Steve DiMatteoAuthor: Steve DiMatteo
Updated on 05/25/2023

Let’s say you have an online MBA program at your university and you want to increase the enrollment numbers for this particular degree. How exactly do you show up more in search engines for people searching things like “online MBA programs” or even “online MBA in 24 months,” which can be a potential selling point for prospective students?

Or perhaps a potential student is searching for a business analytics or data analysis degree. If you have a business analytics degree program at your school, what do you do so that prospective students know you offer exactly what they’re looking for?

That’s where a targeted digital marketing campaign comes in.

What Exactly Is Higher Education Digital Marketing?

Digital marketing is the use of online channels to promote a product or service to reach a wider range of your target audience – in this case, potential students. Successful digital marketing strategies make it so that your university, college, or trade school can be found on search engines such as Google, Bing, Yahoo, and more. You might think this is a simple process, but contrary to popular belief, there is a strategic, detailed way of implementing these digital marketing tactics that will give you the best results and an edge over the competition.

We all know that the online environment is always evolving, and it’s important that higher education marketing leaders are following the movement of current trends. The answer to increasing interest and enrollment for higher education through digital marketing has shifted to finding ways to get your college, university, or trade school at the top of search engines.

Traditional marketing is not nearly as successful as it used to be, meaning that the focus needs to change to leveraging a new audience through targeted content online. If you’re looking to get started on your higher education digital marketing campaign, we can help!

Meet With Our Higher Ed Marketing Experts

Why Higher Education Institutions Need Digital Marketing

higher education digital marketingThere are thousands of educational institutions across the United States marketing their individual degrees, programs, and departments. Because of that, it is becoming increasingly difficult to show why you are the top choice. The question is, how do you make your school stand out from the competition?

In order to differentiate yourself and find the ideal students for your school, you’re going to have to focus on providing answers to your target audience’s questions through your website content. This can be done through various digital marketing techniques which we’ll get into, but first, let’s take a look at why digital marketing is necessary for higher education.

Below are some statistics that can help you decide to invest in digital marketing for your school and its programs:

  • Over 80% of students have accessed a college website on a mobile device, with 37% of students scheduling campus tours after visiting their website (Chegg)
  • 67% of internet users use search engines as their first source of information for colleges and 64.6% of those clicks are on paid ads (tSunela)
  • 2% of teens and younger persons are more likely to abandon slow-loading sites (Nielsen Norman Group)
  • 50% of younger applicants use 5+ more social sites for college research (Inside HigherEd)
“The team at Sixth City Marketing is GREAT! We went through an extensive re-branding process in our college and John and his staff were with us every step of the way. They were readily available for any questions we had. I would recommend Sixth City to any person/company, whether it’s their first-time building a website and online marketing presence or if they are experienced veterans.” – Stephanie Berry, Kent State University

3 Ways to Enhance Your Higher Education Digital Marketing Efforts

1. Enhance organic traffic through optimized SEO content

The first step to creating unique and optimized SEO content is identifying the keywords you want to target. If you’re unfamiliar with keywords, they are essentially words or phrases that your target market would search to find your college, university, or trade school.

These keywords are going to be crucial when Google is crawling, indexing, and ranking your website’s pages and content. The practice of search engine optimization is to create high-quality and informative content that gives your university authority and provides value to readers.

Some additional aspects of SEO to keep in mind include:

  • Internal linking to other important pages on your site
  • Writing between 500-1,000 words of unique copy on each page and blog post
  • Claiming and verifying Google Business Profile listings where it makes sense
  • Updating program page meta titles and descriptions with keywords
  • Performing competitor research for keyword and backlink insights

2. Increase your enrollment numbers through PPC campaigns

Pay-per-click advertising is a digital marketing strategy where ads are displayed to your target market and advertisers pay when a specific ad is clicked on. Typically, higher education institutions will utilize this strategy when marketing certain programs, such as a new degree offering or a particular department that needs higher enrollment figures. However given recent changes in the advertising world to people under 18, the best strategies for colleges have shifted. That being said, there are still plenty of opportunities for grad programs, transfer students, trade schools, and community colleges who are interesting recruiting those over 18 years old.

