The Keys to a Content Marketing Campaign Done Right

Geneva, 11-14 September 2018: EAIE will present Europe's largest international higher education conference at Palais des Expositions et des Congrès.

The theme for EAIE 2018 is ‘Facing outward.’ And in case you’re wondering what everyone’s going to be talking about, sessions named How to achieve your student recruitment goals with content marketing and Secrets of marketing and recruitment geeks have proved super-popular with early bookers.

So why does content marketing matter so much for international student recruitment in 2018? Well, only a small fraction of international students are recruited as they graduate high school. They tend to lack the information, the context, and the confidence to consider international study until a few years later. Young students may be overly worried about visa issues, lack a sense of what it’s like to study in the target country, and the resources to make a reconnaissance trip for more information.

This is a huge opportunity for schools that believe in what they can offer to students like these. And a lot of it comes down to the online profile and reach of the institution’s publicity, and accessibility of information.

Content marketing – “creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience” - is an ideal solution, since it’s not only a powerful method of marketing on the internet but is designed to share information and value even as it spreads a university’s good name.

Spreading content through multiple channels

You may already have created great content such as text, infographics, and video, but you still need to get it out there.

Content quality is essential – Google recognizes it and bumps decent material up in search results – but quality without a sound publishing and distribution strategy won’t reach its best potential audience. Education marketers will benefit from understanding the difference between channels and an ability to choose and cater to those most appropriate for sharing your message.

That means understanding the behavior of your desired audience across different platforms. Some will be more suited to shorter or longer videos, or to images or different types of article. A page on the institute’s website might work best with a combination of all three, to cater to different attention spans and learning styles.

Positioning material on a reputable third-party platform well-versed in content marketing can add credibility and improve reach. That material might be original, or re-worked from the school’s own website. Done right, this content will then attract ‘organic’ search traffic to your site or third-party CRM/application portal.

You will work to get this content in front of other students by distributing it with a delicate balance of social media activity and email campaigns. The important thing is that these should be part of an informed and thought-through strategy.

This is search engine optimization, or SEO: it is the art and science of creating content that is valuable to your intended audience and recognizable to Google et al. It involves the appropriate use of keywords and phrases, and getting numerous, quality shares and responses on social media. That’s why many education organizations outsource bespoke content.

And diversifying with a multilingual strategy will make it much more straightforward for international students to find your school, as well as boosting those SEO results in multiple languages.

Once the content is produced and spread: monitoring results

Monitoring your results in detail will enable you to fine-tune your strategy over the weeks and months. You will likely find at first that there are audiences you’re reaching that you didn’t expect, and pieces of content you thought would fly which ended up underperforming.

There are a number of tools available to help. Google Analytics is the go-to. It will analyze your traffic (where, when, and even why people are visiting each page of your website – and how long they spend there). Other tools such as Buzzsumo and Hootsuite can do anything from tipping you off on the most effective keywords to try, to scheduling and auto-posting your institution’s tweets for you.

It's a steep learning curve that requires getting right under the hood of your website and other platforms. It's not rocket science, but it is tricky and time-consuming. This means it can be more efficient to partner with a service provider who will provide up-to-date, easy-to-access reports on your traffic, scores, and ranking, and empower you to connect with those early-career international students who can’t yet see just what you have to offer.

John is a digital nomad and freelance writer for higher education and marketing publications. A native Englishman, he is always on the move but can most commonly be spotted in Norway, the UK and the Balkans.