10 04, 2018

Higher Ed Focus Groups & Surveys: Are You Listening to Your Students?

By | 2018-04-06T11:11:16+00:00 April 10th, 2018|Categories: Higher Education|Tags: , , , , |

Colleges and universities are in a constant state of change. Every year, graduates leaving for the “real world” are replaced on campus by an incoming freshman class.

While the demographic mix of incoming classes at a given school typically changes little year to year, the students themselves — their interests, use of technology, social media interactions — are prone to more frequent change.

So, how do higher education institutions keep up with the changing student profile? How do they ensure that their communication efforts achieve the wanted response? As with any marketing endeavor, understanding your target audience is essential to meeting your goals.

Focus Groups Are an Excellent Source of Qualitative Data

One way to get to know your audience is with an in-depth focus group interview. There are many focus group designs — dueling moderators, respondents-as-moderator, dual group, and more. But, the classic format involves one or two moderators leading the session, and a group of eight to 12 participants answering questions.

Focus groups provide the opportunity to gain deep insight into the attitudes, beliefs, behaviors and opinions of your target audience. In a higher education setting, the audience can be students already on campus, incoming students, or even parents of students (since they have a tendency to know their student pretty well).

Of course, you want to be selective in choosing your focus group participants. As the video demonstrates, “puppies” do tend to skew results.

You’ll also want to make sure that the group you end up interviewing is demographically representative of your target audience.

Surveys Provide Measurable, Quantitative Data

Another way to gain insight into your target audience is through surveys. In a survey, a small percentage of your target audience provides answers to a predetermined set of questions. The questions can be multiple choice, true/false, fill in the blank, or open-ended. If the goal of your survey is measurable data, you’ll want to focus on the first three types and avoid open-ended questions.

Surveys can be conducted as an interview (in-person, telephone, or video conference) or as a questionnaire (via email, snail mail, or online session). To get the most out of your survey, the questions should take five minutes or less to complete and be available to participants for at least two weeks. Providing an incentive (cash, school supplies, or coupons) and getting the word out to student influencers (club presidents, student government representatives, etc) can help boost your response rate.

Applying Your Data

So, you’ve collected your answers. Now what?

The next step is to analyze the data and pull out relevant insights. With focus group results, you’ll need to carefully examine each person’s responses, organize the answers into categories, and evaluate how the data applies to your research goals. The following questions can help:

  • What big themes emerge from the responses?
  • Do the responses confirm a known, or lead to a new discovery?
  • Do the responses change your perspective?
  • What insights can be gleaned?

Because survey results are typically numerical, the analysis process is more straightforward. Simply tabulate your results and draw conclusions from the final data.

Need Some Help Getting Started?

Beacon has managed countless focus groups and surveys on behalf of our clients. These tools are important aspects of the research and strategic analysis we perform for any successful website development or redesign projects. For expert advice, reach out to our Digital Marketing Services team today, or call us at (866) 708-1467.

15 03, 2018

OUTC18: Beacon on Accessibility

By | 2018-03-14T12:40:16+00:00 March 15th, 2018|Categories: Higher Education|Tags: , |

There is no doubt that ADA compliance and accessibility is the hot button issue for today’s college and university websites. Compelled by section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, federal agencies and institutions that receive federal funding must make their websites accessible to all users. Questions remain. For example, what does web accessibility look like? And how do we get there?

At this year’s OmniUpdate User Training Conference, Keana Lynch, Beacon’s Director of UX Design & Development will draw on a wealth of experience with accessibility issues, offering valuable advice on recognizing issues and developing strategies to reach and maintain accessibility goals.  From site evaluation to action plan, get the perspective and tools you need to get ahead of any future user issues or litigation.

OUTC18 will take place from March 25 – 29 at the Hyatt Regency Orange County in Anaheim, CA. The OmniUpdate User Training Conference brings together higher ed content managers from all over the country to discuss the latest news, strategies and best practices for college and university websites. Broaden your knowledge base with workshops and training sessions and network with like-minded professionals from all across the higher ed space. Registration closes Friday, March 16. Register HERE.

