A lot of academics and school administrators cringe at the thought of marketing. The pursuit of “customers” can feel like a change from your primary mission as educators. But when it comes to promoting your school, marketing is just another term for creating and sustaining a learning community.
The COVID-19 pandemic has profoundly disrupted schooling and school enrolment has dropped nationwide. Now is a great time for schools to review and revise their digital marketing and enrolment strategies to ensure that the best practices for lead generation are in place and that their current approaches are optimised.
There’s no magic button you can push to increase your enrolment numbers, but there are a number of digital marketing strategies every school can employ to have the best possible chance to meet its targets. So what are the best strategies to increase school enrolments? How can you build that community most efficiently?
Here are five tips that will help you make the most of your digital marketing and your time, bringing your organisation together with the right students.
1. Showcase Campus Life Through Social Media Marketing
To connect with prospective students, schools need to leverage social media platforms. According to Datareportal, there are currently more than 4.33 billion users on social media platforms. This figure equals about 55% of the world’s population. Recent research revealed that teens prefer using Instagram and Facebook, followed by Snapchat. A small, but growing, percentage are also starting to use the new platform TikTok.
Start with Facebook and Instagram, sites that your community already engages regularly. Posting on these sites encourages connection and can help with retention. In addition, you may gain exposure to your followers’ networks, which can be a valuable marketing resource.
Your social media posts should provide:
- Awareness: Let people know about programs, events, and recent successes.
- Engagement: Provide resources and respond to your audience.
- Action: Inspire people to participate in your community in specific ways.
Unfortunately, your posts are unlikely to have much direct effect on your enrolment. Because Facebook (which owns Instagram) makes no money on your posts, its algorithm has progressively downgraded the reach of organic posts. This means that you can expect your post to be seen by about 5.5% of your page’s followers.
If you want to incorporate social media into your strategies to increase student enrolment, you have to reach new eyes. Consider investing in paid advertising. Social media advertisements cost less than traditional advertising and reach more targeted audiences, making them a sound investment even if your advertising budget is small.
Do a little research and find out where your community is most active. For example, secondary school applicants are best reached through Instagram. For other types of learners, a different platform may be more effective. Talk to current members of your community to find out where they invest their time and focus your attention there first.
Take a look at Prahran High School’s and Richmond High School’s Instagram pages. They both give prospective students a peek into life on campus. They showcase sporting events, student achievements, campus grounds, and student life and community. This helps prospective students envision what life will be like at that school, making them more likely to enrol.
Now, let’s highlight some of the effective social media marketing strategies you can leverage to improve enrolments.
Use Dedicated Hashtags
By using dedicated hashtags on social media, your school can leverage social proof to build its social media brand. Current students can use hashtags to showcase their life on campus and alumni can even use hashtags to show their appreciation to the institution that helped them succeed. You can also create and promote hashtags for departments and events as well.
Feature Your School’s Social Life
Featuring student activities on your social media channels is a great way to help prospective students visualise a social life on your campus and feel a sense of community.
Feature Achievements on Your Social Media Platform
Showcase your student and faculty strengths and achievements on your social platform. This helps them visualise the successes that they can achieve at your school. If they know that students have a strong support network and are achieving success, they’ll be more motivated to enrol.
Showcase Your Beautiful Campus
If you have a beautiful campus, then show it off on your social media. Take photographs of public spaces like lawns, outdoor study areas, and beautiful buildings. The campus environment plays a key role in shaping students’ lives, and it’s especially important in their decision-making process.
If you’re looking for inspiration for your marketing strategy, check out our free guide “Digital Marketing for Schools”
2. Increase Organic Traffic Through SEO
Having a website is simply not enough anymore. If people can’t find it when they conduct a search, you won’t have any visitors. You must improve your website’s search rankings if you want to ensure a constant flow of website traffic. Several reports show that more than 90% of people use a search engine when seeking information on the web.
Focus on Less Competitive Long-tail Keywords
Keywords are crucial to any SEO campaign. schools must conduct research to determine the best keywords to optimise for, which should then be strategically integrated into web content for effective organic search rankings.
Create High-quality Content
If you want to rank for specific keywords, you need to have content and web pages that discuss that topic. schools must ensure that the content they feature on their website is well-written and relevant.
Think about the questions that prospective students have and what information they are seeking. Create helpful content that answers these questions and it will help you rank well in organic search results.
A popular type of content that education marketers can incorporate in their content marketing strategies is a blog. In the next section, I share more information on how to develop an effective blog.
