Digital Byte: 3 Things to Remember This Summer (Besides Sun Block)

Carnegie Higher Ed May 12, 2015 Carnegie Higher Ed Persona The Visionary Frontrunner

Deposits are in, commencements are wrapping up, and budgeting is full swing for the next fiscal year. With May’s whirlwind of activity, it’s often easy to relax your efforts in the summer and focus on putting together new fall marketing strategies. But let’s not forget that summer is a key time to get your digital campaigns underway, targeting those incoming juniors and seniors, whether they are just starting their college search journey or filling out those final applications.

Here are a few things for you to keep in mind this summer, so you don’t let those prospects slip through your fingers:

Keep up on SEO

That initial search for the right school—whether it’s grad or undergrad—starts with a search engine. Thus, having an organic presence for things such as brand search terms, programs and majors of interest, location, and other distinguishing attributes cannot be overstated. Having good SEO isn’t just about structure, links, and metadata; it’s about ensuring your content is fresh (think blogs and program descriptions!) and visible for all relevant searches. And then, once a student finds your site, make certain the navigation to key pages is optimized. If someone comes to your site looking for a list of degrees or the competitive benefits offered at your institution, can they easily find it? If they can’t, you may lose potential students early into the funnel. Tip: if your Web team doesn’t have them already, have them install Google Webmaster Tools. They’ll gain valuable search data and insight to help boost your site’s SEO. And always leverage your Google Analytics data to find the weak spots within your landing and program pages, and make improvements accordingly.

Implement a YouTube strategy

It’s no secret that our college-bound youth is absorbing more video content online than ever before. YouTube is the second-largest search engine and, according to a recent study, teenagers use YouTube more than social media websites. If your institution doesn’t have a YouTube channel already, get one! It should contain everything from savvy student-generated content to virtual tours, testimonials, and more. Prospective students not only like to use video as part of their college search process, but they expect that information to be there.

In addition to getting a YouTube channel and updating your video content regularly, you can leverage YouTube by implementing powerful video marketing campaigns. After all, paid search isn’t just for regular search engines; it’s used for YouTube as well. Through banner ads, pre-roll, or in-stream video ads, you can be present when students are searching for relevant content online. Benefits include targeting by geographies, behaviors, and interests. And one of the best parts is you only pay when viewers choose to watch the ad, not just when an impression is served or a click is generated! Google makes it relatively easy to launch video campaigns on YouTube, but it helps to work with higher ed marketing experts who can help you bid on the proper keywords, boost quality score, and track and optimize campaigns according to benchmarks and best practices so you get the best ROI.

Think mobile

Since more than 70% of college-bound students use their smartphone for college research, it is imperative that your site be optimized for mobile and feature responsive Web design. Similar to having a strong SEO presence for top-of-the-funnel prospects, you need to have a strong mobile presence, no matter how far into the application cycle someone is. In addition to ensuring your site is mobile friendly, your marketing campaigns (including display ads, YouTube campaigns, IP Targeting, and e-mail marketing) must be mobile optimized as well. Update your creative content, landing pages, and calls to action so they are easily viewed on smartphones and tablets. Inquiring, registering for info sessions, and signing up for campus visits should also be accessible and compatible with smartphones, giving the visitor an easy opportunity to take those next steps that push them deeper into the funnel. Google knows people want mobile-friendly websites—and they’ve adjusted their search algorithm to reflect that —so if you’re not on board with mobile yet, you need to be ASAP.

So while you’re planning beach days and family hiking trips this summer, you should plan ahead for the summer marketing strategies as well. Strong SEO, coupled with mobile-ready campaigns and websites, and a YouTube presence will be sure to set you on the path to a successful recruitment season. Like the benefits of some well-applied sun block, you’ll be grateful later.

Follow Angie on Twitter @AngieMayWard

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