Nowadays, students applying for higher education programs expect a personalized experience when they first interact with any educational institute. Generic advertising campaigns and simple application landing pages are no longer enough to attract students. 

Higher education institutes need to bring in new students every year to keep their enrollment numbers up, which is why lead generation is a massive challenge for higher education marketers.

That being said, lead gen for higher education is competitive, fierce, and challenging. It’s difficult for schools, colleges, and universities to stand out against their competitors.

To help you compete in the extremely challenging higher education landscape and attract the best candidates, we’ve compiled a list of the 11 best higher education lead-generation strategies that your higher education institution can start implementing today.

Quick Takeaways

In this guide, we’ll look into the following lead-generation strategies and examples for universities:

  1. Design an impressive SEO and content marketing strategy for higher education.
  2. Explore lead generation ads across Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, Snapchat, and other social channels. 
  3. Share student testimonials for social proof.
  4. Create highly engaging landing pages.
  5. Utilize sophisticated higher education chatbots for lead gen.
  6. Play with your higher education lead-generation ad copies
  7. Create a lookalike audience and retarget students for a higher conversion rate through lead gen for higher ed.
  8. Creating sales funnels for higher ed lead generation 
  9. Hosting Webinars / Virtual Events
  10. Implement an effective PR strategy to generate leads
  11. Collaborate with Influencers
  12. Building Partnerships and Collaborations
  13. Implementing Analytics Tools for Lead Tracking
  14. Utilizing Paid Advertising

In case you don’t have the resources to carry out your own lead generation campaign, let us help you. Think Orion’s performance marketing team can help you increase your application numbers, enrollment numbers, student inquiries, and brand awareness.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s get started and see how lead generation in the education industry is done the right way.

Higher Education Lead Generation Strategies & Examples

As mentioned earlier, lead generation in higher education is tough. However, there are certain strategies you can use to get more relevant leads. 

Let’s go through some of those strategies now, shall we?

1. Design an impressive SEO and Content Marketing Strategy


SEO aims to increase online traffic and help bring prospective students to your website. Lead generation is to increase the number of potential students for your institute. Therefore,  SEO may supplement lead-generation efforts by increasing brand recognition through organic visitors to your website.

As noted below, you may successfully use SEO to assist with your lead generation efforts:

Perform Keyword Research

One of the most important aspects of SEO is having your content appear for relevant keywords. As a result, keyword research is critical for guiding SEO strategy and recognizing themes of interest for your target audience. For instance, you can search the degrees and courses most popular among the students!

Don’t develop material based on assumptions or abstract terms prospective students aren’t searching for—a gamble that almost always fails.

Determine your institute’s primary keyword(s) and create a list of related phrases and inquiries from there. These keywords should serve as the foundation for an SEO content plan.

Audit Your Website

Auditing your website is required to determine which web pages work effectively and which require improvement. For example, you might look for website pages that aren’t loading quickly. Fast-loading websites are vital for more than simply the user experience. Slow load speeds on desktop and mobile devices can also adversely affect a site’s ranking and contribute to high bounce rates, disappointing prospective students.

Benchmark Your Competitor’s Performance

Analyzing your rivals’ success with SEO lead creation may appear a difficult chore, but it does not have to be.

Keep track of your competitor’s search engine rankings for the same or comparable inquiries, and measure how well that page performs. Investigate why your competition is outperforming you for the same search phrases. In this examination, consider the structure of their postings, how they’re written, backlinks, and so on.

Understanding how similar material performs will help you filter out viable techniques for your own efforts—and also indicate components of your present approach that need to be updated, as well as technical concerns that are preventing your ranking from increasing.

Update Existing On-page Content 

Prospective students want to read content that is informative, interesting, and easy to understand. While SEO may assist in bringing visits to your website, the quality of the content and user experience will keep them there and help them choose your institute as their future.

