28 01, 2020

Top 20 Digital Marketing Trends for 2020 – Part II

By | 2020-01-28T14:11:11+00:00 January 28th, 2020|Categories: Digital Marketing, Web Development, Creative Design|Tags: , , |

Trends written on chalkboardIn our last post, we discussed nine marketing trends that are expected to impact SEO (search engine optimization), Paid Search advertising and user behavior analysis in 2020 and beyond. These digital marketing specialties concern themselves with how users access and interact with online content. But, before you can hope to attract anyone to your site, you first have to create an attractive, welcoming and informative experience for your visitors.

A substantial amount of work is completed before your users ever lay their eyes on your (hopefully prominent) search results and web pages. In the second installment of our Top 20 Digital Marketing Trends for 2020 blog series, we are taking a look at some new influences in the spheres of web design, content creation and web development.

Web Design Trends

Trend #10: Minimalist navigation

You rarely get a second chance to make a great first impression. For websites, this makes the homepage a critical area of introduction for your all-important primary audience.

You’ve got to wow them at your very first opportunity. And, an overbearing or overly complex navigation bar is likely to take away from that goal.

More and more, forward-looking web designs are featuring simple navigation menus in combination with stunning visual presentations. This allows users to take the page in without the distraction of thinking about where they need to go next.

Some sites are foregoing the default presentation of a navigation bar on a homepage altogether, opting instead to let users dictate when to start looking around for additional information.

The takeaway: Don’t be afraid to tuck away your navigation bar into a hamburger menu. Trust your users’ digital instincts to find their way.

picture of night sky and a landscape

Photo by Luck Galindo from Pexels

Trend #11: Dark mode

Another trend aimed at optimizing the visual presentation of your site is the use of dark background colors on your web pages. This really makes the featured photography/video/art jump right off the page.

While some of our clients request designs that fully embrace the dark mode concept, others prefer to give their users the choice to switch into dark mode. In our opinion, there is no right or wrong method, but both are trending.

“As more of the popular apps and websites we use every day give users that dark mode option, I think we’ll see more sites start to adopt this as well,” says AJ Pope, Beacon’s Lead UX Visual Designer. “Not only does it look nice, it helps boost accessibility by making elements stand out and text easier to read.”

The takeaway: Embrace the dark side, young Jedi.

Trend #12: 3D elements and motion effects

Stunning, immersive 3D presentations that span the entirety of the user’s screen is another great way to draw in your audience. Up till now, the technology used to create 3D elements was a bit cost-prohibitive for your everyday websites. But, we are seeing more of these features recently and expect it to continue as development of 3D effects has become more affordable. The “cool” factor and the cutting-edge feel may make the added cost worthwhile for your brand.

The takeaway: Bold and interesting presentation will be the rule, not the exception, in 2020.

Trend #13: Mixing photography with art/graphics

Navigation making room for visuals, dark backgrounds to boost art, 3D and motion effects… Are we sensing a theme here? Overall, it seems that visual presentation is getting more and more sophisticated in 2020.  Sites are finally moving toward a more creative and artistic feel.

This last web design trend follows the established pattern. Expect to see more bold mash-ups of photography with overlayed art or other graphic elements in the coming years.

“Using real photographs mixed with illustrations or graphics communicates a really customized message,” says Hiroshy, a Top Level designer featured on 99designs. “Whether photos of products or people, these images can more fully support branding and help websites stand out from the crowd.”

The takeaway: Photo-art mixing can help define your brand as sophisticated and fashion-forward.

Web Content Trends

person recording a video on smartphone

Photo by Ingo Joseph from Pexels

Trend #14: Video content to reign in content marketing

Whether in design or content development, the visual mediums appear set to rule the 2020s. In this case, video content is poised for a major role.

According to our friends over at Convince & Convert, “more than 50% of shoppers say online video has helped them decide which specific brand or product to buy.” That vibes with Google’s finding that 80% of people cross over from online search to video when researching buying decisions.

That said, producing your video doesn’t have to be an all-out production. You can do a lot with just a little nowadays.

The takeaway: Go ahead and get real comfortable with your phone camera.

Trend #15: User-generated content

Here’s a breaking headline: consumers tend to trust other consumers. Not really a surprise, is it? We’ve seen this in the prevalence of online reviews, the popularity of influencers and with engagement brands generated on social media.

None of this is slowing down. So, you’ll need to find ways to harness the voices of your loyal customers and share them with your audience in order to stay relevant.

The takeaway: Your 2020 content marketing strategy must enable the conversion of your most trusted customers into brand champions.

Trend #16: Content length and quality to influence search ranking positioning

Ok, so length alone isn’t going to win you better placement. And, really, length isn’t the goal. The concept with content marketing, as always, is to deliver content that your users find valuable. That’s also what search engine algorithms are measuring.  In other words, your visitors gain confidence in your brand by finding what they want and getting their questions answered clearly, yet concisely.

And, what’s more valuable to a consumer? A short, anecdotal blog post about how cool your product is; or, a comprehensive article referencing studies, statistics and real-life use cases of a particular product that also plays up the cool angle?

Hands down, it’s that latter. And this type of content almost always runs longer. The trend is reflected in longer, more comprehensive articles populating the top results in SERPs (search engine results pages).

The takeaway: What you’re shooting for in 2020 is polished, compelling and comprehensive content.

Trend #17: Publish less, reach more people via more channels

We just got through saying more is better… now we’re saying “less is more?”

Sorry for the confusion. Let us explain.

“Less” here refers to the number of content pieces you publish, not the number of words on the page. This kind of makes sense. If you’re putting out longer, higher-quality copy, you’ll probably be publishing less content pieces overall.

The goal is to leverage your high-quality content more with a multi-channel approach. After all, your Facebook audience may have little overlap with your Pinterest users.

Trend #8 in Part I of our post discussed going beyond Google and Facebook for your paid search strategy. The same applies to your content marketing tactics. Plus, if you’re confident in the quality of your content, you SHOULD expend more effort placing it in front of all the relevant audiences.

The takeaway: You can get the most out of your content by tailoring it to various different channels.

Web Development Trends

Trend #18: Modular design 

What is modular design? According to Simplicable:

“Modular design is a design approach that creates things out of independent parts with standard interfaces. This allows designs to be customized, upgraded, repaired and for parts to be reused.”

In short, think Legos.

In web development, modular design contrasts with the more familiar templates. Templates take longer to develop and are more difficult to customize.

The takeaway: If you’re re-developing your site in 2020, a modular design can help you save on development costs.

Trend #19: Responsive, mobile-first design

The need for your site to display well on smartphones is not new. What is? Moving forward, Google will be analyzing how well your website functions on mobile screens, not desktops, first.  Yes, good mobile design scores points with Google and consequently, your website visibilty.

“Responsive modular templates are, and will most likely always be, a development trend for websites in the modern age,” says Wayne Garrett, one of Beacon’s UI (user interface) Developers. “More devices/screen sizes are being released every year. Having a website that is fluid and tailored to meet all variables is crucial. And it’s often very noticeable and detrimental when your website is not.”