13 03, 2018

Remarketing & Enrollment: Why it Works for Colleges & Universities

By | 2018-03-15T15:01:43+00:00 March 13th, 2018|Categories: Higher Education, PPC|Tags: , , , |

If you’re reading this article, you probably have at least a basic understanding of how remarketing works. For those who do not, remarketing ads identify those with a predisposition towards your product and nudge them to buy (or take some action).

Here’s the scenario: A user visits the admissions page for AGU (Amazingly Great University). Since AGU runs a remarketing campaign through Google, a cookie is placed that identifies the user after he or she leaves said website. The ad may be an enticement to request a course catalog, arrange for a campus visit or any number of desirable actions. As they visit other websites, your remarketing ads remind them of their initial interest and what they found compelling about your school.

Conversion rates tend to be greater with remarketing ads as the subject or target has already shown a familiarity with your school or interest in your product (an education). And the numbers say that the reminder, the subtle nudge often does the trick. Ultimately, they come back for more.

What makes Remarketing more effective for Higher Ed?

In the world of Higher Ed, the sales funnel is a protracted one. Leads must be nurtured over time as the selection of a college or university is a decision of great magnitude and has so many moving parts. It’s not something we typically do impetuously.

Remarketing campaigns appeal to a more deliberate decision making process. They can tactfully remind the potential student of the things they may have found attractive about your school or even entice a prospect to look elsewhere if your ad strategy is faulty.

Segmentation & Remarketing Strategy for Higher Ed

Segmenting your audience is the first step on the way to developing a sound remarketing strategy. Since Google enables you to target viewers based on a number of behaviors (users who visited your site or just a specific page, took a particular action, etc.), you can develop a tiered strategy based on these audiences. For example, your remarketing pitch may have a different message for those who visit your tuition and costs page as opposed to those who spend time perusing the course catalog for your school of business. Intent based segmentation can yield great results.

You’ll likely want to target your prospects by geography, too. Campus visits are easier to get if the prospect is within a reasonable travel radius, for example. Facebook offers remarketing that enables geographical targeting, too. So Facebook remarketing becomes an option for this group.

For all groups, set frequency limits for your remarketing ads. Hit them too hard and you may alienate them.

Test Your Ad Copy

Use A/B testing to determine your most effective ad copy. Try using different copy, CTA’s, and ad placements. Even after settling on a successful campaign method and copy, change the design from time to time as ads can become stale or fade into the background after a while.

What You Need to Know About Higher Ed Remarketing

Still got questions? Beacon is one of the premier digital marketing firms for Higher Ed and we’d love the opportunity to show you why. Feel free to contact me directly or give the DMS team at Beacon a call to discuss your institution and enrollment. I’d love to talk strategy with you and suggest a course of action tailored to your specific student audience(s).

 

19 02, 2018

5 Reasons to Perform Regular Website Audits

By | 2018-02-20T10:31:47+00:00 February 19th, 2018|Categories: Higher Education, Web Development|Tags: , |

Whether you’re preparing for a website redesign or simply looking to optimize your existing website, regular website audits are a must. Here are the 5 top reasons you need to perform regular website audits:

Usability is the Key to Engagement

What do the users of your website look for? What do they interact with and how do we ensure that they leave having had a satisfactory visit?  Optimizing the experience for your user is a matter of getting inside his or her head. Understanding their behavior is key to identifying opportunities for improvement. Concise navigation is key.

Done right, a usability audit will help you identify the shortest point between your user’s arrival and whatever it is that came looking for. In other words, it’s about goal optimization. If usability is poor, your visitor leaves without having made a purchase or having provided a lead. It’s a poor experience for everyone involved.

Accessibility Avoids Lawsuits

Accessibility is a hot button issue, especially for colleges and universities. ADA (or Americans with Disabilities Act) compliance guidelines are meant to compel institutions of higher education (and anyone in the public space) to make provisions for those with disabilities.

The DOE has become more diligent in the enforcement of ADA and specifically Title II (applying to any institution that receives federal monies from the DOE). Should the DOE’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) find reason to file a suit against you or your school, they may very well do so.

Even more litigation results from the claims of students with disabilities. The National Federation of the Blind or the National Association of the Deaf often file complaints with the DOJ Civil Rights Division on behalf of these students.

Video accessibility (or lack thereof) is a common source of these complaints. However, ADA is complex and there are many other forms of online educational material that must also be made accessible. Develop an institutional policy that governs accessibility. Made necessary changes based on this policy. It may be advisable to consult an expert in ADA accessibility or a web development professional before developing such a policy.