Examine the existing material on your website. Is the writing clear and concise? Does it provide readers with insight or value? If not, you should revise the material to make it more user-friendly for students.

Create a Backlink Strategy

When separate websites link to one another, backlinks are formed. These links are critical for ranking since search engines regard them as a vote of confidence in your content. However, not all backlinks are treated equally. These inbound links must be relevant (not just linking to a random, unrelated piece of content). 

Obtaining a backlink from a reliable site with a high domain authority is critical. You can share your upcoming news, such as events, admissions, webinars, and courses with different news publications to increase awareness as well as get the backlinks to your website to improve your website’s ranking. 

Create An Ongoing Content Strategy

A continual flow of valuable information to potential students is essential for lead generation. They’ll be more ready to join up for frequent emails or fill out forms to access gated information if they understand your perspective can help them. This is where email marketing for higher education comes into play.

This is why it’s critical to build a content calendar to assist you in keeping organized and on track with frequent publications. Based on your keyword research, organize articles and subjects by theme. This ensures that you’re putting out material students want, which implies a larger, more engaged audience.

A continuous content strategy, paired with keyword analysis, can greatly aid any SEO lead generation effort since providing the material that higher ed branding will enhance visibility in search and bring in those all-important leads.

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. Explore lead generation ads across Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and other social channels

We won’t be wrong if we say that social media is the most relevant advertising channel nowadays.

More than 4.48 billion people use social media worldwide. And this number is expected to increase to 6 billion by 2027.

‍Due to the sheer number of active social media users, many higher education institutes use social media ads for lead generation. You can improve your conversion rates by allowing students to submit their details directly to your ad.

When it comes to making the lead generation process a hassle-free experience, it’s all about saving the time of interested students.

This is where lead ads come in handy – specifically, social media lead ads.

Many major social media platforms offer lead ads, including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Snapchat, and Instagram.

With Facebook lead ads, for example, interested students’ user names and emails get automatically populated without having them type everything down manually. This makes it extremely fast and easy for new students to submit their inquiries.

Facebook lead ads

Facebook lead ads can streamline your lead generation process. Instead of traditionally redirecting prospective students to a landing page, your lead ad will pop up and prompt students to submit their contact information. You can then pass along the information about interested leads directly to your admissions department. 

Here’s an example of a Facebook lead ad in action from Johns Hopkins University:

Facebook lead ads

When creating a Facebook lead ad, ensure your target audience is interested in the courses you’re advertising. This way, you’ll only generate the highest quality leads. Otherwise, you’ll end up with irrelevant leads and a lot of wasted ad budget.

LinkedIn lead ads

LinkedIn Lead Gen Forms allows advertisers to incorporate a form in their ad that is already filled with users’ information. The information is pulled directly from the user’s profiles on LinkedIn. Lead ads improve user experience by keeping the users on LinkedIn rather than forcefully redirecting them to your website.

When a user clicks on your lead ad, a pre-filled form with the user’s information pops up. All the user needs to do is confirm that the information is correct and hit submit. Then, whatever information you incorporate in your LinkedIn Lead Gen Forms will get forwarded to you. 

Here is an example of a LinkedIn Lead Gen Ad:

LinkedIn Lead ads

Twitter lead ads

Like Facebook and LinkedIn lead ads, Twitter Lead Gen Cards display a customizable CTA – a call to action that allows you to attract prospects through an enticing custom message.

Lead Gen Cards allow you to create a custom offer with a CTA. When any prospective student clicks on your ad offer, Twitter will ask the user for permission to hand over their Twitter handle, name, and email address to you. 

If the individual agrees, their data will get stored, and then they’ll be redirected to a landing page of your choice.

Here is an example of a Lead Gen Card:

twiter lead ads

YouTube Lead Ads

YouTube advertising is an effective avenue for a well-rounded, integrated higher education marketing plan.

YouTube is used by two out of every three potential college students to acquire new skills, explore new things, and obtain pertinent information.