The takeaway: Mobile-first development is no longer an option, it’s a must-have.

chatbot graphicTrend #20: Chatbots and customer support 

Will chatbots be taking over consumer experiences in 2020?

Businesses and higher education institutions alike have typically struggled to provide satisfactory customer service during after-business hours. That may have been ok 10 years ago. But, in today’s ultra-connected, globalized marketplace, consumers expect answers to their questions 24/7.

Powered by AI and machine-learning applications, chatbots have proliferated as the logical solution.

“We’re seeing a huge rise in chatbots on websites, especially for higher education,” says Wayne. “And we expect to see more this year.”

Is there a reason why you need to speak to someone in order to make sure that your tuition check was received? Are call center employees any better at handling routine customer queries, like bank account balances or appointment confirmations?

These questions were debatable as recently as a few years ago. But, today, there’s no doubt that automated systems can easily handle this level of customer interaction.

Another plus: chatbots can be a lot more affordable than a fully staffed call center.

The takeaway: Chatbots are a superior method of providing direct, immediate service to your site visitors at all times of day or night.

Beacon Knows (the Future of) Digital Marketing

Is your digital marketing program ready for a banner 2020? Not sure? With Beacon lighting the way, your path to success can only get brighter. Get in touch with our team to discuss solutions to your digital marketing needs.

22 01, 2020

Top 20 Digital Marketing Trends for 2020 (Part I)

By | 2020-01-23T08:43:21+00:00 January 22nd, 2020|Categories: Digital Marketing, Ecommerce, PPC, SEO|Tags: , , , |

horoscope wheelEverybody likes predictions. What’s not to like? It can be very helpful to have someone tell you what to expect or look forward to as you face your day, week, month or year.

That’s why the horoscope is still, to this day, one of the most popular columns in any newspaper. It’s all right there, in a nice little concise statement with just enough ambiguity to be applicable to 1/12 of the world’s population.

Snark aside, some predictions are more worthwhile and telling than others. That’s especially true if they are made at a perceived beginning.

And, seeing as we find ourselves at the start of a new year, AND a brand new decade, we thought this is a pretty good time to lay out some bold statements. So, without further ado, here are 20 things you can expect to happen in the world of digital marketing in the coming months of 2020 (broken down by various industry specialties).

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) Trends

Trend #1: Zero-click searches are risingSEO

Organic search isn’t what it used to be. According to SEO evangelist Rand Fishkin, everyone’s favorite search engine – Google – is no longer a search engine but a “walled-garden.” Huh?

What Rand is saying is that Google has optimized the methods by which it keeps users in its suite of products, as opposed to passing on the traffic to the links it judges as the best results.

Increasingly, users are getting the information they want from Google-curated products: Knowledge graphs, Local Packs, featured snippets, and the like. Rand crunched the numbers, and as of July 2019, a majority of searches on Google have resulted in a zero-click session.

The takeaway: High placement in SERPs (search engine results pages) is no longer enough.

Trend #2: Optimizing for rich/featured snippets 

In addition to the placement of your page in search results, you’ll have to pay attention to additional parts of the SERP: the featured snippet (chosen by Google as the best answer to a user question), the rich snippet (structured data to help search engines understand the information being presented) and local listings (such as, Google My Business).

“By optimizing for all of these features in parallel with traditional SEO, you increase the probability of getting more clicks and create a higher chance of showing up in more places,” says Jonathan Wilkinson, Beacon’s structured data expert.

The takeaway: Optimizing for rich and featured snippets is more important than ever, as more than 50% of all Google searches now end without a click.

Trend #3: Voice search is taking off

Not only are users implementing an after-search click less, they may not be clicking at all. That’s because more and more searches are initiated by voice.

“The good news here is that by focusing on featured snippet optimizations, you’re also optimizing for voice search,” says Logan Ray, Beacon’s Chief Strategist – Digital Optimization. “If you have Google Assistant, ask a ‘how-to’ question and then search that exact phrase in your browser. You’ll notice the read-out from Google voice search is identical to the featured snippet.”

Voice searches tend to be more long-tailed and local. For ecommerce, that means that voice searches represent users closer to a buying decision.

The takeaway: Optimize your website content to provide answers to relevant voice queries.

Trend #4: Linkless mentions

Since the beginning of the internet, links have been viewed as content recommendations. If someone links to your site, they’re saying: “This is good stuff. Go here for more information you’ll like.”

And ever since, people have been trying to game the system by garnering as many backlinks as they could get. Going forward, however, this strategy will yield less and less results.

Why?

Because Google and other search engines have evolved to the point that unlinked mentions hold as much, or more, sway in their algorithms as links.

The takeaway: Good, old-fashioned brand mentions are new again – no link required. Growing and tracking your organic brand mentions will be key to your SEO strategy in 2020 and beyond.

Paid Search Trends 

Trend #5: Rising CPC (cost-per-click) 

Nobody likes to pay more. But, if you’re in Paid Search advertising, you’ll need to get used to explaining to your clients or bosses (same thing) why they should expect to spend more in 2020 for the same results.

“With the SERP now being set and static with paid text ads, shopping carousels, and organic listings, as well as saturation in paid display networks, the demand of advertisers is outpacing the supply of online real estate,” says Jordan Burleson, Beacon’s Chief Strategist – Digital Advertising. “Increasing CPC is unavoidable in 2020.”

The takeaway: Skilled paid search marketers will need to amend strategy in order to increase results from fewer budgeted clicks.

Trend #6: AI/Machine Learning bidding strategies will propagate

All signs point to automation in 2020, as search engines and online advertising platforms are steaming ahead with AI- and machine-learning-enabled bidding strategies.

“Keywords aren’t going anywhere anytime soon – the robots still need us to speak to the other humans properly; however, whatever can be made into a math problem is now the domain of the machines,” says Jeff Furguson, CEO of Fang Marketing, in Search Engine Journal.

Efficiency is the clear upside. The drawback with automation is losing the ability to tweak bids for keywords by hand.

The takeaway: Knowledge of a client’s/business’ audience, goals and KPIs (key performance indicators) will be more important than ever to get the most out of your Paid Search budget.

Trend #7: Audience-based marketing 

Whether you’re human or machine, there is no substitute for knowing the audience.

Once more from Beacon’s own Jordan Burleson:

“The ability to tap into demographic targeting, interests, previous search and browsing behavior, and predictors from the spoken word, are all hugely important to continued success from paid search in 2020.”

The takeaway: Detailed knowledge of your audience behavioral trends can help you leverage customized messaging and calls-to-actions in order to shorten the buying timeline and optimize your budget.

Trend #8: Going beyond Google and Facebook 

Yes, Google and Facebook are still the 800-lb gorillas in the online advertising jungle. But, you can’t ignore the baby gorillas who are maturing in their own right.

Quora, Reddit, Pinterest, and especially Amazon all have engaged and growing communities of users. And that’s just a few of the popular established digital platforms. Every year brings more.

“This does not mean you need to be on every ad platform above. It does mean you need to have a better understanding of where your customers spend their time online,” says Duane Brown, Founder at Take Some Risk. “If your audience is on one of the ad platforms above then you should at least test it out and see if you can make it work for your business.”

