Not On The List? Now What?

Carnegie Higher Ed Mar 20, 2013 Carnegie Higher Ed Persona The Visionary Frontrunner

They’re out there. Everywhere. Lists, rankings, and more that present schools and programs in a variety of ways: “top this…” “best that…” and so many others. Love these lists, don’t love them. Agree with these lists, disagree with them. The fact is, they have a role in the college research process. So, if you’re not on a list you feel you should be, or want to be, what do you do? Shrug your shoulders? Hope for a different result the next year?

Well the good news is you can do something about it.

Probably one of the biggest roles these lists play is at the top of the funnel, during the preliminary “awareness” part of the enrollment cycle. As students or parents start to research what schools, or types of schools, would be a good fit for them or their child, these lists often serve as a starting point in that process. And, perhaps even more importantly, these lists tend to appear towards the top of many of their initial searches.

So what can you do if you’re not on the list? Here are a few options to consider…

  1. Search Engine Optimization. Obvious? Maybe. Most schools are already heavily involved in SEO related to driving enrollment. But have you thought about it specifically for the purposes of addressing not being on the list(s) you’d ideally want your school on? What steps can you take with your own site and social media to improve your organic performance during these specific types of searches? How do you currently perform during searches for this? If you don’t have an SEO expert in-house, connect with one to help provide some initial recommendations. And preferably one who specializes in optimization for colleges and universities.
  2. Early Awareness. Research shows that many high school students have their “top school choices” list in their heads by the end of their sophomore year. Your ability to get in front of these students and build awareness about your school earlier in the process is key. Online display, done right, provides the opportunity to accomplish that. Rather than waiting for lists and search names, campaigns can be constructed to reach the right academic achievers, the appropriate household demographics, and the specific target geographies you need.
  3. Keyword Targeting. Did you know you can build an online display campaign based on the keywords and phrases within the content on publisher sites? That means part of your online marketing strategy can involve having your school’s ads appear on sites and pages that have content geared towards whatever your focus may be. In other words, as someone is seeking out and reading information about certain topics (and potentially lists), your school can be featured right in front of them.
  4. Social Media Advocates. Who would be the most upset that your school wasn’t featured on a “top fill-in-the-blank” list? Your current students! Use that social voice to spread the word and create content about how great things are on your campus. Blog posts, social media activity, and videos, especially by your current enrolled students, can have a significant impact on search results and getting the word out there in a valuable way.

These are just a few ways you can take control of things when it comes to whether or not you’re appearing on the lists you feel have significance. Reaching audiences and building awareness does not have to be about crossing fingers and hoping you make the cut. It can be about having a sound strategy in place to really connect with the students who would be the best fit for your institution and making them aware of all the great things you have to offer.

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