Using AI to Reach Students and Increase Enrollments

Webinar: How Artificial Intelligence Will Change the Way Universities Engage and Enroll Students: August 7th, 11AM PST.

It’s no secret that competition among higher education institutions is at an all-time high. Even though prospective students are always on their phones, they rarely answer them. What used to be a good strategy for reaching prospects doesn’t work as well anymore for colleges. This generation of students expects instant responses and personalized experiences. With higher education institutions struggling to fund, staff, and scale these kinds of marketing services, reaching students is becoming harder than ever. With this in mind, how can colleges and universities leverage technology that will help them more effectively reach their prospects?

Well, it is now time to implement Artificial Intelligence and Chatbot technology into your marketing strategy. You’ll more effectively reach students while simultaneously relieving your overburdened staff and better utilizing your already-tight budget. With students today being used to getting information instantaneously at all hours of the day or night, they expect to have easy access to institutions in the same way that they have easy access to their friends on social media. By giving a Chatbot the task of quickly and easily interacting with prospects, students get the personalized and instant experience they’re looking for. You’re also ensuring that your school stands out in their minds during the school selection process. Chatbots can become a crucial part of your story telling, and you can use this technology to bring top level prospective students to your virtual doorstep.

Here’s how:

On Tuesday, August 7th at 11AM PST, join Circa Interactive’s Joseph Lapin and Clayton Dean, and Jason VanLue from Zaengle, to learn how your institution should implement Artificial Intelligence and Chatbot technology to improve enrollment efforts and enable you to share your unique story with the highest quality students.

Registration: https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_k-dYNgm-TeqB8023vXEjHQ

What You’ll Learn:
  • Understand the current and future opportunity of Artificial Intelligence and its place in higher education.
  • Learn why chatbots and AI-driven platforms are going to change the way we engage with prospective students.
  • See how you can scale your team with the help of intelligent engagement.
  • Understand the cost savings associated with leveraging this technology.
  • Learn how AI can help connect with students on an emotional level.

“By 2020, the average person will have more conversations with bots than with their spouse.” –Gartner.

Register now to learn how to grow your institution with innovative AI technology!

Circa Interactive is the premier digital marketing agency in higher education. Since opening in 2011, Circa Interactive has helped more than 60 degree programs increase lead flow, build brand awareness,and generate more students. To find out how our services could help your institution, please email clayton@circaedu.com.

 

Become the Conversion Hero in Your Institution’s Marketing and Recruitment Story

The Secrets of Storytelling Webinar: June 19th, 11AM PST

Enrollment numbers are dropping and there is a need for new, innovative strategies.

Top-rated, highly esteemed institutions of higher learning – offering the latest cutting-edge programs and sharpest instructors — have never seen enrollment numbers this bad.

Why is enrollment dropping? How come the tried-and-true tactics don’t work anymore?

In today’s hyper-competitive market, it’s more important than ever for institutions such as yours to connect with prospective students on an emotional level, by shaping a compelling story and brand that works wonders.

How to do that?

Try some top shelf storytelling, courtesy of Disney’s Pixar Animation Studios. What do cartoon characters have to do with recruiting students to your esteemed academic programs you ask?

Trust us, your students know. They’ve spent their childhoods entranced by Pixar’s magic spell. They’ve grown up with the “Incredibles” and “Toy Story” and “Coco” and – note the irony – “Monsters University.”

It’s time to leverage the basics of Pixar’s storytelling secrets — as directly applied to how to fill empty seats with great students you’ll undoubtedly make even greater.

Here’s how:

On Tuesday, June 19th at 11AM PST, join Circa Interactive’s Joseph Lapin and Clayton Dean, and Jessica Gammon and Virginia Bagley from Bluestocking Education, for their expert webinar on “The Secrets of Storytelling” on how to effectively recruit more students to your programs – through imagination, flair and a sense of wonder.

Register Now: https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_SH7bU1EvQ1yjzuPbKsT0eg

What You’ll Learn:
  • How to exceed your enrollment goals and provide a better experience for prospective students
  • How to more effectively shape and leverage story to differentiate your program or department
  • How to diagnose a breakdown in story between marketing, recruitment and admissions
  • How to analyze real-life examples of proven storytelling strategies …and missed opportunities
  • How to utilize tools and processes to more effectively align key messages communicated by your marketing and recruitment teams
What you’ll master:
  • Understand why it’s vital for marketing and recruitment to align on story
  • Acquire how to diagnose a breakdown in story in the enrollment funnel
  • Analyze real-life examples of proven strategies and how to avoid missed opportunities
  • Acquire a tool kit of plans and processes to more effectively align your teams

Circa Interactive is the premier digital marketing agency in higher education. Since opening in 2011, Circa Interactive has helped more than 60 degree programs increase lead flow, build brand awareness,and generate more students. To find out how our services could help your institution, please email clayton@circaedu.com. 

The Role of the Newspaper in Digital PR

The development of technology has driven some to believe the newspaper is outdated. However, newspapers, in all formats, still reach 69 percent of the total U.S. population in a month. With the takeover of Facebook, Twitter and copious ‘news’ sites, we are certainly getting our information in new ways, but with the abundance of “fake news” out there, the newspaper still remains to be one of the most valuable tools when it comes to understanding media trends. This said, it does not have to always be a physical newspaper. Online options of the most trusted sources such as The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal provide incredible options for people who cannot get their hands on a physical copy.

Why Read the Newspaper?

Here at Circa Interactive and throughout the world of digital PR, the need for media ideas and stories is paramount. The editors at the top global publications are tasked with informing the public about what stories really matter. Surely we should listen to them? These are ideas that can be leveraged into any PR campaign and serve as an incredible peg when looking to obtain media coverage for clients. What is important here, is that the we are positioning our clients/experts to add to these stories that are being presented to us by some of the top minds in the country.

