8 Critical Components of a Content Marketing Audit for Schools
Date posted: August 28, 2019
In digital marketing terms, website content is the gift that keeps on giving. Where ad campaigns, social media posts, or one-off emails have somewhat limited shelf lives, a well-crafted blog, video, or web page can help generate traffic and conversions for your school for months or even years after its creation.
Given its long-term value to your school’s student recruitment efforts, maintaining the health of your web content is crucial to its success, which is why auditing your output can be such a valuable exercise.
An audit can help to identify flaws in your current creation process, updates that need to be made to your existing assets, and gaps in your existing content marketing mix. Here’s a brief overview of how this task is undertaken.
Schools Should Begin With a Content Marketing Inventory
The first step in conducting a digital marketing content audit is to identify what content you need to include. This will usually involve conducting something of a ‘content inventory’, in which you make a list of the web pages and assets you’d like to analyze. This could include:
- PDFs, whitepapers, and other downloadable assets
- Program pages
- Landing pages
- Social media posts
Keep in mind that you don’t necessarily need to include every piece of content your school has ever created. Painstakingly analyzing hundreds of old articles might not yield enough insights to justify the time and effort the task will involve. Similarly, a content audit doesn’t need to mean going over every single word of every single web page, watching every video, or trawling through all of your e-brochures.
You could, for example, do a more general evaluation of the overall structure, format, and substance of batches of similar content, and maybe select a few samples from your list for more detailed analysis. Similarly, some schools will only include their top performing content, while others might include only their more recent content, or conversely, just their older content if their goal is to update pages which still attract traffic but need refreshing.
If you have the requisite expertise, another approach is do a broad sweep of all your content and pick out the pages and assets you feel might have issues and require a closer look.
The important thing is that your audit is detailed enough to give you the insights you need to make real improvements. Provided you do that, it can be shaped to correspond with your resources and the timescale of the project.
Measuring Your Content’s Success in Connecting with Prospective Students
The most important question you should be asking about your content is also arguably the simplest: is it working?
After deciding the extent of what you wish to audit, you should compile a list of data sources that offer metrics by which you can measure the success of your content. This could include:
- Google Analytics
- Google Search Console
- Keyword tracking platforms (Moz, SEMrush)
- CRM and Marketing Automation reporting
- Social media analytics (Facebook Insights, LinkedIn Page Analytics)
Each of these sources will tell you different things about your content success. A keyword tracking platform like Moz, for instance, will allow you to track how well you are doing in rankings for targeted keywords, and which pages are ranking for them.
Example: The Moz keyword results for a business school. As you can see, the institution’s rankings are generally in rude health for its most important keywords, at least at a national level. You can track keywords locally, too, for a more detailed view of how you are performing in specific target markets.
Search Console will show you your most successful content in terms of attracting traffic and clicks, and what searches your audience are using to land on your pages (as opposed to the keywords you may have originally been targeting).
Example: The Queries tab in Search Console shows you what searches your prospects are using to find your pages. This particular report is for one of HEM’s own blog posts on Facebook Ads for schools (Search Console is one our favourite tools!).
The web analytics you get from certain CRM platforms can show you what is engaging your existing leads and applicants, giving you a good idea of what is most effective at driving prospective students down the funnel towards enrollment.
Native social media analytics platforms like Facebook Insights, meanwhile, can give you a sense of what content is most engaging for social users, while you can look at the number of social shares your web pages are generating for additional insight.
Last, but certainly not least, Google Analytics will of course offer a wealth of insights into an almost endless array of different facets of your content performance, including your traffic, goal conversions, and user demographics, as well as more detailed insights into visitors’ activity when landing on your pages, such as session durations, bounce rates, and behaviour flow.
In general, your first priority should be to find your top performing content. This will give you a good sense of what is really successful at connecting with your audience, and what you could be doing more of.
For example, when doing a higher education digital marketing audit for a client of ours, we found that some of their best performing blog posts were targeted towards prospects in a specific location. This insight enabled them to write more of these pieces in order to capitalize on the superior engagement and rankings these posts afforded them.
At the other end of the scale, you can also find content that really isn’t having the desired effect. You might identify old web pages or videos which need to be updated, or which are no longer relevant and can be removed from your site.