YouTube lead ads offer a customizable CTA – call to action – that allows you to attract prospects with an intriguing, unique message.

Lead Gen ads on YouTube enable you to design a personalized offer with a call to action. YouTube lead form advertising generates leads using in-line form submissions, eliminating the need for the user to leave YouTube to complete a form. The lead form is displayed when a person clicks on an ad after watching it on YouTube.

When a prospective student clicks on your ad offer, YouTube will ask permission to provide you with their name and email address so you can have relevant leads for your higher education institutes. 

Here is an example of lead generation approaches on YouTube where you can ask the viewers to ‘Learn more.’

youtube lead ads

Snapchat Lead Ads

Snapchat should be integrated into your higher education marketing strategy, as the platform boasts 347 million daily users. Considering that the youth mostly use Snapchat, you can bag the interest and enrollment of prospective students. Use Snapchat to advertise your own webinars, blogs,  videos, ebooks, or podcasts, and optimize your content to capture prospective leads’ email addresses.

Snap Ad Manager provides a unique chance for schools to experiment with Snapchat university marketing.

For example, Snapchat Ads were used by Luiss University to prospective students interested in pursuing higher education while also offering abundant opportunities to entice overseas students looking for scholarships.

The Snapchat Ads were created using best practices for the platform, with a powerful call to action that led the user to a flawless application experience thanks to the autofill Lead Generation function, which assisted users in effortlessly filling out the form.

Luiss University’s Snapchat strategy to generate leads was efficient and successful, with over 500 leads received, accounting for 4% of total leads and 3 times more than other platforms, with 63% of those leads converting to applications.

3. Utilize sophisticated higher education chatbots for lead gen

In the age of technology, no one likes to wait. People want instant answers. This is why chatbots are so widely used in the higher education industry. Believe it or not, there are sophisticated chatbots out there that can effectively not only attract students but also convert them into targeted, qualified leads.

Chatbots are effective because they can offer crucial information to your prospects within seconds, 24/7. Gone are the days when prospects would have to wait for a specific time to contact you. 

Before registering for your school’s program, prospective students would need answers to their queries related to the contents of your course, the duration of your program, fee structure, accommodation, and much more.

Although all this information may be available on your website and easy to find, many people prefer directly asking questions. But answering questions of hundreds, maybe thousands of prospects can be impossible for your admissions department. This is where chatbots can make this process fast and streamlined. 

Chatbots can be programmed with automated responses, instantaneously answering common questions. Prospects won’t have to wait to get their answers. The more data you feed to your chatbot, the better it will be able to accommodate every stage of your student’s life cycle.

Higher ed chatbots can build a knowledge base about your educational institute and enable you to identify trends through their built-in analytics feature timely.

Here are some of the top chatbot platforms used in the higher education industry:

  • Amazon’s QnABot
  • IBM’s Watson
  • HubSpot’s HubBot
  • Mongoose Harmony

4. Share student testimonials for social proof

How do we purchase anything that we haven’t used before?

We ask our friends and family about it, right? Get their reviews before we make up our minds. 

The same applies when students want to join a school, college, or university for higher education. Reading other students’ reviews makes it easy for them to decide. 

Even though everyone has their own preferences, we all like first to research educational institutions we’re interested in.

Remembering this, you’ll need to rely on genuine student testimonials and share them through your social media channels to get prospective students to show interest in your educational institution. Social proof should be the backbone of your student’s recruitment strategy.

You’ll need to boast about the number of student reviews your educational institution has and share testimonials of people who are satisfied with your school.

‍In addition, you should highlight your success stories through blogs. Talk about the goals of your prospective students and make them relatable for them. This will help you attract more students to your higher education institution.

After all, if potential students see what other students have achieved after graduating from your school, they’ll also want to sign up.