The Benefits of Reading the Newspaper for Digital PR

A PR specialist should have a general sense of what is going on in their specific industry, but an understanding of global events can provide a great sense of educational value. It carries information about politics, economy, entertainment, sports, business, industry, trade and commerce.

In addition, the journalists at the New York Times and WSJ are some of the best in the business. Their writing abilities are impeccable, and with this being a big part of a PR/communication specialist’s role, it goes without saying reading these articles can improve the vocabulary and skills of any writer.

How to Read the Newspaper

Ultimately, you want to read a newspaper in a way that suits you, and everyone has their own way of digesting information. However, make sure you go beyond the headlines. If you want to understand a story and take value from it in a way that is going to provide benefit to you and your clients, then you need to take in more than a few words. Also, save a couple articles that are particularly relevant and come back to them later. If you take time to analyze, you are more likely to come up with new story ideas for your pitches. Finally, take a look at the opinion section. This is where you might find a unique angle or idea in relation to a trending topic, and is often the place where the mind will really start to tick over.

George has been part of theGeorge Circa team for three years. He graduated from Plymouth University, England, with a master’s in marketing management and strategy degree. George is a PR and digital marketing specialist who is passionate about creating high level opportunities for professors within national publications. 

15 Higher Education Digital Marketing Strategies for 2018

Every day, universities and colleges are coming up with exciting, innovative courses for the millions of motivated students all over the world. The higher education space is being redefined by innovation in design, delivery and employability for many degree programs. Education experts have the resources they need to craft, test and rollout cutting edge online degree programs. That’s why higher education institutions are bringing on board creative communication and marketing professionals to keep their institutions and programs visible and desirable. Here at Circa, we utilize unique higher education marketing strategies that help raise awareness of courses and programs while bringing in high quality students that enable online degree programs to flourish. 

Innovative PPC Strategies

Andrew Glasser and Farzin Espahani

The possibilities for higher ed marketing are seemingly endless when it comes to PPC. It is by and large the most immediate method for generating high-quality leads while broadcasting your brand to qualified individuals, ultimately turning clicks into prospective students. In Search, PPC is a hotbed for student acquisition, with degree-seekers constantly turning to Google and Bing to help them decide their career/academic path. Within Social, PPC offers increasingly advanced tools which we can use to hone in on subgroups of your target audience, fostering lead growth in the student acquisition cycle while simultaneously nurturing your Brand’s reach.

When it comes to paid advertising on social platforms, we notice a clear trend for universities who are marketing online graduate degree programs: All the ads are the same. The ad copy makes it clear that the program is flexible and completely online, and the visuals often convey a happy working professional looking satisfied in their new role. In 2018, it is our focus, mission, and purpose to ensure that colleges and universities make a commitment to standing out from the crowd by showcasing their true story. Students understand that they have basic needs in their degree program, but in 2018, millennials need to have a connection to something bigger. It is important for universities to look at their missions, ideals, and unique value propositions outside of online, flexible, innovative curriculum to begin conveying the information that matters to a student’s personal journey.

Mobile Optimized Search Ads

Studies continue to show that mobile devices are the go-to option for searching the internet. In fact, mobile devices are used more often for searches than desktop computers.  The average person checks their phone 150 times a day, the average time spend on a smartphone is 177 minutes per day, and amazingly, the average mobile session is 70 seconds. This means consumers are using their phones all day, every day, but in short bursts of time. By bidding higher for mobile devices in Google Adwords and Bing ads while utilizing mobile optimized ad extensions we can increase the CTR significantly.

Managed Placements And Interests

Managed placements is a good strategy when there are specific websites that you think are related to specific program or university where can be visited by a potential student. For example for an online MBA program, we want to place our display ads on education related websites and focus on pages relevant to higher education and career advancement. This will help us to make sure our ads are shown to those more likely to click on the ad to learn more.  

Facebook Retargeting Campaigns

The beauty and effectiveness of retargeting allows you to reach out to users who have already showed interest to your brand or program and to get them to re-engage with your brand. This is a slow but steady and cost effective strategy that converts more students compared to traditional targeting, since users are more likely to engage with ads from brands that they know. The best way to achieve a winner retargeting strategy is to start with a brand awareness ad to simply introduce your brand. Then running a retargeting campaign that shows new ads to those who have already engaged with your previous ad.

Fundamental SEO Strategies

Tyler Cooper

Every month, hundreds of thousands of prospective students are logging onto their computers, opening up Google, and trying to figure out where they should earn their degree. If your website’s SEO strategy is not up to par, chances are you’re missing out on the vast majority of these leads. While you can use Google AdWords to show up for these results, you’re going to be paying a premium for each click. When you rank organically, there is no cost per click. When looking at this from an ROI perspective, the value of SEO is undeniable. Having a large search presence means more organic traffic, more leads, more applicants, and more students. If SEO is not a part of your digital marketing strategy in 2018, you are doing yourself a huge disservice.

Link building

Link building is undoubtedly the most important aspect of your SEO strategy. In order to compete in competitive markets such as higher education, your website will need a steady stream of high-quality and relevant backlinks. There are a number of link building strategies. You can read more about those here.

On-Page SEO

In order to get the most out of your link building campaigns, it’s extremely important that your on-page SEO is in place. Make sure you all of the content on your website is properly optimized for search. This includes keyword rich title tags, relevant meta descriptions, keyword density, optimized header tags, internal linking, and much more.

Technical SEO

While this may require assistance from a web developer, it’s important that your site is technically sound so that it can be properly crawled by Google. The easier it is for Google to crawl and understand your site, the more your website’s pages will be shown in Google’s search results. On the other hand, if your website is full of technical errors, your search rankings will almost certainly suffer. Some things to look for when performing a technical SEO audit are: 404 errors, missing/broken XML sitemaps, slow page load times, duplicate content, irrelevant/thin content, and more! Use a tool like Screaming Frog to identify some of these common issues.

