According to NPR, undergraduate enrollment in the fall of 2020 declined 3.9% from the enrollment period in the fall of 2019. That’s over 500,000 potential students who decided to not go to school, in large part because of the current COVID-19 Pandemic. If you’re on the marketing team at a trade school or college, or at a vocational college or school, then you need to what you can to improve your enrollment marketing.
After all, this is a very trying time, where increasing student enrollment is a challenge for many educational institutions.
Additionally, if you aren’t doing your online marketing the right way, you could end up losing precious money.
That’s why we’ve put together this guide. In this article, we’ll cover all the different marketing strategies you can use to increase enrollment.
Finally, you can improve your enrollment rates, even in the circumstances we currently find ourselves in. Read on to learn more.
When it comes to marketing for trade schools and vocational colleges, one of the most important things is to have healthy SEO. SEO stands for “search engine optimization.” When you have good SEO, your customers find you more easily.
How Does SEO Work?
If you’ve ever done a Google search (who hasn’t?), then you’ve probably found that there are some pretty relevant results that show up on the first page.
This is because Google uses algorithms that select content online to give you the best results.
Chances are that when you complete a search, you select one of the first options that come up. You might scroll through a page or two of results, but the other results on all those other pages? You probably won’t even take a look at those.
If your school or college website has its SEO optimized, then your website will show up sooner in search results. But if it doesn’t, then it will be lost all among the other results in later pages.
This is why it’s so important to do an SEO audit of your college or university’s website.
If you want to master how to increase enrollment, you need potential students to discover your website right after they search for something like, “vocational colleges near me.”
Completing the SEO Audit
While SEO can be relatively straightforward for many business websites, this isn’t the case for school or university websites. Why? These websites are usually quite large, which means different pages are managed by different people.
Additionally, a lot of changes are made in a haphazard way over time. As a result, there are a lot of different and unrelated structures, codes, and content present on the website.
Because development has happened all over the place, there can be many problematic issues that come up. These include slow site speed, broken links, orphaned pages, Meta tags that are missing, and cluttered code.
If you don’t understand what all these terms mean, that’s okay. As you improve your SEO strategy, you’ll start to understand them better.
What matters that you understand now is that, with all of those issues, your SEO gets worse.
This is because Google will see many of these issues on your website when it reviews your website, and see them as signs that you aren’t a good authority or reputable website.
As a result, when its algorithms decide where to place your college’s website in search results, you’ll appear much later on.
To fix this, you can complete an SEO audit. When this happens, experts can track down the issues with your site and fix them.
Once these issues have been fixed, your SEO will improve, making it easier for your potential students to find your website.
What to Look Out For
When completing an SEO audit, there are several things you should definitely focus on to fix. First of all, improve your website’s loading speed. If you aren’t sure how quickly it loads now, use the PageSpeed Insights Tool available through Google.
You should also optimize your website for mobile use. Many potential students, especially younger ones, will be completing their searches on their phones.
You should also look at your internal linking. Fix any links that are broken and use the right naming conventions.
You also should remove any duplicate content—which might have appeared when different people were managing different sections of the website.
Optimizing Your Content for Enrollment Marketing
Another important strategy when it comes to marketing for colleges and schools is optimizing your content. When you’re putting together an SEO strategy after you’ve completed your audit, this is one of the best ways to drawn new students in.
When Google algorithms analyze your website and decide where you appear in the search results, they’re looking at:
- The content on the page
- The content within the page’s code
When you optimize your content for SEO, you’re thinking about these three things so that it’s easier for searchers to find you. In addition to improving your ranking and traffic, the best content will also convert these users.
When they convert, they take a look at your content, value it, and think to themselves: “You know what? This was so helpful, I think I’ll enroll for a course here.”
Think About Your Target Audience
To get started with content marketing for universities, think about your target audience. What career tracks are most of your students following? Is there a specific age range you’re targeting? Is someone in a certain professional situation when they think about enrolling?
It can help to create a student persona. This is a fictional version of your potential student. This persona should have many of the same challenges, aspirations, and traits as your potential students.