The takeaway: Don’t overlook the smaller ad platforms. Your audience surely won’t. Today’s consumers are likely to play in several different sandboxes.

Data Analysis TrendData

Trend #9: User restrictions on personal data

In 2018, legislators passed the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) in the largest state in the union. The law, which went into effect on January 1, 2020, now provides internet users the right to opt out of being tracked online. This is likely to result in less user data available for analysis.

“For marketers, this legislation drives the need to infer what users are doing on their websites,” says Luke Pajer, Beacon’s in-house Data Analytics Specialist. “Inferential statistics is how agencies will overcome gaps in user data.”

The takeaway: Data analysts will rely on smaller population samples to track broader user trends. The skills and experience of your analytics team will become more critical.

*** We’ve reached the end of our blog post, and astute readers may have noticed that we’ve only covered 9 of the promised Top 20 Website Trends for 2020. Don’t despair. Stay tuned next week for the second installment in our series.

Beacon Knows (the Future of) Digital Marketing

Is your digital marketing program ready for a banner 2020? Not sure? With Beacon lighting the way, your path to success can only get brighter. Get in touch with our team to discuss solutions to your digital marketing needs.

18 11, 2019

Inclusive Holiday Marketing: How to Appeal to Today’s Culturally Diverse Generation of Students

By | 2019-11-18T09:23:05+00:00 November 18th, 2019|Categories: Digital Marketing, Higher Education|Tags: , , |

With Thanksgiving almost upon us, many marketers are in full bore prep mode for Christmas season. We don’t need to, but we’ll warn you anyway… we are about to enter maximum Christmas saturation.

While today you may notice some introductory hints of the holiday at your favorite retailers, before long, those hints will turn into a wall-to-wall, inescapable barrage of imagery featuring good ole’ Saint Nick, his reindeer, Christmas trees, Christmas stockings and everything else clad in red and green.

As we wrote in our last post, Americans spend trillions of dollars during the holiday season. So, from a marketing perspective, it’s just smart business to go all in on the popular Christian holiday. Right?

While that may be true for traditional retailers, the story might be different when your primary audience is substantially younger. If you’re a higher ed marketer trying to appeal to the disposition of the quickly growing Generation Z, it may be wise to rethink the traditional strategy.

Generation Z Lives & Breathes Diversity

many faces being looked at through a looking glass

Gen Z is the most diverse generation in history. Shifting your marketing strategy to be more inclusive will engage them more than all the Instagram ads you can buy. – GenZInsights.com

Roughly 7 out of 10 Gen Z respondents (71 percent) in a recent Facebook-commissioned study replied that they would like to see more diversity in advertising. Facebook IQ, the social network’s research division, noted that: “Strategists can engage this new generation by developing messaging that embraces diversity, inclusion and adaptable lifestyles.”

The takeaway for anyone who wants to gain the trust of Gen Zers is to be more socially conscious in your marketing approach. And that’s precisely the type of messaging that’s generally lacking in the time of year that traditionally belongs to Santa.

What can you, as a higher ed marketer, do to become more “woke” (see: inclusive) in your holiday-season marketing appeals? We’ve got a few suggestions to ponder.

Reign in your holiday bias

It’s safe to say that an overwhelming number of Americans love Christmas. And, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

Kwanzaa candle and figurine

But many college campuses are melting pots, with people from a number of different cultures, religions and traditions. That’s not surprising considering that the U.S. annually hosts more than a million international students from countries such as China, India, South Korea and Saudi Arabia. In these countries, Christmas is not the predominant celebration this time of year.

And American-born students aren’t a homogeneous group, either.

There are a number of cultural holidays that are celebrated in December, in the US and around the world: Hanukkah (Judaism), Kwanzaa (pan-African), Bodhi Day (Buddhism), Pancha Ganapati (Hinduism), Fiesta of Our Lady of Guadalupe (Mexican), St Lucia Day (Swedish), Boxing Day (Australian, Canadian, English, Irish), Omisoka (Japanese), Yule (Pagan). If you celebrate any of these holidays, it’s hard not to feel overshadowed by the annual immersion into all things Christmas by the American public at large.

gold star of david ornament next to red christmas tree ornament

That’s not to say that Americans of the Christian faith are intentionally (or, even unintentionally) disrespectful of other cultures. It’s just that the overwhelming focus on Christmas tends to make members of other faiths and cultures feel like “the other.”

That goes directly against the ethos of the youngest generation. So, if you want to appeal to Gen Z, you’d be well served by exploring how to approach holiday messaging in a more culturally sensitive manner.

Mix up that traditional color palette

One way to even out holiday season imagery is to eschew the traditional red-and-green and blue-and-white color schemes. There are other colors in your color wheel.

You may consider leaning into more of your school colors. Some pastels or soft tropical colors can communicate warmth – a welcome respite from the cold, winter hues. Certain earth tones could also strike the right chord.

Here’s a great post that speaks to some awesome non-traditional holiday color palettes.

Value-based, rather than holiday-based messaging

One way to not step on anyone’s holiday toes is to forgo holiday-based messaging in the first place. Instead of centering your message on gift-giving or tree-lighting, speak to the values of generosity and community.

Drastic, we know. But, if you’re afraid that the pitchforks and “war on Christmas” mantras will come flying out… let’s remember that you’re aiming the message at the youngest generation, not the older ones who may find the absence of a “Merry Christmas” more jarring.

Besides, the essence of the holiday season is to make others feel good. And that’s exactly what you’re doing when you take into account Gen Z’s preference for inclusivity and diversity.

Use more inclusive imagery

If your campus is one of those melting pots, this couldn’t be easier. Just take some candid photos of your real students out and about on the quad. If not, you may have to do some extra work by hunting photo sharing sites like Pixabay, Flickr or Pexels.

Regardless, you want to paint a picture that meets your target audience expectations and ideals. And, in the case of Gen Z, a homogeneous cast of characters just won’t cut it.

There are additional pitfalls to consider. For example, you don’t just want to add one culturally diverse photo into a collage of images portraying mostly white students. Or, worse, include one student of color in a large non-diverse group. That may give the appearance of tokenism – fulfilling a requirement with a half-hearted attempt at being seen as diverse.

It may be best to institute a policy requiring images on your school website and in other marketing collateral to be representative of your campus’ diverse populations. You may also want to go further and undertake a review of images currently being displayed and making a concerted effort to bring the site in compliance with your new policy.

Beacon Knows Content & Content Strategy

Is your site content meeting the needs of your prospective students? Find out with a complimentary content audit by Beacon’s digital marketing experts. Request one today.

7 11, 2019

Be Thankful for Your Paid Search Team

By | 2019-11-07T15:19:28+00:00 November 7th, 2019|Categories: Digital Marketing, Ecommerce, PPC|Tags: , , |

red and silver ornaments on christmas treeWelcome to the holiday season, everyone.

Wait, what? It’s barely past October. We’re still working through our Halloween candy stash, you might be thinking. It’s still pushing 70 degrees on the East Coast on many days.

This may all be true. Yet, that hasn’t stopped brick-and-mortar retailers from already decking out their stores with Christmas trees and stocking their shelves with red and green holiday paraphernalia.

