6 Ways to Leverage Student Testimonials in Marketing

Today’s college search consists of visiting hundreds of college websites to find the perfect match. After researching several institutions, prospective students then compile a list of colleges and universities to apply to, but what are the deciding factors that lead them to applying? Is it hearing from faculty members, attending open house events, a google search, or chatting with recruiters? For me, it was how the university utilized testimonials in their marketing.

After graduating from American University with a Bachelor of Arts in journalism, I decided to pursue my master’s degree in integrated marketing communications at Georgetown University. Before making this decision, I was a prospective student searching for an online graduate program that had everything I desired and more. Throughout the several months of searching, I experienced various universities retargeting me around the web, sending emails with application deadlines and receiving recruitment schedules to make appointments. Again, it wasn’t the consistent emails, speaking with recruiters or the ads circling the internet that led me to my final decision. It was reading and hearing faculty, alumni and student testimonials.

As a marketer, and twice a prospective student, I want to share with you six key strategies that will help your college or university boost leads and engage prospective students by implementing student testimonials in marketing campaigns.

1. Create a student experience tab on your website and social networking pages

Including a student experience tab on your website and social networking pages provides current students, alumni, faculty and even parents the opportunity to share their success stories. In this section you have the chance to sell your university or college to its full potential by incorporating quotes, videos and blog posts. Make sure to also highlight topics that matter to your target audience, including internship opportunities, graduation rates, employment rates, campus safety, extracurricular activities, as well as students and professors interactions. This will give prospective students a feel for the student body culture and will enable them to apply and make an enrollment decision.

University testimonial example: Berkeley City College created an International Student tab page to help market its testimonials. Prospective students that navigate to this page will hopefully find a relatable experience that will get them engaged and excited about their possible opportunities at the college or university. *Pro Tip: Incorporating photos of your students leads to better results.

 

2. Revamp paid search landing pages to incorporate testimonials in marketing

Paid search landing pages give you, the marketer, an opportunity to sell your university or college with an incentive or social validation. This can be easily done by incorporating short video clips or quotes from students or recent graduates that may pique your prospective students’ interest. It’s also important that you provide trustworthy information along with providing social validation (video or quote) or an incentive, such as a brochure, to further explain your program.

The content you create must meet your prospective students’ initial motive and provide them with a solution. Make sure your content only gives your prospects two options, either to add their information or exit out of the landing page. Keep in my mind that no one sells your brand better than a joyous and lively student or alumni.

University Testimonials Examples from Unbounce

Source: Unbounce

University landing page example: This particular template is from Unbounce. On this landing page it gives prospective students the option to provide their contact information. However, before submitting their information they will see a testimonial quote from a graduating student that may spark their interest even further. 

A second example is from the University of Illinois at Chicago landing page where they’ve attracted new students by marketing testimonial videos. Using video and adding a small description takes the content further in making it personable and relatable.

3. Post video testimonials on social media accounts

When I scroll through my Facebook feed, I’m often attracted to videos. Whether I’m laying in my bed, walking down the street or taking a lunch break, I’m more prone to click on a video than an ad with a graphic. Honestly, I would rather listen to someone speak than sit and analyze an image. In fact, by 2017, video content will represent 74 percent of all internet traffic, according to KCPB. As a result, video testimonials are a great way to build trust and provide prospective students with additional information so they have a chance to learn more about the program you’re advertising.

As a marketer, whether you choose Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Snapchat to advertise your university’s videos, make sure you’re targeting a very specific audience and that you’re using the right social media platform. For example, Facebook attracts an older crowd. According to a BI Intelligence study, Facebook users aged 45-54 represent 21 percent of the total time spent on the platform, which is the most time spent compared to any other age group. Therefore, if I’m promoting graduate school opportunities, I would use Facebook ads to pitch to an older demographic. However, as a marketer, if I’m looking to attract high school juniors and seniors that are researching institutional programs, I would consider advertising testimonial videos on Snapchat. This is a great way to incorporate alumni and current students into recruitment methods to increase brand awareness.

American University social media marketing example

             

University Facebook page example: This example shows American University (AU) utilizing Facebook to engage prospective students and newly enrolled students. In this video, President Burwell starts off by explaining her testimony as a previous college student and later explaining the experience of current AU students and professors. Although, this is not a current student or an alumni directly explaining their experience, as a leader at the University, she is telling her story incorporating professors and current students into the storyline.

4. Specific statistics and photos perceive tangible results and trust

When marketing testimonials, keep in mind that prospective students always need assurance to make sure they’re making the right decision. Research shows adding a face to the name, along with a testimonial text, can increase empathy towards people, even when never meeting them. This will automatically allow prospective students to feel more connected and provides them with the assurance they need.

In addition, if you are sharing a faculty member’s testimonial and they happen to share a statistic, don’t be afraid to also share that with your audience. Statistics help illustrate that your institution is about producing results and lifting boundaries for your students by highlighting the curriculum and opportunities you provide for your students and graduates.

For example, before attending American University, I would attend numerous open house events, speak to recruiters and speak with current students and alumni. Although attending events and speaking with students convinced me enough to attend American University, there was always one statistic that stuck with me, because I would see the same statistic posted on billboards all around Washington, D.C. and the university campus. The statistic read, “92 percent of our graduates are working, in graduate school or both.”

By reading this statistic, I was easily convinced that American University would give me the proper resources and education I needed to succeed. Reading alumni testimonials was great and speaking with current students gave me an in-depth perspective of university. However, reading and keeping that statistic in mind helped me make my final enrollment decision.  

American University student testimonial statistic

Source: American University

University photo and statistic example: In the first example from American University, the statistic automatically sparks a student’s interest. It makes an individual think they too will find success and become apart of that statistic when it’s time to graduate. 

A second example is from Washburn University using alumni to explain what they’ve gained through their education. Again,  marketing testimonials along with photographs will encourage prospective students to start thinking about the long-term impact an institution can have on their careers.

 

5. Improve email marketing strategies and tactics

If you’ve ever submitted a contact form on a university’s website, I’m sure you’ve received thousands of emails reminding you about application deadlines, open houses, scholarship opportunities and upcoming webinars. Looking at all the emails filling up your inbox, how many of them do you see marketing testimonials to share alumni and student experiences? Not many!

One of the best ways to convince a prospective student to attend a university is by making the emails relatable and personable. Instead of sending a generic email explaining the application deadlines, add a video testimonial with a student or alumni explaining why they chose the institution. Make sure the videos showcase internship opportunities, extracurriculars, curriculum and campus culture.

Another strategy for marketing testimonials is to leverage scholarship deadlines and add a written testimonial, with a photo of the student, that explains the situation they were in before receiving the scholarship and how it has helped them to succeed.

Testimonials can also be utilized when advertising webinars. Make sure to implement testimonials from a student that will be speaking during the webinar throughout the whole email marketing campaign. Feel free to also add an incentive when marketing the student’s testimonial by offering a one-on-one opportunity with that student. For example, before choosing Georgetown University for graduate school, I also researched Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, Media and Integrated Marketing. I actually enjoyed reading the program emails because they always incorporated an opportunity to speak with an alumni or current student about the online program. While attending one of the school’s webinars, an alumni and current student shared their experiences with me and the opportunities the university offered them. Testimonials are your friend when it comes to selling your brand. Don’t run from them. Utilize them to their fullest potential.

University Email Marketing Campaign Example Using Testimonials in Marketing

Source: Northwestern University

“A recent IMC Online graduate, Erin Price, Senior Director of Strategic Planning at Sargento Foods, will be on hand to describe her experiences in the program.” – Northwestern University, Medill Program, Megan Castle

University email marketing tactic: This example from Northwestern University shows the institution marketing their online webinar and telling their prospective students an alumni will be present. Prospective students will be more inclined to attend the webinar because they’re interested in hearing a previous student’s opinion about the program.  