Website Content Strategies

Frederic Lee

Creation of website content (articles, infographics, data visualization, and more) is an essential aspect of any search marketing strategy. The primary reason being that Google favors websites with fresh content. With this in mind, a strategy of continuous creation and publication of content is important for website visibility in Google’s search results. In addition to creating fresh content, here are three core strategies to get the most ROI in this content.

Traffic and Rankings Focused Content

Through careful keyword research with an emphasis on target long-tail variations of your core keywords, content can be created with the best opportunity to rank in the search results. Keyword clusters/pods can be established in order to streamline content creation and may cover many keyword opportunity areas surrounding a long-tail variation. Upon completion and distribution, this content may rank for competitive keywords and either bring in large quantities of industry traffic, or a lesser, more valuable flow of conversion-focused traffic.

Conversion Support Focused Content

Depending on your business goals, conversion support content have a goal of providing detailed information about your product/service and industry. This content is designed to speak directly to individuals in the sales funnel. Through paid and organic social distribution and careful placement on your website, these articles are designed to be a strong touchpoint in the sales process.

Social Signal Focused Content

A portion of the Google algorithm involves having positive social signals pointing towards your website and content. Articles and graphics can be created with this exact goal in mind. A detailed analysis of your target audience and how they interact on social network is a key first step. This content must give them a reason to share and engage. Upon publication, strategic social sharing and promotion can help kick start this content on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other relevant networks to your industry.

Creative Digital PR Strategies

George Bradley and Joseph Lapin

In the higher education industry, digital public relations is an important approach for any SEO strategy. Here at Circa, we believe that the faculty are one of a university’s greatest assets, yet in general, many higher ed marketing companies are not utilizing these key stakeholders. By leveraging traditional public relations strategies for the digital world, digital PR not only influences brand awareness and thought leadership for universities, but it also allows us to create high level media opportunities for our professors in publications such as the Washington Post, The Hill and HuffPost. Not only are the professors being placed here, but we are obtaining backlinks to our program pages. This directly influences organic traffic that leads to conversions and new students. In collaboration with on-page SEO elements, content marketing, and other link building strategies, digital PR helps bring prospective students to a university and serves as a significant contributor to a diverse link profile for an authoritative website.

Relationship Building

Professors and reporters/editors are the two key relationships that should be built as part of a higher education digital marketing strategy. By building trusting relationships with faculty, you are able to gain an understanding of their research and passions and also create opportunities that are specifically focused on their expertise. Relationships with reporters can also prove to be greatly beneficial. When you have a reporter who trusts you, they are far more likely to respond to your pitch and come to you for a quote from one of your faculty members.

Creative Pitch Writing

Pitching compelling story lines and sources are the crux of any PR strategy. In the higher education digital marketing space, we leverage the faculty expertise to write pitches that relate to current trending topics in the news. There are often four key components to a pitch, and these are the lead, call to action, unique value proposition, and conclusion. You can find more information on how to write these pitches here.

Stay on Top of the News

Having access to and critically understanding the latest news is imperative because you want to stay ahead of the curve. There are various ways to understand what is happening throughout the world, and you should consider each method to be as important as the next. Understanding stories in the newspaper and tying in our professors is the perfect way to begin the pitching process. All of this comes back to understanding your professors and the people working on relevant stories within the media.

Organic Social Media Marketing

Audrey Wills

In 2018, social media is an imperative part to any digital marketing strategy –– especially for higher education. To put the importance of social media marketing into context, take a look at the graph below. When the Pew Research Center began tracking social media usage in 2005, less than 8% of 18-49 year olds in America used at least one social platform. Today, over 75% of 18-49 year olds are active on at least one social media site, meaning social media is the optimal medium for reaching higher education’s target audience.

While the growth in social media usage is a good thing in the world of higher education digital marketing, this increased usage leads to users being inundated with ads and content marketing. So much so that at the beginning of 2018, Facebook changed its algorithm to prioritize content from user’s inner circles. Thus, making it even more difficult to get content in front of your target audience –– organically at least. So what tactics can you use to ensure you continue to reach your audience and boost enrollment? Let’s take a look.

Know Your Platform

As mentioned before, Facebook changed their algorithm in the beginning of 2018 to prioritize content from a user’s family and friends. This means that whenever you post content, whether it is on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, you need to post content that best suits that platform.

Facebook’s algorithm favors content that people want to engage with. Think: would I share this with my friends? Content that is made for Twitter should be concise, yet informational. Let your followers know what you’re sharing and why. Do some research and identify the most active hashtags for your industry and use them throughout your tweets to help increase your reach. When creating content for Instagram, think visuals first, and make sure you have an eye-catching graphic that will grab your follower’s attention and get them to stop scrolling.

Keep up-to-date on social media marketing by attending a conference: http://circaedu.com/hemj/13-higher-education-marketing-conferences-in-2018/  

Live Video

One tactic that all social media algorithm’s love is Live Video. Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter enable you to leverage live video to interact with prospective students. My favorite tactic for utilizing live video is hosting live Q&A info sessions to address general program FAQs and provide prospective students the opportunity to ask questions and receive answers in real-time. Hosting a series of Q&A info sessions that address different areas of your program. To give students a better feel for your program, have different team members host each session. Anyone from an alumni, a current student, a faculty member, or even dean are perfect candidates to provide their own perspective and create a connection with the prospective students.

Chatbots At Your Service

Social media has changed the way we all communicate, and chatbots are taking our new forms of communication one step further. Chatbots provide a modern way for students to get questions answered instantaneously. Implementing chatbots into your recruitment strategy can help your admissions team speed up the enrollment process by weeding out unqualified candidates, answering questions in seconds, not hours, and even following up with potential students to ensure they finish their applications before the enrollment deadline.

Circa Interactive is the premier digital marketing agency in higher education. Since opening in 2011, Circa Interactive has helped more than 60 degree programs increase lead flow, build brand awareness,and generate more students. To find out how our services could help your institution, please email clayton@circaedu.com. 

