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How to Create Content Marketing Strategy for University (6 Best Strategies)

Creating content that is diverse and engaging can help universities increase their brand presence and gain significantly more student inquiries.

In order to stand apart from the crowd and compete with other established educational institutions, universities must come up with effective content development and marketing strategies.

But why is a content marketing strategy for universities so important?

Well, nowadays, your university’s first point of contact with prospective students is likely going to be online. Prospecting students will most likely find and engage with your university either through a social media post, a blog post or through digital display ads.

‍When it comes to higher ed marketing in today's challenging landscape, the first impression really matters. We can’t stress enough how important it is to create quality content that attracts the right students. It has the potential to attract prospective students to your website and provide them with the information they need to consider your university as the perfect fit for them.

‍Content marketing in higher education is a creative process. There’s so much you can do and experiment with. Technology is making things a lot easier too, making content creation and marketing a less time-consuming process.

‍In this guide, we tell teach you how to create a higher education content marketing strategy and also share with you the best strategies for content marketing for universities in 2022

Let’s get started…

How to Create a Higher Education Content Marketing Strategy

From content creation to marketing, everything needs a plan. Without it, you won’t be able to attract the right students to your higher education institution. Coming up with a content marketing strategy is easy. It just needs time and a whole lot of research. 

Here’s how you can create a content marketing strategy for your university.

Step #1: Identifying opportunities for content creation

When creating content, you obviously would have something in mind, something that you want to achieve with your content. You won’t be relying on assumptions now, would you?

To come up with engaging content, you’ll need to keep your audience in mind. Think about what they may search for online. An effective content marketing strategy begins with in-depth research.

To carry out your research, you can always utilize free or paid tools. You’ll need to dissect what keywords or questions prospecting students type on Google and what they search on your website. You’ll also need to figure out which content pieces on your website are performing well and which aren’t.

Use Google Search Console

Every marketer knows what Google Search Console is and how powerful it is. It is an effective tool to monitor how your website is performing on Google. It can help you figure out what keywords prospecting students use to find your website. It can also help you monitor the clicks and impressions your keywords generate.

All of this data is crucial to figure out your website’s best and worst-performing pages. You can use Search Console to basically improve your pages for better visibility.

Use Search Console to highlight keywords with a lot of impressions but few clicks. Maybe your content isn’t optimized properly. It’s not enticing your visitors to click on your blog posts. Maybe your content is ranking on the 5th or 6th page of Google and isn’t getting seen by searchers.

You can optimize such pages using the data from Google Search Console which will help your content rank better, bringing it better visibility.

Use Google Analytics

Google Analytics is similar to Search console, however, it offers way more data. Similar to GSC, it can help you figure out which keywords bring you the most traffic and which content is performing the best or worst. 

But this is where the similarities pretty much end.

What Google Analytics can do is help you figure out the user experience issues of your website. For example, it can tell the bounce rates of your pages. This can help you figure out why your visitors are not spending enough time on your website.

Maybe it's because your pages don’t offer much value…

There could be a number of issues.

Getting insights about user experience issues can help come up with effective solutions. Maybe you can add more value to your blog posts, make them more engaging. You’ll need to update your content in a way that compels the visitor to stay on your website. 

Another thing that GSC can’t help you with but GA can - is figuring out what your visitors searched for on your website internally. This is crucial as you’d want your website to display the most relevant content to your visitors. If your website is returning irrelevant results, you need to dig into that and fix the problem.

If you haven’t set up Google Analytics for your website, you might find this guide useful. 

Perform Keyword Research

When it comes to getting your content seen by the right audience, it all comes down to keyword research. Researching keywords can not only help you in optimizing your existing content but also in creating new content.

For example, if you want to perform keyword research for your Ph.D. program, you may want to look for related keywords or key phrases to write content on.

If you research broadly for a keyword like “Ph.D.”, you may find that prospecting students search for the following search phrases:

  • Which universities offer part-time Ph.D. programs?
  • Is a Ph.D. degree worth it?
  • What careers can I get with a Ph.D. program?
  • Can I complete my Ph.D. while working?

Once you’re done with the keyword research, you’ll end up with a bunch of great keywords with high search volumes that can be converted into different content topics. Using these topics, you can address all the concerns of prospecting students.

