Higher Education News

Insights from the 2019 Ungagged Conference, Los Angeles

By January 7, 2020 No Comments

What was the 2019 Ungagged Conference?

The Ungagged Conference is a biannual conference that brings together digital marketing industry leaders and experts for 2 days of insightful panels and presentations. The conference covers an extensive breadth of topics such as SEO, content marketing, link building, social media, influencer marketing, and more. Circa’s team was able to attend the 2019 Ungagged Conference held in Los Angeles and left with actionable methods and strategies to improve our higher education marketing efforts across departments.

Circa Team’s Insights and Findings


Content Should Provide a Solution to a Searcher’s Experience

Maria Akhter, Content Strategist

I sat in two presentations led by Judith Lewis, veteran online marketer and founder of DeCabbit Consultancy. She emphasized the importance of thinking about content in terms of a reader’s experience. A growing population of SEOs are shifting away from the definition Search Engine Optimization and instead to Search Experience Optimization. Search is evolving and content must evolve with it. In higher education marketing, content is a balanced melting pot of a few essential ingredients. Content has to be relevant to a prospective student, informational, and topical while also optimizing for keywords that can generate organic traffic.

Circa’s content development strategy involves creating valuable, relevant, and consistent narratives that reflect the uniqueness of each university program. The goal is to attract the target audience, drive engagement, and ultimately, facilitate action. 

Content Should Start With the Right Questions

Jacque Dobbins, Brand Manager

I left the keynote presentation by Greg Gifford, an SEO Search Specialist, with a key takeaway: questions often convert better than simple keywords. It reiterated the importance of starting with a compelling, organic, and relevant topic that adds value and answers your audience’s specific questions. When it comes to developing content for blogs and websites, higher education marketing professionals should constantly put audience needs first, asking themselves “What does my audience want to know? What questions do they have? How can I best answer those questions?” Those answers should then guide content creation and optimization. 

Circa’s brand and content development focuses on helping universities answer those very questions in a way that’s tailored to their specific programs and audiences—to their unique story. The result is engaging, relevant content that adds real value and increases conversion.

Focus on Value Over Metrics

Sean Taylor, SEO Specialist

The presentation that I found the most compelling was lead by technical marketing consultant Gerry White, who presented the overall value of the user experience on a website over the value of metrics. In higher education, the student journey to find a program online is the beginning of the recruitment experience. The technical health of a website can make an impact on the student journey, so it is important to optimize your website for the best user experience. Gerry stated, “page speed as a list of metrics is flawed- focus on experience”. Since poor technical website issues can affect the enrollment process online, higher education marketing professionals should concentrate on how the technical health of their website affects the student journey.

Circa’s web development concentrates on a user-friendly web experience to help convert users into leads. By focusing on a cutting-edge web experience, Circa focuses on solutions to optimize online programs in order to increase student leads.

You Can Generate High Quality Leads with Reddit?

Connor Christiansen, Copywriter

When I saw the “Building an Honest and Kickass Brand Presence on Reddit” presentation on the docket for Ungagged 2020 I immediately made time to attend. Not because I was particularly anxious for insights though- I attended because I scoffed at the idea of using Reddit as a branding tool and wanted to hear what presenter Brent Csutoras had to say. I use Reddit frequently and the thought of interacting with a brand seemed like the last thing I would want to do while scrolling through subreddits. I left the presentation, however, certain that we had to take our clients to Reddit because we were missing out on high quality, authentic leads.  

Csutaros explained that building an authentic brand presence on Reddit through a dedicated subreddit and a brand profile can provide daily leads when executed correctly. It’s not just a matter of daily-posting and cleverly worded posts- you have to actively participate in all that Reddit has to offer while getting creative with “Ask Me Anythings,” giveaways, and offers of customer support. He warned that building this authentic presence is time-consuming and requires patience, but the payoff is more than worth it because you create fans of your brand, not just consumers. 

Circa’s Digital PR Team could benefit from hosting faculty “Ask Me Anythings” on branded subreddits and appropriate subject-matter subreddits. Our content team could also generate new leads by posting blog articles and infographics onto the appropriate subreddits and branded subreddits. 

Google Doesn’t Want You to Leave Google 

Frederic Lee, Senior Director SEO + Content Strategy 

Frederick Lee ThumbnailA number of presentations I attended, including Cindy Krum from MobileMoxie, carried a similar theme. Google is striving to be an answer engine instead of just a search engine. We are seeing Google increasingly hosting information in their search results (featured snippets, answer boxes, Google flights, and approx. 40 others) instead of sending traffic away from Google. If they do send traffic to another website, Google prefers to be paid on a cost per click basis.  

How does this shift in Search affect higher education? Google is now hosting information about U.S. universities and seemingly ranking them based on data from the Department of Education and top university ranking websites (US News). Will Google commercialize organic higher education traffic like they have for hotels and flights? Is Google entering the higher education market as a provider?  These are some trends Circa’s inbound marketing and enrollment marketing teams are continuing to monitor into 2020.

Frederic Lee
Frederic Lee is the senior director of SEO and content strategy at Circa Interactive. He leads search visibility strategy and execution for dozens of higher education clients. He’s demonstrated that any academic institution, big or small, can increase its presence and tell its story in the often-daunting global search engines. His future-facing approach to content creation strategies allows universities to engage with their unique national, regional, and local audiences through search and social tactics.
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