Higher education is a lucrative business with an estimated market worth of around $568.2bn. Universities around the world compete to attract only the best students for their degree programs.

‍With education institutions marketing their degree programs aggressively, it is becoming quite challenging for universities to stand out and appeal to prospective students. Due to an overwhelming number of choices, students find it confusing to find the right school. 

Considering that higher education is a huge investment, students need answers to questions like:

  • How much does the degree program cost?
  • What career opportunities will the degree program provide?
  • Does the school have any notable alumni? Where are they now?

If you want to attract the best students to your university, your marketing efforts should focus on answering such questions. Universities have been using digital marketing since the dawn of the internet. It allows higher education institutions to connect with their target audience instantly.

‍In today’s digital landscape, prospective students find schools, colleges, and universities on search engines like Google. The way universities appear in those searches has much to do with SEO, Facebook Ads, and Google Ads for educational institutions. If you want to attract more students and increase your university’s online visibility, this guide on digital marketing for universities is perfect for you.

Keep reading to find out the best higher-ed digital marketing strategies and how you can use them to meet your business goals. 

16 Effective Digital Marketing Strategies for Higher Education in 2023

Now that we’ve looked at some of the major strategies in the higher education industry with examples

1. Maximize Organic Traffic through Optimized SEO Techniques

It is an organic approach to attracting the right students to apply and enroll in your university.

Search engine optimization allows higher ed marketers to analyze competitors and to determine the right keywords for which they want their university to rank on the SERPs. SEO requires marketers to create high-quality content to help build your university’s authority. Over time, your website authority will help your content rank high on Google and be seen by the right students for university. 

That said, SEO is a long-term organic marketing strategy. It takes time for high-quality content to rank well on search engines. A lot goes into planning an effective higher education SEO strategy. Keyword research, internal linking, backlinking, technical audit, and on-page optimization all come under SEO. Unless you checkmark all the pointers in an SEO checklist for universities, getting ranked will not be easy. 

Although SEO may not help you drive results quickly, it can help you build your website authority. Website authority is what’s going to help you rank organically on search engines and consistently bring you the right traffic you seek. 


California University Organic Traffic.

Example: California University Organic Traffic.

The organic keywords are ranking at the top of the SERP.

91.74% of the search traffic drives from Google alone

It's no secret that getting your website seen by the right people is critical to your success, but it can be difficult to know where or how to start your SEO journey.

Think Orion has been helping colleges and universities drive targeted search traffic for over a decade. We have the experience and expertise to get your website seen by the right people, increasing traffic and leads while decreasing costs.


2. Accelerate Your Sales: Quickly Convert Leads with Proven PPC Techniques

Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising is a form of digital marketing whereby advertisers pay when your keyword is clicked on SERP.

Universities turning towards PPC ads to promote various programs with the goal of increasing web traffic and conversions. This can be a great way to generate traffic to a higher education website, as well as generate leads for universities. However, it is important to ensure that the ads are well-targeted and relevant to the audience, otherwise, the clicks may not result in conversions. 


3. Attract, Engage and Retain Students with a Winning Content Marketing Strategy

How can you make sure your brand gets the exposure it needs? One way is by investing in quality content. By creating engaging and informative content, you can build a strong presence in the minds of potential students and help them make educated decisions when it comes to enrollment.

Content marketing for universities is a worth-it investment for institutions. One of the most important things you can do related to content marketing is to create content that resonates with your audience. By promoting your content on social media, you can open yourself up to an even wider audience – one that can be highly receptive to your message.

So, even if Google is the number one search engine, it is a good strategy to optimize your content to rank on other search engines as well. You never know which search engine may bring you traffic. Invest some time analyzing where your content is most likely to be viewed by your target audience. Keeping that in mind, optimize your content for not just Google, but also for other search engines.


University of Florida

Content Marketing Strategy for Attracting, Engaging, and Retaining the Students

4. Elevate Your Brand Visibility: Utilizing Google Display Advertising for Increased Awareness and Recognition

Gone are the days of billboards. Now, it’s all about digital ads. In fact, digital ads are around 35% more effective than traditional billboard ads.

Digital display ads can help universities effectively increase their reach. Universities can leverage banner ads by placing them on websites with high traffic. Google enables marketers to display their ads on third-party websites.

With an incredible 75% of marketing managers saying that Google ads are effective, it's clear why universities are turning towards this method.

Think Orion has the expertise that can help your institution become a leader in the industry!.


Google Ads can serve your university ads on Google’s Display Network, which is a collection of two million+ websites. Using Google Display Network, you can target prospective students based on their search histories and reach around 90% of the total internet users around the globe.