Optimizing your content with the right keywords can also help you rank on Google’s featured snippet. It is a special spot on the SERPs that even ranks above the 1st position.

To carry out keyword research, you can utilize tools like Ahref, Answer the Public, and Google Keyword Planner. Doing so will help you come up with great content ideas.

Step #2: Deciding a content type you want to cover

After performing keyword research, the next step will be to come up with topic ideas. One thing to keep in mind is that different topics or keywords may only be suitable for a specific type of content. Content-type can be a blog post, an article, a guide, and so on and so forth.

For example, if we talk about this key phrase: “Which universities offer part-time Ph.D. programs?”, you want to write a blog post on it. In a listicle format, you can talk about the 10 best universities that offer part-time Ph.D. programs.

So to reiterate, you want to choose different content types for different keywords that you want to target on your university website. There are also different platforms and strategies to promote different types of content

Content-type: Blogs

Blogging is probably one of the best marketing strategies that higher education can take advantage of.

Wanna know why?

Well, it’s simply because blogs allow content creators to cover a topic in depth. It is ideal for answering particular questions that prospective students generally have. Blogs can be long-form or short form. They can also be listicles - the possibilities are endless. 

For example, blog posts can be great to cover topics like “Can I complete my Ph.D. while working?”. This is a genuine search query that prospecting students searched on Google. This gives higher ed marketers a great opportunity to cover the topic in detail and drive traffic to your website.

Content-type: Articles

While blogs are great for answering student queries in detail, articles are particularly great for covering news, research, and interviews. Using the article content type, you can cover particular research that your university conducted and published. Or, you can cover interviews with students, faculty, or even alumni in your articles. For example, you can cover an interview where you can ask your alumni about their experience in your Ph.D. program and how they’re applying their knowledge at their workplaces.

Content-type: Web page

Web pages are great where you wanna give information about some topic, but not in a blog format though.

Confused?

For universities, it's great for covering academic content. For example, you may have a page dedicated to the overview of your Ph.D. program. And for that main page, you may have separate pages covering your Ph.D. course structure, Ph.D. fee structure, Ph.D. faculty, so on and so forth.

Web pages for universities should provide all the details about your university programs and how prospecting students can pursue them.

Step #3: Write SEO optimized content

Covering content on your website is what’s going to get you ranked in your niche. The more content you cover, the better.

However, you’ll need to cover SEO-optimized content for your university. Forget about word count - if your content isn’t optimized for search engines, good luck getting any visibility.

Covering multiple content pieces targeting specific keywords is what’s going to ultimately boost your parent topic. For example, if you want to market your Ph.D. program, you can’t just cover one content piece and expect it to bring your traffic. However, if you cover multiple topics surrounding your Ph.D. program, Google will see you as an authority in your domain.

To support your Ph.D. program, for example, you can cover topics like:

  • What is the cost of a Ph.D. program?
  • Which is the best Ph.D. program?
  • What are the requirements for a Ph.D.?
  • What GPA is required for a Ph.D. program?
  • How much does someone with a Ph.D. make?

Keep in mind that just a single piece of content isn’t going to be enough to convince a prospecting student to choose your degree program. They’ll obviously have way more questions. So, to push your primary page and drive traffic to it, consider creating a primary page with an overview of your degree program and sub-pages that cover each aspect of your parent page in detail. Then, link back to your parent page from all the child pages that you created.

When we talk about SEO optimized content, you must:

  • Perform proper keyword research related to your target audience and align your target keywords with how your audience is searching online regarding a given topic.
  • Write keyword-focused headings, headlines, meta descriptions, and alt text to attract the right audience to your content.
  • Keep track of your content ranking in the SERPs to gauge the health of your content marketing efforts.
  • Perform SEO for not just Google, but also for other organic marketing platforms like YouTube. For example, you must optimize your video titles and descriptions for YouTube, which by the way is the 2nd most used search engine right after  Google.
  • Focus on internal and external linking. Linking to someone else’s content or your own site content, keeps users engaged and helps them find more information they might be looking for. Focusing on linking will bring you more page views across your site, which will really help your SEO.

Step #4: Going beyond the written form

When it comes to college content marketing strategies, you can’t just rely on text-based content like blogs, web page content, or articles. You must explore other forms of content as well. For example, visual content and video-based content.