ADA compliance can be difficult to interpret and even harder to implement. However, after a thorough audit, a qualified web developer will have a good idea where you stand and what you should do to get up to speed with ADA compliance guidelines.

Speaking of speed…

Load Speed: You get one chance at a 1st impression

Load speed (or the time it takes for a page to fully load) is important for the most basic of reasons. Research suggests that if a page takes in excess of 3 seconds to load, you’ve already lost 25% of your users. A similar thing happens with conversions. For each second of increased speed, you can expect a 2% improvement in conversions.

Page speed is a significant factor in SEO, too. Google has incorporated page speed into its ranking algorithm since 2010 and it has since placed even greater importance on this factor.

Dense image files and overuse of javascript are common culprits when page speed is below par. There are many online tools to measure and/or grade your page speed. While one can easily diagnose an issue, it may be wise to have a professional provide an insightful guide to remedy whatever may be ailing your page load time.

Optimized Forms Convert Better

Despite what some may say, there are no rules as to what works and what doesn’t. Only testing and optimization will provide you with those answers.

For example, it is generally understood that a lead generation form should not be too lengthy or ask too many intrusive questions. Also, a protracted pathway to conversion is desirable. Yet, there have been some notable successes with two or even three step conversion forms. The psychology for this makes complete sense.

People can become overwhelmed when they see too many questions on a lead generation form. When you divide the lead path into two parts, you may see greater completion rates. Since users generally prefer a shorter path to conversion, this may seem counter-intuitive at first.

However, users don’t like long forms and when they see too many questions at once, they bolt. So, by asking only a few surface questions on step one of your form and a few slightly more penetrating questions in step two, it appears to the user that they’ve been asked to do less. The only way to know if this works for you is to A/B test.

To further minimize effort, set question defaults. Optimize question types and provide drop-downs for ease of use.

Since mobile technologies are changing almost constantly, optimize your forms for mobile devices regularly. Use the proper mobile markup. If you use a captcha, that may be costing you leads as well. A/B test without one. There are spam filters that will do nearly as good a job anyway.

Content Writing Has Changed

This is true as it applies to user engagement as well as SEO. We’ll discuss them both separately.

Engagement

Users’ habits have changed considerably, too. Video drives traffic much more than ever before. Users not only engage with video content, they expect it. If you want eyeballs, you want video. Adding new, relevant video content is a key to improving engagement.

Go “all in” on visual elements. Don’t scrimp on photos. And interactive content shared through Instagram and other social media outlets is a must.

SEO

In the early days of SEO writing (the 1990’s and before), the objective was to appeal to a search engine algorithm rather than the end user. Back then, keyword stuffing was the norm. A myriad of keyword iterations were used on numerous pages, creating a redundancy that could actually be off-putting to the same users you were trying to appeal to.

In the late 00’s, Google’s algorithm changed considerably. The algorithm became more sophisticated. However, keyword signals still required some specificity and incoming links were very influential. Writing for SEO (to show up well in search rankings) didn’t mean the same thing as it did back in the 90’s.

Today, Google’s algorithm has been refined to focus on the fulfillment of the user’s search. In short, the algorithm is much better at measuring intent and providing a satisfactory result. What that means is that the content that best solves the searcher’s intent is much more likely to rank best. Whereas keyword matching was an imperative a few years back, intent matching is far more effective now.

Get out in front of possible issues with regular audits.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Regular website audits will not only boost your conversion rates, they may very well keep you out of court. The IT & SEO experts at Beacon can assist you in such an audit as well as providing remedies to any issues that we may identify. Send me an email or call Beacon today at (877) 994-6955 for more information.

 

15 11, 2017

These Digital Marketing Tips Can Jump-Start your School’s Enrollment

By | 2017-11-08T13:43:37+00:00 November 15th, 2017|Categories: Digital Marketing, Higher Education|Tags: , , , |

In a recent survey, 51% of those between the ages of 18 and 29 said they could not imagine living without a smartphone. In a separate survey, 78% or high school students said that websites influence their perception of a school. This accentuates the changing landscape and hints toward the future of marketing in the Higher Ed space.

