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7 trends in higher education marketing to Boost conversions

The landscape has changed when it comes to marketing in higher education. Students and parents want to understand the value your university can offer them. So many important milestones in their lives have looked different than expected over the past two years and it’s no surprise that these shifts are influencing the world of higher education as we usher students back into traditional college life in a post virtual world.

When it comes to marketing, the most successful strategies will focus on prospective students, what they think is important, how they consume information, and what kind of content resonates with them. High-quality content drives student engagement and can attract prospective students. Here is a collection of 7 trends in higher education marketing you can use to drive your marketing strategies in 2022.


1. Your Website

Almost 50% of traditional student prospects and 76% of graduate prospects report starting to visit a university’s website on day 1 of their research process. Do you know how many visitors your admissions-related pages receive each week? Do you know how many of these visitors submit an RFI form? Around 60% of applications to most institutions are stealth apps. Combine that with the fact that each student is applying to 5 different universities on average, and you should start to realize that converting stealth website visitors into qualified leads needs to be a top priority for your institution. 

Undergrad prospect responses:

Undergrad prospect response #1

Graduate prospect responses:

Graduate prospect response #2

Most institutions are only converting between .5% to 1% of their anonymous visitors. If that describes your situation, then you should make it a priority to get to a point where you are consistently converting 300% to 500% more than that.


2. Social media

Think of social media as a platform for your university’s highlights. Is your football team headed to a championship game? Did your robotics team win a competition? Does your dance department have an upcoming show?

Using your social media posts as headlines that encourage consumers to click and learn more can help drive traffic to your site. Highlights make for great sharable content. Past students and current students who are connected to those being highlighted are more likely to share your content, amplifying it to more viewers.

Social media links listed on University of Southern Maine’s homepage

The right sort of video marketing

Social media marketing goes hand in hand with video marketing, but one thing is clear when it comes to the historical video strategy adopted by Higher Ed: It is not resonating!

If you have tens of thousands set aside in your budget to shoot another “commercial”, the data suggests that you should reconsider. Students are hungry for more authentic, raw, user-generated content from current students on your campus.

Short-form video content is an essential part of your digital landscape. This is a great way to highlight student life, showcase your campus, and draw attention to virtual events.

YouTube falls within the top four social media sites most commonly used by 18 to 24-year-olds which means long-form video content should also be a part of your digital marketing strategy. Here’s where leaning into student-generated content is essential. This is a great way to include video campus tours, host or archive virtual events, and answer questions in a new format.

Boston College campus tour on YouTube


3. User-generated content and student ambassadors

A huge benefit of social media is the ability to crowd source marketing material through user-generated content. Trending hashtags and photo challenges can win engagement from students encouraging them to post photos tagging your university, an event they’re attending, or a location on campus.


The University of Utah’s flash the U hashtag highlights UGC

The University of Utah’s flash the U hashtag highlights UGC


Most students are wizards at producing content on social media and they are conduits to new audiences of prospective students. Many schools are working with student influencers to establish influencer-type partnerships to take advantage of this untapped well of marketing material.


4. SEO

Search engine optimization is one of the least expensive ways to increase traffic, conversions, and enrollments. Small SEO tweaks to your existing content can have huge impacts on organic traffic and conversion rate. In a world where many higher education institutions are seeing declining enrollment, the competition for paid advertisement keywords is driving costs through the roof.

With a comprehensive SEO strategy that focuses on long-tail keywords, high-traffic blogs, and some key strategies to drive traffic to program pages, you can make the most of your marketing budget and earn a top spot in search rankings to drive organic traffic.

Snapshot of "university biology" keyword searched in Google

Snapshot of schools that rank in a search engine inquiry for “University Marine Biology” 


5. Personal, high-quality email

Every business, bank, app, and academic institution is vying for space in inboxes these days. Despite the overcrowding, in a study conducted by Halda, prospective students still identified personal emails as the most impactful communication channel when searching for a higher education institution.

The key factor being personal email. Like all of your digital marketing strategies, your emails should be student-centered and highlight calls to action that guide students through their journey toward applying.

Email marketing campaigns are a great place to include interactive content and guide students to your web content and social platforms.


Survey Results image #1    Survey Results image #2

Survey results % of respondents that ranked the communication type as #1 or most helpful

Undergrad prospects (right) and graduate prospects (left)


6. Mobile friendly

While most prospective students and parents are still searching on desktops, many students are using mobile devices to search for higher education institutions which means your site needs to have a mobile-friendly version.

Your mobile-friendly website should highlight invitations to your university’s social pages and showcase the most important parts of your university’s full site landing page.


7. Student-centered content

Creating student-centered content is the backbone of all of your marketing strategies. Content marketing continues to evolve as technology changes and prospective students look for new and different things.

You can use student personas to drive your marketing content. By building content targeted toward the types of students your university typically serves, you will attract an audience of students more likely to convert to applicants and ultimately enroll.

Once you’ve identified your target students, building your content to highlight your universities unique qualities that meet their needs is imperative.

Think about what sets you apart and makes your university a unique option. This is becoming increasingly difficult in a post-covid world where things that used to set programs apart such as virtual learning and self-paced courses have become the norm.


Faculty highlight of those in higher education

Connecticut College highlights its professors as the third point of interest on their homepage, presumably because that is of importance to the students they attract.

Dig deeper to identify what attracted your current students and shine a spotlight on those features. Are students attracted to the accomplishments of your university’s professors? Does the amount of doctoral degrees offered increase the confidence of undergraduate students starting an academic journey? Do you offer an educational pathway that demonstrates success in launching students directly into a career? Does your university offer a program that helps students start a business? 

HALDA’s research shows that the top three questions both graduate and undergraduate students are looking to answer are: Does the university offer the major I want to study? Can I afford it? Is it located in the area where I want to study? These are followed by ranking and outcomes:


Traditional prospective students:

Survey results of prospect students


Graduate prospects:

Survey results of graduate students


As you fine-tune your marketing for 2022, consider focusing on or adding these digital marketing trends to your quiver of strategies. High-quality content that focuses on the students and their needs will help you drive conversion rates. Take advantage of social media and be intentional with your video content strategy. Find ways to capitalize on user-generated content to amplify your marketing voice and take the time to optimize your site to earn a top spot in search engine rankings.

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