 

6. Use public speaking engagements to collect and market testimonials

During my junior and senior year at American University, my state recruiter would always ask if I could speak at accepted student events located in New York and New Jersey. After giving my speech, I remember taking a deep breath before seeing a number of students rush to me and ask questions regarding my experience, the professors, extracurriculars and student body culture.

I enjoyed connecting with prospective students and helping them make an important decision that will impact the rest of their lives. It was simply the way I leveraged my testimony that impacted their final decisions. As you can see, word of mouth goes a long way. If someone reads or listens to a story they will automatically feel more connected compared to someone just reading facts. When marketing a live testimonial, students may feel more inclined to make a quicker decision.

Here’s another tip – at the end of each event hand out evaluations. As a higher education marketer, this gives you an opportunity to see what you’ve done right and what areas to improve when conducting future events. At the end of the evaluations, feel free to also ask prospective students a question similar to this:

“After attending this event for accepted/prospective students to learn more about the (School Name) experience, how likely are you to enroll at our university or college? (1 – 10)

Also please feel free to leave a comment regarding your experience at the event and your name, so that we can post it on our website and social media accounts.”

Hosting similar events for your prospective students gives them social and tangible proof that everything your institution markets and advertises online is exactly what they will see during face-to-face interactions.

Takeaways:

  • In all testimonials, showcase a problem and provide students with a solution.
  • Student testimonials are a university’s success stories.
  • Always leverage the power of social proof and validation.

“Nothing draws a crowd quite like a crowd.” – P.T. Barnum

 

User generated testimonials are just one piece of Circa Interactive’s conversion optimization services. Convert the traffic you are paying for. Learn how Circa’s established methodologies, with new approaches, will help increase your university’s interest and ROI by visiting our conversion rate optimization services page.

Farah Green

Farah Green is a marketing and public relations specialist for Circa Interactive. She has background experience in both the broadcast media and digital marketing industries. While working at Circa, she has gained experience in higher ed content marketing while also improving her creative skills. Farah’s passion and continual education in marketing helps to enhance Circa’s team.

Education Market Research Tips for Programs in Higher Ed and K-12

What is Program Market Research?

The goal of program market research is to understand the competition, demand, and trends for specific programs or courses within a university or K-12 environment. Program market research can also provide insight into how a program or course should be designed based on current and future demand, in addition to how it should be positioned from a creative standpoint within the larger education market. This type of analysis can provide much more confidence to an organization that a program will be successful once launched.

Why is Higher Education Market Research and Program Feasibility Important?

The world of education has only gotten more competitive over the last ten years. With the rise of for-profit education, in addition to the adoption of online learning and MOOC’s, education has become both more accessible and more competitive. Prior to launching a new degree program or course, schools must complete a stringent market research analysis in order to ensure success.

Why is K-12 Market Research Important?

Completing market research for K-12 environments is important as it can shine light onto not only what is in demand from a course perspective, but also how it should be delivered. Classrooms continue to advance in regards to what medium subjects are delivered to students in, and keeping up with trends around how information is consumed by adolescents can be demanding. Market research for K-12 can ensure that the right programs and courses are created, which will in turn deliver education in a mode that is successful.

What is the Market Research Process?

The market research process can generally be broken down into three core sections, with each focusing on the three core principles of competition, demand, and trends.

1. Primary Research

Through a combination of qualitative strategies (focus groups and stakeholder interviews) and quantitative research, information is gathered around education drivers as well as large data sets upon which to formulate and execute plans. We follow a research trajectory that begins with qualitative findings that, in turn, inform cogent, useful surveys. We partner with an Ivy League university’s Survey Research Center to manage data-gathering efforts from hundreds or thousands of stakeholders to provide quick, efficient, and illuminating data with which to make decisions about online programs. Primary research tools include:

  • Surveys
  • Focus Groups
  • On ground program data

2. Competitive Analysis

Understanding the competition is an extremely important step in determining program viability. While understanding program demand is important, many times the barriers to entry and the cost to compete are too high to warrant an investment. Benchmarks are generally used to determine how a program or course stacks up compared to others, and can be a good way to determine ROI. Competitive research tools include:

  • Google trends data
  • Google keyword planner data
  • Keyword Spy (analyze competitors paid advertising strategies

3. Secondary Research

Looking to outside resources for insights into program demand can help ensure success. Compiling and analyzing data from existing resources, including the U.S. Census Bureau, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. Department of Labor, local/state/regional agencies, IPEDS, job search web sites, and accrediting bodies can determine benchmarks and requirements, as well as short and long term labor market demands.

What Are the Best Market Research Tools?

There are a wide array of free and low-cost tools that are available to individuals looking to complete market research around a program. The following are just a handful of what is available:

  1. https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/ – Insight into consumers via surveys, trends over time in search queries, and benchmarks for display related efforts.
  2. https://adwords.google.com/home/tools/keyword-planner/ – Understand the cost-per-click and search volume around core keywords that your potential audience might be searching.
  3. http://fedstats.sites.usa.gov/ – Centralized location for federal government data including insights into career and education data.
  4. https://www.surveymonkey.com/ – Complete surveys of core stakeholders and faculty.
  5. http://www.pewresearch.org/download-datasets/ – Large data sets to help provide insight into potential program target markets.

How Can Market Research Inform What to Introduce?

The insights acquired from program market research can shine light onto what programs to introduce based on demand and current competition. Insights from BLS data and other job related data can help to determine what types of degree programs are going to be, or are currently, in demand based on career data. Google trends and keyword data can inform how saturated a market is and can also illustrate how much it will cost from a marketing perspective to enroll a student.

How Can Market Research Be Used to Define Marketing Strategy?

The competitive analysis that is performed during program market research will also focus on the brands of the competition. With education continuing to get more competitive, having a brand that is unique in the market can help to attract students and lead to more organic PR. Insights from this analysis and internal stakeholder interviews will provide insight into what the creative messaging should be for the programs in addition to  what markets to enter and which demographics to target.

By completing a thorough program market research initiative, universities and schools will enter the program creation process more informed about what should be introduced and how it should be positioned within the market. This type of information will help to ensure program success and will also provide upfront insight into costs and metrics, which can prove to be instrumental during the planning and budgeting phase of a new launch.

 

Robert LeeRobert offers a decade of demonstrated digital marketing expertise, and he has provided results to clients both within and outside of higher education while working as an analyst, team lead, and director. He has planned and implemented digital marketing campaigns for a number of large universities throughout the United States, and he leads Circa on all aspects of client strategy. Before founding Circa Interactive, Robert led digital marketing teams at the higher education organization Embanet.

5 Qualities of High-Converting College Websites

At Circa Interactive we’re fortunate to work with a few outstanding partners. Below, our friends over at Finalsite put together five useful tips to increase the conversion rate on your institution’s website. Enjoy!

 

The term “conversions” covers a wide landscape of actions happening on your college or university’s website. It can mean a prospect did something as small as subscribing to your bi-weekly newsletter, or something as big as applying. It is the term used when a current student purchases a ticket for an upcoming football game, when a parent orders some swag, and when alumni make donations. In short, a conversion happens every time a form is submitted on your website.

When someone makes the decision to submit a form, it means that the perceived value of what you’re offering them is greater than giving you their personal information, their most prized possession in today’s world of sponsored posts and spam.