With an increasingly competitive environment, schools are becoming more and more creative when attempting to lure prospective students. We not only need to use our digital marketing budgets carefully, we need to use them creatively, too.

I’d like to share with you just a few ways in which colleges are leveraging digital marketing and social media to successfully jump-start their school’s enrollment.

3 Proven Ways to Boost Enrollment

Social Media can be a great tool for brand awareness and enhancement. That’s just the half of it. Social media can improve retention throughout the admissions funnel as well as to curb “summer melt” (accepted students who never enroll).

Through Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram, prospective students can stay on top of the application process. You can inform them of important deadlines and answer application questions. Since the vast majority of students use these platforms on a daily basis, social media can make a real difference in improving student yield.

Blogs are a great way to get the word out on deadlines, too. More than that, it’s a place to share information with all your target audiences including faculty, alumni, athletic boosters and the surrounding community. The reason a blog is desirable in addition to social media is that your content lives here. It is indexed by Google and matures, improving your position in organic search rankings.

It’s important to be constantly adding new content. Make use of this content on your social media channels as well so as to get the most from any new content you create.

The National Student Clearinghouse. This one is more of an overall tip but has digital marketing implications. Purdue University’s Office of Enrollment Management took a closer look at students who chose to attend elsewhere. Through information made available at the National Student Clearinghouse, the enrollment management team was able to identify where these students eventually enrolled. This enabled them to better understand who their competitors are.

Some students are predisposed to attend college in state. There are various reasons for this. However, by examining the behavior of students who have the means to attend anywhere, a school can hone in on its primary competition.

Break down your data, perhaps by state or region. What patterns emerge? The good folks at Purdue were able to determine that students on the East coast were more likely to attend out of state institutions. This was just one of many insights gained through PU’s research.

It’s Our Niche

Beacon has been recognized as one of the top Higher Ed web design and digital marketing firms in the country. If you’d like the kind of insight into student behavior that 20 years of Higher Ed website design provides, we’re here to help. Feel free to contact me with questions regarding your institution’s admissions goals or call a member of the Beacon digital marketing team at 1.855.851.0109.

 

 

9 11, 2017

Surveys: Get the Right Input for your Redesign

By | 2017-11-08T13:42:37+00:00 November 9th, 2017|Categories: Higher Education, Web Development|Tags: , |

The success of your redesign depends upon how thoroughly you understand your audience.  Your results are only as good as your preliminary research. Before you begin, ask the experts – the end users. Getting the right input may be the most important part of the redesign process.

Know Your User(s)

Many organizations have several audiences. For example, colleges must appeal to students, faculty, current students and alumni. Each have different needs and wants.  To properly address each user subset, you’ll likely need to create a different survey for each focus group.

Question Structure

There are two types of questions, fixed response and open ended. Each serves a purpose, however, you’ll want to lean heavier on structured questions. Respondents can be hopelessly vague when answering open ended questions.

Structured questions may include Yes/No, nominal or ordinal questions, just to name a few types. Choosing the right type of question will help determine how insightful the answers are. For example, instead of asking “Were you happy with the website navigation?” (yes/no question), you may wish to ask “How happy were you with the website navigation?”. Follow that with multiple choice options (very satisfied, somewhat satisfied, neutral, unsatisfied, or very unsatisfied). This can help you prioritize initiatives while in the planning phase of your redesign effort.

Regardless of type, make sure you’re specific. For example, instead of asking a question like “Do you take online classes often?” try something like “How many online classes did you take last semester?”

Construct questions that are simple and direct. If the question is a bit nebulous, then break it down into multiple questions rather than being vague.

What Questions Should You Ask?

The first step to understanding your user is to focus on their experience with your existing site. Find out what they like and dislike. That way, you’ll know what traits to carry over to the new design and what you’ll want to scrap. Asking a multiple choice question such as “What is the first method you use to find information on the website?” This way, you’ll know whether users prefer to use site search as opposed to the site’s navigation. This can go a long way toward determining what you emphasize with your redesign.

When you phrase your questions, focus on the user’s first impressions. Remember the 59 Second Rule*. Make sure you cover the most significant aspects of engagement such as design, content, imagery, navigation, and social media. Since demographic groups consume information in dramatically different ways, you’ll want to address device usage, too.

