The university recruitment cycle is perpetual. Each year, higher education institutions must jockey with one another to attract and convince college-bound high schools to enroll at their school.  Let us help you with your higher education digital marketing strategies to fill those classes. 

With so much competition in the higher education marketplace, standing out from the crowd is a significant challenge. To win over a diverse group of students, universities must ditch traditional advertising methods in favor of modern digital marketing strategies, including SEO, paid ads, program-specific campaigns, and paid social.  

Here’s what the future of higher education digital marketing strategies looks like.  

#1 Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Forms the Foundation 

Although some soon-to-be college students have a target list of schools, the average student will have a general idea of certain criteria they’re looking for—location, tuition prices, academics, programs—and then begin their college hunt on Google.  

Knowing this, you should aim to be at or near the top of every relevant search page. Accomplishing that is difficult without a well-planned and executed SEO strategy.  

What does a winning SEO strategy entail? We suggest you focus on the following tasks: 

#2 Paid Ad Drives Clicks

Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising can be an incredibly effective marketing tool; however, you must be judicious since academic keywords tend to be expensive. 

To get the most value from your paid ad campaigns, you need to:

  • Define your prospective student audience 
  • Build student personas to guide your campaign and messaging tactics 
  • Set SMART goals 
  • Focus on cheaper long-tail keywords 
  • Perform geo-targeting 
  • Analyze ad reports 
  • Readjust campaigns 
  • Remarket 

#3 Segmentation and Program-Specific Campaigns 

Each freshman class will boast a wide assortment of students with diverse interests and reasons for attending your school. While general enrollment campaigns can convince students to enroll, hyper-targeted marketing campaigns tend to perform better. 

Here, a segmented approach is superior. As the American Marketing Association notes: “By breaking down a big group into more manageable and accessible smaller groups, brands gain an understanding of the consumers in each cohort better. More information, yes, but moreover, quality information.” 

Once segmented, you can highlight aspects of the university most likely to appeal to that group. By focusing on smaller components—like a unique academic department, an open house, or a study-abroad program—you can craft messaging that resonates with the desired student segment’s wants and needs.    

#4 Paid Social 

More so than any previous generation, Gen-Z are truly digital natives. They’ve grown up with social media being part and parcel of daily life. 

As a result, social media platforms are often the first place they go to perform research on practically any subject—that includes universities. In fact, 83% of students said that social media impacted their college decision. 

To that end, higher educational institutions should lean into a paid social strategy that includes: 

  • Targeting by age, region, interests, specific events, or programs
  • Highlighting campus events and life 
  • Selecting the proper platforms for the intended audience 
  • Incorporating local social ads 
  • Leveraging the right influencers, especially alumnus  

Higher Educational Marketing Strategies to Magnify Your School’s Presence 

Younger generations don’t respond favorably to traditional advertising. Knowing this, if schools wish to grab a prospective student’s attention, they must embrace newly emerging digital marketing strategies 

Going forward, the universities that will succeed are those that lean into the trends of the future rather than relying on what used to work. 

Do you need help breaking the mold? 

At Semgeeks, higher education digital marketing is just one of our many specialties. Whether you’re a four-year academy, a city college, or a graduate school, we can help you build a digital strategy that drives enrollment rates.  

Supercharge your recruitment strategy with a higher education marketing agency like Semgeeks.


AMA. Better Segmentation for Better Insights.

Campus Sonar. Social Media Demographics for Higher Ed—2021.