The competition for prospective students is steadily on the rise and with myriad options for students to choose from it’s essential for your school to stand out. Since fall 2019, enrollment is down 6.5%. Why? Factors like increased costs, switching to and from remote learning, restricted campus life, and other Covid-19 considerations have all played a role in recent years. Whatever the reason, competition is stiff, and your institution’s marketing must be at the top of its game. With digital media and opportunities for engagement with your target students continuing to expand, here are 5 higher education digital media tactics to integrate into your marketing mix in 2022. 

1. Incorporate Short-Form Video 

Short-form video is a sure-fire way to engage your audience. With attention spans continuing to shrink; short, snackable, shareable content is key. Bite-size videos (think 15s and less) typically see far higher completion rates than longer videos, so keeping your message concise means increasing the chances your audience will fully digest what your school is trying to convey. 

Social media use is rapidly increasing, and not just among undergrads. Short-form video can be incorporated into all of these platforms but making sure you tailor it to each will be key to reaching as many viewers as possible. Channels, such as Tik Tok and Instagram, continue to prioritize video content (especially vertical video) by giving it more view time and tailoring algorithms to show video over less engaging content formats. But that doesn’t mean video can’t bring valuable traffic back to your site. Including a clickable link with your videos, especially for ads, can be a great way to help drive prospective students and other key stakeholders to learn more or take the desired action. 

 2. Take Advantage of Google Analytics 

Google Analytics is a valuable tool that shows the behavioral trends on your website, but it’s not enough to simply install it. Looking at your website analytics regularly can help your college or university understand the user’s journey through your site as well as which channels drove them there (with the help of consistent UTM tracking, of course). This information is vital in optimizing your higher education institution’s site and digital media ads. 

Your prospective students don’t want to spend time searching through pages and pages of program information just to find tuition or admission requirements. Ensuring they can find what they’re looking for, and quickly, will be key to keeping them engaged. Dive into your Google Analytics and look for pages with a high session duration and others with high bounce rates, to see where users are spending time and where they’re dropping off. When you get to know your prospective students’ behaviors on your site, you can make optimizations to cut down on bounce rate, increase engagements, and improve click-throughs on calls-to-action, like Inquire and Apply. This understanding of your audience’s wants and needs will allow you to make the information they seek front and center.  

Ready to take it a step further? Setting up conversion tracking can help provide a deeper understanding of how users are interacting with the site, from which videos they’re viewing most to which of those calls-to-action are getting the most clicks. Learning from your users’ engagements can help your school optimize your site so the most searched for content is easily attainable.  

3. Optimize Your Site for Organic Search  

Search engine optimization (SEO) is your friend. When was the last time you searched for something on Google and went to the second page of results? Chances are, probably never. In fact, 95% of search traffic goes to the first page of results.  

Researching the top keywords you’re currently ranking for (and the ones you want to rank for) and including them in your content is a great first step. But optimizing your entire site to drive traffic to key pages and enrollment in key programs is an even better one. So, what does it take to rank on page one? Mobile-friendly sites, the use of outbound links, and domain authority (posting frequently, article engagement, and backlinks from other reputable sources) all play a part here. The more users value your content, the more Google will, and the higher your college or university will be on the search results page. 

But as any higher-ed marketing and admissions pro knows, Google’s rankings aren’t the only ones that matter. With rankings on numerous aspects of the student experience becoming more and more commonplace (think “Best Business Schools in the Northeast”) many prospects will take how your institution and program is ranked against your peers into account when making their decision. Consider including outbound links of news articles and rankings related to your higher education institution to optimize your website and share digital media mentions. 

4. Utilize Paid Search 

Like SEO, paid search is a digital media tactic that helps put your higher education institution or program at the top of a SERP. Using this tactic effectively can ensure your school and program offerings are front and center with prospects who are already actively searching for degrees, certificate programs, and other educational offerings just like yours. Bonus? Paid search ads appear before users even scroll to the organic search listings. 

These campaigns, also known as pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns, work symbiotically with SEO to reach prospective students throughout their journey. With higher education’s lengthy consideration cycles, staying top of mind is key (even when it’s not a peek enrollment or application period).  Because paid search uses a pay-per-click model, and you don’t pay until users click the ad these campaigns are especially useful for this. Even better, since users are already actively searching for information, they tend to see strong engagement (and conversions) on your website as well. 

Make sure to shape your paid search campaigns based on the student journey so you can reach prospects at the right time, in the right place, on the right device (and consider including retargeting to keep them engaged). 

5. Focus Content on Career Outcomes or “Return on Investment” 

Among the top fears for prospective students? The cost of education, the future debt they may incur to attend, and whether it will be worth the return on their investment. This fear has been exacerbated by Covid-19 with the number of new college students who have filled out FAFSA dropping by nearly 9% compared to the previous year. This is due to many factors including the financial instability from Covid-19, fewer resources to find financial aid, and economic instability forcing people directly into the workplace. 

By creating content and providing information on post-graduation career outcomes like career placement, salary increases, and more, these fears will be specifically addressed. For the undergraduate student population, this type of messaging is also reassuring for parents who may be helping with costs and want to feel confident in their child’s decision. Let them know their investment in their education will be worth it with data to back it up. 

Committing to a higher education institution is not a decision that prospects make lightly. The consideration cycle may differ by audience and program type but requires copious amounts of information to be discovered and digested. Reaching people where they are consuming content with digital media tactics like these, shows them what makes your college or university special, and makes yourself stand out. The digital world is ever-changing, and it’s vital to keep up if you want to increase enrollment and retention!