We’re now seeing a lot of higher education institutions using video content to promote their university, colleges, and schools. Even podcasts are becoming increasingly popular. The reason why video content and podcasts are becoming so popular is that YouTube has around 1.9 billion monthly active users and roughly around 26% of all Americans now listen to podcasts. 

If your higher ed institution is not taking advantage of different content forms, you’re seriously missing out.

Leverage YouTube for content promotion

As we mentioned earlier, YouTube is the 2nd biggest search engine, right after Google. This is exactly the reason why you should upload all your best video content on YouTube. But you shouldn’t just upload videos here and there. You should optimize them properly.

You can conduct interviews with your students, faculty, and alumni and upload them on YouTube. It’s a great platform to talk about your higher ed institution. Video content is highly versatile and engaging. It gives you the creative freedom to repurpose old text-based content into video content.  

Simply put, video content is engaging and performs far better than textual content. 

Promote through podcasts

Podcasts are becoming increasingly popular in higher education marketing. It is an ideal platform for universities to showcase their expertise. It can enable universities to reach prospective students effectively. Through podcasts, you can establish a strong connection
with your target audience that’s both engaging and compelling.

One thing to keep in mind is that your podcasts should never be salesy in nature.

A good way to leverage podcasts for your university would be to talk about work-life balance, career development, program benefits, study tips, and more. The content you create can be used to engage with both your current and prospective students. 

Use infographics

Infographics are not only informative and engaging, but they’re also highly shareable. Since visual content is more engaging than textual content, they’re great to deliver information that is easy to consume and can keep a visitor engaged.

When using infographics for content marketing, make sure that the image is optimized properly for ADA compliance (Americans with Disabilities Act Standards for Accessible Design) and search engines. Also, since Google is not able to read images, it is important to add proper image Alt text to explain what the image is about. Don’t forget to target your keywords in your Alt text.

If created and used properly, infographics can help you attract relevant website visitors through search engines and social media platforms. 

If all of this sounds to complex for you to execute, you can hire a professional education marketing agency. Higher education marketing agencies are experts in dealing with content, SEO, PPC and even email marketing to increase student enrolments.

Best Content Marketing Strategies for 2022

Helping hundreds of clients over the years, we’ve experienced the power of content marketing ourselves. 

We’ve tested a lot of strategies over the years, some performed great, while others didn’t.

It helped us figure out what marketing strategies work in the higher ed marketing industry. Based on that, we’ve compiled a list of the 7 best content marketing strategies that your university should be applying in 2022.

1- Start a branded blog (branded blogs help with resonating and remembering the website)

For higher education marketing, branding has always been an important part of it. While social media posts and video content are great, blogs allow marketers to tackle a specific subject in depth. And they’re also easy to update and repurpose compared to visual or video-based content. 

Blog posting is a major part of an effective SEO strategy. It is a powerful tool that can drive organic traffic to your university’s website. Sadly, today, most higher education institutions are not utilizing this immensely powerful free marketing tool.

‍Branded blogs help your audience resonate with your brand and remember your website.  Branded blogging is all about opening up more opportunities for your university and helping you connect with the right people in your industry.

When working on branded blogging, think about how you want your university to be known on the Internet? You’ll need to build your brand around a particular niche. For example, if you want your university to be known as the best Ph.D. program school in the country, every blog post you create needs to revolve around your niche. You’ll also need to consistently write a lot of engaging and relevant content.

To cut things short, to start a branded blog, you must:

  • Pick your niche and research keywords.
  • Write a lot of high-quality and valuable content.
  • Optimize for search engines.

2- Start a community around your campus (Leverage community to create content for your website)

User-generated content or UGC is all the rage these days in the marketing community. While influencer marketing is great, nothing builds more trust among prospecting students than real student reviews. People, especially millennials, trust what other consumers have to say about a particular brand. People value authenticity over everything.

This is why it is super important to build a community of students and alumni to talk about your university. Make user-generated content work for you. 

Based on stats, user-generated content has the power to influence decisions. Sharing user-generated content will help you build trust regarding your brand which will in return help you attract more prospective students. Social proof can also help you increase engagement. 

To start a community around your campus, you can take advantage of reviews and testimonials. You can also create your brand hashtags and be interactive on social media to encourage two-way communication.

