College is one of life’s largest investments for both students and parents. As with life’s other big-ticket purchases like cars and houses, the college decision requires ample and unique research. And it’s a far cry from the research people are accustomed to doing online, whether they’re searching for the right pair of shoes to go with a dress, or the right contractor to repair a roof. To reach, engage, and ultimately convert a consumer during this process requires an entirely different approach than advertising any other product. What does all this mean for you? As an educational institution, you need to understand this journey and the touch points you need to make at every milestone, in order to connect with your prospective students while they search.
Get There Early: Students begin their college research up to 18 months prior to converting, and according to a recent Google Study, one in four education researchers never even look outside the Web. This means your digital strategies need to be there early. And since most students have no idea about which school they want to attend at the onset of their journey, the importance of Search Engine Marketing at this time cannot be overstated. Not only is this the perfect time to ensure your admission pages are in tip-top shape, but it’s critical to work on your organic and paid search results as well. You need to appear in front of your audience when they search for majors and programs of interest, scholarships, locations, or other keywords and branding initiatives. Whatever your initial SEO and PPC needs are, identify them early on in order to reach students before your competition does.
Stay Connected Creatively: Once a student moves further along in the college search phase, you can get more targeted in your methods of reach. Consider where your audience is and what their interests are at each phase of their journey. One of the benefits of Online Display Advertising is that you don’t have to wait until a prospective student opts-in for certain information. You can send messages to someone based on the interests they’ve already expressed in specific areas of your school’s website or use creative messaging based on keyword searches and behavioral targeting results. For example, we know that most students use videos to learn specific details about a school they are already interested in, thus a YouTube campaign should be launched with content geared towards re-engaging students who are in their final decision making phase. We also know students search across devices, so be sure your content is mobile and tablet friendly and then combine effective timing and messaging across multiple channel devices.
Consult with the Education Experts: Digital advertising capabilities are evolving at a lightning-fast pace, so the tried-and-true efforts of the past continually need to be re-evaluated. And while there are a dozen agencies at your door who promise to help you execute various online recruitment campaigns, there are very few who understand this journey unique to the education market. Experts should choose keywords, write and create ads, and measure the conversion process based on the knowledge they have about the student at every point in their research. They should also be able to decipher your analytics at each critical milestone in this journey and optimize accordingly. Research your service providers and work with an agency that is equipped to apply this true understanding of the educational vertical to digital media.
Identify the digital role you need to play in the college search journey – consult with an expert today!