Creating a Data Driven Marketing Strategy for Student Recruitment
Date posted: October 4, 2017
Before the digital age, getting useful data to determine what was working with your marketing efforts and what wasn’t required time-consuming and often costly market research. Today’s marketers, however, have the luxury of being able to access more data than ever before. However, many professionals are still unsure of exactly how to use data to drive their marketing strategy, where to find useful data, and which types of data points are actionable.
In this blog, we’ll provide a look at how higher education marketing professionals can use data to create strategic and effective marketing strategies, and improve them over time in order to maximize lead generation and increase student enrollment.
Why Use Data to Fine Tune Your Marketing Strategy for Student Recruitment?
Have you ever heard that marketing is both an art and a science? Well, it’s true, and data makes up a large part of the science aspect of marketing, allowing marketers to weigh their ideas against concrete numbers, track success in a quantitative way, and make decisions based on actual rather than perceived performance.
Today, marketers can use digital assets such as Google Analytics and social media reports to see exactly how their paid advertising campaigns and inbound marketing efforts are being received by prospective students.
With that being said, it’s easy to understand why education marketing professionals are nervous to jump in with both feet. While the abundance of data that we now have access to is extremely useful, it can be overwhelming. Knowing how to navigate reports, extrapolate useful information, and apply it to your ongoing marketing efforts may seem like a daunting task to those who aren’t familiar with working with data.
However, you can rest assured that taking a bit of time to understand key metrics for your school, even if you just start with several key data points, can have a measurable positive impact on your digital marketing initiatives.
Where to Find Useful and Relevant Data for Student Recruitment Marketing
It’s not hard to find actionable data that you can use to drive your digital marketing strategy for student recruitment. Data sources can be broadly defined in two categories: first-party and second-party. First-party data is your own company’s data, while second-party is data you get from external sources.
You might not even realize that you have plenty of first-party data right at your finger tips. Here are a few common sources:
- Social media
- Google Analytics and AdWords
- Email campaign analytics
- Surveys, interviews, focus groups, and online polls
- Enrollment statistics
Second-party data is information that is collected by someone else that you can use to guide your marketing strategy, such as:
- Industry surveys
- Competitors’ data
All of these sources can provide useful insights for your school. In the following sections, we’ll provide an overview of how you can use this information to improve key areas of your digital marketing strategy.
How to Use Data to Identify Potential New Student Recruitment Markets
Has your school been looking to expand your student recruitment strategy into new international markets and regions, but are unsure where to begin? If so, data can be incredibly powerful for identifying potentially lucrative markets.
Google Analytics, in particular, has a specific report which comes in quite handy. The GA Location Report allows you to see where your website’s traffic is coming from and in what magnitude. While you may not have identified a new market to pursue yet, that market may already be visiting your website in significant numbers!
If you notice that the report shows that you are receiving lots of hits from India, for instance, it could be demonstrating that prospective Indian students are interested in and searching for your school’s offerings. This would be a great potential market to explore. You could then take to second-party data sources like studies and surveys to analyze prospective students in these markets, what their interests and needs are, whether they would be suitable applicants for your programs, and how you can effectively recruit them.
In addition to Google Analytics, social media reporting tools such as Facebook Insights and Twitter Analytics can help you see where your followers are located, providing further insight into new markets that may be interested in your school.
Applying Data to Improve Your Social Media and Content Marketing Efforts
If your school creates blogs regularly, but you aren’t sure what content is best received by your audience, you can use Google Analytics to determine the most popular posts on your website. By looking at which blog posts are visited the most and viewed the longest, you can narrow down what topics are resonating with your target audience and work to incorporate similar topics in your future blogging endeavors.
You can also do similar analysis of your social media channels using their analytics tools. By taking a closer look at what posts get the most likes, click-throughs and shares, you can craft better messages going forward that will hopefully receive improved engagement.
Data can also be useful for helping you determine when to post. Social media management platforms like Hootsuite use data to schedule your posts at times when the highest number of your followers are online, helping to maximize your reach and increase engagement.
If you’re wondering which social media platforms you should be focusing your energy on, you can also use GA to see which sites are driving the most traffic to your website, as pictured in the example below.
Using Data to Continually Refine Your Website and Landing Pages
You can also use data to improve your website and landing pages. Data can offer insight into how certain pages are performing, conversions, how long people are staying, which pages receive the most traffic, and more.
Even two of the more simple data points in Google Analytics can provide a wealth of actionable insights. Bounce rate, which is the percent of visitors who leave a page immediately after visiting, and page load speed, which shows the average amount of time your pages are taking to load up, can be incredibly useful towards improving the user experience on your website and your search engine results page (SERP) ranking.
A slow load speed could cause Google to penalize you, as well as lead prospective students to get frustrated trying to visit your website or landing page and exit.
Bounce rate data can also offer useful insights into the quality of your web and landing pages. A high bounce rate could mean that your page’s headings aren’t informative enough, the title and meta description on the SERP don’t align with what’s actually on the page, or it’s too overwhelming for prospective students. So, if upon closer inspection your bounce rates are high, looking at improving those key areas could make a measurable difference in keeping traffic on the page and moving students towards conversion.
As we talked about in last week’s blog post on goal tracking, the Goal Funnel tool on Google Analytics will also provide useful data in this area. Goal Funnels are used to track a specific sequence of pages a user may visit on your website before completing a certain action, like making an online application, and where they drop off during the process. Analyzing this data will help you make improvements to pages where students tend to exit your site, and then work towards reducing the abandonment rate and improving the conversion rate.
While we have only touched on several simple examples in this section, there are countless ways you can use data to continually improve your website and landing pages. Schools should be looking at their website data on a regular basis and finding ways that they can make incremental improvements to their websites to steadily increase conversions.
Leveraging Data to Improve Your Search Engine Marketing
Data can also be crucial for improving your search engine marketing efforts by helping to identify new keyword opportunities. You can use Google AdWords to determine potential keywords based on indicators such as their volume of searches and level of competition. You can then use this information to help determine which keywords might be worth incorporating into your organic search engine optimization (SEO) efforts.
In addition, if you’re looking for new keywords to integrate into your website, you can test them in Google AdWords first to see how they perform with your target audience. Then, you can work to integrate the top-performing keywords throughout your website and blog posts in order to improve your SEO. You can also use secondary data sources to perform keyword research. Several great tools include Google Trends, Google Keyword Planner, Wordstream, and SEMrush.
By using data to guide your student recruitment marketing strategy, you’ll benefit from having firm numbers and statistics to back up your strategies and tactics. Not only will this help you improve your digital marketing efforts over time, it will also help you target your communications to better suit prospective students’ needs, wants and behaviours, which could help bolster conversions on your website, generate leads and in turn, drive enrollment.