 

Therefore, a high-converting website has five main components:

 

  1. A website that drives qualified website traffic: The first part of getting conversions is getting qualified visitors to specific pages of your site.
  2. A semi-controlled website experience: You want certain visitors to go to certain pages and forms, so guide them there.
  3. Content that influences a conversion: Use visual and textual storytelling to appeal to the logos, ethos, and pathos of your target audience.
  4. Forms that facilitate a conversion: Your form length should vary based on what the user is receiving in exchange.
  5. Follow-up campaigns that engage a recent conversion, and nurture a future one: When someone converts, it means they’re interested in something — so never lose out on an opportunity to capitalize on that momentum.

 

Let’s dive into a little more detail on each of these five qualities:

1. A website that drives qualified traffic.

83% of search query paths (AKA, a simple Google search) begin with an

unbranded term such as “best colleges in Georgia for chemistry,” or “affordable liberal arts colleges.” This means that less than 20% of searches include a specific college or university name.

While this data may be a sign word-of-mouth-marketing (WOMM) may be dead, it’s also a sign that getting qualified traffic to your website is harder than ever. In addition to the mass amount of website traffic stemming from unbranded

searches, 60% of all organic clicks go to the top three search results. (Top of

the page means top of mind for lazy, quick-to-make-a-decision high school students.)

So how exactly do you combat this to drive qualified website traffic and boost your conversion rate? You have two main options:

  1. You can implement an SEO strategy to earn your website and its pages a Page 1 presence. This is a critical long-term strategy, but doesn’t always yield the best short-term results due to its complexity and time it takes to earn authority.
  2. You can invest ad dollars into a Pay-Per-Click (PPC) ad or social media ad strategy. These strategies often yield to best and most immediate results as you have more control over the journey the website visitor takes. For example, when someone searches for “best liberal arts colleges in MA,” you can pay to direct them to a landing page about your school’s liberal arts programs with a form to learn more.

 

A combination of SEO and PPC will be most successful, but if you’re looking for an immediate fix to drive new conversions, go with PPC.

Pro tip: When you send a searcher to a specific landing page on your website with a form, be sure to remove the primary navigation to further “force” a conversion. You can include your navigation on the “thank you” page.

 

2. A semi-controlled website experience.

The website experience can begin in search, but when it begins (or progresses) to your website, you’re also going to want control. This comes in two main forms: Calls-to-Action (CTAs) and specific landing pages.

A good first step to a successful CTA strategy usually begins by placing 2-3 CTAs right above the footer, as the bottom of the page is one of the highest-converting locations. However, the CTAs used on each page should vary based on the content and end-goal. For example, admission pages should have CTAs that drive traffic to inquiry and open house forms, while athletic pages should have CTAs that drive traffic to pages where they can read athletic success stories or meet with a coach.

While CTAs can be used to drive traffic virtually anywhere on your website, you’ll want to use them to drive traffic to specific landing page. Landing pages are where you earn your conversions.

A different landing page should be made for every type of conversion on your website. These pages include a form, as well as compelling content that influences them to fill out that form. When you build a landing page, it is a best practice to have the following content:

  • A value proposition
  • Photos or a video
  • Testimonials and social proof

 

3. Content that influences a conversion.

Take a quick moment and do a role reversal: If you were a prospective student who just did a broad search in Google, and you were sent to a plain page with a form, would you fill it out? Or, if you were an alumni who just received an email to give back, and were sent to that same type of page, would you give back? Chances are, that’s a resounding “no.”

Conversions require content. And lots of it. Your school’s homepage, interior pages, and landing pages all require content that engages a particular target audience. Content should appeal to all stages of the applicant’s journey through awareness, consideration, and decision.

As you build out your content and website pages, ask yourself:

  • Who would find this content useful or interesting?
  • When should we share it?
  • How should we share this content?
  • Where should this content live?
  • What happens next?

Content is a broad term, but the most effective forms of content are social and authentic — meaning look to student testimonials, a student-run blog, and social media to serve as your primary source of content.

4. Forms that facilitate a conversion.

Forms may appear to be the easiest part of a high-converting page, as they are the tool used to gather information. But for that exact reason, they are complex.

Forms need to appeal to two very different types of website visitors:

  • Low-Commitment Visitors: These individuals are just shopping and browsing. Therefore, they are less likely to give you a lot of personal information. Forms for low-commitment visitors include pieces of content (like an informative whitepaper) or a newsletter subscription. Keep the form only 3-4 form fields in length for optimal conversion rates.
  • High-Commitment Visitors: These individuals already know and love your school. It doesn’t matter how long your forms are, or how hard they are to find, they’re ready to fill them out.

Most of your website visitors — especially those in the awareness phase of their journey — will fall into the low-commitment visitor category. It’s important to have a mix of forms that appeal to low-commitment and high-commitment website visitors to fill your admissions funnel. For example, a newsletter sign up form with 1-2 form fields will help fill the top of your funnel, while a longer open house visit form that is 6-8 form fields will help fill the middle of your admission funnel.

 

5. Follow-up campaigns.

When someone makes a conversion, that’s their way of raising their hand and saying “hey, I’m interested!” And, you should use every digital opportunity you can to spark another conversion. Here are some good tools to have handy:

  • A Thank-You Page: This is the page that comes after the form submission. Here, it is a best practice to have the content/information related to the form submission, as well as other similar content they may be interested in.
  • A Page Pop: Putting a PagePop on a thank you page provides you real estate to drive traffic to a specific page or form to move your user further down the funnel.
  • A Follow-Up E-mail: Whenever someone submits a form, there should always be a follow-up email with the information requested, and additional information.
  • Email Campaigns: Based on form submissions, build different email campaigns. For example, individuals who have only filled out your inquiry form, but have never attended an open house, should receive nurture emails to spark a conversion on that form. Another example is alumni who have signed up to volunteer but haven’t donated money. Today’s consumer requires specific, personalized content to move them down the funnel.
  • Social Media Campaigns: Instagram and Facebook are two great social media networks where you can go after those who have converted on your website. In this case you can remarket to them and drive them to new pages on your website on which they may be interested, and where you can garner another conversion.

For more tips and strategies for a high-converting website, download Finalsite’s eBook “The Ultimate Website Guide for Colleges and Universities.”

Higher Education Marketing: Why Chatbots are the Future of Communication

Higher Education Marketing experts are projecting chatbots to be the future of communication between schools and potential students. For many universities, improving communication with students has been a key focus. As any applicant knows, the process of researching university programs can be a complicated one. Whether it’s speaking with various individuals and departments, browsing through program pages or finding out the right information for financial aid, the amount of research required to find the right university can be daunting. But what if, instead of having to spend hours researching, all of the information could be presented to you via instant messages?

With emerging chatbot technology, universities delivering information to potential students could be the future of how universities communicate and market to future students. To help explain this developing trend, below I’ll highlight what chatbots are, why they are projected to be the premier form of communication and how chatbots could provide more effective communication between universities and potential students.

What Are Chatbots?

If you’re active on Facebook, you probably have interacted with early forms of chatbots. For those that haven’t, here is a quick overview.

Chatbots are computer programs designed to provide a service to individuals that interact with it via instant messaging. Typically found in social platforms like Facebook or Slack, chatbots have been used to help with a variety of tasks, ranging from ordering pizza, getting a weather report and even offering therapy.

Communicating with chatbots is no different than messaging with humans. In fact, some have found that services provided by chatbots are often more effective and efficient. Because of this, chatbots are projected to have a major impact on the ways that humans communicate with businesses, universities and other service providers.

Why Chatbots?

Chatbots are a fairly simple concept and forms of communicating with robots have been around as long as 2001 with Smarterchild for MSN and AIM. So why is there sudden hype surrounding chatbots?

