Higher Education Marketing

International Student Recruitment Part I: How to Generate Leads Through Google Analytics and AdWords

Date posted: November 26, 2012

Earlier this month, the Canadian Bureau of International Education (CBIE) released an Executive Summary of A World of Learning: Canada’s Performance and Potential in International Education 2012, the first global report on the circumstances of international education in Canada. The purpose of the study was to offer everyone concerned, from academic institutions to policy makers, a clearer understanding of the state and performance of international education in Canada. In short, it’s in really good shape.

 

Canada's international student population is expected to continue growing. (Source: CBIE - 'A World of Learning' Executive Summary)

 

According to the study, approximately 218,000 students came to study in Canada in 2010, and it looks as though those numbers will continue to grow: “[I]f the growth in international students continues to increase at the same rate as the 2008 to 2011 time period (approximately 11.5% per year), by 2015 Canada will host just over 350,000 international students.” It’s clear that the potential for international student recruitment is huge, but how exactly can colleges and universities claim part of this potential?

The answer lies in internet marketing, which includes several different but inter-related strategies that put education institutions on the forefront of the international market. Over the next few weeks we’ll look at different ways that your institution can use to increase their international lead generation.

Today, we’re going to focus on Google Analytics and AdWords, and how they can be used to maximize your international reach.

Google Analytics

We’ve spoken before about how Google Analytics helps in measuring your college or university’s online marketing initiatives. If the ultimate goal is to recruit more international students, it is just as vital to assess the status and performance of your college in other countries. Is your website visible outside your region? Are international users landing on the relevant pages, and if they are, is the information accessible to them? What is the ROI on each of your online international campaigns and advertisements? Are your SEO strategies also catered to generating international leads?

The long list of questions is no reason to feel overwhelmed. Using Analytics in Higher Education really helps in breaking down all of this information, thereby allowing your college or university to measure the results of all of your efforts and to get a better idea of how your school fares on a global scale.

Google AdWords (Pay-Per-Click campaigns)

While Analytics shows you how users arrived to your site, keyword research shows you which keywords are the most popular.  The information you find through keyword research will allow you to design your Pay-Per-Click Marketing campaigns in such a way that your visibility runs parallel with popular keywords. In more specifically, you can run campaigns that target demographics in specific countries based on the keywords they are using.

The most common example of PPC marketing is Google AdWords, a search engine marketing tactic that involves placing ads related to keyword searches on Google’s results page. For example, when you type in “Canadian colleges” into the Google search bar, the results that appear in the yellow box at top of the page are ads that were paid for. Here’s an example:

 

(The top search results in the yellow block contain Google Ads, which help distinguish your institution from organic search results.)

 

In this case, Nipissingu (Brantford, Ontario) and Walden University (Minneapolis, MN) appear as the top ads. However, the results could have been different for a user located somewhere else. For example, Walden University may have designed their AdWords campaign with the keywords “Canadian colleges” but only when searched for in specific locations, such as Canada. This means that when users anywhere else in the world search those keywords, different results will appear in the ad section.

In short, the Google AdWords geo-targeting tool allows you to target your demographics by continent, country, state, province, city, and even zip code. In terms of reaching out to international students, you can customize your AdWords to increase the visibility of your college or university in particular countries. If your goal is to recruit international students from China and Peru, and nowhere else, then you would set up your AdWords to target those areas specifically. If Chinese or Peruvian students are researching their study options in Canada, geo-targeted AdWords may allow them to see to be exposed to you by increasing your online visibility.

In addition to geo-targeting, you can also tailor your keywords by specifying certain programs or courses. For example, if your school aims to recruit Chinese and Peruvian students with an interest in Engineering or Healthcare, then you could set your keywords accordingly, thereby targeting prospective students not only by location, but by area of interest as well. So, instead of ‘Canadian college,’ you may set your keyword as ‘engineering program in Canada’ in order to increase the visibility of your programs in specific regions. You would also include geo-targeted branded keywords, such as “XYZ College Peru” in order to expand the brand awareness of your school.

Generating international student leads through online marketing strategies is more cost-effective and measurable than other traditional recruitment methods, such as education fairs and international agents. And although online marketing is by no means a replacement to these methods, it should definitely be used to complement them. Setting up a PPC campaign that can target keywords in specific countries comes at a fraction of the cost and will allow you to track ROI in real time. The result of will be precisely what you’re aiming for: more leads and more recruitment.

Has your college or university used Analytics or AdWords for international leads before? If so, did the results match your expectations?

Next week we’ll dive into generating international leads through Search Engine Optimization strategies.


With a soft spot for words, I focus mainly on content strategy and development.