Uh huh. That’s right. The holiday season is upon us. And there’s nowhere to hide.

The average consumer might be getting that descended upon feeling right about now. That’s because for us marketers, these are the most important weeks in the calendar. And, it’s not our fault…

Collectively, American consumers spend an unholy sum of money this time of year on gifts for loved ones and “I deserve this” presents for themselves. Vacations and cool travel experiences, expensive dinners out with the family, new cars, new big screen TVs… heck, throw in that super modern, mostly automated, you barely have to carry the load of laundry downstairs washer/dryer combo.

As a country, the US spends trillions of dollars every year between the start of November and December 31. That’s trillions, with a “t.” It’s big business, with a capital “B.”

man holding a credit card and typing on laptopA good portion of those funds get spent online. During the 2018 holiday season, for example, Americans were estimated to have spent nearly $120 billion (it’s with a “b” this time) on the web.

A solid online advertising plan is a must if you hope to tap into all of that consumer holiday spending. If you’re a small or moderate-size retail business, however, you might feel a little intimidated or even drowned out by all the noise that traditionally comes from the heavy hitters – your Amazons, Walmarts, Best Buys, Macy’s’ and the like.

But there’s no need to get discouraged. With the internet being the great equalizer, the right paid search strategy can yield huge returns and pay off big.

“What might that right strategy be?”, you might ask. To find out, we sat down with our Digital Advertising Team. The following insights from Beacon’s paid search experts are some of the most essential parts of a winning holiday season advertising strategy.

Insight 1: Be prepared to spend more when the holiday season rolls around 

dollar bills

Like that old adage goes: “You have to spend money to make money.” That couldn’t be more true when the trees start shedding their leaf coats and the shopping season approaches.

In the paid search world, this is the time of year when ad spends get an extra boost. There are two related reasons for this.

One, it’s the start of a feeding frenzy, and everyone is getting in on the action. That increase in competition means that you’ve got to allocate more funds just to attain the same results from earlier in the year. And, if you hope to beat out your top competitors, you’ll probably need to beat their spend budget. Everybody is spending more, and you’ve got to keep up.

Secondly, that increase in competition also drives up the cost of the keywords you’re bidding on. Depending on how many competitors are bidding on it, a term that cost you $1 yesterday can quickly double, or even triple, tomorrow.

“For many advertisers, holiday sales and Q4 earnings make up a significant amount of their annual revenue,” says Jordan Burleson, Chief Strategist for Digital Marketing at Beacon. “Online search traffic will spike in the months of November and December. And therefore, your average cost-per-click will increase 20% to 50%, resulting in less traffic for the same cost.”

Don’t be shocked or upset when this happens. In fact, building this expected increase into your allocated advertising budget in advance can help you stay both sane and competitive.

Speaking of planning…

Insight 2: Have your advertising plan ready well before Black Friday rolls around

woman holding up shopping bagsA lot of transactions happen on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. But, there’s a healthy number of people who prefer to get their shopping done early. In fact, as many as 39% of all holiday purchases take place before the Thanksgiving holiday. That means, you’ve got to be ready to roll with your paid ads… like, now.

On the other hand, you also don’t want to blow through your budget too early and miss a rush on your products or services later in the season. Are there mid-December sales that you’re planning to run? After Christmas promotions? New Year’s specials?

You may want to reserve some of your budget to target potential customers for those sales events. To maximize these opportunities, it’s also important to be intimately familiar with your business and industry seasonal cycle.

Having a good plan based on known customer trends is key to holiday season success.

Insight 3: Make use of negative terms 

Ok, so far, we have “spend more money” and “make a plan.” Good advice, but not the type to satisfy the cost-conscious crowd, right?

Well, don’t worry, we haven’t forgotten about you. After all, successful businesses know how to spend wisely.

One way to optimize your ad dollars is by ensuring that they’re not spent on bad or non-strategic keywords. Savvy PPC marketers create a black list of negative keywords which prevents automated platforms from displaying your ads for searches that include those terms.

“Negative keywords are essential for any good PPC campaign,” says Olivia Earley, one of Beacon’s Paid Search Specialists. “Acting as a barrier for unwanted search terms, negative keywords protect your account from unwanted key phrases, saving you money while increasing conversions and click-through rates.”

Insight 4: Use all available space on the playing field

An online ad is pretty simple, right? It appears at the top of a search engine results page (SERP) and displays a short description of a product, event, sale or promotion.

Well, as with everything related to the digital world, paid ads have continually evolved to deliver more nuanced, targeted and specific information. On top of the space for the typical advertising copy, online ads now feature ad extensions. Extensions are extra opportunities to deliver specific types of content.

“Paid ads have expanded to feature a lot more useful information for potential customers,” reports Beacon paid search analyst Zach Wellman. “Ad extensions allow you to deliver actionable content that empowers consumers to more easily reach the content they intend to find.”

Extensions can be links to specific pages on your website (sitelinks), a phone number that can be automatically dialed from your mobile device, your average product/seller rating, the physical address of your store, even pictures of your products.

In fact, image-based product listing ads (or, shopping ads) are the newest paid search fad. In a product listing ad, the main feature of the ad are photos of your products rather than marketing copy.

Extensions and product listing ads also have the advantage of occupying more space in SERPs than the typical online ad. And, the more space you take up, the less you leave for your competitors.

Which brings us to our last point…

100 m race trackInsight 5: It’s all about the competition

If you hope to beat your digital competitors, there are two things you absolutely have to do: 1) know how they’re selling, and 2) sell where they’re selling.

That means that you should keep an eye on the ads that your top competitors run. Tracking your competitors’ ads gives you a good idea of what keywords they’re targeting. It also allows you to match or improve upon the offers your potential customers see and increases your odds of earning their clicks.

Another thing you should do is bid on your competitors’ branded keywords (their names).

“Bidding on competitors is essential to making sure you are staying relevant to your potential leads,” says PPC specialist Sammy Kleege. “Not only do they get a comparison in products, you get to stay on top of what your competitors are doing that you may not be.”

Advertising in your competitor’s wheelhouse may seem like an aggressive tactic. And, in some ways it is. But, it’s also how savvy marketers get a leg up. Besides, if your competitors are worthy opponents, they’re probably doing the same to you.

Beacon Knows PPC

Want a more sophisticated approach to your paid search efforts? Beacon is here to help. Give us a call, we’re eager to talk to you about your business.

22 10, 2019

Trick or Treat: A Spooktacular Guide to Good Content

By | 2019-10-24T09:27:30+00:00 October 22nd, 2019|Categories: Digital Marketing, Ecommerce, SEO|Tags: , , |

There is so much marketing information out there these days. Blogs, websites, articles, white papers, podcasts, videos… many of them developed and deployed to convince you to part with your hard-earned money on just the right products.

Indeed, content marketing is all the rage. But not all content is created equal. In fact, there is a lot of bad content out there. So, what makes for great content?

There’s no single, easy answer. And the replies you’ll receive are likely to differ, sometimes wildly, depending on whom you may ask. But, the question becomes less abstract and more actionable when we narrow down the scope of the query: how do you go about creating great content for the web?