There are a number of reasons for this, yet the major factor is that messaging apps now have more active users than social media platforms, with messaging apps attracting just over 3,500 million users while social media barely passes over the 3,000 million users mark. What is most interesting about this increase is that users are not just using messaging apps to communicate with friends, they are also looking to connect with brands, share media and even shop.

Almost all higher education universities have social media accounts, yet few have utilized chatbots to connect with students. This means that chatbots provide higher education marketers with a major opportunity to get ahead of the competition.

How Chatbots Can Provide More Effective Communication Between Universities & Students

A recent Gallup study found that messaging is the preferred method of communication for the younger generations, with 68% of Millennials saying that digital messaging had been their primary source of communication. This shift towards texting has resulted in a major decrease in phone calls amongst the younger generation. In fact, many millennials consider phone calls invasive and uncomfortable, especially when they are speaking with someone unfamiliar.

For many higher education marketing departments, phone calls or emails are the primary source of contact with potential students. By using now antiquated forms of communication, universities are missing out on building quality relationships with potential students and developing insights on what younger generations are looking for in a school.

For instance, consider the ease of messaging back and forth with a chatbot whenever and wherever you choose compared with being stuck on the phone with someone you don’t know, asking you semi-personal questions regarding a major life decision. Wouldn’t you be more comfortable sharing accurate and insightful information when you had time to think and weren’t feeling pressured to answer right away?

Another benefit of chatbots that higher education marketers should consider is the relief of financial and organizational pressure. For example, Georgia State University implemented a chatbot strategy to improve communication with students. Having never tried chatbots before, the university was unsure of how quickly students would adapt to the new technology. Yet after only 4 months, 63% of students had used the chatbot platform on a regular basis, resulting in approximately 200,000 messages. Without chatbots, responding to questions would have required a full-time staff of an estimated 10 members. That’s an annual savings of at least $200,000.

With improved communication and the ability to offer schools major financial savings, chatbots may soon be the future of how universities communicate with students. Keep in mind that, as with most advancements, the most benefit will come from leveraging chatbots before they are standard communication protocol. For higher education marketers looking to improve communication and increase enrollment, testing and utilizing chatbots should be under strong consideration, with potential plans in place for upcoming recruitment drives.

Tyler Putz of Circa Interactive Tyler is a retired division two college basketball player and a recent graduate from the University of Iowa. His creativity, as well as passion for entrepreneurship and the expansion of technology and communication, helps Circa to continue to stay on the cusp of new technologies and trends influencing future generations of students.

Increasing Web Traffic: Content Strategies to Achieve Marketing Goals

For the past decade, digital marketing agencies and experts around the world have emphasized the phrase “Content is King,” but even to this day, a majority of marketers still do not understand how to increase website traffic to the content they’ve generated. For this reason, I have decided to tackle the intricate subject of content development and discuss how this can help to drive traffic to your site.

Every website on the Internet creates content that serves a specific purpose related to the site’s marketing objectives. An online content strategy should provide transparency about daily operations, share relevant industry news and allow the company to share their unique story. As we all know, a strategy that incorporates content marketing and link-building can bolster content SERP rankings which in return will increase the amount of organic traffic. My analysis shows that there are four primary types of content marketing objectives a website can optimize for, but the best equation for any website is to use a multifaceted content approach by utilizing each of the following content marketing objectives.

 

Lead Generation:

To reach this objective, content is created based specifically on user-intent searches or an audience that is actively searching the web for information on any given subject. Since the content is built to be extremely relevant to the user’s search, the end goal for this type of content is to collect a lead which usually consists of a visitor’s name and email address.

  • Example search: What is the best car insurance for teenagers?
  • Example content for search: The Best Car Insurance for New Drivers

 

Advertising:

When building a site using a business model based on advertising, content is created for a niche audience with an entertainment purpose. Most of these advertising-based sites implement Google Adsense or native advertising, which pays the web owner through three different methods: cost-per-click (CPC), cost-per-impressions (CPM) and cost-per-engagement (CPE). In order to generate as much advertising revenue as possible, it is imperative that these sites drive high amounts of traffic through their shocking, entertainment articles to increase ad impressions and clicks.

  • Example search: What did Kanye West Talk to Michael Jordan About?
  • Example content for search: Jordan and West Speak on Upcoming Shoe Collaboration

 

Informational:

This type of content objective is used to drive traffic based on informational, educational and newsworthy articles that provide value to the reader. Some of these sites may generate minor income from advertising but that is not their sole purpose. An informative site’s core mission is to bring together a like-minded community of individuals with similar demographics. Once the strong niche community is established, the site can promote new jobs, national events and sponsored posts to this audience.

  • Example search: How do I find a civil engineering job?
  • Example content for search: 10 Civil Engineering Job Hunting Tips

 

Awareness:

To meet this objective, websites create content that provides a behind-the-scenes perspective on daily operations, showcases business transparency and creates a community for social good. Unfortunately, there are very few sites that are created for pure awareness and transparency purposes.

  • Example search: How much pollution do Nike factories create annually?
  • Example content for search: Nike Reduces Pollution by 25% Thanks to Volunteers

 

The Sites We Analyzed:

Through countless web searches and backlink analyses, I found the four best sites that provide unique insights on content marketing and highlight the different SEO and ranking metrics that prove each content strategy works.

Lead Generation: Bankrate

Advertising: Only in Your State

Informational: Education Week

Awareness: Coca-Cola Unbottled

 

Bankrate

bankrate

Bankrate has a major emphasis on lead generation within the automotive loans, mortgage loans and credit card industry. When taking a quick glance at their homepage, you’ll notice topics like “10 Best Tips for Buying a Car” or “Anxious about the mortgage process? Start Here.” As you can tell, each of these topics is built around a user’s intent, and in this case, they are topics that emphasize a purchase that would require a loan. Throughout Bankrate’s articles, their team will include call-to-actions (CTAs) which ask the visitor to conduct a loan or credit card rate search. These CTAs link back to their loan, mortgage or credit card rate calculators. When a visitor fills out the rate calculator form, their information is collected as a lead and then usually sold to a number of loan companies. With Bankrate, creating content that precisely matches the user’s intent, whether it is tips on buying a car or mortgage refinancing, provides the user value with their easy-to-use calculators, which then generates a lead for them.

Site Statistics:

ahrefs-bankrate

13.9 million backlinks

76,200 referring domains

6.7 million monthly organic traffic

1.4 million organic keywords ranking

Top Organic Keyword: “Mortgage calculator” generates 372,110 visits per month

Top Content by Traffic: Bankrate Auto Loan Calculator – 614,400 monthly traffic

Top Content by Backlinks: Bankrate Mortgage Calculator – 95,926 backlinks

 

Only In Your State

only in your state - sedalia, mo

This website was created for entertainment and advertising purposes. Only in Your State has a unique approach on how they create content, but it is apparent that their end-goals for the website was to become an advertising revenue platform. Right when you enter the page, you’ll see a number of banner ads displayed at the top of the page and off to the right-hand side. Only in Your State isn’t focused on advertising a particular product or service, their goal is instead to give the ad position to the highest bidder. But you may be interested in knowing how they drive nearly a million organic visitors a month. Here’s how: their blog is focused on geo-based or localized content within each state, so not only do they produce content related to specific residents within each state, but they utilize “near me” searches as content opportunities. For instance, Only in Your State has created numerous articles on “fireworks displays” you must see in each state.

fireworks

Anytime someone types in the phrase “fireworks near me,” Only in Your State generates a large amount of traffic because they have localized content with high SERPs for searches in every state. Additionally, many residents are passionate about their state and where they live, so they are more inclined to share content that reflects who they are. This is another reason why they are able to generate high amounts of organic traffic and backlinks. Overtime, the more backlinks they receive the higher their domain authority gets and this will increase the number of organic keywords they rank for. As you can see, when developing a site based on the advertising objective, traffic is your best friend. To learn from Only in Your State’s strategy on generating traffic, be sure to create content that is localized to an audience, relates to people’s personalities, provides a laugh and easy to read.