Overall, the goal of PPC is to increase the number of qualified leads coming into your institution. Pay-per-click advertising has proven to be very successful and profitable if done the right way. Here are four things to keep in mind when implementing a PPC campaign for your school:

  • Identify the amount you are willing to invest in your campaign
  • Perform extensive research on your desired targeted keywords
  • Utilize audience targeting to reach a local or national audience
  • Create compelling content for ads, landing pages, and calls to action

3. Improve your school website’s readability and usability

A key aspect of digital marketing that is often overlooked is your website. This does not mean you need to implement a total website redesign, but there are a lot of things you can do to enhance the likeliness of a successful digital marketing campaign.

When a prospective student comes to your site, they should be able to easily navigate it and not just apply for a particular degree, but be able to get in touch with you if they have questions. Take some time to do an in-depth analysis while asking yourself the following:

  • Do I have easy-to-read fonts and attractive color schemes?
  • Do I have calls to action on every page?
  • Are my site and internal pages (including blog posts) optimized with keywords?
  • Do I have proper page structure, including optimized H1 and H2 headers?
  • Do I have duplicate content on the site pages?
  • Is there a unique meta title and description for each page?
  • Are there any 404 pages that need to be redirected?

Four Ways We Can Enhance Your Higher Education Digital Marketing Efforts

The Targeting Is Specific

When deciding to invest in our digital marketing services, especially PPC, we have the ability to narrow down who your ads are shown to based on aspects such as age, location, income, interests, and more. All of these factors help you get more qualified leads and make the most of your budget.

We Improve Your School’s Online Presence

The online world is continuously growing and not stopping anytime soon, and with that in mind, having a good online presence can be a deciding factor for prospective students. There are variety of marketing tactics such as content optimization, technical web improvements, and more that can all increase your current rankings to help students find your university, college, or trade school.

Digital Marketing Boosts Brand Reputation

We have certain strategies aimed at helping your business gain more reviews online, through messaging on your website, email newsletters, social media posts, and more. Getting more testimonials for potential students to read creates great leverage and encourages clicks and leads. We want to ensure each of our clients and customers are listened to and their feedback is valuable in making our team even stronger.

We Expand Your Current Market

Along with implementing traditional marketing methods over the years, search engines and social media sites can help you reach more potential customers your other tactics could not. It’s important to first review your current market and think about the goals you want to achieve in the long run. This can help open the doors to new ways for marketing higher education online.

Sixth City Can Take Your College, University, or Trade School to the Next Level

Whether you are trying to improve undergraduate or graduate enrollment figures at your, Sixth City Marketing can help you surpass your goals.

Our team has years of experience helping schools reach their goals through our range of digital marketing services, and we’d be happy to help yours do the same.

How We Show Results

When you choose Sixth City to be your higher education digital marketing partner, we will have monthly meetings to review campaign results and make any adjustments. Additionally, you will receive a detailed monthly report with important data and metrics. We show our results through:

  1. Increases in overall leads (both online and phone) which are tracked through Google Analytics
  2. Traffic improvement (overall, from search engines and from paid channels) in Google Analytics
  3. Boosting of keyword positions (in SEO campaigns)
  4. Decreases in cost-per-lead metrics (in paid campaigns)
  5. Matching leads we obtains through PPC and SEO to enrollments in your programs

The synergy of these factors combined is critical in gauging the effectiveness of an overall campaign. We evaluate each metric using industry-standard platforms.

Digital Marketing Channels We Utilize

We specialize in helping higher education institutions and schools increase enrollment through digital marketing channels such as:

  • Search Engine Optimization– Strategic content creation, link building, keyword analysis, competitor research, and additional technical website optimization for targeting high-volume and regionally focused terms to attract potential students.
  • Pay-Per-Click Campaigns– Targeted paid ads via Google Ads, Bing, Facebook, Instagram, and other social media platforms that have the ability to target students based on age, location, interests, and more.
  • Social Media– Content creation, scheduling, monitoring, and response on all of your social media platforms to show students you are active and involved.
  • Website Design and Development– Redesigning your site with changes to improve your conversion rate and encourage website visitors to contact your departments for information, visits, and application requirements.
  • HubSpot Marketing– Help your sales team by integrating HubSpot into your website with web forms that allow you to see the lead source, help with lead organization, create workflows, let you send emails, and much more.
  • Email Marketing– Writing, designing, and scheduling emails for your target audience to help reach out to new student inquires, nurture the process for students who have already requested information, and more.
  • Auditing/Consulting– Diagnosing areas of improvement for website content, site structure, technical issues, and various suggestions to improve your Google Analytics data.