Of course, it’s important to remember that there can be any number of reasons why content isn’t performing. It may not be well optimized for SEO, be difficult to find through your website navigation, or just be poorly written or put together. In these cases, it may be possible to salvage something from these pages, and tweak them a little to improve your results.
Don’t be surprised, too, if some of your data sources give you contrasting views of the performance and quality of certain content. You might find, for instance, that you have a page on your site which generates a lot of traffic and ranks highly in searches, but rarely features as a touchpoint in conversions. Or that one of your blogs has been shared a lot on social media, but doesn’t actually attract a lot of clicks from social media users.
Where these disconnects occur, your aim should be to try and understand why they are happening. A high-ranking page that doesn’t convert may not deliver on the promise of its title, or not have a very good CTA in place. A blog which attract lots of shares but few clicks on social may be too niche for a wider audience, or it could just need a better cover image and meta description.
Your content marketing mix is a delicate ecosystem, and each of its components need to be fully functional to make the whole work. If one thing is out of place, it can have a ripple effect that impacts everything else.
How Well are You Amplifying Your Education Marketing Content?
Another factor which may a huge bearing on the success of your content marketing efforts is how well your school is amplifying the content that it is creating. While putting quality work out there is half the battle, how well you manage to make it visible online is what wins it for you.
The most essential part of this is SEO, and no successful content marketing audit for schools would be complete without an analysis of how well your web pages incorporate SEO best practices. Your school should take time to review the page titles, headings, and general keyword integration of any content you are including in your analysis.
Example: This blog from John Cabot University is a good example of a post that makes optimum use of SEO elements.
You should also take some time to review how extensively you are promoting your website content across other digital channels. Do you share new blogs, news articles, infographics or videos you create across social media? This can be key to bringing traffic to your pages, and building their authority in both the short and long-term.
Another underrated but crucial channel for sharing your content is email. Your school can create newsletters, targeted nurturing campaigns, and other email initiatives that will get your material into the hands of your existing online community. This can be vital in both driving more traffic to your site, and drawing the attention of prospects towards content which might interest them and further push them through the enrollment journey towards application.
However, it’s important to use email strategically when it comes to amplifying content. If you send valuable updates at the right times, and preferably segmented and personalized towards different groups of your target audience, your mails are more likely to resonate with them, and succeed in gaining you some serious traction.
Approaching Qualitative Analysis in Content Marketing Audits for Schools
As much as digital marketing is very much a data driven discipline, there is much more to a content marketing audit for schools than just crunching the numbers. Quality tends to win out above all else when it comes to web content, and evaluating how well written your blogs and web pages are, how attractive your visuals are, or how well shot and edited your videos are can be just as important to gaining actionable insights as any KPI or report.
This can often be the hardest part of an audit to do effectively. Where analyzing data will often show results that are quite clearly either positive or negative, a qualitative analysis of your content will inherently be a lot more subjective, which can make it difficult to know where to begin.
Generally, the best approach is to not overthink it. Try to look at and experience your content from the point of view of your prospects, putting yourself in their shoes. Then simply ask yourself some straightforward questions, like:
- Is it interesting?
- Does it flow well?
- Are there any obvious mistakes, errors, or other issues?
- Does it hold my attention from start to finish?
- Does it convey the right message?
- Does it leave me with a positive impression of the school and its courses?
- Am I left wanting to learn more about the subject or the school?
- Am I offered a clear path to learn more about the subject or the school?
If you or a member of your team created the content yourself, you may find it hard to get into this frame of mind. Most likely, you’ll end up either being too critical about it or not critical enough, depending on your mindset. For this reason, it’s often better for this part of your review to be conducted by someone else, whether that means bringing in an external expert, surveying students or parents, or simply using someone in your team who is sufficiently removed from the process.
Above all else, you need clear, unbiased, honest feedback from people who have a good grasp of what you are trying to accomplish, and constructive suggestions for how your efforts can be improved. You may just find the root of any problems you are having can be traced to this aspect of your strategy.
Aligning Content With Your Student Personas and Key Messaging
Your personas and key messages should provide the foundation upon which you build all of your content. Every piece you create should serve to capture the interest of your audience, provide them with relevant, useful information, and successfully communicate the advantages your school and courses offer.
Example: This guide to TOEFL scores for prospective ESL exam prep students from ASC English is a perfect example of a useful, relevant post tailored to a specific persona.
