With the rising cost of college tuition and selective job opportunities after graduation, more college prospects are thinking outside the box when it comes to obtaining a higher education. Trade schools are an example of this thinking. They are becoming more popular for college prospects who want a career but aren’t in a position to attend a four-year college.

What is a Trade School?

In short, a trade school is a technical or vocational school that teaches students skills related to a specific job. These schools are more streamlined and focus on specialized skill sets rather than general education courses. For students who know exactly what they want to do, this route is beneficial.

Trade schools have endless benefits. They take a shorter time to complete, have smaller class sizes and offer practical, hands-on training that can be applied to the real world. Some of the most popular vocational careers include mechanics, electricians, dental hygienists, pharmacy technicians and nuclear technicians. The jobs can also be high-paying, and there is room for growth.

According to the Idaho Department of Labor, the average bachelor’s degree in the United States costs $127,000, and more than 70 percent of students take out loans to pay for it. On the other hand, the average trade school costs just $33,000. Since this can be paid off in a lot less time than a bachelor’s degree, there’s less interest that accrues. Also, students with vocational degrees can enter the job market sooner than their peers.

Trade schools know they have a lot to offer, and they are quietly gaining traction among students seeking an alternative to a four-year college. To give these schools an even stronger foothold, more are taking advantage of inbound marketing strategies and winning the enrollment to go along with it.

Let’s take a closer look at how vocational schools are succeeding with inbound marketing. Maybe you can take a page from their book and apply it to your own marketing strategies!

Trade School Prospects Know What They Want

People who attend trade schools know what they want. They do their research in advance and desire a more direct path to education. They don’t want a lot of debt at the end of their experience, and they want a decent pool of job offerings.

Since these prospects know what they’re looking for, they tend to do the hard work on the front end and pinpoint schools that align with their goals. This benefits trade schools because they are able to create content for a highly confident and engaged pool of prospects. Some of the most popular content that vocational schools produce include success stories, course syllabi, professor biographies and program descriptions.

Key Takeaway:

Vocational schools are specific, so it makes creating content for a specialized audience a bit easier. Nevertheless, learn from them by narrowing in on your own specific audiences. You might have two or three target personas compared to their one, but the key is to be specific.

Sit down with various departments from your higher institution to explore some of the most common questions that prospects have. How can you help their journey? Where can you provide them with guidance and reassurance? Are there gaps you can fill?

Trade Schools Connect with Prospects at Every Stage

With trade school prospects being so diligent about their research, it’s much easier to connect with them during their journey. The typical buyer journey can be broken down into several different stages, but for the purpose of this article, we are going to go with the three-stage buyer journey (the same one that HubSpot uses): awareness, consideration and decision. It’s simple and easy to remember.

Imagine an average college prospect who becomes aware of a school, either from a recommendation or advertisement, and then considers it as a viable option based on how the school meets their needs. The prospect then makes a decision. They will either choose the school or they won’t.

Vocational schools are creating content and calls to action that align with these phases, something called “content mapping.” They are finding that it works because prospects are in need of this content to help them along the journey.

Key Takeaway:

With your target personas clearly defined, it will be much easier to create your own compelling content and CTAs that relate to each phase of the prospect journey. Imagine a potential student going through the awareness, consideration and decision stages and the information/education that would benefit their search.

Long Tail Keywords Get Them Noticed

To be successful at content mapping, you must know which keywords and terms are relevant to your prospects’ searches. Vocational schools have an advantage with keywords – in particular, long tail keywords – because they have specific programs tied to specific careers. A traditional college or university has many different programs and also offers general education courses such as science, math and literature. Nothing fancy about that!

Still, there are ways to get creative and take charge when it comes to long tail keywords. Keep in mind that long tail keywords have far less competition, making it easier and more affordable to rank for them.

Key Takeaway:

Take the time to uncover what types of keywords apply to your audience. Think specific. Is your college accredited? Private? Religious? Does it offer online or hybrid classes? These are the types of specific keywords that your audience might be searching for in addition to your programs, school name or location.

Long tail keywords have a smaller search volume compared to common keywords, but the traffic that comes from them is highly motivated and engaged. Isn’t this the type of traffic that you’d like to work with?


As a traditional four-year college or university, you have a certain experience to offer prospective college students that other schools do not. Your campus culture is the backbone of your higher institution, but don’t be afraid to take a page from some of your competitors, which now includes trade schools.

With a highly specialized audience, vocational schools are able to cut through the distractions and reach their prospects. What you can learn from these schools is the value in creating your own target personas, developing specific content for the various stages of the college prospect journey and incorporating the right long tail keywords to get your content found.