At the core, all great web content accomplishes one thing – informs, or educates, the reader via relevant, useful and organized information. For us marketers, however, content also has to drive action – be it a sign-up for a newsletter, a download of a white paper or (most preferred) a purchase of a product or service.

So, let’s discuss how best to create content with good-to-great potential for conversion. With candy on our minds and Halloween just around the corner, we’ll use the holiday as a surprisingly good metaphorical vehicle to parse the subject.

Shop for the Right Candy

Starting on a new piece of content can seem daunting at first. Trust us, no one enjoys a blank screen staring them in the face. It can be as scary as a haunted house.

What’s even scarier is wasting time writing content that no one will bother to read. So, before you start putting words on a page, you should know a bit about who you are writing for and why.

Know Your Audience(s)

Question: when your trick-or-treat guests ring your doorbell, do you think they’d be satisfied if you offered them an apple?

Unlikely, at best, right? The kids put effort into their costumes, they’re out there hustling from house to house… They’re definitely not doing it for fruit. They want the CANDY!

Same with your primary audience. They’ve come online with a purpose. Typed a query into a search engine for a reason. Clicked on your link with expectation. If you serve them an apple, it’s a safe bet that that’s the last you’ll see of them.

Ok, let’s take it one step further. Kids don’t go to strangers’ homes by themselves. They’re usually accompanied by their parents. And parents have a whole different set of needs.

If you’re a nice, thoughtful host, you’ll consider the needs of your secondary audience. Maybe a warm beverage or a non-candy snack will help them endure the chilly, late-October evening.

People recognize when you go the extra mile, or do something special. And that helps to establish trust, a necessary starting point for any budding relationship.

Be Prepared to Answer Their Most Pertinent Questions

The obvious question your Halloween guests have is, of course: “trick or treat?”. Translated into vernacular it means: “do you have candy for me?”. (For the spoiled audiences, it might be “do you have good candy for me?”.)

It’s not hard to anticipate this question on October 31. But, not all circumstances and audience are that easy.

When producing high quality content, it’s necessary to put yourself into the shoes of your audience and ask yourself what is it that they are looking to find out. The more you’re able to visualize yourself as part of the audience, the better you’ll be able to anticipate their needs.

Do Your Research

Just because you know the questions, doesn’t mean you know the answers.

Before you start writing, be sure you have the right information to present to your audience. This may involve online research, consulting with a co-worker who possesses specialized knowledge in the right subject area or even an interview with a subject matter expert outside of your organization.

You definitely don’t want to take your eye off the ball here… again, keep the fruit out of the candy bowl.

Dress Up

So, you know there are going to be kids out in the neighborhood, hungry for candy. And you know they’ll be accompanied by supervising adults. But, can you be sure that they’re not just going to stroll right past your house? 

If there are no lights on and it doesn’t look like anyone’s home, your doorbell may never get rung. And if your house looks too creepy (in a non-Halloween way), the parents may actively want to skip it. You’ve got to do something to entice the trick-or-treaters to make it down your long driveway and to your door.

That means, you’ve got to make your home appear welcoming by putting up some house decorations – the more extravagant, the better. Preferably, something that points the way to the candy bowl by your door. And, if you want to make the experience even more memorable for your guests, you should wear a creative costume that leaves an impression.

How can you dress up your content to be presented at it’s most appealing?

Keeping your paragraphs short for easy readability is a good start. Adding captivating images or videos can also help your readers engage with your page. Providing internal links and easy to see call-to-action buttons are great ways to point your audience to additional relevant content and highlight the final action they’ll need to take.

Give Out the Good Candy So They Come Back Next Year

Ok, you’ve got them at your door and perusing your candy offering. This is the moment of truth. You want the kids to take the candy, the adults to appreciate the warm beverage, and both groups to have a fun experience that stands out to them.

You’re serving candy and not fruit, your house is lit up and decked out with witches on brooms, you’re wearing your finest Halloween attire… you’re sure to get record visitors, right?

Not so fast. You can do everything right up to this point and still not meet your goals if your offering is not up to the standards or expectations of your guests.

Just because it’s candy, doesn’t mean it’s the right candy, or good candy. If the candy looks old, or has a torn wrapper, you might just lose your credibility on the spot – despite all the hard work you’ve put in.

Same with content. The presentation has to be as good as everything else.

That means writing a great headline, structuring your content clearly with proper usage of headings (H2s, H3s, H4s, etc), keeping an active voice and maintaining a reasonable word count. More importantly, your content has to stay on topic, do a great job educating on the most pertinent subjects and fulfill your users’ intent.

Your readers should reach the end of the page with a clear idea of what they’ve just read and an understanding of what they should do next. If you can do all that, you might just gain the trust of your readers and improve your chances of creating a repeat customer.

Beacon Knows Great Content

Is your site content in the best shape it could be? Not sure? One way to find out is with a complimentary content audit. Request one today from Beacon’s content strategy experts.

19 09, 2019

Higher Ed Recruitment 101

By | 2019-09-18T09:41:55+00:00 September 19th, 2019|Categories: Digital Marketing, Higher Education, SEO, Social Media|Tags: , , |

Ah, September… for those of us tired of sweating through the sweltering summer heat, this month offers a welcomed respite. It’s not quite sweater weather in much of the continental U.S., but, it’s certainly getting easier to keep your shirt perspiration-free… save for those Saturday tailgates, of course.

Designed by rawpixel.com / Freepik

For higher ed marketers, with the latest freshman class securely on campus, September brings a focus on recruiting the next set of prospective students. A new start is always nice. But, for those of you who feel that the task of recruiting is getting harder each year – you’re not imagining things.

According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, enrollment at American colleges and universities has declined for the eighth year in a row. This past spring saw 300,000 – or, 1.7% – less new students on U.S. campuses than the year before. The losses were even more steep the previous year.

Clearly, the competition – driven by a diminishing pool of prospects – is getting more intense. How successfully your school responds to the downshift in demand for higher education will undoubtedly influence the long-term health of your institution.

So, how can you stem the receding enrollment tide? Today, more than ever, you have to stay in front of your prospective students as much as possible in order to remain relevant throughout their decision-making process. Not only that, you have to foster positive personal connections through memorable and fun experiences.

It’s a buyer’s market out there. And, you’ve got to act like it if you are to keep your enrollment numbers up. The best way to do that is with great content marketing execution and imaginative, out-of-the-box recruiting events.

Effective Higher Ed Content Marketing

Not only are enrollment trends changing, students are changing, too. Our previous post described some of the different ways that the current generation of students – Generation Z – interacts with various forms of media. One of the most important takeaways from the piece is the need to be active across the social media landscape (not just one or two platforms) – because that’s how teens today find, and are exposed to, information.

Let’s extend that principle a bit further. Not only is a proactive content game a must, it has to be at peak form for all four quarters (pardon all the football references). What does that mean?

It means that you’ve got to be there from the start of your targets’ school selection process to the very end. You have to be there to answer questions (simple and complex), allay the myriad concerns that high schools students harbor and communicate compelling reasons why your school is the best for their specific interests. All this will help create a lasting connection between your school brand and your audience.