5. Create highly engaging landing pages

A landing page is a website page designed to serve as a target for incoming traffic from external sources, such as search engines, social media, or paid advertising. The main purpose of a landing page is to convert visitors into leads or customers by providing them with relevant information and a clear call to action that encourages them to take the conversion process.

So, if you create an ad for your college or university, you wouldn’t want your visitors to get redirected to a page where you’ve covered some random blog. Instead, you’d want them to get redirected to a landing page about admissions and your school’s programs. 

A custom landing page will ensure your leads get directed toward a relevant page on your website that provides a solution to their needs. You should overview the SEO checklist for higher education websites. Here’s another example:

‍ If someone is searching for undergraduate degree programs, they won’t be interested in learning about Ph.D. programs. An educational landing page basically makes sure that web searchers end up at the right spot on your website. Instead of rummaging through irrelevant pages, they can quickly find relevant information.

Here’s what a high-quality landing page looks like:

Create highly engaging landing pages

6. Play with your higher education lead-generation ad copies

Creating ad copies is something every marketer working on a paid marketing campaign knows how to do. However, one mistake that most marketers make is considering all the industries the same and applying the same set of paid advertising strategies for different businesses. The education industry varies drastically from other industries. Therefore, it must be treated differently.

You’ll need to create highly optimized ad copies to attract leads. The more focused and optimized your ad copy is, the more likely you’ll be to get prospective students to click your ad.  Your ad copy must:

  • Be relevant to the program your educational institute offers.
  • Should offer important information such as the location of your campus.
  • It must clarify that you are an educational institution, not a course that users can download.

Your ad copies must be precise and clear. We emphasize this because when advertising in the education industry, you’ll find many search queries related to downloadable courses. Especially after COVID created a massive surge in the e-learning industry, more and more students are looking for courses they can download. However, since you likely own a higher education institution or are responsible for marketing a college or university, you’d only want to gear your ads toward individuals looking to enroll in your higher education institute.

‍If your ads are not optimized properly and are not targeting the right audience, you can end up with irrelevant traffic and irrelevant leads that can waste your time and ad budget. 

On the other hand, if you create optimal ad copies, you will not only be able to increase your ads’ effectiveness but also save your ad budget, which you then spend on highly converting keywords.

Here’s an example of an optimal higher education ad copy:

Why is the above-mentioned ad copy considered “Optimal”? Well, it is because:

  • It mentions the name of the school
  • It mentions that they’re now enrolling students
  • It mentions that they offer “Military Benefits.”
  • It mentions that it offers both online and on-campus music production degrees
  • It mentions their institute location – “Hollywood.”

This ad copy covers all the basic information a prospective student may need to click on the ad. 

7. Create a lookalike audience and retarget students for a higher conversion rate through lead gen for higher ed

If you want to attract more students similar to those you already have, Lookalike audiences are the way to go. A lookalike Audience is created using any existing audience.

Facebook, for example, lets you create lookalike audiences. Using the data of your existing students, Facebook can create a new list of students to target with the same demographic, interests, characteristics, and behaviors. In addition to using a lookalike audience to get more leads, you can also use retargeting to ensure no leads go to waste. 

‍Why is retargeting important? Well, this may sound shocking to you, but 95% of all visitors don’t convert the first time they click on an ad. Retargeting is a marketing tactic where you will show your ads multiple times to users who have already visited your website or people who have already seen your ads. Retargeting is a powerful marketing strategy that can significantly increase your conversion rate. For example, Facebook retargeting ads get thrice as much engagement as regular Facebook Ads.

‍ When retargeting prospective students, you’ll need to offer them special incentives. For example, a discount offer can work as a gentle nudge to get them to make up their mind.

One thing to keep in mind when retargeting is that you don’t want to overdo it. A continuous retargeting campaign can not only significantly consume your ad budget, but can also annoy your audience. Based on stats, leads seeing your ads 7 to 12 times within the duration of a month are likely to convert. So, find that sweet spot, and don’t overdo it.