Our Approach to Higher Education Digital Marketing

  • We create a unique strategy to match your campaign priorities. No cookie-cutter approaches here.
  • We have the luxury of offering high-quality service and attention to detail that larger, more detached agencies cannot.
  • We don’t take shady shortcuts that could improve rank superficially but harm your long-term success.
  • We have an in-house staff of writers and strategists.
  • We offer a varied portfolio of services to help your site’s conversion rate (design for conversion, video, social media) that we can work into a retainer agreement.
“I am extremely pleased with Sixth City Marketing. The college’s website traffic has increased substantially along with a significant increase in the quality of our admission leads. Plus, within a short period of time Sixth City’s SEO efforts have catapulted our Google rankings taking us from a buried page to top listings on Google. Sixth City has made a significant difference in the business college’s rankings and admissions.” – Michelle Parrish Manning, Kent State University College of Business Administration, Director Marketing and Communications

Get to Know Sixth City Marketing

Headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio, and with offices in Columbus, Indianapolis, Chicago, Houston, and Pittsburgh, Sixth City Marketing helps clients across a wide variety of industries from construction to aerospace to achieve their online goals through proven digital marketing tactics, and one of our specialties is higher education marketing campaigns.

We have more than 25+ years of combined online marketing experience, and we are eager to help your school not just meet but exceed its enrollment goals.

We want to work together with you to achieve your marketing goals. These could include:

  • Gaining  more qualified leads from prospective students
  • Boosting relevant traffic to your website
  • Improving your online presence within a specific targeted area
  • Return on investment from leads that turn into students
  • Increasing overall website strength for years to come

Why You Should Choose Us for Higher Education Marketing

As mentioned above, since we’re a small firm, our team of digital marketing experts strive to offer a specialized approach for each of our clients. We are focused on providing the highest-quality campaigns, always paying attention to the finest details of your school.

We first discuss different goals, target audiences, and locations you want to market in for your school. Throughout our campaigns, we keep in contact with you and your company to discuss what’s been working and what’s not through ongoing meetings. And before we start, we will discuss the ideal strategy for your school so we can adapt our campaign to your desired goals.

We know there are many digital marketing agencies out there and it’s important for you and your business to find the best agency that meets your goals and needs. At Sixth City, our full-service digital agency not only offers an array of fundamental services, but also all the benefits of a smaller, personalized agency. We are more than happy to help digitally market your school’s programs exactly how you want!

Who We’ve Helped Through Higher Education Marketing


Higher Education Marketing Success Stories

Kent State University – College of Business Administration

In 2017, we worked with Kent State on their EMBA program, and compared to 2016 we were able to produce the following results through our specialized higher education SEO, website optimization, and pay-per-click services:

  • Leads from organic search increased by 38%
  • Leads from paid search increased by 148%
  • Overall leads increased by 135%

Your Questions on Digital Marketing for Higher Ed, Answered

Here are some frequent questions we receive on our various services, common industry terms, and more.

  1. What is SEO?
    SEO stands for search engine optimization, which is a practice of digital marketing that includes making strategic adjustments to your website’s online presence to appear more prominently on search engines. It involves various tactics that are proven to help your website increase its rank.
  2. What is PPC?
    PPC is the acronym for pay per click, which is an industry term used to define paid online advertising. The term comes from businesses paying a fee for every click they receive on their online ads. PPC is often done through platforms such as Google, Bing, Facebook, and more.
  3. Will I be able to monitor results?
    Yes, not only will we send you a report on a monthly basis that details the progress of your campaign, but you will have access to your website’s Google Analytics profile which grants you access to real-time data and insights.
  4. Will I be able to see ROI data?
    Thanks to the platforms we utilize in our agency, we are able to see lead source tracking data that can help us, and your team, see which leads came in through our work, and then converted into students.
“Sixth City Marketing has been instrumental to the success of our online MA in Translation program’s marketing/advertising initiatives. Their expertise in search engine optimization and web design have helped us tremendously in reaching our target audiences and in enhancing our visibility. Their ideas are fresh and innovative. It’s a sincere pleasure working with such a dedicated team!” -Erik Angelone, Kent State University Department of Modern & Classical Language Studies

Invest in Our Higher Education Marketing Agency Today

Are you ready to see how our higher education SEO can assist you in bringing in more students to your school? We have a dedicated team of experts who will put together a strategic and successful digital marketing campaign to help you achieve your goals.

Not only do we offer a wide variety of higher education digital marketing services, but we are dedicated to giving you a return on your investment and showing you the results of our efforts. If you have questions on our services, reach out today to learn how we can help!

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