 

Understanding the Value of A/B Testing

What is A/B Testing?

Have you ever wondered if a certain piece of content on your website is performing to its full potential? If the subject line on your email campaign is compelling enough to maximize open rates, or even if a button on your website is the best color to attract a user to click? Many businesses and their marketing teams ask these and similar questions every day. Thankfully these questions can be answered by utilizing A/B testing.

A/B testing, or split testing, as some people like to call it, is a controlled experiment whereby two or more variants are tested against each other to find which performs better. This commonly used approach allows marketers to make the most of existing traffic that has usually taken a lot of time and money to get in the first place.

The Stages of A/B Tests

There are a handful of stages when running a successful A/B test. These stages can vary depending on who you ask but in general, four show up time and time again. These stages can be represented in four questions.

Do I need to conduct an A/B test?

Testing random ideas just for the fun of it will more than likely be a waste of time. For this reason, it is highly advised to create a hypothesis first. This hypothesis must be based on research into where the problem lives. For example, “if I make this change I expect to see this result”. This will help you gain information on not only what needs to change on your site but valuable information on your customers and their behavior.  

What metrics will define the success of this test?

This stage is the most important, and thus should be given the most time and focus. It is important to define what metric which will be used to measure if the experiment group is better than the control group or not. To help you decide this, you need to ask yourself what are you going to use the metrics for. There are two main categories of use that you will be using your metric for; Invariant checking, variants that should not change across your experiment and control, and evaluation of metrics and evaluation. These can be either high level such as increase in revenue or percent of market share. On the other hand, matrices can be more finer and look at user experience.  

It is important to note that some metrics may not be able to be completely measure correctly due to factors such as technology and demographics used. For example, Java may not run on certain web browsers resulting in incorrect CTR. As a result, filters may be needed to ensure data is not skewed and the metrics chosen can actually measure correctly.

How to design an experiment?

Designing the experiment includes deciding on a unit of diversion, deciding on the size and characteristics of the population and how long the experiment will run for.  

  • The unit of diversion is what units you are going to run the test on and comparing. Commonly, these can be event based (e.g. pageview) or anonymous ID (e.g. cookie id) or user ID. It’s important to ensure when you have a user visibility change to assign people instead of events. This is so the user will not get confused if they see a change, refresh the page and then see that the change has disappeared. If measuring latency change, other metrics like event level diversion might be enough.
  • The population of subjects that are eligible for this test is then selected. Everyone who visits your site may not be eligible for this experiment as you might be only looking at US traffic, of wanting only students depending on what and why you are experimenting.
  • Timing in a/b testing can be a deciding factor whether the experiment has been carried out correctly or not. When best suits to run the experiment? During the holidays? At night? Weekdays vs the weekend? This will depend on who the population is and what you’re looking to achieve. Making sure the experiments run long enough to gather a sufficient amount of data but not too long to miss out on the opportunity to use the better performing page with all of your site visitors.
How to analyze data?

Tests can end in three different ways, either the control wins, the experiment wins or there is no change. Reading this much is for the most part easy but it is important not to pat yourself on the back just yet. It is essential to dig deeper into these results and find out more about the behavior of your customers. As Bryan Clayton, CEO of GreenPal explains “Only with A/B testing can you close the gap between customer logic and company logic and, gradually, over time, match the internal thought sequence that is going on in your customers’ heads when they are considering your offer on your landing page or within your app.”

A/B Testing Examples

MVMT

The Retention of customers is an issue for many watch companies as a customer is usually only in the market for a watch every few years. MVMT faced this issue and introduced a selection of interchangeable watch straps to their site. To ensure these straps increased consumer retention the way in which they were presented on the site was tested. The control in this experiment was with no cross selling of the straps with two test variations, one with the straps above the watches and one with the straps below the watches. By doing this test, MVMT were able to increase conversions by 5.5% for mobile shoppers and 2.2% for shoppers on desktop.

ASANA  

Teamwork-trafficking software Asana used a/b testing to successfully redesign and rebrand their website, improving user experience along the way. To ensure consumers were not surprised with a big website design, Asana implemented these changes slowly over time to gradually optimize the site for the best user experience. By breaking their tasks into two categories, Asana’s product team were able to first focus on core functionality features, implementing them once they had performed well in their test segments. After this, their rebranding team implemented the overall new look of the site and new branded look.

A/B testing is just one of the way’s that our PPC team ensures our clients campaigns are optimized and operating to their fullest potential. You can check out or PPC services here.

Aidan graduated with a Master’s in Digital Marketing from the National University of Ireland, Galway in 2016 where he gained a strong understanding of online marketing strategies, and marketing performance and productivity. Prior to his move to the US to work with Circa interactive, Aidan gained his experience in a variety of industries from festivals to medical devices. His current role within the Circa team is as the Jr. Digital marketing specialist, working with both the SEO team and the Marketing Analytics team, ensuring the service we provide is above the high standard expected from our clients.

5 Tips for Effective Client Communication

In the marketing industry, understanding how to deliver desired results for your clients is crucial to a successful business relationship, but a study shows that 46 percent of employees regularly leave meetings not understanding the next steps. Below are a few helpful communication tips that will ensure that both parties always leave a conversation knowing how to proceed, making discussions with clients more productive and effective.