Use Enticing Page Titles and Meta Descriptions
Schools should use relevant and enticing meta descriptions to attract prospective students to their website. When a prospective student is looking at their search results, the page title and meta description can help convince them to click on your link.
3. Drive Organic Traffic Using Blogs
Blogs are a crucial component of many content marketing and SEO strategies, and they can be a powerful tool for education marketers. Successful blogs can receive a large amount of traffic and the posts can reach a massive audience. Just as companies that blog consistently generate 88% more leads than companies that don’t, much of the same can be said of schools that keep quiet.
Blogs give schools an opportunity to showcase their brand and connect with students. When developing your content strategy, think about how you can relate to prospective and current students. Here are some examples of how blog posts can help academic institutions reach a broader audience:
Navigating the enrolment process can be confusing and intimidating for incoming students. They likely have many questions—as do their parents. Create a blog solely focused on enrolments and use it as an opportunity to address commonly asked questions and to quell any concerns.
Niche Blogs for Different Departments
Different departments within your school can launch blogs to showcase their activities. For example, the Science department may want to highlight groundbreaking research projects or their presentations at national conferences. You could also blog about community projects that you’re involved in, such as local school gardens you maintain or their extension programs.
Not only can schools write for their own blog, but you can also submit guest posts to other high-traffic blogs to reach a larger or more targeted audience. Due to the nature of the content and the school’s reputation, it is easier for most academic institutions to get their guest posts accepted by blogs.
Learn more about blogs in our article “5 Creative Ways to Make Your School Blog Stand Out“
4. Communicate with Email Marketing
Some marketers have neglected email marketing, claiming that it is obsolete. This is far from the truth. Email marketing is still very useful and several schools have begun to adopt this strategy. Most students and parents would rather get information from schools via email versus direct mail. However, with cold emailing, the odds are stacked against you as most emails sent to prospective students will go directly to their spam folder.
So how can higher education marketers ensure their emails won’t go to spam?
Send Personalised Content
Send personalised, segmented, and relevant emails to leads. This has become a proven way to increase your engagement rate and improve overall deliverability. According to a report from Econsultancy, 74% of marketers confirmed that targeted personalisation is one of the best ways to improve user experience and boost engagement rate.
Optimise Your Email Program with AI
There are some specialised tools that help higher education marketers identify the best time to send an email to anyone they have sent an email to in the past. Popular email marketing tools like MailChimp, ActiveCampaign, and ConvertKit offer these capabilities.
5. Make your website mobile-responsive and user-friendly.
Prospective students begin their search for a new school online and the first place they visit is often a school’s main homepage. Websites should have effective UX and perform well on both desktop and mobile devices. Users should be able to easily access your content at home and on-the-go, delivering a mobile-friendly experience is crucial. This is particularly important to Generation Z, who is now the target demographic of most schools.
That’s exactly what John Monash Science School is doing with its mobile-responsive website that displays well on both desktop, laptops, tablets and mobile phones.
In 2015, mobile searches overtook desktop searches for the first time, and the gap has only widened since then. More and more people primarily access the internet on mobile devices. Your target demographic is part of the mobile-first generation. Make sure your websites are mobile-responsive and adjust to the size of any screen. Take a moment to check out your website on your own phone. Are your potential students experiencing the site as intended?
Page speed is also a factor that most search engines use to determine a website’s page rank. Search engines, like Google, strive to deliver the best results possible. They know that their users don’t want to visit websites that are slow to load or have a poor user experience (UX). If your website is slow to load, it will negatively impact your search rankings. Be intelligent with your school’s website design. It should load quickly and address all likely questions.
You need at least the following six pages:
- Faculty and Staff
These pages should provide a newcomer with necessary information and a sense of your school’s culture and values.
A great About Us page should help site visitors and prospective students get a good understanding of your schools history, values, and approach to education.Include sign-up forms, which allow you to collect email addresses so you can nurture relationships with leads. People are more likely to subscribe if you offer something in return for their contact information. Try offering helpful content for new subscriptions, such as a guide or pamphlet with useful information.
Consider other distinguishing features of your school that might deserve their own page. Are you proud of your extracurricular activities or campus facilities? Do you participate in a particular faith or have a strong community service program?
Start Increasing Enrolment Today
School marketers are always faced with lots of challenges—especially how to increase student enrolments. If these 5 marketing strategies are properly utilised, they will differentiate you from the competition, helping you to build stronger relationships with current and prospective students. If your marketing strategies need a refresh, the digital marketing professionals at Beyond Web can help you.
We specialise in building the best school websites for top schools across Australia and Europe, delivering industry-leading websites tailored to your school’s needs. Contact us today to schedule a free 45 minute website consultation.