Site Statistics:

ahrefs-onlyinyourstate

131,000 backlinks

5,410 referring domains

875,000 monthly organic traffic

835,000 organic keywords ranking

Top Organic Keyword: “Fireworks near me” generates 2,250 visits per month

Top Content by Traffic: Texas Amazing Beaches – 7,822 monthly traffic

Top Content by Backlinks: The Ultimate Georgia Waterfalls Road Trip – 341 backlinks

 

Education Week

education week

Education Week was created as an informative central hub for all K-12 educational news. EdWeek emphasizes that they are the leading news community for American educators and administrators. Since they are targeting a specific niche, they are able to create personalized high-quality content pieces for the sole purpose of informing this demographic. As they continue to create trust and loyalty as a leading education news source, there will an uptick in the number of repeat visitors and the community will only get stronger. Once established, they are able to start to promoting career fairs, job boards and educational events which is one of their revenue streams. With EdWeek being viewed as a leader in education, they receive higher engagement rates and generate more backlinks from other education and news sites.

Site Statistics:

ahrefs-edweek

6.68 million backlinks

25,300 referring domains

127,000 organic keywords ranking

119,000 monthly organic traffic

Top Organic Keyword Phrase: “No child left behind” generates 14,204 visits per month

Top Content by Traffic: No Child Left Behind Overview – 35,634 monthly traffic

Top Content by Backlinks: Carol Dweck Revisits the ‘Growth Mindset’ – 892 backlinks

 

Coca-Cola Unbottled

Coke-Unbottled

This blog was created by Coca-Cola with the purpose of transparency in addition to creating a community for the millions of worldwide Coke fans. Coca-Cola wants to create awareness on their social responsibility and provide behind-the-scenes access to their products. Their top organic search term is “Coca-Cola Life” which is one of their newest products that uses cane sugar and stevia, so when users search this term, they will find the product information and ingredients. As you can see from the other types of top content by traffic and backlinks, Coca-Cola focuses on highlighting community initiatives such as “Share a Coke” and conservation partnerships that impact the world. When implementing awareness as your main content objective, use the Coca-Cola Unbottled Blog as an example and be sure create content that provides insights your brand’s values and overall mission.

Site Statistics:

ahrefs-unbottled

31,600 backlinks

2,630 referring domains

16,000 organic keywords ranking

24,000 monthly organic traffic

Top Organic Keyword Phrase: “Coca-Cola Life” generates 1,261 visits per month

Top Content by Traffic: Is Your Name on a Coke Bottle? – 6,874 monthly traffic

Top Content by Backlinks: Happy Anniversary: Coke, WWF Celebrate Progress for the Planet – 536 backlinks

 

Conclusion:

As you continue to plan your future content and fill your editorial calendar, remember to first decide what content marketing objective you want to achieve. From there, the subject matter of your content is all based on what industry or niche you reside in. As I mentioned, your website may have one main objective, such as advertising, but that doesn’t mean every post should be created for entertainment purposes. It is smart to diversify the type of content your site produces in order to attract new audiences, generate more traffic and reach the business’s overall goals. Now that you’ve finished reading this article (thanks again!), it shouldn’t take you very long to formulate your next post and start generating traffic.

 

andersonideaAustin Anderson is a forward-thinking, motivated growth marketing specialist. Before joining Circa, Austin built an e-commerce business and managed online marketing for startups in San Diego. Austin strives to be a future influencer in the world of digital marketing and e-commerce. Connect with Austin on LinkedIn and Twitter @andersonidea.

PPC Tips & Tricks: Facebook’s Lookalike Audiences

Facebook is an incredibly powerful platform, where marketers can seek and engage new prospects across a variety of business goals (purchases, lead generation, awareness, etc.). As I’ve said before, the channel is an indispensable asset for generating prospective student leads to the degree programs we market.

Beyond the vanilla demographic targeting options available (Interests, Fields of Study, remarketing, etc.), wrapped within custom audiences, there lies an enormous bastion of advertising potential. This is the second part of my series dedicated to Facebook’s Custom Audiences, and today’s post examines Lookalike Audiences – a feature that is undoubtedly one of the greatest tools the channel holds in its arsenal. Here’s a bit of info:

Custom Audiences Beget Lookalike Audiences

Although powered by data from Facebook’s trusted third-party partners Acxiom, Datalogix, and Epsilon, Lookalike Audiences must have a source to mimic in order to inform the amalgamation of a viable target audience. If third-party data partners are the fuel, then Custom Audiences are the engine of this vehicle. Traditionally, Lookalike Audiences are cloned from one of these 3 sources: Custom Audiences (Customer Lists: email addresses, phone numbers or mobile advertiser IDs, Website Traffic, App Activity, or Engagements), Conversion Tracking Pixels, and Facebook Pages; of these options, I have found Email Lists and Conversion Pixels both to be viable resources for spawning a killer Lookalike Audience.

The more data, the better…to a point

Screen Shot 2016-07-21 at 2.44.56 PMAccording to Facebook, “The optimal source [for creating a lookalike audience] is 10,000 to 50,000 people”; however, it also notes “Lookalike Audience performance declines when it’s based on a source of over 50,000 people.” If acquiring an email list of this magnitude is not feasible – don’t fret! “The most important aspect of a source is that it is made up of high value customers” – and I’ve seen exceptional results from lists as small as 1,000 high-quality users.

Lookalike Audiences are HUGE

That list size of 1,000 to 5,000 users? It’s about to seem really, really tiny. Get ready to reach a vast amount of users across Facebook’s placement options (Desktop, Mobile, Instagram, etc.) – and that’s still while only leveraging the highest degree of similarity Lookalikes can be set at. If Customer Lists are David, then Lookalikes are at least ten Goliaths.

In the penultimate step of Lookalike creation (which we’ll cover next), remember, “when choosing the size of your audience… smaller audiences more closely match your source audience. A larger audience increases your potential reach, but reduces the level of similarity to your source audience.”

So, let’s walk through creating a Lookalike Audience:

Custom Audiences HEMJ 1

With a Custom Audience (or Conversion pixel) already in mind, navigate to the ‘audience’ section of your business manager and select Create Audience > Lookalike Audience. A light-box will appear, prompting you to ‘create a lookalike audience’:

Custom Audiences HEMJ 2

Click on the Source entry field and you will find a myriad of your saved Audiences available to choose from. Next, select a Country to target.

Custom Audiences HEMJ 3Finally, select an Audience Size; this is where you will decide the degree of similarity between your source audience and the resulting Lookalike. As illustrated in the graphic below, “Audience size ranges from 1% to 10% of the total population in the country you choose, with 1% being those who most closely match your source.”

I prefer to begin with a one percent Lookalike (the highest degree of similarity). When performance of that segment starts to ebb, I then begin to spiral out towards three percent — although I haven’t dared go beyond this degree of dissimilarity, my Paid Search teammates have gauged success in as large as a four percent Lookalike audience.

Quick tip: it’s a good idea in managing concurrent Lookalike segments to sidestep intra-account competition by excluding Lookalikes of the same kind (source) from their peers (e.g. excluding the one percent Pixel Lookalike Audience from your two percent Pixel Lookalike Audience); this can be managed on the ad set level. Furthermore, if you proceed beyond two percent in defining your Lookalike’s size, it may also be a good idea to narrow your audience by implementing cross-targeting (see “How does detailed targeting work” under Facebook’s Targeting Basics); here I like to start with Facebook’s old glory, Interests.

