How EDU Leads are Engaging with Online Portals

By Frank HealySeptember 5, 2017

Prospective students – high school seniors and parents, in particular – are actively seeking and accessing what colleges and universities are publishing online. But what’s working best? How do institutions cut through the digital noise? Reaching high-quality EDU leads isn’t easy. Here are several strategies to identify, engage and effectively convert EDU leads using online portals.

5 Successful Tactics for Online Portals
When it comes to digital marketing, EDU marketers manage many moving parts. But there are a few important ones to focus on. Here’s how to leverage current online behaviors and best connect with prospective students.

  • Strengthen SEO. Thirty-one percent of high school students utilize search engines to find specific information about a college, rather than clicking through the school’s website. That means school websites must have strong SEO to show up on the first page of results and reach prospective students.  
  • Place emphasis on paid online advertising. Forty-seven percent of high school seniors, 55 percent of juniors and a stunning 61 percent of sophomores find their way to college websites through paid ads. In other words, if institutions aren’t utilizing paid advertising as part of recruitment efforts, they’re surely missing leads. Schools can maximize ad potential by placing content behind walls on landing pages and requiring contact information to access special material and opportunities.
  • Feature a net price calculator. Online net price calculators have proven to be exceptionally influential – especially for high school seniors. And it makes sense, as they are much closer to taking on the actual responsibility of school and associated student debts. For schools, it’s important to develop a net price calculator that is simple and straightforward; the Millennial and Generation Z audiences expect to have the information they seek within a few quick clicks. In addition to enticing leads, calculators with strong CTAs are also an effective way for quality leads to enter lead funnels.
  • Have visibility on college planning sites. Sixty-seven percent of juniors and 61 percent of seniors use college planning websites. Needless to say, these are some of the most effective online portals. One of the best tactics is to select a reputable marketing partner who was already honed these portals and where placement will automatically boost your online presence and enrollments. That said, placement on college planning sites can reflect on the school’s brand and impact compliance. Selecting a credible website and/or partner is critical.
  • Leverage social media and messaging apps. More than 10 percent of those 18 to 25 years old check their phones every few seconds. So, it’s no surprise that texting is an effective lead nurturing strategy. In fact, two-thirds of students are receptive to text message communication. In addition, while Snapchat is a popular tool for connecting with friends, Facebook is still king when it comes to learning about a college. And how do prospective students find an institution’s official social channels? On their website.

There is a common theme here: The college website is central to recruitment. And external portals and online tools – like online ads, social media, texting, and so on –  help to continually engage and nurture the EDU lead.

Engaging Parents Is a Critical Part of the Process
Something that is also key to engaging the EDU lead online? Targeting parents. Parents are an often-overlooked audience when it comes to boosting college and university enrollments. In addition to planning and participating in college visits, studies show that parents are taking an active role in other ways. Just about half of parents take action on behalf of their child/student. Roughly 40 percent use college planning websites, conduct online searches for college information and use online net price calculators as part of the decision-making process. And 62 percent of parents finished at least part of their student’s college application this year. They are essentially an active partner and major decision-maker in the admission process.

Institutions and EDU marketers should assume that any material reaching the prospective and traditional postsecondary student online is also being consumed by their parent. This means all higher education marketing efforts should be considering — and sometimes single-handedly targeting — parents. For one, parents are often managing the process. It’s important to capture email addresses from parents and use drip campaigns to remind them of key dates, deadlines and visits. Email isn’t the only effective mode of communication. More than 50 percent of parents are open to receiving text messages, as well.

Connecting Online Behaviors and Conversions
How EDU leads interact with schools and consume online material continues to change. These same five tactics may not be as effective five years down the road. However, a strong online presence will always be key to recruitment. And institutions and marketers that analyze behavioral data and update digital strategies accordingly will always have a leg up on the competition. 

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