There are over 3500 colleges across the United States. That’s a large list of institutions for a stagnant pool of potential students. It seems marketing to college students is more important than ever before.
But are colleges doing enough to reach through the noise and grab the attention of their target students? Hardly. Between antiquated websites and poor amenities, there’s room for plenty of improvement.
Only the most prominent colleges can survive by branding alone. Here are some high-level college marketing strategies every university should embrace.
1. Optimize Website Structure and URLs
The average university is stuffed with dozens of colleges, research programs, and personal interest stories. Countless categories and subcategories dominate website structures.
But what does this have to do with bringing traffic to a college website?
It’s all about search engine optimization, or SEO. The good news is SEO works the same for colleges as it does for any other website.
Search engines love URLs that are easy to read. This means avoiding the bloat that comes with unoptimized website structuring. Shave random numbers, egregious backslashes, and unnecessary hyphens from college URLs.
And, whenever possible, colleges should include keywords in the URL. It’s possible to overdo it, though. Keyword stuffing still applies as far as URLs are concerned, and it’s possible to do more harm than good by being overzealous.
2. Determine Data-Backed Keywords
Yes, keywords matter for colleges large and small. It starts with a look at the target audience, or better yet, the various buyer personas therein. The audience will have its own search engine habits and desires, and colleges can cast a tailored net to catch their traffic.
The ideal student actually varies based on the university and college. For example, some universities don’t target recent high school graduates at all. Instead, they look to convert those in their late 20s and 30s who wanted a college education but never had a chance to get one until now.
For colleges already making use of keywords and struggling to see results, it’s time to go back to the drawing board. Colleges should audit the performance of every individual keyword. There should be clear winners and losers, which means it’s possible to improve and alter the keywords not pulling their weight.
Oftentimes the issue is a lack of humanization. Many colleges have different names for the same degree. It’s best to stick with the generic search terms as very few people, if any, will think to search for a Business Communication degree when it’s really a Public Relations program.
3. Create Compelling Content
Most marketers by now understand the importance of blog content as far as SEO is concerned. Colleges are in a privileged position. On-campus research supplies them with primary information they can cultivate and publish online.
These provide excellent opportunities to insert targeted keywords. But colleges can also take advantage of interlinking and high-quality content to keep traffic around for longer.
Whether visitors are looking at the admissions page, faculty, financial aid, or specialty programs, they’re spending more time on the site. If the average visitor spends plenty of time on the website, search engines take that as a hint that it’s a high-authority website with great content.
The domain will rise in the SERPs as a result, ultimately leading to traffic improvements.
4. Put Title Tags to Work
Title tags are an important ranking indicator for search engines. They provide a brief synopsis of the on-page content. When you perform a google search, the resulting page is actually a collection of title tags across various websites.
The best college websites structure their title tags with keywords appropriate to the content. However, titles have less than 95 characters to work with. It’s important to make every letter count.
Don’t include the same keyword more than once. Repeated keywords don’t affect the ranking factor. Rather than trying to keyword stuff the title tags, colleges should use them as an opportunity to incorporate geographical information.
Also known as geo modifiers, these specify the location of the content. Add “Virginia” at the end of the title tag, and you’re likely to rank higher for traffic from that area.
Keep in mind that it’s effective for students in the surrounding area. Otherwise, geotags are irrelevant for online institutions or those which rely heavily on out-of-state tuition.
There’s more to marketing than depending on the website alone. Want to learn more about beefing up your online presence? Here’s how to increase college website traffic.
5. On-Campus Perks
Sometimes it’s the little things that count. In competitive areas, many universities have started incorporating better technology and dwellings. These come in the form of amenities like free iPads and luxury accommodations.
But the perks don’t end there. The University of Northern Colorado allows students to keep a cat or dog in the dormitories — something found almost nowhere else. And at High Point University, the students can enjoy a high-class steakhouse once a week.
Some universities have even invested in on-campus waterpark facilities.
College has become more than a place to get an education. It’s now an experience and universities better offer an unforgettable one if they want to keep the students coming.
The Future of College Marketing
The number of enrolled college students has stayed steady for the last several years. But college expenses continue to grow. Cutthroat universities looking to remain relevant should seek to enhance their college marketing strategy if they wish to see the end of this student drought without cutbacks.
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