Have you tried Lookalike Audiences? Let us know your thoughts!

Andrew croppedA graduate of the University of California, Andrew is our analytics and paid search team lead. He is both Google Analytics and AdWords certified. With an ROI-focused and problem-solving approach, he researches, plans, and manages our clients’ PPC campaigns.

 

Next time on Facebook Ads Tips & Tricks: Boosted Posts vs. Newsfeed Ads – which is the right fit?

 

 

5 Reasons Why Digital Public Relations Should be a Part of Your Marketing Budget

Within higher education, digital marketers are lucky, because we have access to professors who are thought leaders on the cutting edge of their respective field. Clearly, professors are incredible resources for their students inside of the classroom, and outside of the classroom, professors function as brand ambassadors for their programs and the larger institution. Of course, marketing teams are aware of a professor’s value in order to attract students, and they build videos and web assets around them to create trust and illustrate value. But when it comes to student generation, are marketers effectively leveraging professors to accomplish larger organizational goals, such as increasing organic rankings, acquiring traffic to their website, and creating new touchpoint? What is clear about higher education digital marketing is that even in 2016, when changes in the SEO and social media industry have forced marketers to rely on the highest quality content, professors are not being leveraged effectively. Here is what they’re missing:

Marketing teams can utilize their professors to acquire more students by leveraging traditional public relations practices for a digital world. This is commonly referred to as digital public relations.

Digital public relations uses the larger media in order build brand awareness, increase the thought leadership for professors and university stakeholders, improve organic rankings, and, ultimately, generate more students. In order to illustrate the importance of digital public relations for higher education digital marketers, I created a list below that focuses on why all higher ed digital marketers should strongly consider incorporating digital public relations into their marketing strategy and budget.

 

1. Digital Public Relations Influences Search Rankings

Digital public relations is the best way to build the highest quality backlinks, which serve as indicators—or votes—that convince Google your site is relevant, trustworthy, and valuable. These indicators will in turn help to place your university program higher up in the search engine results page (SERP). When you land a backlink from a domain authority of a website that is strong, then that helps to strengthen your own website. (The higher domain authority of a website, the more value for Google.) The larger media landscape is one of the best avenues to land high quality backlinks, because they have incredibly strong websites, and they are constantly looking for content.

By leveraging faculty members, a skilled communications team can build stories around professors and pitch them to the mainstream media as sources. It’s very difficult to acquire a profile in the Wall Street Journal or CNN, but a digital public relations team can pitch professors to take part in a larger conversation. For instance, as the news broke on the controversy between the FBI and Apple over an encrypted phone, a digital public relations team can pitch their professors in criminal justice and computer science to provide expert commentary on the story. Reporters will include quotes from the professor, and the public relations team will ask for a link within the article. To see more about our successes, you can read the following article: Tracking digital public relations with SEO goals.

Byline articles are another way to leverage faculty members to create high quality backlinks. (It’s best to have a team who understands how to pitch articles to publications, and it takes someone with a background in journalism or public relations to land these types of opportunities.) In order to build backlinks at high quality publications, the team will pitch article ideas generated in collaboration with the professor to editors. By collaborating with the professor, the team will send an approved article to the editor, and in the bio information on the site, the professor can add the link. The best communication teams provide ghostwriting services.

Expert commentary and byline articles are essential strategies that digital public relations teams implement to reach the highest quality publications, and by landing a link on these sites, it will help build your site’s domain authority as well as send indicators to Google that your site should be higher in the search results. Students will then find your program organically for your targeted keywords, which creates leads without spending any money.

 

2. Increase Brand Awareness

Online education is more competitive than ever, and one way that your program can position themselves in front of your targeted audience is by creating media opportunities at publications with large reaches. By leveraging publications that are trusted, you’ll establish your program as being on the cutting edge of their industries. This will send signals to potential students that not only are the program’s professors actively engaged in the research they’re teaching, but show prospective students that they will be a part of the most relevant conversations and receive an education that will propel their careers. This type of publicity can serve as an opportunity for a prospective student to interact with your brand in a unique way.

While many online programs have marketing strategies that focus on creating interactions with potential students through landing pages, social media, and websites, those brand assets might not initially convert the student because of a lack of clout. Brand awareness and trust can be an issue. Digital public relations begins to create interactions with potential students by leveraging vetted organizations in order to build upon their brand. By interacting with prospective students in a natural way, the message will sink in easier, and the brand assets as well as the larger content marketing strategies will only be strengthened.

 

3. Create a Path for Students

As digital marketers, we’re always trying to imagine the research process of how prospective students come to make a decision about signing up for an online degree program. When a student searches for information about a degree program further along in their decision process, what will they find? Will they simply come across the program’s web assets—or will they find that their program is in the news and that their professors are not just engaging in an academic community, but that they are trying to tell their program’s story to a larger audience?

Digital public relations changes the way that a student researches a degree program by creating a new digital narrative. For instance, a prospective student will benefit by encountering a story about a professor who is quoted in a larger article at the Los Angeles Times, discussing the future of their profession. Perhaps they will remember a professor’s name in the Wired article on the future of 5G technologies. Perhaps students can also come across how a professor is a part of the evolution of digital education and dedicated to creating the optimal environment for students to grow. Or perhaps a prospective student will benefit from seeing a profile highlighting a professor’s advancement in their field based on a new grant. What digital public relations helps with is creating a path, an outline, for students to follow in their research, which illustrates the career options they will have when they graduate.

 

4. Build Relationships with Professors

One of the thoughts that many stakeholders consider when investing in digital public relations is whether or not a marketing team can handle the complex nature of the academic world. In order to have professors invest their time into a digital public relations strategy, they need to trust the team they are working with and know that they will represent their work in the highest regard. So a digital public relations team working in education must have the ability to understand and translate complex academic topics into something that would make sense for the mainstream media.

It’s essential that digital public relations professionals are experts in the art of turning complex academic jargon into something more informal and journalistic. Often, our team has found that professors have no idea how to change their style, so we help them learn to tell their stories in a way that can attract major media outlets. Our team accomplishes this by staying up-to-date on industry trends, interviewing professors the same way a journalist would engage with them, and doing our homework on a professor’s research and background so we can prove to professors that we can not only represent their university but their own personal brands.

But most importantly, we help professors shape their stories outside of academia, and this often creates great relationships with the team and the professor. They value our hard work and expertise, and when professors see their names or bylines in leading publications, they appreciate the value of a larger marketing strategy. Digital public relations benefits both the program and their professors by supporting their research and academic interests. This helps bridge the gap between the marketing team and the individual stakeholders that make up the program. The more a professor’s work is promoted, the more they become thought leaders in their industry, and they will be sought after by other journalists and editors, leading to the opportunity to create new backlinks and touchpoints.

 

5. A Long-term Investment

When it comes to deciding how to spend resources in a marketing budget, the fundamental question every stakeholder wants to know is: What is my ROI? With paid search, a stakeholder in an online program can see how their money is being spent in the short term and evaluate their cost-per-lead as well as their cost-per-acquisition and quickly understand whether or not their strategy is working. While this is an essential part of the larger strategy, a diversified marketing approach will take into account how to leverage all available tactics and try to think about ways to maximize the budget spent on paid ads.