If your content consistently shows up when prospective students are looking into their school options or researching the college experience, you’ll stand a much better chance of winning their confidence, trust and, ultimately, a completed application.

If you’re a frequent reader of this blog, you might have noticed a number of posts this summer describing the various aspects of content creation and management. They’re a great start to formulating your content marketing plan.

Great Content Should Lead to Great Recruiting Events 

A detailed, well-researched and tailored content marketing plan is a must. But, you can’t rely on just content to close the deal. A personal connection is often needed to reinforce the positive attitude you’ve hopefully fostered via your content outreach. That connection is easier to make when you’re able to get your prospective students on campus for some face-to-face interactions.

Content will get them there, showing them value and a good time will get them to enroll. But, remember, your target audience’s expectations are pretty high. So, you’ll need to pull some new tricks out of the bag in order to impress.

Here are a few recruiting event ideas to help:

Unique Campus Tours

I can hear it now… “A campus tour is pretty much standard.” And, of course, you’re right. But that doesn’t mean that your school’s campus tour should be just like every other school’s. Hence, the emphasis on “unique.”

There are lots of ways to make strolling through a campus fun. For one, you can forgo strolling and replace it with a cooler mode of transportation. An electric scooter or a hover board tour sounds like a lot more fun than walking.

And, you don’t always have to go high-tech or futuristic. Sometimes legacy tech, like horses, can create novel experiences. If your campus can easily accommodate it, a horseback tour of your college or university might be THE highlight of a campus visit.

Additional ideas: bikes, golf carts, roller skates.

Take Advantage of the Surrounding Community

If there’s cool stuff going on around your campus, get in on it. Parades, fairs, street/block parties, concerts, barbecue competitions… find out what’s happening on the local scene and take your prospects there. Showing them a bit of the off-campus community will make them feel more familiar with the area and give them confidence that they’ll be able to traverse their new surroundings.

Shadow a Student Ambassador

You can tell them all about your campus. Or, you can help your prospective students experience a day in the life of an enrolled student. Recruit a few freshmen or sophomores who live on-campus, pair them with visiting students and let them hang out together for 24 hours.

This would require some matching work – pairing students from the same high school or town, for example. And, it’d be best if the prospect could experience the classroom portion of the campus experience.

Sporting Events 

College sporting events are like nothing else. There’s no way to not feel school spirit when you’re in the midst of the student section during a football or basketball game. You can bet it’s an experience your prospective student won’t soon forget.

Just keep in mind, whether it’s horseback rides or hoopin’, the goal isn’t the novelty – it’s to foster a real connection between your prospective students and your campus community.

Beacon Knows Higher Ed Content

Is your content marketing plan driving the results you need? If you’re not sure, Beacon’s content strategists can help. Request a complimentary website audit today.

5 09, 2019

Changing the Game for Gen Z in the Age of Tech

By | 2019-09-10T07:59:38+00:00 September 5th, 2019|Categories: Digital Marketing, Higher Education, Social Media|Tags: , , |

As your flagship marketing instrument, one of the primary roles of your higher ed website is to attract applicants to your school. How well it’s able to do so depends on how appealing your site is to your target audience – high school juniors and seniors.

In order to draw in qualified prospects, you have to first understand your audience – or, at least their online behaviors. Today’s high school students are part of a generation that grew up using the internet from a very young age. Their relationship to technology can be completely different from older groups.

This cohort – sometimes referred to as Generation Z, or Gen Z – is similar to the Millennial generation. But, whereas Millennials came of age just as internet culture began hitting its stride, Gen Zers have never experienced a world without smart devices or social media.

That difference, while seemingly negligible, does create an entirely distinct persona. So, what separates Gen Zers from Millennials and other generations? A report from Vision Critical, a Canadian market research firm, sheds some light on a few Gen Z traits.

Here are a few insightful tidbits on Generation Z to ponder:

  • They prefer their smartphones to any other device and consume the least amount of TV content compared with other generations
  • They appreciate creative and edgy content and don’t always respond well to traditional marketing
  • They like videos
  • They’re extremely tech-savvy
  • They identify as DIYers, activists and agents of change

What does this information say about your primary audience?

For starters, that marketing campaigns targeting Gen Z have to be not only mobile-friendly, but mobile-first. That you’ll need to be active on several social media platforms, and it’d help if you promote an altruistic message. And, finally, that you should prioritize video content.

Let’s talk about how to apply these insights to your higher ed site.

Lean Into Edgy via Social Media and Blogs

You have to meet your audience where they are – that’s the golden rule of marketing. That means you have to get comfortable with all those social media platforms, especially ones that feature video content. More than comfortable, you’ll need to be fluent in social media-speak.

Embrace the Meme Culture

Memes correspond to the Gen Z preference for creativity, comic relief and edginess. They’ve also evolved into a powerful cultural force. Whatever it is you’re selling – whether a college education or a toothbrush – if you attach a topic-appropriate meme to your product, you’ll increase the odds of your marketing campaign going viral. (Just think of Cheryl’s She Shed in that State Farm commercial.)

But meme culture doesn’t just extend to posts on social media – it’s really more of a mindset. As such, it can be extended to other marketing channels, including blogs.

The low hanging fruit here is including or creating a suitable meme in a blog post. This would also add a critical visual element.

Be Everywhere…

… on social media. Gen Zers have their favorite platforms – YouTube, Facebook, Instagram – and they’re active across numerous social media sites, especially ones featuring video content. If they’re there, that means you’ve got to be there, too. And, you’ve got to be there with content that’s fresh, cool, funny and shareable. So, go ahead and start practicing producing those short-form videos.

Be Responsive

One thing many higher ed marketers forget is that social media platforms are two-way communication channels. Posting your curated content is just one half of the equation here.

If you’re going to spend time and energy beefing up your social media game, you’ve got to play it right. That means engaging with the users who comment on your posts. Don’t, don’t, DON’T forget this vital aspect of your social media efforts.

Bells and Whistles for Your Website

It should go without saying that all your social media efforts should lead back to your blog or website. But, when they get there, will your prospects stick around long enough to be compelled into setting up a campus visit or starting an application?

You can increase your conversion odds by including elements that resonate with Gen Zers.

Video Content

If they like video, give ’em video. Instead of a static image in your impact area, load it up with two or three short, action-packed videos that introduce your school in a visually compelling way. Maybe do that for all the important landing pages even.

Don’t stop there. Figuring out what student life is actually like on campus is notoriously difficult for prospective students. But, guess what? Getting a feel for a school is easier when you can see actual students doing real things on campus.

Make videos for all your on-campus housing options and be sure to feature real students. Create a bank of student testimonials to rotate on your Admissions pages. Better yet, harness your own students’ love of sharing by soliciting and posting their videos of campus events.

Make Social Visible

Since you’re going to be working crazy hard on all those social media platforms, be sure that all those awesome posts – and, more importantly, user comments – are highly visible on your website.

It’s not enough to just put up logos of the social media platforms where you have an active account. Incorporate a social media feed into as many of your pages as possible.

One way to signal your social media savvy is by including a social media panel on your homepage.

Personalization

We’ve covered the benefits of personalization in a previous post. One of the biggest benefits of personalized content is that it makes the user feel like you’ve created an experience just for them.