Ask the right questions

In any communication setting, the person asking the questions is the one that steers the direction of the conversation and ultimately has control. The trick here is making sure that you are asking the questions that give you a better understanding of what your clients are feeling and what they want. Questions that prompt yes or no answers will not further a conversation, but rather put the client in a corner where they cannot fully explain what they are feeling. Deploy ‘what’, ‘why’ and ‘how’ questions that require a more elaborate response than a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’. For example, “how can we improve the illustration?” will get you much further than “do you like the illustration?”, because it requires a more detailed explanation of why the client satisfied or unsatisfied. Knowing how to frame your questions will also help resolve any problems or conflicts between you and your client. You can gain a better understanding of how your client feels about the work and how you can improve and grow in the future. Here are some other great ways to stage questions that will help you get to the root of a problem: https://wavelength.asana.com/develop-effective-communication/

Set the tone from the start

Make sure your style of communication is professional, yet personable. You want to show your client that accomplishing their goals is paramount, while simultaneously establishing an air of trust among both parties. Additionally, don’t be afraid to use informal conversation as a way to build the relationship. Make it known that the relationship is conducive to constructive criticism and feedback and that both parties are free to openly share their thoughts, ideas and opinions. Setting this tone will make collaboration easy and will keep the clients happy.

Be empathetic

 Show your client that you understand their concerns and recognize that they are human. If a client is upset about something, or seems like they are having a bad day and are taking it out on your work, refer to tip number one and start asking questions tailored to their concerns. Make it known that you are here to listen to their concerns and that you want to help them solve problems. You can also use “it seems” phrases to show the client what you’re understanding from their communication. By doing this, you are relaying your understanding of their problem, while also allowing the client to hear the tone that they are emitting. For example, if a client gets upset and says, “I cannot quite work out this illustration” and provides no other feedback, you can say “it seems like you want changes to be made to the illustration. How can we change the design to better suit your goals?”.

Do your homework

Preliminary research is not only useful for current clients, but also potential clients that you may be trying to court. Go into a weekly client meeting with new, potentially useful resources and a knowledge base of what your client has wanted in the past. Following the same idea, step into a potential client presentation with solid knowledge of their business and a strong idea of what their past work looks like. Be as prepared as possible. This shows the client that you truly care about their goals and are ready to help accomplish these. As a higher education marketing company, our public relations team leverages professors within our client’s degree programs in order to land media opportunities. We interview the professors before doing outreach on their behalf in order to get a better understanding of their passions and expertise, but before the interviews, we research the professor and tailor our interview questions to their individual work and interests. This establishes a rapport with them from the start, and they appreciate that we do not waste their time by going into the interview blind. Doing your homework upfront is a time-saver for everyone involved and shows the client that they are important to you.

Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone

In the digital age, much of the communication that occurs in a business setting happens via email or through some other digital medium. While this is convenient and generally effective, studies show that face-to-face communication is much more productive in terms of accomplishing one’s goals. While face-to-face communication with clients is not always possible in a digital company like ours, a phone call is the next best thing. Having a spoken conversation can solve problems and demonstrate a sense of urgency on your part to resolve an issue. Additionally, It is much faster and a more direct way to get to the root of a problem or miscommunication, leaving less room for things to get misinterpreted in the midst of a client crisis. Good old-fashioned speaking often gets the job done better than an instant message ever could.

 

Shannon black and white 2 Shannon has been contributing to the growth of the Circa team for nearly two years and recently graduated from the University of San Diego with a degree in Communication Studies. Shannon’s creativity and passion for public relations and content marketing has contributed to Circa Interactive’s digital marketing value. 

Mobile PPC for Higher Education: AdWords Call Extensions

In higher education search PPC marketing, call extensions can be a valuable asset, enabling prospective students to speak with an admissions or enrollment advisor with just a single click. Within the modern PPC marketing mix of search and social PPC campaigns, mobile traffic often accounts for the majority of paid-click user sessions; the terminus of this ongoing mass exodus of users, from their desktops to their smartphones, remains to be seen. As our friends at Unbounce put it back in 2015, “[every year] since 2009, it’s been declared that whatever year it was must certainly be the year of mobile.” Nearly a decade later it’s a sure bet, no matter what year it is, now is the time to be revamping your mobile student acquisition strategy. Today’s blog post is part 1 of my series on Mobile PPC for Higher Education: AdWords Call Extensions.

Why should you make call extensions part of your higher ed search PPC strategy?

  • AdWords call extensions would enable users to call directly via your Google Search PPC ads
  • Phone call inquiries can be an indispensable asset in student acquisition, as many would-be students are actively looking for a specific program to enroll in, and speaking to an enrollment advisor at this moment could make or break that individual’s decision
  • The AdWords API likes it when you use every extension you (appropriately) can
  • You can set Call Extensions to show only when your representatives can take calls
  • Conversion tracking is easy to set up

In lieu of these facts, I find it’s usually in the best interest of most higher ed PPC accounts to implement AdWords call Extensions.

One important thing to remember whenever you’re dealing with (any) extensions in AdWords: when there are multiple extensions at different levels (account, campaign, or ad group), AdWords will elect the most specific to be used. In other words, when you add extensions to an ad group, those extensions show instead of your campaign (or account-level) extensions. Similarly, campaign-level extensions override account-level extensions.

Let’s walk through the steps:

  1. Find a suitable number for prospective students to dial when inquiring about the respective program(s) you’re advertising — typically an Enrollment Advisor, or an Admissions Office hotline
  2. Open your AdWords account
  3. Go to Tools and then Conversions. Select +Conversion
  4. Select Phone Calls and opt for the 1st option (“Calls from ads using call extensions or call-only ads”)
  5. Create your Call Conversion Event, naming it something besides “Calls from ads” — as this is the default call reporting conversion metric AdWords has by default (and it will be difficult to discern between them if they have the same name). You do not necessarily need to assign a value to these conversions, but regardless I recommend setting the call length to 30 seconds and opening the conversion window to 60 days; the other settings can remain at their default
  6. Navigate back to your AdWords account home screen and select the campaign (or ad group) from which you’d like to start receiving phone calls from prospective students
  7. Go to the Ad Extensions tab (hint: if you can’t see it, click on the down-arrow to the right of the viewable tabs – you’ll be able to enable it here)
  8. From the View menu, select Call Extensions
  9. Select +Extension
  10. Select +New Phone Number and enter the number you obtained in step 1
  11. Leave Call Reporting as is (“on”), and leave Device preference unchecked (unless you have mobile-dedicated ad groups)
  12. Open the +Advanced options and select +Create custom schedule – populate this with the hours during which your representatives will be available to receive calls
  13. Check Count calls as phone call conversions and select the conversion event you initially set up in step 5
  14. Click Save

You should be ready to start receiving calls from prospective students! Repeat the steps above and add up to 20 call extensions to each account, campaign, or ad group.

