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The Importance of Content Strategy in Higher Education

November 8, 2013

Educational Institutions are facing more obstacles today than ever before as technology evolves. Some of the key challenges I saw while teaching at the state university level were:

  • Online courses and distance education: Not only do you have to train your current staff or hire new staff to be able to offer the courses to even compete in this market, you’re also competing with colleges that have been completely online for years.
  • Attracting new students: The website is often the first interaction point for students when they are deciding between colleges to apply for. It has to communicate your culture, what you offer, and why you’re the perfect fit for their educational career.
  • Brand mismanagement: This isn’t just about the content that you create on your website. This applies to interactions, or lack thereof, on social media. It’s also about what students post on review sites and the culture that you foster online. Today, people expect companies and schools to talk back to them and lead the conversation with insightful, branded content.
  • Over budget and underfunded: Trust me, I know this applies to more than just the website and marketing efforts.

We’re only scratching the surface with these challenges and while I can’t fix the budget issues, I can tell you that having a content strategy, the purposeful creation of online content for the purpose of marketing, can help higher education institutes with the first three items. And if the first three ultimately help with higher enrollments, then maybe budgets won’t be stretched as thin. Let’s talk specifics.

Demonstrate Organization to Increase Enrollments

Today's prospective students use social media and websites to quickly evaluate all sorts of businesses, including educational institutions. You have just a few precious minutes to attract students' attention before they decide to move on to the next collegiate option. During that small window, students will leave if:

  • Your website is disorganized or information is hard to find.
  • You don't appear to respond to comments on social media.
  • You have outdated information or stock photos on your website or social media page.

The opposite is true, too. If your website is easy to navigate, your social media site is active and full of interaction, and your online content is up to date, prospective students will spend more time on your pages and possibly decide to apply.

Get in Touch with Students' Needs by Embracing Technology

Professors and administrators can no longer isolate themselves from students during non-working hours - I know I received emails, tweets, texts, and calls at the strangest times from my students. Today's students expect to be full participants in their college community. Content strategy goes a long way toward demonstrating that their college understands their needs, concerns, and is responsive.

Well-timed blog posts, social media updates and newsletters can show your understanding of current student concerns and it will help integrate students into the larger community. It also encourages professors to be more technology oriented and better in tune with what their students are comfortable using.

Prove you are Modern

Most customers won't deal with a business that doesn't have a website; this is doubly true for today's internet savvy students. Students don't want to attend a college or university that doesn't take advantage of all modern technology because they think such places are not up to date, won't cover the most recent discoveries in science classes or are just plain boring.

Content strategy is helpful here because it helps your school cover all the current social media outlets. When students see you post meaningful content on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social networks, they become more confident and excited about attending your school.

Improve Your Search Engine Rankings

Search engine rankings are important to your ability to reach out to prospective new students. The higher your search engine ranking for relevant keywords is, the more likely students are to find and through to your website. For example, if your page is ranked higher for the keywords "four-year humanities program," your website will be closer to the top of search engine results for that phrase.

Content strategy is an excellent step towards improving search engine rankings. Having a lot of high-quality content online helps boost your search engine optimization, which in turn raises your ranking for your primary keywords.

Getting Started

It’s not as easy as just writing content. You need a content strategy, an end to end schedule, a management plan, and the ability to track performance to create content that motivates students to take the next step with your school. I’m not going to lie: it’s hard, time-consuming, and tedious - if you don’t love content strategy and the web. That’s why education institutions partner with companies like Mediacurrent. Our staff is well versed in content strategy, implementation, and marketing automation for your Drupal site, specifically for the higher education field. If you have questions or want to talk about what content strategy could do for your school, contact us and we’d be happy to set up a call or meeting.

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