Using the prestigious (and imaginary) Beacon University as our subject, here are just a few examples of the types of questions you’ll want to ask:

  • Assuming the Beacon University website were accessible on all devices, what device would you most likely visit the site with? (multiple choice)
  • Rate your experience using certain areas of the website. (multiple choice)
  • What are the three top reasons you visited the Beacon University website? (open-ended)
  • Compared to other college or university websites, how would you rate the Beacon University site? (multiple choice)

Again, your questions will differ depending on the demographic you’re addressing. However, the questions above should provide some insight into the type of question one must ask and how to ask it.

Analyzing Survey Results

Look for patterns within your results. While common responses are important to note, the same can be said for outliers. Sometimes, surprises bring the greatest insights.

Here at Beacon, we typically provide a strategic document prepared from the survey results. Provided to designated stakeholders, a Beacon strategist meets with marketing staff or the organization’s website committee to discuss the results in depth and its implications on the planned website redesign.

Questions or Comments

As one of the nation’s premier Higher Ed. And retail redesign firms, Beacon has been providing colleges and online retailers with redesign consultation and services for almost 20 years. We invite questions or comments regarding all aspects of website redesign, not just the survey process.  Feel free to contact me or call one of our team members at 1.855.467.5447 with questions or leave a comment below.

10 10, 2017

Setting Conversion Goals for your College or University Website

By | 2017-10-12T08:24:19+00:00 October 10th, 2017|Categories: Digital Marketing, Higher Education|Tags: , , |

More than likely, you’ve installed the required Google Analytics tracking code on your website. You already peruse the monthly totals for visits, session duration and bounce rate. You have an idea what pages are most popular with visitors. However, unless you’ve set up the right conversion goals, you don’t really know which pages lead to a request for more information or even more importantly, an application.

Once you begin tracking this information, you can start asking a whole host of important questions such as:

  • What content is most likely to lead to a conversion?
  • Do mobile visitors convert at a better rate than desktop?
  • How can I get more conversion?

Setting Large and Small Conversion Goals

Your goals will depend upon the type of landing page it applies to. For example, for an admissions page it would likely be an application submission. By contrast, a request for a course catalog may be more appropriate for a program page.

Set both large and small goals, not unlike the way a football coach sets team goals for first downs as well as total points. After all, little successes often lead to bigger ones. This is particularly applicable for Higher Ed as the application process has so many touch points and each suggests an increased level of commitment.

A video view or email inquiry regarding a sporting event may be considered a small goal. A PDF download or request for a catalog suggests greater interest and may lie somewhere in the middle. An application submission is a more significant goal, obviously. Knowing what drives the earlier goals may very well provide you with the needed strategy to lead visitors to an application submission.

At a minimum, consider setting up conversion goals for:

  • Video Views
  • From Submissions
  • Virtual Tour Views
  • Requests for Campus Tours
  • Emails to Admissions Office and Faculty
  • PDF Downloads
  • Applications
  • Class Registrations

Higher Ed: PPC and Conversion Goals

If you spend a dime on PPC and don’t have the proper conversion goals in place, then you must have a money tree outside your office.

It goes without saying that 99% of those who visit your website don’t complete an application. However, many have converted on a lesser level. You’ve invested a significant portion of your marketing dollars in PPC. The information you gain from the smaller conversion can help you direct these same people through the conversion funnel and eventually, to an application. Why would you ever let these leads evaporate into thin air?

How ‘Bout Remarketing?

The enrollment funnel is longer than that of normal sales funnels. This gives students ample opportunity to leave for a variety of reasons. Remarketing keeps your ads in the front row and your school in the consciousness of the prospect.

Here’s how it works. The student’s initial visit generates a cookie which triggers your ad after they’ve left your site. Your ad may appear once again when they visit similar or competing websites. Conversion rates are generally much higher for these types of ads as the prospect has already expressed some kind of interest in your school.

The Bottom Line

At Beacon, we’ve been helping marketing professionals in Higher Ed effectively grow their digital presence for more than 20 years. If you have any questions regarding your school’s Google Analytics conversion goal set up, I encourage you to email me or call a Beacon team member at 1.855.851.0109. We’ll help clarify the admissions funnel and get you on the road to increased enrollment in no time.