 

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.

 

How To Appear In Google’s Featured Snippet In 2017 (Knowledge Graph)

In May of 2012, Google announced the launch of their knowledge graph. This is a knowledge base that is used by Google in order to enhance search engine results. Basically, it increases user experience by displaying information from a query directly in Google’s search results without requiring a user to click through to a site.

This may seem like a nightmare for digital marketers since we want users to click through directly to our websites, however, knowledge graph results take up an incredible amount of real estate within organic results. It’s actually hard NOT to click them.

Before we get into how to be featured, let’s look at some examples of the different ways we see the Knowledge Graph in Google’s search results.

Types of Knowledge Graph Results

People

The first type of knowledge graph result is the detailed view of a person. These appear on the right hand side of Google’s results. For example, I did a search for the president of Florida State University. See below:

knowledge base example: people

As you can see, Google pulled much of this information directly from Wikipedia.

Universities/Organizations

A query for “FSU” returned a similar graph result that offers a ton of information about the university.

fsu knowledge graph

Featured Snippets

Featured snippets are a powerful Knowledge Graph result and will be the main focus of this article. The reason behind this is that we cannot control what is shown in the other knowledge graph results listed above, because the information is often pulled directly from Wikipedia and other larger informational websites. With featured snippets, Google will pull information directly from our website and display it as the first organic result, with a valuable link to your website.

Another great aspect of featured snippets is that you essentially have two organic spots within the results. For example, you may be ranking fifth for your target keyword; however, if the information on your page is structured correctly, Google will show your information as the featured snippet AND keep your original organic ranking. Plus, there’s always the chance that making these on-page changes could help bump you up the search results a few spots.

Here’s an example of a featured snippet from U.S. News:

best online mba featured snippet

Here’s another example from CostHelper:

featured snippet example

Now, let’s dive into how to show up as the featured snippet.

How To Show Up In The Featured Snippet

The most important factor in showing up in the featured snippet is giving clear and direct answers to the search query or keyword. However, in order to show up, your site needs to be ranking on the first page for queries that are showing featured snippets.

If you’ve got some page one rankings, then follow these steps to take over the featured snippet spot. Wondering how to rank on page one? Be sure to check out other articles around our blog, like this one  .

Step 1: Find Which Queries Have Featured Snippets

This is an important step, as you don’t want to commit a bunch of your time trying to show up in the featured snippet for a query that does not have one. The best way to find out which queries have featured snippets is to use the tool SEMRush.

To do this, enter in your website and under “organic research” select “Positions.” You will be brought to this page:

how to find queries that have featured snippets

On the right-hand side under “SERP Features” you will see the “Featured snippet” link. Click that and you will be shown a list of keywords that have a featured snippet. You’ll want to check these keywords and see if you already own that featured snippet. If not, then it may be time to start optimizing around that keyword!

Step 2: Used Structured Markup To Directly Answer Queries

The majority of the featured snippets that you will come across will be pulling information that lives within structured markup. Here are the most common:

Unordered Lists

You will recognize these as the bulleted results you see. Creating unordered lists is simple and just requires basic HTML that looks like this:

<ul>
 <li>List item 1</li>
 <li>List item 2</li>
<li>List item 3</li>
</ul>

Unordered lists would be beneficial when trying to show up for a search term such as “types of business degrees.” Here is how it would show up in the search engine results:

example of an unordered list showing up in googles knowledge graph

Ordered Lists

These are very similar to unordered lists. The only difference is that the information within them is numbered. This is ideal for queries that are ranking degrees or programs. Here is the HTML used to create an ordered list:

<ol>
<li>List item 1</li>
<li>List item 2</li>
<li>List item 3</li>
</ol>

Ordered lists are great for “how to” type queries. For example, let’s look at the search engine results for “how to become a lawyer”:

example of an ordered list showing up in googles featured snippet

Tables

While tables are not as common as the previous two, Google will still occasionally show well-structured tables in the featured snippet. Tables can be a very effective way of showing a matrix of data.

If you are using WordPress, there are table plugins such as Tablepress that Google tends to favor. Otherwise, you can manually create a table using HTML, but be sure to include metadata within these tables. Did you know tables can have a meta description? To learn more about creating tables, check out this resource. Here is an example of a table in the featured snippet:

example of a table shown in the featured snippet

Header Tags

These are essential to showing up in the featured snippet. You will notice that almost every snippet begins with an H2 or H3. They also almost always contain the main keyword that is being searched for. For instance, check out the featured snippet for “best masters degree.” The bolded text that says “Best Master’s Degrees for Finding a Job” is marked up as an H3 on the page.

importance of headers when trying to get into the featured snippet

It’s extremely important that your H2/H3 tag:

  1. Directly precedes the structured markup
  2. Includes the keyword you’re trying to rank for

Step 3: Perfect Your On-Page SEO

Google will reward you for having an exceptionally optimized page. Make sure you hit all of the checkpoints and leave nothing out. This includes things like alt tags, proper use of headers, internal linking, etc. Be sure to read my in-depth guide to on-page SEO .

Note: If a competitor already has the featured snippet, taking your on-page SEO to the next level could help give you a bump and take the featured snippet from them.

Step 4: Include An Image

It’s always a good idea to accompany your structured markup with a well-optimized image. Make sure you use an alt tag as well as an image title here. While writing your alt tags and image titles, make sure you are as descriptive as possible, and don’t simply include the keyword and move on. Additionally, take some time to really describe the image using synonyms of your keyword as this will most likely put you a step above your competitors. As you can see in the examples above, almost all of the featured snippets contain an image.