3- Create eBooks (Downloadable books for students)

If you wanna get more student leads, eBooks are the way to go. The reason why we say this is that eBooks can entice people to give you their personal information like email addresses without you having to beg for it.

eBooks are perfect lead magnets. With eBooks, you can not only share your long-form content with prospecting students but also generate leads at the same time. eBooks are much more substantial than blog posts. They’re represented as quality and authority content simply because it takes a lot of time and research to create one.

‍Now you must be thinking: wouldn’t it take a lot of time and effort to create eBooks?

‍Yes, however, you can also repurpose existing content, turn it into a much more detailed version and use it as an eBook to generate leads. Once you’ve crafted your eBook on any topic that is relevant to your university, you can share it with your target audience through social media or email newsletters.

4- University/College Virtual Tours

Although it was the real estate industry that sort of started the trend of using virtual tours, this trend is slowly catching up in other industries too. In today’s landscape where on-campus learning is limited due to Covid, integrating virtual tours in your higher ed marketing strategy can help prospecting students get virtually acquainted with your university. 

A lot of universities nowadays offer 360 virtual tours of their campuses. It enables applicants to visualize your campus in case they can’t physically visit your educational institution.

5- Utilize social media for ongoing campus activities (Utilize video, images, and other forms of content for a university marketing campaign)

Out of all the marketing channels out there, social media is the most engaging one.

Since over 3.6 billion people use social media worldwide, it is the best channel to reach and engage with prospective students. Social media platforms are great for sharing your university's ongoing campus activities. Keeping your prospective students engaged with your university is what’s going to ultimately help them to consider your university as their top choice.

They’re also great for creating engaging content that sparks two-way communication. Social media platforms allow universities to directly talk to prospecting students. Because social media platforms are so versatile, you can use them to spread information about your institution. Since you’d actually want students to show interest in your school, sharing your campus lifestyle with prospecting students can go a really long way. You'd show potential students what your school is like.

6- Create student case studies (Share student success stories to create valuable marketing content)

When purchasing any product, what's the first thing you do?

You obviously look up reviews, right?

The same is the case with students looking for universities to join. When researching for a school, students would likely ask their friends what they think of a particular school.  The fact is, the majority of people value the opinion of their peers before making a decision.

‍When it comes to establishing concrete proof about any particular topic, creating case studies is essential. They serve as proof that whatever you are doing is indeed effective.

‍Heck, we’ve even published our own marketing case studies to help our readers understand the level of work we do at Orion. 

‍In the higher ed industry, case studies can be used to highlight the success of your students. Student case studies make it easier for prospecting students to trust your university. After all, if they see what other students have achieved after graduating from your school, they too might want to enroll.

FAQs

What marketing strategies do universities use?

While there are a ton of strategies that universities use for marketing, here are the 8 most widely used higher ed marketing strategies: 

  1. Social media marketing.
  2. User-generated content (UGC).
  3. Google Ads for universities
  4. Video-based marketing.
  5. Data-oriented marketing.
  6. Branding.
  7. Student-centric marketing.
  8. Enrollment promotions.
  9. SEO - search engine optimization.

What is educational content marketing?

Educational content marketing is essentially a strategy used to market your products or services to prospects. It basically involves teaching a prospect rather than selling them something. In the higher industry, your product or service would be the programs your university or higher education institution offers.

What are the types of content marketing?

Here are the most popular types of content marketing:

  1. Blog-based content.
  2. Video content.
  3. Podcasting.
  4. Visual content - infographics etc.
  5. Ebooks.
  6. Lead magnets.
  7. Infographics.
  8. Email content.

How can I promote my university?

Here’s how you can promote your university:

  • Create completely original and authentic content
  • Host contests
  • Involve students and staff to promote your university
  • Highlight your degree programs
  • Use alumni to talk about your university
  • Use all possible online marketing channels
  • Invest in your website
  • Invest in SEO
  • Invest in PPC
  • Host virtual or physical events

Conclusion

Content marketing strategy for universities is super important when they want to get their name in front of prospecting students.  By following the top content marketing strategies we talked about in this guide, you will notice your engagement rates increase dramatically, generating more student inquiries and overall brand exposure. 

Rayed Chaudhry

Rayed is passionate about marketing and interested in learning new ways to hack (legally) marketing platforms to help businesses achieve growth using unconventional methods. Prior to starting Orion, Rayed has worked in various marketing positions and spent millions of dollars across different ad platforms.