You can create several student personas if you like—one for each vocational track, for example.
Once you’ve done this, you can start putting together content that covers topics they want to learn about.
For example, you could write up a summary of each career track, explaining which courses would benefit them most to be most successful.
Optimize With Keywords
When you’re creating your content, you need to come up with keywords to use within it. These keywords match up with the words that your potential students type in when they’re searching for something on Google.
For example, they might type in, “how to become a plumber.”
If you have a plumbing track at your college and write an article about this, using those keywords and related ones throughout, it’s more likely your content will come up sooner in Google search results.
If you aren’t sure where to get started, there are keyword tools you can use to find out what your potential students are typing in whenever they complete a search. You can find out which ones rank highest.
Additionally, you can find out which keywords your competitors are using.
Create a Content Calendar
You also need to create content regularly. By providing fresh content, you not only improve your website’s SEO. You also draw in more visitors and more easily convert them into leads. This is because they will be interested in coming back for more.
Optimize Your Website
You also need to optimize your website for SEO. This is where having the right code is important. You also need to think about user experience. If your website is messy and hard to navigate, this will be bad both for SEO and for the experience of your website visitors.
To improve the user experience of your website, it can help to take a look at what your competitors are doing. What makes it easy to go through their pages? What is the actual structure of the home pages and other pages?
You also want to make sure you include all the right elements. These include visitor flow, multiple contact options, copy, testimonials, videos, images, concepts, and content layout.
When it comes to the user experience for students looking to go to a vocational or trade school, you want the sections on the website to reflect this.
You should tailor your website’s call-to-actions, navigation, and layout to tuition, courses, tracks, curriculums, and other information that your potential students will find important.
Optimizing for SEO
To optimize your website for SEO, you need to add keywords throughout all your content. Additionally, you need to include them in videos, images, and meta-tags. It’s also smart to SEO optimize for location. This way, you’ll draw in local students.
Earlier, we mentioned that links are an important part of optimizing your content for SEO. Because this is so important, we’ve made it its own section. If you really want your search rankings to improve, you want the content on your sites to have high-quality backlinks.
The first thing you can do to get backlinks is to ask community partners, partner schools, and other universities for links.
You can also reach out to industry professionals—for example, an AC installation company that works with many of your graduates. If there are any online mentions of your vocational school or university, you can ask the owners of the site for the link.
You should also speak with your PR time and get backlinks anytime the school appears in the news.
Giving testimonials can also help. For example, if you give a positive testimonial for a construction company in your area, they’ll link back to your site.
Be Active on Social Media
Another great way to improve your school’s marketing is by being active on social media. Once you’ve completed your SEO audit, optimized your content and your website, and have the right backlinks, it’s time to put yourself out there even more.
Remember when you created that student persona? This will come in handy when you’re posting content on social media.
This is because once you’ve done your research about your target audience, you know where to post on social media and when.
You know whether they spend more time scrolling through Facebook or Instagram, and if they’re doing it during their lunch break, in the wee hours of the morning, or late at night.
Anytime you create a new piece of content, share it on these platforms at the right time.
This is where having the content calendar we discussed before is helpful because you can also plan for how to post the content (with images, for example).
When you’re posting on social media, remember to engage with your potential students. They might ask questions about tuition, courses, or career advice.
If you answer their questions, they’ll be more likely to read your content, visit your website, and enroll.
When posting on social media, make sure that you’re school’s brand shines through. This should match the fonts and color scheme already present on your website.
Need More Information?
Now that you’ve learned about the best strategies for enrollment marketing, you might need additional information. Maybe you want to learn about other marketing strategies you can use, such as reputation management, Facebook ads, or Adwords management.
Or maybe you want to learn about inbound marketing, video production, or local SEO.
Whatever information you need, we can help. At Local Finder, we specialize in marketing strategies for higher education and schools. We also offer SEO and online marketing services for trade schools, vocational schools, and colleges.
To learn more about how we can help you, contact us now.