Step 5: Enjoy The Extra Traffic

That’s it! Once your page gets reindexed, you’ll have a MUCH better chance at being the featured snippet. If after all of this you still haven’t taken over the feature snippet spot, don’t panic. Take a look at what the competitor’s doing and see how you can improve on it.

While following these steps will not guarantee results, it will put you in a much better position to steal the featured snipped. Take action today and claim that extra organic real estate.

If you have any questions or comments feel free to comment below!

15+ Essential Apps and Websites for College Students

Educational Websites for College Students

Google Drive

Google drive is a great place to store all your documents, spreadsheets and presentations. The ease of access means that a file can be saved at home and easily accessed from a college computer or even a mobile phone. Because this is a cloud based system you do not have to worry about losing documents or files either!

Slack

Slack is a communication tool that can be greatly beneficial to students as well as businesses. Communicating and collaborating with those people in your study group can become a lot simpler with Slack.

Grammarly

Grammarly is an english writing tool that can improve your grammar and writing quality when crafting essays and reports. There is both a grammar and plagiarism check within the site which will ensure your work adheres to over 250 grammar rules. Simply add it as an extension to your browser and you’ll be able to easily check the quality and accuracy of your work.

Dictionary.com

Not only can this site provide you with a quick check for misspellings and allow you to expand your vocabulary, but the addition of the mobile site means you can quickly look up those complicated words your articulate professor is saying.

Dragon Dictation

Typing essay after essay can become tiring and is often very time consuming. Dragon Dictation recognizes and transcribes your words with great accuracy and speed. This is also an app that can be used on the go to save you even more time.

Research Websites for College Students

Rate My Professor

When planning your college classes for the upcoming semester, check out the Rate My Professor website.  The site provides student reviews on professors, based on criteria including class difficulty, textbook usage and grades received. This could help you get a feel for which professors will suit your learning style and how to structure your classes.

Pocket

With Pocket, students can save articles and come back to them later. Simply save the article and come back to it later when looking to pinpoint the finer details of a piece. Save articles directly from your browser or from apps like Twitter and Flipboard.

Flipboard

Flipboard is a way to create your very own personalized magazine. You simply select seven of your interests (or class topics) and the app will provide you with news content that is related to the pre selected criteria. This is a great way to surround yourself with real world information that can be used in your college work.

TED Talks

These speeches are extremely motivational and also provide valuable information. This can be a great resource when looking to come up with an original project idea.

Bibme

This app will allow you to quickly generate bibliographies and citations. The easy to use site has an auto-fill concept that quickly recognizes the source you have used or are searching for.

Genius Scan

A scanner in your pocket! This phone app allows you to easily digitize documents on your phone. You can also download extensions that enable you to sign and  fax documents or research projects.

Study Websites for College Students

Self Control

We all know that Facebook and Twitter can prove to be extremely distracting when trying to study. The Self Control app lets you block your own access to distracting websites that might get you off track. You can select the amount of time that the sites are blocked for, and even if you restart your computer or delete the app, you will not be able toaccess the blocked sites.

Audible

Audible allows you to listen to your assigned class reading when you are on the go. Not only can this save you time, but it can also come as a welcome relief from staring at a textbook for hours on end. It can also be particularly beneficial for students who commute to school. There is a monthly fee attached, but you can get a 30 day free trial and test out this handy application.

Quizlet

Quizlet is home to over 153,303,000 study sets and counting. These ready to use flashcards and study guides created by teachers and other students can be a great resource when looking to understand the key points from a particular class. You can also create your own flashcards, meaning you can access your study notes anywhere anytime.

Hemingway App  

Another proofreading tool here, but a great one nonetheless. The Hemingway editor highlights the errors that occur within your writing and will pick up on:

  • Complex words or phrases
  • Extra-long sentences
  • Long sentences
  • Too many adverbs
  • Too many instances of passive voice

Additionally, Each error is specifically color coded so they can be addressed individually.

Valore Books

Using Valore Books, students can make some money back on those expensive text books purchased for various college classes. The easy to use site allows for student to student sales meaning that purchasing books here can also save you some cash.

Scholarship Websites for College Students

Fastweb

Fastweb is one of the leading online resources when it comes to finding a school scholarship that works for you. There is access to over 1.5 million scholarships on the site.

Math Websites for College Students

RealCalc

This app is a downloadable scientific calculator that could save you some money while enabling you to solve complicated equations in class and at home.

Math TV

Math TV is home to a great number of math resources and videos that help with breaking down complicated equations. The site also offers insight into what a college student can expect from their math class.

Fun Websites for College Students

Roomsurf

The thought of looking for a new roommate can be a daunting and unappealing one. Roomsurf allows you to search for a new roommate using various criteria, thus enabling you to find a roomie with similar interests to yours!

Reddit

Reddit is certainly a fun and interesting way to get your news and offers considerably more than your traditional news sources. This is also a platform to use during study breaks to gather some interesting stories that you will most probably be sharing with your friends later that day.

Twitter

There is more to Twitter than meets the eye. Not only is it a place to connect with friends and stalk your favorite celebs during study breaks, but students can also utilize the site to keep up to date the date with the day’s breaking news.

Alarmy

If you have trouble getting up in the morning for class then make it a priority to download this app. Once you do, you will be forced to get up a take a photo of an item related to the picture that Alarmy shows on your screen. Good luck!

Job Websites for College Students

Career Rookie

Looking for your first job out of college? Want to find some work while you are still in school? Well, Career Rookie specializes in this and is a great place to start looking for your first dream job.

LinkedIn

Another place to start when looking for that first job post college is of course LinkedIn. Use this social platform to connect with influencers and highlight your expertise/experience. Many employers will check out your LinkedIn page during their interview and hiring process.