4 10, 2017

Creating a Focus Group for Your Higher Ed Redesign – Part 2

By | 2017-10-11T07:45:01+00:00 October 4th, 2017|Categories: Higher Education|Tags: , |

Below is part two of “How to Create an Effective Focus Group for Your Higher Ed Redesign”. To read part one, visit here.

How to Choose a Focus Group Moderator

A moderator is much more than a note taker. You’ll need one of those, too. However, your moderator will be responsible for eliciting the most from your focus group. The moderator has a profound effect on the success (or failure) of your focus group as they are expected to set a relaxed tone, keep the discussion focused, observe body language and other cues, and create an environment that elicits the most valuable input from your participants.

Moderators must be good listeners. They must be able to manage a group dynamic and facilitate the kind of environment that makes participants want to share. Moderators have different styles. However, a good moderator will adapt to the personality of the focus group. For example, a moderator may joke with student participants while taking a more serious tact with faculty or administrators.

An experienced moderator will effectively manage the group and keep everyone focused. A good listener can ask the right follow up questions and get your participants to share things they might not otherwise.

Analyzing the Results

Before any analysis begins, take a few moments immediately after the focus group leaves to recall the day’s events and fill in any gaps that may exist in your notes. If you’ve taped the session, transcribe it immediately and note any observations regarding body language or behavioral anomalies within the context of the conversation.

After you’ve got each answer grouped with the question it addresses, take a look at your data and ask yourself the following:

  • For each question, are there any responses that stand out?
  • Does the data answer your research objectives?
  • Are there any recurring themes?
  • Are these themes unexpected?
  • What insights have been gained?

Writing a Focus Group Report

A report on your findings should begin with a summary of your objectives. What specifically did you hope to learn from the focus group?

Be sure to include your methodology. How many different focus groups were there, how large were these groups and what questions did the moderator ask the focus group in the search for answers?

What stood out from the answers provided by the focus groups? Provide a bulleted list of key takeaways that can be scanned at a glance. These will serve as talking points when stakeholders gather to discuss redesign priorities and strategy.

Summarize Your Findings and Make Recommendations

Highlight repetitive themes, particularly if they directly address previously stated concerns and objectives. What do these findings mean for the proposed redesign? Based on your redesign objectives and focus group feedback, make recommendations to the stakeholders involved.

As one of the nation’s premier website builders for Higher Ed., Beacon has been providing colleges and universities with redesign consultation and services for almost 20 years. We invite questions or comments regarding your redesign goals. Feel free to contact me or call one of our team members at 1.855.467.5447.

This concludes part two of two. Read part one of “Creating a Focus Group for your Higher Ed Redesign” here.

19 09, 2017

Creating a Focus Group for Your Higher Ed Redesign – Pt1

By | 2017-09-21T12:51:06+00:00 September 19th, 2017|Categories: Higher Education|Tags: , |

(This is part one of a two part article)

At the time it was created, your website may have met every online objective defined by university administrators. However, things change with time. Shifting technologies, user habits and objectives change the ways in which we appeal to our target audience. A website redesign is needed every now and then. With so many audiences to address including students, prospective students, alumni, and more, this can seem a daunting task. What works well with your existing design? What needs to be changed? You may have your own ideas however, you can’t know what every user may be thinking.

Assembling a Focus Group

There are numerous ways to collect user data to assist you in your redesign. You can send a user survey or questionnaire, for example. While this method can provide some useful information, your feedback is one dimensional as there is no way to ask for explanation. Additionally, one cannot read the subject’s body language or witness the group dynamic. There is no opportunity for give and take.

I strongly suggest conducting focus groups in person, if possible. In person groups allow for follow up questions and clarification. One can more easily identify agreement across the group, provoke thought and prompt participants to offer suggestions.

Identify Your Primary Audience

Before you go any further, it is imperative that you identify your target audience(s). There may be many different potential user groups you’d like to address with your redesign. However, when you try to please everyone, you often please no one. So identify the 3 or 4 major players. This ensures that your website will have the required focus to be effective. It also works to keep your focus group at a manageable number.

How big should your focus group be?

I’ve found that the best way to facilitate the desired give and take is to keep the size of each group at around 10-15 individuals. Once you get beyond 15, it’s a case of diminishing returns. It becomes difficult for a moderator to steer the conversation and ask follow up questions if there are too many voices in the room.