8. Creating Sales Funnels for Higher Ed Lead Generation 


A sales funnel is a sequence of stages made up of marketing materials to steer website visitors toward a purchasing decision.

Building an admissions enrollment funnel is not about social media, email marketing, or Facebook advertisements. It is far more significant than any single marketing strategy. Understanding how to assist consumers through their purchasing process and psychology allows you to build relationships with them and convert strangers into customers. You will have a healthy sales funnel if you can accomplish it strategically and at scale.

Lead generation is not just an option for a course designer, it is the lifeblood of your business. The only decision you have to make is whether you want to squander time and money manually obtaining those leads or construct an automated lead creation system that operates on autopilot.

So, if you understand how to build up your sales funnel correctly, you can expedite your client acquisition to automatically qualify and convert leads, saving you a ton of time!

You have to follow the latest enrollment trends for higher education which helps you to create effective sales funnels and target the right audience.

9. Hosting Webinars / Virtual Events


A webinar is interactive, allowing the organizer and participants to interact with one another which can ultimately enhance lead generation by increasing the interest of prospective students in your higher ed institute. 

Statistics show that 82% of attendees will participate in post-event evaluation surveys, 55% will attend the live event, and 73% will register for a webinar after receiving an email from a brand they trust. Using the data you get from prospective leads, you can further drive them through your sales funnel, naturally increasing your enrollment numbers.  

You can also explore new options to engage prospective students. For example, Ithaca College and the “Office of Alumni and Family Engagement” sponsor virtual events and activities with alumni presenters on various themes ranging from career and professional development to current events and topics. These types of webinars are useful for prospective students as they help them evaluate their career options and how college graduates are faring in their respective fields. 

10. Implement an effective PR strategy to generate leads


From an educational aspect, an effective PR (public relations) strategy may assist each institution differently and in several ways. Each institution will have its own set of goals. These goals may include increasing the number of applications from a certain country, highlighting new programs, sharing ranking achievements, or showcasing the exceptional research being undertaken by their academics.

An effective higher-ed PR strategy can boost organic traffic to the institute’s website. It can help the schools improve their digital visibility, which can ultimately help in generating higher ed leads. 

Consider the example of The City University of New York (CUNY).

Their PR ranked on 14 organic keywords, including cuny online degree and cuny online classes. If a prospective student is searching for CUNY or online classes, CUNY will appear in the search result, and students will visit the website for more information.

When prospective students are browsing your website, you can use various approaches to interest them in enrolling in your classes or share their email details for newsletters and the latest happenings. You can offer chat assistance, a newsletter subscription, or a consulting call with the academic counselor to retain PR-generated leads. 

11. Collaborate with Influencers

Industry Partnerships: Forge strategic partnerships with influential figures within the education sector, including professors, researchers, and thought leaders. Their endorsement can enhance the institution’s credibility and attract students seeking reputable educational environments.

Student Ambassadors: Recruit current students as brand ambassadors to share their authentic experiences. Student influencers can connect with their peers on a relatable level, offering insights into campus life, academic challenges, and extracurricular activities. Their genuine testimonials serve as powerful endorsements.

12. Building Partnerships and Collaborations

Partnerships and collaborations can help lead generation for education marketing. 

For higher education institutions that lack market visibility and credibility, partnerships with established thought leaders or influencers can provide the much-needed recognition and boost. 

However, partnership marketing can help you reduce the noise and develop meaningful relationships.

Best practices for successful partnerships:

  • Clearly define the terms, including each party’s goals and expectations.
  • Regular communication is critical to the success of any partnership
  • Be flexible and open to making changes when needed
  • Ensure transparency and follow through on your commitments
  • Stay open to feedback and try to achieve your shared goals

Effective partnership and collaboration lead to quality lead generation by increasing the perception of your higher education institution, making it easier to convert into enrollments. It is an ongoing process that requires monitoring, nurturing relationships, and refinement.

