out there for researching keywords is Keywordini by serps.com. Give it a shot!

2. Use Video!

Visual content like photos and video are ideal for colleges and universities, because higher education is a destination-based purchase. People aren't willing to fork over thousands of dollars until they can envision themselves attending your institution, and visuals are the best way to do that.

It is true that producing a high-end marketing video for your university isn't the most wallet-friendly tactic, but the truth is having a strong visual presence online doesn't need to be costly – you just have to be creative. Here are a few ideas:

    • Consider starting a micro-video campaign using Instagram or Vine that shows a short, point-of-view video from a student roaming the halls or attending a football game at your university and implement a corresponding hashtag.
    • Download a photo filtering app on your phone. Filtering is a great way to dress up visual content, and filtering apps are usually free or only a few dollars. Our favorite is VSCO Cam, but here's a list of nine others.
    • Record a hyperlapse video of students walking through campus. This can be done using the video camera on your phone, and makes for a cost-effective, creative effect. 

3. Provide In-Depth Pricing Information

One of the best blog articles we've ever read is written by Marcus Sheridan of The Sales Lion. It talks about small businesses and their irrational fear of addressing the price of their offerings. This is especially true when it comes to higher education, because it's about as high-cost, high-involvement of a purchase that a person can make. 

Higher education costs a lot of money – and everyone knows it! So don't run from it. Provide pricing pages that break down where costs are coming from, address financial aid options, and supply information about on-campus employment opportunities. 

If someone created a spreadsheet to rank their "Top 10 Colleges," price would likely be Column B – right next to the name of the school. So be transparent, and don't run from pricing.

4. Participate in Social Media Trends/Hashtags

It's no secret that for most colleges and universities, their target demographic is a 17-year-old person who's most likely very active in social media. Participating in social media trends/hashtags is an excellent way to reach large audiences in a way that shows your institution is an active, living, breathing place. 

For example, today on Twitter, "#FirstDayofFall" is trending, and tens-of-thousands of people have used the hashtag to be part of the seasonal conversation. It's a great opportunity to join the discussion.

Or, you could create your own hashtag and promote it to your student body. Not only does it keep your "customers" (current students) engaged, it positions them as third-party influencers for your "prospects" (future students)!

If you do plan on participating in social media trends, remember that oftentimes trends and hashtags are topics of controversy (religion, politics) so choose the conversations you engage in wisely!

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Have you had success with other forms of higher ed marketing? We'd like to hear about it! Comment below!