Digital public relations is different than paid search in the sense that it is a long-term approach, and it is essentially free advertising. By building up the number of touchpoints potential students have with your brand as well as the number of backlinks from high quality publications, digital public relations helps online university programs increase their organic rankings, and students will naturally find the degree program without paying for keywords or social impressions. It’s a strategy that pays long-term dividends when it is a part of the larger digital strategy, and it’s an worthwhile investment in the long haul.

To learn more about our digital public relations strategy, see our process here: Circa digital public relations

 

JoeJoseph Lapin M.F.A. is an author, creative director, and journalist, and his writing has been published in the Los Angeles Times, Narratively, Salon, Slate, and more. He is a former adjunct professor at Florida International University, and he has worked on PR campaigns for Ernst & Young, Brentwood Associates, and more.

6 Ways Prospective Students Find Degree Programs Online [Video]

Online education has taken large steps towards a highly regarded and powerful industry over the past decade. Increased trust toward these types of degrees have stemmed from elite, traditional universities emerging in the online higher education market. The continued development in communication technologies and an increase in savvy online tools have cleared the air of a once cloudy online learning environment.

With this open window into higher education, the current workforce has an opportunity to expand their knowledge and gain graduate level degrees while continuing their day-to-day responsibilities. Universities are investing in professors and tools to provide top-notch education to their future students. Students are using the tools at their disposal to find the right program for their goals.

Higher education institutions are faced with the challenge of shifting from traditional marketing tactics (billboard, print ads, brochures, radio, etc.) to newer methods in order to strategically place their brand in the sights of prospective students. The competitive nature of online higher education is pushing institution’s marketing teams towards new platforms such as SnapChat, Instagram, and new video marketing tactics.

How Do Prospective Students Find Their Online Program?

Today, students pursing online degrees search for them, you guessed it, online. 67% of prospective students use search engines as their first source of information for higher education institutions, so it is more important than ever to have an active presence on major search engines in order to get your program and brand in front of potential students. The video below, created by our content team at Circa Interactive, provides a quick run through of the top 6 ways that students find degree programs online.

 

Organic Search

Organic search is the natural, unpaid search that occurs on search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.). If your website is optimized for your core keywords and ranks in the search results, organic traffic is a flow of free visitors to your website. Even better, if your website is on the first page of results for a keyword (ex. Master in engineering program), you are in a good position to receive these free visits.

Fun Fact: Over 70% of users click on a result on the first page.

 

 

Paid Search

While organic search is the natural results shown when a user searches in a search engine, paid search is just the opposite. As shown in the video, paid ads appear on the top, sides, and bottom of the Google search results. These ads are shown based on the search query a prospective student used and a generally marked with the word ‘Ad.’

Fun Fact: 64% of users click on a paid ad when they’re looking to purchase a product or service.

 

 

Organic Social

Similar to organic search, organic social are the general social posts shared by individuals, institutions, or companies. Popular platforms for universities to leverage to place their programs in front of students are Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and LinkedIn.

Fun Fact: 38% of users are influenced by a school’s social media engagement

 

 

Paid Social

Paid social ads are the ads you see in social networks such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram. These advertisements are a proven way to generate students for an online program. Paid social ads are able to be targeted to very specific groups of potential students.

Fun Fact: 57% of students use social media to research universities.

 

 

Digital PR

Another way to place your program and brand in front of potential students is to use the respectable faculty and stakeholders at your university. Through a multichannel PR approach, students are able to see professors published in major news outlets such as Wired, The Huffington Post, Forbes, Entrepreneur, and more.

Fun Fact: The Huffington Post has 33,647,468 unique visitors per month.

 

 

Display

While Digital PR works to land opportunities for professors in news outlets and publications around the web, display advertising places highly focused visual advertisements on these same websites. These powerful advertisements are proven to generate high quality traffic to a program’s webpage.

Fun Fact: The Google Display Network includes more than 2 million sites.

 

While the 6 avenues for student acquisition highlighted in the video cover most of the options available, there are many other tactics for savvy marketers to leverage to place their brand in front of prospective students. To find out how to locate students for your program, drop us a line here.

 

how students find degree programs hemj image

FreddieFrederic has three years experience in higher education content marketing and search engine optimization. Working with Circa Interactive, he has gained valuable experience in paid search, analytics, SEO strategy, and client management. Follow him on Twitter: @FredHigherEd

Improving Your Facebook PPC Results with Remarketing

Facebook Ads have proven to be an indispensable asset for generating prospective student leads to the degree programs we market. I can’t imagine how different my duties would be without it, or how much more difficult it would be to achieve my goals without the relatively miniscule cost-per-click metric this channel affords, and likewise without the correspondingly low cost-per-lead results it produces.

However, it’s always important to figure out ways to provide even more value to your clients while reducing ad spend. So, education marketers, are you trying to bolster your Facebook PPC results? Custom Audiences, a user-based approach to targeting in Facebook, provides a myriad of ways to scale your lead volume while enhancing your presence within this essential marketing channel. This is the first part of my series dedicated to Facebook’s Custom Audiences—today we’re going to tackle remarketing.

Facebook PPC and Remarketing

Remarketing is a PPC marketing method, which helps you reach users who have visited your website in the recent past. Experience has proven it to be a cost-effective way to generate a handful of leads at a favorable CPL.

Though not immediately accessible from the traditional suite of demographic targeting that Facebook provides on its ad set level (e.g. Job Titles, Fields of Study, Interests, etc.), remarketing to your website visitors is quite feasible within Facebook Ads. It’s essential to have the Facebook Pixel properly implemented – if you need a quick reminder on how to do this, please reference Tip #1 of my previous article, “7 Tips for Maximizing Facebook Ad Performance.”

While viewing the ads manager interface, navigate to “Tools” and select Audiences.

HEMJ 1




HEMJ 8

 

 

 

 

Next, from the “Create Audience” tab, select Custom Audience.

HEMJ 2

 

To create an audience for remarketing, you’ll want to select Website Traffic.

HEMJ 3

Upon selecting Website Traffic, you will specify the requirements for users to be included in the remarketing list. There is a host of options available (pictured in the image below) – I prefer Custom Combination, as it immediately affords the option to exclude users that have previously converted (albeit this only works if you use a dedicated URL to track conversions).

HEMJ 4

HEMJ 5

Once you’re done specifying which URLs to include/exclude, name and save your audience. The list will now be available for targeting under the “Custom Audiences” section of your ad set settings.

If you do not use a dedicated URL (such as a ‘thank you’ page) to track conversions, after naming your first audience you will need to create a separate custom audience of previous “converters”; in order to exclude them from your retargeting initiatives. To create this audience from the Ads Manager interface, navigate back to Tools > Audiences > Create Audience, and select Customer List.

HEMJ 6

 

 

Facebook accepts email addresses, phone numbers or Facebook user IDs in order to populate lists into a custom audience. I prefer to copy and paste email addresses from our CRM, as it leaves little room for hiccups due to formatting differences. Once your list is complete, generate, name and save your audience.

HEMJ 7

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When specifying your audience within your ad set for remarketing, under “Custom Audiences” select to include your new remarketing list, and to exclude your list of prior converters. The end result should look something like this:

HEMJ 9

 

 

 

That’s it! Ads that are active under this ad set will now reach former website visitors on Facebook whom have not yet converted. You can expect to see a handful of cost-effective leads trickle through under this new strategy.

The value of remarketing is immense. Not only is it a cost-effective strategy for higher education marketers who wish to generate leads below their goal CPL, but the inherently low CPL remarketing produces affords us opportunities to pursue additional, high quality leads in other areas without sacrificing our budget. It should be considered a fundamental asset of your PPC marketing mix.

 

Andrew croppedA graduate of the University of California, Andrew is our analytics and paid search team lead. He is both Google Analytics and AdWords certified. With an ROI-focused and problem-solving approach, he researches, plans, and manages our clients’ PPC campaigns.