Inviting Focus Group Participants

Be aware of the fact that each of your focus groups behave differently. That’s why they’re here. This extends to their willingness to participate. Extend invitations to more students than any other group. Their participation levels tend to be lower than others so provide an incentive to attend. For students, free food often does the trick.

How to Develop Questions for a Focus Group

While there are a certain number of questions you absolutely need the answer to, allow for ample time to address questions that your focus group participants have. These can be as illuminating as any questions you may have. Plan on 10 or fewer questions per 60 minute session. Answers to these will very likely lead to new questions you may have not anticipated. While the questions will differ for each of your four focus groups, there are some basic guidelines designed to facilitate meaningful responses and avoid “yes” and “no” answers.

Remember to:

  • Arrange your questions in a logical order.
  • Start with higher level questions and get more granular as you go.
  • Ask open ended questions. These include questions that address design, content and intended usage and require more than a “yes” or “no” answer.
  • Encourage questions by participants.

This concludes part one of a two part article entitled “Creating a Focus Group for your Higher Ed Redesign”. As one of the nation’s premier website builders for Higher Ed, Beacon has been providing colleges and universities with redesign consultation and services for almost 20 years. We invite questions or comments regarding your redesign goals. Feel free to contact me or call one of our team members at 1.855.467.5447.

6 09, 2017

PPC Tips and Strategies for Increasing Student Yield

By | 2017-09-01T09:28:27+00:00 September 6th, 2017|Categories: Higher Education, PPC|Tags: , , , |

While one may or may not think of a college or university as a business, there is no arguing that those involved in student enrollment mean business. The playing field is more competitive every day. This is evidenced by the fact that more and more schools use PPC (pay per click) advertising as part of their appeal.

Since many more in your target audience communicate through digital channels than in the days when you and I went to school, it goes without saying that it doesn’t pay to stick with just traditional means of promotion. Besides, at the rate that the enrollment landscape is changing, PPC almost qualifies as traditional.

PPC Strategies for Higher Ed

Unlike large, profit generating entities, most colleges have limited budgets to work with. This means that while one may encourage ones students to experiment, to “find themselves”, you don’t want your marketing people to have to do so, too.

Make sure you have a clearly defined strategy going in. Higher Ed keywords are generally very expensive (again, the Higher Ed space is VERY competitive), so it’s essential that you use your marketing dollars efficiently. That having been said…

Branded Campaigns Don’t Work for Higher Ed

Many businesses use branded campaigns to make sure their competitors don’t pick off shoppers who are looking to pilfer their customers. However, your audience differs from most. With a college website, many students, alumni and faculty use the website as a constant resource.

Since you’re already at the top for a branded search, you don’t want to waste your money paying for those who choose to access your site through a PPC add. That’s a sure way to burn through your ad budget and see minimal return.

Higher Ed Remarketing Ads Do, Though

The enrollment funnel for Higher Ed is protracted when compared to other competitive spaces. That being the case, a conversion rarely happens as part of an early touch. This is true across the board, unless your brand is so big that you don’t need to advertise. That’s a very exclusive club.

Remarketing ads follow visitors from their initial visit to your site (or mobile App). As they visit other competing sites, your ad will pop up, keeping your school fresh in their mind. It’s a great way to maintain a familiarity and nurture the process. These remarketing ads can include periodic offerings such as a limited time discount on an application fee in exchange for contact information.

Get even more granular by using Google’s RLSA’s. You can target users based on their behavior, which page on your site they visited and how long they stayed. So, if they visited the page for your dental school, they’ll receive remarketing ads specific to that discipline.

Higher Ed PPC & Mobile

Make sure the landing pages for your PPC ads are responsive. Recent surveys indicate that roughly 80% of high school seniors and their parents view college websites on their phones. If your site is mobile friendly, you’ll also be able to take advantage of Google’s new Expanded Text.

You’ve spent the money to get your visitors to your website. Don’t blow the experience now.

And that’s Just the Beginning

Want to know more about how you can pull more candidates into your school’s enrollment funnel? Beacon is recognized as one of the top Higher Ed web design firms in the country. We’ve been helping colleges and universities with PPC marketing for over 20 years. Feel free to contact me with questions regarding your institution’s admissions goals or call a member of the Beacon digital marketing team at 1.855.851.0109.

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