Psychology Websites for College Students

Psychology Today

An absolute must for an Psychology Student! This said, Psychology Today is more than just your average psychology based news site. Thousands of academics from across the world use this platform to blog about their interests and expertise. This can range from psychology (obviously) to business. You may even find that a couple of your professors are writing for Psychology Today.

If you have any more suggestions on websites for college students then be sure to leave them in the comments!

George has recentGeorgely joined the Circa team in California following the completion of his master’s in marketing management and strategy degree, where he graduated with distinction from Plymouth University in England. George is a PR and digital marketing specialist who is passionate about creating high level opportunities for professors within national publications. 

The Top 4 Qualities of a Digital Marketer in Higher Education

In the Summer of 2011, I left my home state of Missouri and moved to San Diego, California, to pursue my Bachelor in Business Administration from San Diego State University. During my time at SDSU, I recognized my passion for marketing and entrepreneurship, which led me to seek a digital marketing internship in my final year of school. Luckily, I found Circa Interactive, a local digital marketing company started by millennial entrepreneurs and fueled by creative passion. The lessons learned from these leaders in higher education have been invaluable to my professional and personal development. From this experience, I learned about the characteristics and qualities needed to succeed in the digital marketing industry. I have narrowed down a large list of characteristics to the top four qualities that build the successful infrastructure of a digital marketer.

1. Creativity

Today more content is being produced than ever before. The last problem any marketing team needs is to fall into “group think” — or the concept that everyone agrees to one unified idea. If your team is not creating a constant stream of innovative strategies to get in front of the media, then the relationships will dwindle and the links will be nonexistent. That is one reason why creativity is the most important quality of a digital marketer. It is the starting point for content creation. Whether you’re pitching an editor or trying to create a story through a vivid infographic, you need to differentiate yourself and find ways to keep your content fresh in order to catch the interest of incredibly busy editors and bloggers.

This is why I learned to look creatively for stronger time pegs that are essential for a pitch. In higher education marketing, we create content around the university, their programs and professors. As we sift through news, we use our creative instinct to find relevant time pegs that connect with the uniqueness of each professor and university’s brand. For instance, one of our clients has a professor that is an expert in athletic psychology and injury prevention. As many know, Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) — a neurodegenerative brain disease — has been a growing topic over the past couple years, especially in the NFL. When we see trends develop around a subject, in this case brain injuries, that is the time to take immediate action and leverage the expertise of our professor. Mastery of time pegs isn’t easy but it can be the difference between a published article.

2. Confidence

After sending out thousands of pitches to publications and bloggers, the likelihood of getting shot down is absolute. Don’t let these rejections deflate your energy. My biggest lesson of confidence happened after I sent a pitch to Newsweek and received immediate interest in a potential publication of an infographic for a  criminal justice program. After long hard discussions between the client and Newsweek, the publication fell through. I was a bit down, but our Creative Director Joseph Lapin said: “Pitches and outreaches are like throwing spaghetti at a wall.” What he means is that you never know what will stick with the reporters, and you have to send out many pitches and ideas until you find one that sticks. This helped me understand this so called “failure” wasn’t a failure at all. It’s just a part of being a digital marketer.

3. Organization

Without structure life is chaotic. Though it may come to a surprise, this was one of the biggest eye-openers during my internship. I never understood the importance of organization until I entered digital marketing. Before, I was saving everything in my head, whether it was a business meetings or a grocery list. After joining Circa Interactive, this habit had to change. As the work, school and life tasks continued to grow, I now had more responsibility than ever before. My brain couldn’t organize all the tasks, so our Chief Operating Officer Clayton Dean and Joe Lapin recommended a few tools to keep me on track. Here is short list on my favorite organizational tools below.

  • Trello – This is an amazing project management and organizational tool. Trello is great for tracking progress on team projects, creating checklist by due dates and structuring to-dos by niche.
  • Cal – A free and easy Calendar application for your phone. Cal can connect with your Google Calendar and can instantly send emails from the app.
  • Google Applications – Most businesses and students use this organizational tool on a daily basis. While browsing the web you can save pictures and pdfs directly into your drive. Plus, you have the ability to structure everything into folders, spreadsheets or documents.

4. Adaptability

As many already know, the search engine optimization industry changes constantly. According to SEOMoz, while most of these updates are minor, Google changes its algorithm around 500-600 times a year. For instance, ten years ago digital marketers were more focused on building sites with a lot of targeted keywords. Don’t get me wrong, keywords are important but are much lower on the totem pole than content marketing and white-hat link building. This major change shifted the focus from keyword-rich pages to creating relationships with editors and webmasters. The biggest lessons about adaptability came from the observations of CEO Robert Lee and COO Clayton Dean. They taught me how to properly see the difference between each client and how we have to adapt our services to their motives. Using teamwork and adaptability to stay ahead of the pack is one of the biggest ways we can help our clients. As the digital marketing industry revolutionizes, I believe creativity and adaptability will need to be the strongest attributes of any teams’ philosophy.

I am thankful to have an internship opportunity that has helped me expand my creative critical thinking skills, believe in my ideas, think structurally and efficiently, and learn to adapt to client needs and industry trends. Everything I learned in this internship will help me in any future profession. Whether I seek a career in the marketing industry or pursue the life of an entrepreneur, these traits will be anchored within me forever. One more realization I had while working here is not to take a day for granted. If you’re hungry, then there will always be something to learn, and everyone here wants to help you get there and succeed.

Don’t forget: be creative, stay confident, get organized, and adapt quickly or be left behind.

If you want to find out more about Circa Interactive please reach out to us on our contact form or find us on Twitter @CircaSEO.


theandersonidea
Austin Anderson
is a senior at San Diego State University majoring in marketing. He is passionate about entrepreneurship, personal development and the future of big data. Connect with Austin on LinkedIn.