Example of a banner ad displayed in a blog post:

Increase Brand Awareness through Display Advertising for universities

5. Unlock the Power of Social Media: Boost Engagement and Grow Your Audience

‍The goal of social media marketing for higher education is to increase awareness and interest in the institution and its programs, as well as to build and maintain relationships with key audiences. This can include recruiting prospective students, engaging current students, and building alumni connections.

There are different social media platforms you can use to engage with students. Some of the most popular social media platforms that universities should be taking advantage of include Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook for higher education marketing. These platforms enable universities to connect with potential students and also allow prospective students to get a feel of what it’s like to be at your university.

You can use social media to post your university events and also share what’s special about your university. Share videos of students and faculty talking about their experiences at your university. This will provide prospective students with all the information they may need to make up their minds.


Social Media Campaigns for More Engagement

6. Use Exclusive Email Marketing Campaigns to Promote 

A lot of higher ed marketers nowadays don’t use email marketing. A lot of them consider it to be obsolete. We disagree. Email marketing is still very much useful and a lot of universities still rely on it to this day.

That said, if executed poorly, your emails can go directly to spam. So how can you make sure your emails don’t go unnoticed?

Well, you’ll need to work on creating personalized content. You must make sure to personalized and relevant emails to your student leads. This is the only way to increase your engagement rates.

When carrying out email marketing campaigns, it is essential nowadays to use AI-powered email programs like HubSpot. MailChimp, ConvertKit, or ActiveCampaign. These programs can help marketers figure out the best time to send emails based on previous data and open rates.

7. Make Informed Decisions with Advanced Analysis and Tracking

While Google Analytics (GA) offers useful information, setting up goals to track more specific activity on your website and landing pages will provide powerful information above and beyond what GA automatically provides. This data can help you better understand how students interact with your site and what actions they take. By tracking goals, you can see which areas of your site are performing well and which could use some improvement. By tracking you can use your data for the PPC and other paid campaigns that help you in effective decisions making to target the audience in different segments.  


8. Utilize Video Marketing to its Fullest Potential

If we talk about engaging social media content, nothing comes close to video. 

Video content offers much more value compared to textual or image-based content. Video content is also highly versatile. For example, it can be consumed with or without sound.

Using video content in long and short formats, you can show off your campus and talk about the programs your university offers. Nowadays, more and more universities are using video content to attract more website visitors and turn them into converting leads. Video is a great medium to educate prospective students and nurture them throughout the student lifecycle.


University of Florida

Utilize Video Marketing to its Fullest Potential students

9. Inspiring Student Success: Real-Life Stories of Overcoming Challenges and Achieving Goals

Student success stories are a great way to show potential students that your school can provide you with the skills they need to succeed in their careers. By sharing stories of students who have found success after attending your school, you can show that your school is dedicated to helping its students succeed. 

These stories also serve as a reminder of why your school is such a great investment – because it produces graduates who are ready to take on the world and make their mark.


Source:  https://uwc.utexas.edu/how-we-help/graduate-students/graduate-student-success-stories/

10. ​Maximize Your Reach: Harness the Power of Influencer Marketing to Boost Your Brand

Getting influencers to endorse and promote your school is a powerful marketing strategy. It is called influencer marketing. Start with an in-house approach. Go through your alumni list and shortlist the ones who have become successful. Use these alumni in your ads to promote a positive image of your university. You can also contact your alumni and ask them to endorse your university.

According to studies, prospective students are influenced significantly by the employment track record of past students. This is why promoting the success of your alumni on your university website or social media can help you attract new students. Higher education marketers can also encourage the best students to become their university’s social media brand ambassadors. This will allow your university to increase its reach on social channels.

11. Make an Impact in Seconds: Boost Engagement with Short and Snappy Video Content:

Due to Covid-19, the number of on-campus visit requests has declined drastically. This makes it challenging for universities to improve their brand awareness. However, many universities have found a way around this problem by using short videos to reach prospects.


Online education is the future. Nowadays, universities use social media and short-form video content (less than 90 seconds) to engage prospective students.

‍Universities use short-form videos to:

  • Provide answers to student queries
  • Talk about their degree programs
  • Give virtual campus tours

Higher Ed can leverage TikTok to enhance their branding strategy by reaching prospective students through short videos, thereby improving visibility and raising brand awareness.

12. Optimize for Featured Snippets: Unlock Visibility and Drive Traffic

To increase search engine visibility, hijacking Google’s featured snippet is one of the best SEO strategies. Google’s featured snippet pulls the best content from websites and displays them at the top of the results page – even above the first position. 