That’s an extremely powerful feeling, and something that Gen Zers are sure to appreciate. A personalized experience is sure to win some brownie points.

Virtual Tours

You can’t always get your prospects on campus for an in-person visit. But you can still make sure that every visitor “walks” the grounds and sees the best of what your school has to offer. This can be accomplished with a virtual tour that features real videos of various locations on your campus.

Just be sure to not skimp on this virtual experience. Gen Zers will absolutely ding you for bad execution.

Beacon Knows Higher Ed

Want to know if your website is meeting the needs of your future students? Beacon can help. Request a complimentary website audit by our digital marketing experts.

27 08, 2019

Taking Your Higher Ed Site International

By | 2019-08-27T12:20:32+00:00 August 27th, 2019|Categories: Digital Marketing, Higher Education|Tags: , , |

The U.S. is home to the largest population of international students in the world. And, up until recently, the number of new international students arriving on U.S. college campuses each year has been climbing higher. However, it appears that the trend might be over.

According to the 2017 Open Doors report from the Institute of International Education (IIE), new international student enrollment in US was down 3.3% in Fall 2016. That drop was followed by a steeper 6.9% decline the following year (Fall 2017).

The most recent Open Doors report (2018) confirms that this is not just a blip:

“new student enrollments fell by 6.6 percent in 2017/18, corroborating findings from the 2017 fall enrollment survey and continuing a slowing or downward trend first observed in the 2015/16 academic year.”

What’s the reason for the reversal?

Analysis by the Migration Policy Institute attributes the decline noted in the 2017 fall enrollment survey to a number of factors, including: visa denials and delays, increasing cost of higher education in the U.S., an uncertain social and political climate, and concerns about securing a job after graduation.

That’s a lot of head wind. Add in concerted efforts by schools in other countries to increase their share of international students, and it’s easy to see that American schools are going to have to work harder to retain their international prospects.

So, what can your school do to better your odds of winning over students from other countries? Glad you asked.

3 Ways to Win Over International Students

As with any audience you are hoping to win over, you need a well-crafted, tailored marketing approach based on the identified needs of your audience members. So, what do international college students look for while skimming your higher ed website?

To begin with, they want to feel welcome and wanted on your campus. They’ll also benefit from an easy-to-follow, step-by-step application process that takes into account all the complexities of international education and travel. Last, but definitely not least, your prospective international students will want to know that there is a campus or nearby community that can give them a taste of home when they’re feeling homesick.

Personalize For Country/Region

Want to convince students from India, Saudi Arabia, China, Brazil or anywhere else that your school is the one for them? A dedicated landing page for native students of each country or region could help you make your case.

Optimally, you’d want an optimized landing page for every country or region that sends a considerable number of students to your school. But, if you’re just getting going, start with your largest, most important international market.

Here are the most important elements you should consider in your page design:

Language  to really make your international prospects feel welcomed and wanted, it’s helpful to be able to speak to them in their language. As such, your optimized country/region page should be written in the native language of the targeted location. You may want to consult with or hire a native speaker to make sure that your page content is written in the vernacular and targeted for the appropriate demographic group.

Student testimonials – students trust their peers, at least more so than other groups. Hearing another international student, who has been through the same process, address common concerns can help prove that your school is dedicated to serving the needs of international students.

Infographics – sometimes numbers can tell a story easier or better than words. If your school has historically drawn a lot of international students from a particular country, make that a point of emphasis and present it in a visually appealing way. Matching great visual design with pertinent data points can help you enhance your pitch.

Videos – ultimately, you want your international prospects to picture themselves on your campus. So, don’t wait for them to find your campus tour videos – feature them prominently on your optimized country/region pages. Just be sure to have the narration translated to the appropriate language(s).

Make Getting to Campus Easy

After you’ve convinced your prospects that your school is right for them, you’ll want to help them with the application, acceptance and enrollment processes. Provide links to the appropriate content from your optimized landing page. If you have the resources, translate these important applications and instructions into students’ native languages. At the very least, provide a clear, step-by-step overview of the application process in the native language.

Providing information about student visas is another way to help your international students and their families. Immigration paperwork can be confusing. Having a clear set of instructions in a language they can understand can go a long way to clearing up concern and answering important questions.

You’ll also want to make sure that your international prospects feel secure about travelling to and from your campus. Make sure to include information about international airports near your school. You can even go as far as providing recommended airlines, routes of travel, etc..

Make Them Feel At Home

After getting in and getting there, fitting in is the next big concern for students coming from different cultures. You’ll want to make sure that you have good content to address these important deliberations. The aim of this content should be two-fold: 1) to assure your international prospects that they’ll be able to easily transition to life on campus, and 2) that a small taste of home is always readily available.

Information about the following topics can help:

International housing – the first dip into American culture can definitely be a bit of a shock. Navigating this unfamiliar territory can be easier with a buddy or a roommate who is going through the same thing. If your school offers special housing for international students, be sure to present them with the option.

Study abroad programs/students – students preparing for a study abroad experience and international students from the host country make for natural match. International students can teach the American students all about their culture, and the American kids can return the favor by helping international students navigate their new surroundings.

Expat communities – when you’re far from home, it can be reassuring to know that even a small taste of your culture is available nearby. Let your international students know if an expatriate community from their home country exists in proximity to your campus. Even better, invite the expat community to your campus for an event celebrating your new-arriving international students.

Beacon Knows Higher Ed Websites

Want to make sure internationally optimized pages are doing as well as possible? Let Beacon’s team of experts take a look. Request a complimentary higher ed website audit today.

7 08, 2019

Getting Your Freshman Class On Campus

By | 2019-08-08T07:05:15+00:00 August 7th, 2019|Categories: Digital Marketing, Higher Education, Web Development, Social Media|Tags: , , |

From a student’s perspective, picking the right college is getting more and more complicated. It might seem contradictory at a time when applying to schools is easier than ever. But, that reality is backed up by data.

A 2017 study noted that 35% of college freshmen apply to seven or more schools. That percentage more than doubled from just a decade ago. With more students applying to more schools in recent years, getting your freshman class on campus is becoming increasingly harder.

Today, college admissions officials can reasonably expect only 1 in 3 admitted applicants to actually enroll at their school. At the start of the century, that ratio was closer to 1 in 2. For higher ed marketers, who do so much to attract qualified applicants, it can be deflating watching their hard work walk out the proverbial door.

But, you can’t blame the students. Major life decisions are hard. Evaluating more options is just a smart way to make prudent choices.

What you can do is accept that the landscape has changed. Today, you might need to do a little, or a lot, more hand-holding to get your students into your classrooms.

How best to cut through the noise and make yourself be heard?

An integrated marketing campaign can be one of the better ways to maintain contact with your prospects between decision day and move-in day.

What is Integrated Marketing?

This is one of those terms that sounds more intimidating than it really is. Integrated marketing describes multi-channel campaigns aimed at specific audiences or the general public at large.

This isn’t a new concept. It’s just that, with the proliferation of new media – various social media platforms, YouTube, blogs, podcasts, etc – integrated marketing has gotten a bit more complicated and a degree more intense.

