Digital Byte: Search and Display: A Farmer’s Guide to a Successful Enrollment Season

Carnegie Higher Ed Apr 23, 2013 Carnegie Higher Ed Persona The Visionary Frontrunner

There’s a saying that comes to mind this time of year: “If you want something to harvest in the fall, you’d better be planting in the spring.” In terms of a digital strategy, it may feel like there are a million seeds that need planting in multiple gardens. While this may be the case, allow me to simplify things by breaking down the common goals that many feel yield the most growth potential in admission marketing:

  1. Driving students to your website
  2. Driving students back to your website

Accomplishing these goals can be done through a powerful digital strategy (or “seed,” if you will) comprised of search and display. Here are some tips to get you started on implementing these strategies this spring.

Improve Your Search Visibility: One of the key drivers to increased site traffic might come as no surprise to you: organic search. Because the ultimate goal of digital—and even many traditional—outreach efforts is to drive people to your website, you need to ensure your site is optimized for capturing those prospective students at the exact moment they’ve decided to search for your school or a competing institution. SEO ensures that your site structure is “cleaned up” for search engines to recognize everything you have to offer and ultimately increase your organic search results ranking.

Cleaning up a site is usually a lengthy, time-consuming affair that often requires expert consulting. But you can get started by updating your keyword research and enriching your written content with key phrases. Your title tags, meta description tags, alt tags for images, and anchor text links are great spots to place your key phrases. By continually updating the keywords on both the back end and within the content, you’re increasing visibility: a critical component for awareness and online presence in today’s competitive online space. And finally, a big SEO best practice is to ensure that your site employs Responsive Web Design, or at least mobile- and tablet-optimized pages. While improved content, keywords, and links will drive awareness and get people to your site, an optimized design will ensure they stay there.

Implement a Targeted Online Display Campaign: A display campaign is all about reach and frequency. If executed optimally, the banner or video ads are only served to a network of publishers proven to have a high level of engagement for your prospective students. This requires having a great deal of knowledge about where your prospective students spend their time online and which sites tend to perform best—that’s your targeted reach. And through frequently displaying these ads, you improve the likelihood of awareness, brand recognition, and engagement.

Implementing a Retargeting component to your display campaign is also advisable. This allows you to re-engage students who’ve been to your site, encourage them to keep your school top-of-mind, or return to fill out an inquiry form or application. And since your search optimization is already in tip-top shape (right?), the Retargeting campaign is more effective because you’re encouraging students to come back and have another good experience on your site and, ultimately, move further along the enrollment funnel!

When it comes to your digital marketing efforts, there’s a lot to consider. But there’s one powerful seed to plant this spring that can help you reach your goals, and that’s a strong digital strategy. When it grows, think of search as the roots and display as the fruit. And with that, our Almanac says this fall will be one heck of a harvest!


Visit Carnegie Communications to learn more about planting a fruitful digital strategy this spring.   


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