Unfortunately, this is not always the case for many schools. Content creators can often fall into the trap of developing content assets that are interesting but not really relevant to their school and what it has to offer, or alternatively, are relevant but are too generic or overtly promotional.
A content marketing audit can be a good time to right this wrong. By simply reviewing and re-evaluating your existing work, you can identify where you might have missed the mark. From there, you can put in place more established guidelines for your future development to ensure that your team doesn’t lose sight of its ultimate goal of connecting with prospective students.
This can apply to content on your publishing calendar (blogs, infographic, videos etc.) but also to other pages on your website, such as program pages, campus pages, and supporting pages. Do they adequately address the needs of your prospects? Do they convey your key messages clearly? Reviewing your copy and visuals to make sure they are communicating your unique selling points could drastically improve how well these pages ease the path to conversion.
Auditing the Content of Competing Schools
While going through your own content can be instructive, analyzing the content of your closest competitors can give you a whole new perspective.
For instance, you might identify content they have on their site that is missing from your own, and resolve to create equivalents. Or you may find that they approach topics you cover with a different tone or style, and decide to adjust your approach. Regardless of your conclusions, the exercise will still allow you to set a benchmark for the level your content needs to reach or remain at to stay ahead of your competition.
Your analysis of your competitors’ content should include any blog posts, program pages, home pages, and any other content you are including in your own audit. However, it does not necessarily need to be anywhere near as detailed and extensive. Just giving a general overview should be enough to identify issues and opportunities for improvement in your own work.
As much as possibly, try and include some quantitative analysis in your findings, too. Evaluate your ranking for important keywords alongside your competitors, and single out any high performing pages they have for special attention. Your findings may help you bridge any gaps between their online visibility and yours.
Example: Even a quick Google search can tell you lot about your competitors’ approach to content marketing. This search for ‘reasons to study English in Dublin’, a common query prospects considering the city as a study destination might look up, shows that many language schools have developed content around the topic. YourEnglish.ie, Dublin Cultural Institute, and The English Studio all have blogs in the top 5 results, while Cactus Worldwide has even managed to get one of its posts featured as a rich snippet for the search.
A Dublin-based school who isn’t ranking in these kinds of searches will surely realize that it has a lot of ground to cover to catch up. Of course, if you’ve been devoting a lot of attention and effort to content marketing, you may find that your own efforts are far superior to others. In which case, you’re already on the right track.
Identifying Gaps in Your Education Content Marketing
Through a thorough gathering of both quantitative and qualitative information, as well competitor benchmarking, your school should be able to arrive at a number of conclusions and actionable recommendations at the end of your audit process. This could include everything from practical updates that need be made, to identifying ‘content gaps’ where new content should be added to your overall mix.
The scale of the task facing you in putting these recommendations into action will largely depend on what you find. It’s possible that many of the changes you need to make will be small-scale, such as making minor updates to the copy of some of your web pages. You might also arrive upon strategic improvements, such as a revamp of your SEO strategy, or a revision of your content calendar.
At the other end of the scale, your audit may reveal large content gaps, and the need to devote a lot of time to creating valuable, substantial assets for your school. This can be challenging for institutions with limited resources, who may not be able to devote a large amount of time to one specific digital marketing channel.
In this situation, the best advice is probably to establish which changes there is the most immediate need for, or which will bring the most benefit to your lead generation and conversion efforts, and prioritize accordingly. The important thing is that you have identified where you need to be, and can gradually work to get there.
Don’t Forget to Examine Your Approach to Education Marketing Content Development
In addition to analyzing the fruits of your labour, an education digital marketing audit should be seen as an opportunity to examine the process that your team goes through to produce it. Is your content calendar consistent and targeted? Does your team take the right approach to planning new web pages? What kind of scope and attention do you give to refining and updating your existing content once it is online?
Perhaps most importantly, you should look at how well the different stakeholders in your content creation process work together. You might, for instance, have one person writing copy and another designing visuals for your web pages. Do they collaborate closely from start to finish, or they do tend to complete their parts of the project in isolation from each other? Would the opposite approach work better?
Asking questions like these could be particularly eye-opening for your team. Often, issues with finished content can be traced back to the initial creation process, and how well it was executed. If you don’t fix the internal structural problems that are causing you to produce subpar work, you may be doomed to keep repeating the same mistakes.