Getting your website to rank in the featured snippet box can help you increase your university’s brand visibility and organic traffic. The more traffic your university website pulls in, the more leads you’ll be able to generate.


Hijack Featured Snippets for universites websites

13. Reach Your Ideal Customers: Maximize Results with Lookalike Audience Targeting

One of the most popular trends higher ed marketers had been using in 2022 is utilizing lookalike audience models. Lookalike audiences help universities improve their brand reach and acquire new student leads. Using the data of existing students, lookalike marketing campaigns can help in lead generation for higher education marketers with the same interests.

Using lookalike audiences in higher ed marketing allows universities to broaden their reach and attract students that are most likely to engage with your content and enroll in your programs.

By analyzing your existing students’ demographic and psychographic characteristics, you can identify the attributes that make them a good fit for your institution. Then, using this information, you can target prospective students who share these attributes and are more likely to be interested in what you have to offer. This can help you optimize your admission funnel and increase the chances of converting leads into enrolled students.

14. Improve Customer Service and Boost Efficiency with Chatbots Integration

Nowadays, we all want instant answers and quick solutions. This is why conversational marketing in the higher ed industry is catching on rapidly. Speaking of conversational marketing, more and more universities are now incorporating chatbots on their websites. Chatbots are powered by AI and automate live chats in real-time, they are super effective in the higher ed industry and provide instant answers to student queries. According to Uberall, 80% of consumers have positive experiences with chatbots.

Chatbots offer outstanding customer service by automating human feedback and providing crucial information to students instantly.

15. Build Connections with Live Streaming

As we talked about earlier, short video content is extremely engaging. But what’s even more engaging is live streaming. In fact, 80% of people prefer watching a live video over a blog post and spend 3X more time watching live videos compared to recorded videos.  Students prefer consuming authentic content and opportunities to interact or connect with universities. Live streaming fulfills that experience. This results in more and more universities using live video to engage with prospective students.

Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram all allow content creators to host live videos.

16. Hire a Professional Higher Education Digital Marketing Agency

Nowadays, the majority of prospective students begin and end their search for higher education institutions online. Very few universities are able to grasp the attention of potential students and get them to enroll in their programs. Digital marketing on behalf of universities is challenging. Considering how lucrative the higher education industry is, everyone wants a slice of the pie. Due to immense competition getting your university noticed by the right students is not easy.

If you don’t have the time or resources to run digital advertising and university marketing campaigns and all you care about is generating quality leads to meet your enrollment goals, then you better hire a professional higher education digital marketing agency.

With years of experience in higher ed marketing and edtech marketing services, we help our clients create enrollment marketing campaigns using SEO, PPC, and on-site conversion techniques to help them recruit the right students they need.

For each student enrolled, colleges and universities spend between $429 and $623 on marketing each year

Are you looking for an experienced, creative, and innovative digital marketing team to help promote your higher education program?

Think Orion specializes in helping universities, colleges, and educational institutions bridge the gap between the traditional higher education model and new digital learning opportunities.


Frequently Asked Questions:

How much do universities spend on digital marketing?

According to a survey, universities spend around $429 to $623 per student enrolled yearly on marketing. Based on past data, colleges collectively spent around $2 billion in 2018 and $2.2 billion in 2019 on marketing.

How do I do digital marketing for college?

To carry out digital marketing campaigns for colleges, marketers must:

  • Optimize college website for search engines
  • Target keywords that are long-tail in nature
  • Come up with a strategy to earn backlinks
  • Focus on creating a sound website user experience
  • Run PPC ads
  • Create social media presence
  • Offer unique selling points
  • Create a responsive site for mobile and desktop

What is the target market for universities?

The target market for universities includes:

  • Undergraduate students
  • Graduate students
  • Prospective students
  • Parents
  • University alumni
  • Teachers

How do you attract university students?

To attract new students using digital marketing for higher education, marketers must:

  1. Must invest time to create virtual campus tours.
  2. Run paid digital marketing (PPC).
  3. Use social media to attract prospective students.
  4. Onboard influencers or student ambassadors to promote your university
  5. Use email marketing to reach and nurture student leads


The goal of your university is to educate the leaders of tomorrow but to do that, you’ll need to implement the most current marketing strategies to attract them. Go through the trends of higher ed marketing that we’ve shared with you in this guide to increase your university’s enrollment numbers.

‍That being said, digital marketing for universities has gotten tougher. If you don’t have the time or resources to run your marketing campaigns, you can always hire a higher-ed marketing agency to do the job for you.