Before the rise of the internet, marketers just had to worry about matching content between print, TV and, maybe, radio. Today the media landscape is more complex, requiring more advanced tactics and strategies.

At it’s core, however, the concept is the same: reach audiences everywhere they are with a consistent, tailored message.

Why Integrated Marketing Works for Higher Ed 

Your target audience is a multi-tasking, online-savvy, info-hungry, anxious teenager. If you harbor hopes of capturing her attention, you need to keep a consistent brand presentation and message across multiple media channels.

More than that, you need to be there with pertinent content when she’s searching for answers or trying to quell her concerns. There are lots of questions and uncertainties that rising college freshmen have. If you can show her that, 1) you understand her concerns, and 2) have the answers she’s looking for, you’ll gain trust.

That trust is a big advantage when decision-making time arrives – whenever that is.

How to Get Students On Campus with Integrated Marketing

Let’s see how integrated marketing campaigns can help boost that admitted-to-enrolled ratio. Again, you’ll need a coordinated strategy encompassing your primary marketing channels (website, search, email) as well as the media platforms your target audience is known to use (social media, blogs, videos).

We’ll use a specific scenario to demonstrate how an integrated marketing campaign can work:

Emma has been accepted to your school, along with a few of your peer institutions. She’s undecided, but your school ranks in her top three. Emma is interested in studying natural sciences, and your school has top-tier Biology and Chemistry programs. She’s also on the shy side and worries about making friends and finding a comfort zone.

You can use the below channels to maintain contact with Emma and increase the odds of her picking your school.

Blog

Blogs are an excellent way of creating content for niche topics and categories. What topics might resonate with Emma?

A post from a chemistry major about a cool summer internship could entice a click. As could a student review of the chemistry department highlighting favorite faculty members and classes. Write-up of cutting-edge research by a faculty member may also stir interest.

Emma may also appreciate learning about your school’s on-campus environment. Posts describing a rich student life, including clubs and other student organizations, could paint a nice picture and allay her concern about finding groups to fit in with.

A post describing the challenges of being new to the campus and providing  suggestions for best ways to explore the school’s surroundings is also likely to hit home for Emma.

Social Media

Those blog ideas are all good and well. But, how will Emma find them?

This goes back to the importance of being where your target audience hangs out. And teenagers tend to spend a lot of time with social media.

Creating social media posts that link to your blog content is a no-brainer way to get in front of your prospective students. Just make sure the tone matches the content of the blog post.

Success here is having Emma click to follow your account, which would allow you to drip more content into her feed.

Paid Search Remarketing

So, let’s say Emma spotted one of your posts on Instagram and clicked on the accompanying blog on what to expect on campus. A good next step would be to remind her about important dates (housing registration, freshman orientation, class registration, etc).

This can be accomplished with PPC remarketing ad campaigns, which would be initiated by Emma’s view of the blog and include calls-to-action geared to registration.

Email Marketing

Another way to get your blog and other content in front of Emma is through email. The open-rate for email marketing campaigns tend to be low. Nonetheless, you’ll (hopefully) be sending important information through this channel in the future. So, it makes sense to initiate and keep contact via email.

If Emma does end up choosing your school, you can apply email campaigns to prompt her to register for orientation, classes, etc.

Texting

Another thing that teens do a lot? They text – those speedy little thumbs moving faster than the eye can see.

Text messages are another great way to remind Emma about important registration dates.

Website

All of your efforts in the above marketing channels should lead Emma back to your website. After all, that’s where conversions happen – all those registrations you hope Emma will complete.

Beacon Knows Higher Ed Websites

Want to make sure your website is ready to handle all that traffic from your integrated marketing campaigns? Beacon can help. Request a complimentary website audit from our team of experts.

24 07, 2019

Students Are Ripe Pickings for Web Content

By | 2019-07-24T09:22:21+00:00 July 24th, 2019|Categories: Digital Marketing, Higher Education|Tags: , , |

Have you ever seen the movie Big?

Definitely one of Tom Hanks’ best. If you don’t recall, it’s the one where he plays a 12 year-old boy – Josh Baskin – who makes a wish to be “big” and wakes up in the body of a 30 year-old man the next morning. Before he finds a way to turn back into a pre-teen, Josh has to navigate the world as an adult, including getting a job as a data entry clerk for a toy manufacturer. Hilarious antics ensue.

In the process, Josh lands a top executive post with the company he works for. How? He demonstrates an uncanny ability to correctly predict the market sentiment toward new toy products. Because he’s really a kid, and he actually plays with the toys the company designs, Josh is able to provide an accurate prediction of how much other kids would enjoy the same toys.

Josh’s insights move the needle because they come from the point of view of the company’s target demographic.

Can you guess why we’re dissecting this 80’s-ear movie like we’re the Harvard Business Review? If you’re thinking because it perfectly illustrates why colleges and universities should be looking to their own students more for compelling website content, give yourself a pat on the back.

Sometimes, the best marketing tactic is to let your real customers talk to your prospective customers. In the world of higher ed, that means having your current students speak to the prospects you hope to see as part of your next freshman class.

Let’s talk about how that can be best accomplished.

Academic Content

What do prospective students look for on your website?

Unsurprisingly, information about academic programs tops the list of factors high school seniors consider when adding a school to their short list. So, if your school’s program pages have thin content or are difficult to find, optimization efforts in these areas could yield some quick gains for your site.

But prospective students are not just looking into their curriculum choices and scoping out the faculty. Research indicates that they’re also looking for information about what graduates do when they hit the job market and how well the program prepares them for success in the real world. However, this information is rarely provided.

This is precisely where the voices of real students can carry the most weight. This 2016 article on InsideHigherEd makes an excellent case for current students and recent alumni to be featured on well-designed, easy to find pages dedicated to your school’s academic majors.

Student Spotlights

The best way to help prospective students see themselves on your campus is to introduce them to someone who is just like them, and who has only just recently been where they are. Student spotlights are a great way to accomplish that goal.

A couple of suggestions for these write-ups.

First, recognize that teens love video content. Incorporating a clip as part of the narrative, or using the medium as the primary mode of presentation, will be sure to engage the attention of page visitors.

Secondly, authenticity counts more than polish. This means, whenever possible, you should let the students speak for themselves. Have them write the spotlight piece in their own voice, or record a video using their own phone. Remember, prospective students identify better with their peers.

Social media posts 

Speaking of identifying with peers… when high school seniors want to know what’s really going on on your campus, they check social media. And, considering that one of the golden rules of marketing is to meet your audience where they are, the case for investing your time and efforts into developing your school’s social media presence is a good one.

A great way to demonstrate authenticity and gain a social media following for your school social media accounts is to involve your current students and alumni in creating your social media content.

Summer Internship Write-ups

This goes back to the importance of speaking to the needs that your audience has expressed. Rising college freshmen want to know as much as possible about the kinds of jobs they can expect to compete for after graduating from your program. First-hand accounts of summer internships with a prestigious company or organization can go a long way to paint a picture of what’s possible.

Beacon Knows Higher Ed Content

Could you use some help optimizing your higher ed site performance. Beacon’s content experts can help fine tune your content strategy. Request a free website audit to get started.

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