13. Implementing Analytics Tools for Lead Tracking

Institutions can gain valuable insights into user behavior and engagement by leveraging tools like Google Analytics, CRM systems, and marketing automation platforms.

These tools help track website interactions, social media engagement, and email responses, allowing for an understanding of the prospective student journey. 

Analytics tools enable higher education institutions to identify high-performing channels, content, and campaigns, facilitating data-driven decision-making.

Custom tracking can help you monitor specific lead sources and optimize marketing efforts. Tools like heatmaps and user flow analysis visually represent user interactions, helping website and content optimization for increased conversions.

14. Utilizing Paid Advertising

Paid ads can reach a vast audience, but they can also target specific niches. Leverage paid advertising to optimize higher education lead generation. Ads come in many shapes and formats, such as text, images, videos, etc. There are different options for advertisers to choose from for paid advertising college lead generation.

Here are the most popular ones:

  • Paid search ads

Search ads are the most common ads you’ll see in the search results. These ads appear at the top and bottom of the search results on search engines such as Google. These ads contain text with no visuals.

  • Display ads

Display ads are similar to paid search ads, but instead of being all-texts, these ads include an image and text. With display ads, you can increase brand exposure, capture interested leads, and make prospective students click on your ads.

  • Social media ads

Social ads use social media platforms and networks to deliver paid advertisements to a specific target audience. Social media ads allow you to reach a broad student base, more visibility, enhanced brand awareness, in-depth market insights, and targeted advertising.

  • YouTube ads

YouTube ads appear on the channel’s website, app, and partner sites known as the Google Display Network (GDN). YouTube ads allow you to reach prospective students while they’re searching, browsing, or watching a video.

Example of Lead Generation for Universities and Colleges

Facebook and Instagram are two of the most vital platforms for students to decide about a potential college or university they want to join. That is why lead ads on Facebook and Instagram are highly effective in generating student leads.

As mentioned earlier, lead ads on Facebook and Instagram are already filled with the user’s personal information, making the registration process extremely fast and convenient.

‍Here’s a lead ad example from The University of New South Wales:

Here’s another lead ad example:

The above example of a lead generation ad is very comprehensive. If we dissect it, you can see that they’ve clearly mentioned:

  • The date when their classes will begin and end.
  • They’ve mentioned that their classes will be online.
  • They’ve mentioned what grade they’re offering admissions for.
  • They’ve mentioned what courses they’ll be teaching.

At the bottom left, they’ve added a “Book Now” CTA where prospective students can register and join their summer classes.


Is lead generation still profitable?

Yes, the lead generation business model is highly lucrative. Lead generation is profitable for companies that generate leads and businesses that need leads. Education lead generation companies make top dollar selling leads to higher education institutes. Lead generation activity allows schools to market their courses and programs to the right students. 

What is the most effective lead-generation strategy for higher education?

The most effective online lead generation strategy in the higher education industry is to run ads on social platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. High-quality landing pages can also convert website traffic into qualified leads.

How do you generate educational leads?

10 Lead Generation Strategies for Higher Education:

  • Organic Traffic (SEO)
  • Linkedin Ads
  • Facebook Leads Ads
  • Twitter Ads
  • Youtube Ads
  • Chatbots
  • Engaging Landing Pages
  • Create Sales Funnels
  • PR
  • Students Testimonials

You can hire a higher education marketing agency such as Think Orion to get a comprehensive educational lead generation plan.

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.


Work with Orion – The best higher education lead generation agency

At Think Orion, we understand how precise it can be to generate targeted leads, especially for colleges, universities, and higher education institutions. 

Think Orion’s higher education lead generation experts know exactly what strategies to leverage to capture new leads for your higher education institution. Get the latest higher education marketing trends and check out the most effective digital marketing strategies for higher education being used right now to help you generate more qualified leads.

Let us do all the hard work. Sit back and relax while we get you more enrollment and targeted students for your higher education institute.