 

Next time on Facebook Ads Tips & Tricks: Lookalike Audiences

How to Leverage the Marketing Funnel to Generate More Students

In this post, you will learn:

1) Why the marketing funnel is important in higher education
2) How the marketing funnel is changing
3) How to leverage the marketing funnel to generate and nurture prospective students
4) Solutions for content creation if you have a small team

It’s no secret that the higher education market is saturated and highly competitive. Prospective students have more choices than ever when it comes to where they get their degree, and for many, making the decision to pursue a degree, let alone which one, takes a significant amount of time and research. More and more prospects are delaying the process as they gather information, seek questions to their answers, and decide if a degree is still worth it or not.

As this trend continues, program and admissions directors are facing a dilemma. Many are held to quarterly enrollment goals, so they need leads to convert into applicants today, not tomorrow. As a result, top-of-funnel prospects are overlooked and never enter the funnel, especially those who are undecided, despite the fact that they’re equally as qualified to convert. I’ve seen this many times while working in admissions, and it’s a critical marketing juncture that many higher education professionals are failing to take advantage of in the name of meeting short-term enrollment goals.

Here’s the reality: paid search efforts are still effective in driving quick transactional conversion, but you must pay to play, and generating worthwhile rankings in Google for some degree programs is an uphill battle that takes serious time and money. If you’re short on budget and looking for an effective solution for driving sustainable lead flow, content marketing and effective use of the marketing funnel could be the solution you’re looking for. Here is our guide to working prospective students through the marketing funnel and to an application.

How the Marketing Funnel is Changing

The idea of a marketing funnel is nothing new, but it’s certainly changing. Consider the fact that the traditional marketing funnel has quickly evolved into a non-linear “journey,” rather than an actual funnel. As you may have guessed, the digital landscape is quickly changing and in order to remain competitive, most institutions and organizations must create massive digital footprints to cut through the enormous amounts of noise we experience on a daily basis. With so many touch points (social, blogging, digital public relations, SEO, pay-per-click) for a prospect to find you, it’s no wonder why the funnel continues to change shape.

The transition from a focused conversion path to one that is less predictable isn’t a bad thing. We just need to adjust our strategies a bit to ensure we’re offering all prospects with the conversion path they’re most comfortable with, whether they’re ready to sign-up or want to be nurtured a bit more before they take the next step.

How to leverage the marketing funnel to generate and nurture prospective students

To effectively leverage the marketing funnel, it’s important to first understand your buyer personas. Who is your audience? What are their pain points and what type of content do they find valuable? What search terms do they leverage and where do they consume their information? It’s important to answer each of these question as it will provide insight into the topics you should cover, where you should distribute your content and what type of content you will need to produce, no matter what stage the prospect may be in.

Once you have a complete understanding of your audience personas, you’re ready to begin crafting your strategy. Let’s take a deeper look at each stage of the sales funnel/buyer journey and if you should be rethinking your marketing funnel.

Stage 1: Top-of-Funnel [Awareness]

Step back for a moment and take a look at your target audience. How many are ready to make a purchase decision immediately after the thought crosses their mind that they have a need? If you’re selling a degree program or big ticket item, a large portion of your prospects will most likely fall into this category. The top of the funnel is focused on awareness and providing value to prospects. These individuals may not know who you are or why they need you, so it’s your job to educate and provide solutions to their problems. These problems may not always be clear, so consider leveraging keyword research and interviewing current students or customers to gain insight into what topics you should be covering.

The key to successful top-of-funnel marketing is to create content that not only helps to educate prospects but also provides value to help them solve a problem.

What to Remember:

Goals of the Awareness Stage

  • Build trust
  • Educate
  • Provide solutions
  • Entertain [show some character!]
  • Move prospects from limited knowledge to a better understanding, all the while leaving them wanting more.
  • Capture the information of prospects

Top-of-Funnel Content

  • Whitepapers (really useful, capture their email)
  • Infographics
  • Blog posts
  • Webinars
  • Top 10 lists – “Top 10 Reasons to Get an Accounting Degree”
  • Checklists – “Checklist for Masters Degree Prospects”
  • How-to and explainer videos

What terms and phrases do top-of-funnel prospects use?

  • Which master’s degree programs offer the best career opportunities?
  • How do you become a diagnostic medical sonographer?

 At this point, you may be thinking: “I have a small team, how can I possibly create all of this content?”

Don’t worry, we get this question quite often and have experienced this ourselves!

Content creation is always challenging, especially for those who lack the resources to do so. Here’s how we overcome our resource challenges to build quality content (these concepts apply to all stages of the funnel):

  • Outsource your content creation – For a small fee, leverage Upwork.com to tap into a network of talented and hungry designers to help build infographics, whitepapers, and videos. Better yet, are there any students on campus looking for an internship that could help write blog posts or run webinars for prospective students?
  • REPURPOSE, REPURPOSE, REPURPOSE – Repurpose blog posts into whitepapers, whitepapers into infographics, infographics into videos. The opportunities are endless.

Stage 2: Middle-of-funnel [Interest]

Once top-of-funnel prospects are in the funnel, you must begin the nurturing process. In this stage, it’s important to continue educating the prospect and building their trust. The key to success with middle-of-funnel prospects is delivering content that helps them solve a problem or answer a question. Put yourself in their shoes: What type of content would be most helpful to you if you’re not sure when to start your masters? Use soft call-to-actions (CTAs) and other metrics to gain insight into the prospect’s level of interest and to determine if they’re a good fit for your degree program

What to Remember

Goals of the Interest Stage

  • Align the prospects needs with specific solutions
  • Gauge level of interest and determine if prospect is a good fit
  • Continue to educate
  • Build trust
  • Move prospects closer to making a decision

Middle-of-Funnel Content

  • Case studies
  • eBooks
  • Email marketing
  • Newsletters
  • Tools

What terms and phrases do mid-funnel prospects use?

  • Best diagnostic medical sonographer programs
  • Job opportunities with an accounting master’s degree
  • What can I do with a computer science degree?

Stage 3: Bottom-of-Funnel [Purchase]

You’ve educated, built trust, and qualified prospects…now what? You turn them into leads. It may take a few weeks or a few months, but once your funnel of prospects is full and healthy, then you’ll benefit for many semesters to come. Solidify your relationship with prospect and make it easy for them to make a decision and take the next step. Provide a direct link to the application, use a bit of urgency in your messaging (application deadline is March 31st), and offer them the ability to speak directly to the Director of Admissions who can help them move forward.

Goals of the Purchase Stage

  • Reinforce relationship and value provided
  • Overcome final objections
  • Empower prospect to make a decision

Bottom-of-Funnel Content

  • Email marketing
  • Special offer or incentive – Example, waived application fee
  • Testimonials from current students and alumni
  • Offer phone call with Director of Admissions

What terms and phrases do mid-funnel prospects use?

  • What is the cost of a diagnostic medical sonographer degree program in Orlando?
  • Accounting Master’s degree program in Detroit

Often overlooked, the marketing funnel is the key to successful marketing in higher education. Effective use of the funnel requires time and effort, but if managed effectively it can be a cost-effective solution for degree programs looking for sustainable lead flow.

How do you use the funnel in your marketing efforts? Share with us below!

About the Author:

DSC_0048 reduced 2Clayton Dean is an enrollment management, digital marketing, and business operations expert, leading Circa Interactive’s growth, development, and day-to-day operations. Clayton has successfully assisted dozens of institutions in developing, marketing, and launching degree programs from the ground up. Connect with Clayton on Twitter @circaclayton.