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Internet Marketing and Web Development in Higher Education and other tidbits…

Online Lead Generation For Distance Education Universities

29 Oct 2012

written by Danielle Smiley

Online Lead Generation For Distance Education Universities

In marketing, lead generation is the online interest and inquiries of a service or product made by prospective customers. For universities and online colleges, lead generation is potential students’ interest or inquiry in obtaining an education. The goal of lead generation for a business is to create sales leads and revenue, and educational institutions can capitalize on the same methodology.

Online lead generation should be an integral part of a university’s enrollment plan, just a business’s marketing plan. For example, the website for your school serves as a prominent marketing platform for attracting prospective students and increasing enrollment. Distance education universities, and online colleges especially, need to ensure digital-marketing initiatives and lead-generation solutions are maximized in order to continually attract remote students.

Technology, Information & Education

Keep in mind that the more strategic your institution is about digitally marketing education, the better. Master the marketing techniques that your institution needs to implement most. The goal is to provide a wide range of knowledge easily available to the people who are seeking it, whether they’re looking on search engines for a particular degree program or researching your university using a mobile phone.

Steven Cohen, the executive director at Columbia University’s Earth Institute, tells HuffingtonPost.com that “the information on the World Wide Web…opens up the possibility of a more democratized knowledge economy.” Information is cheap, accessible and expected to be. Ensure your institution’s information is both available, delivered and promoted across a plethora of platforms (e.g. mobile, social media, email).

Lead Generation Strategies

Adopting any of the following tactics can increase enrollment and create a strong Web presence:

Optimized Marketing Content

Provide relevant, original content on your institution’s website and its various pages for maximum optimization. Proper SEO optimization ensures that your college is ranking for the right degree programs, courses, certificates and academics in search engines. Place emphasis on the optimization of major selling points, such as higher education and degree programs from your college. Publish unique content and relevant links on each page. Avoid content generalizations that may blur the various keywords for which you want to rank highly.

Ask yourself the following questions as you publish content:

  • What is the reason for people visiting this website?
  • Is my content useful, valuable, interesting and informational?
  • Can visitors easily access content and is it digitally presentable?

By promoting superior-quality content, you’re increasing the chances of converting inquiring visitors into leads and future students.

Lead Tracking & Analytics

A dependable tracking system measures lead-generation tactics and strategies that are and are not working. Premier marketing service Google Analytics generates data about site visitors and measures data performance.

Educational marketers can evaluate conversion rates as well as the following metrics:

  • Clickable links
  • File downloads
  • Completed contact form submissions
  • Unique and returning visitors
  • Length of visit and geographic location
  • Advertising ROI
  • Lead data

With real-time, customized reports, your school can monitor and improve the effectiveness of your lead-generating campaigns.

Call to Action

Meet the needs of your online visitors by encouraging potential leads to take the next step. Call-to-action tactics typically include contact form and request information pages. RealityBizNews.com recommends integrating a contact form page with a Web-analytics tool to fully evaluate the performance of your website traffic. As you gather data such as “who, what, when, where and how your visitors are contacting you” and request information, strategize on how to improve any marketing techniques.

For example, generate and convert leads by tracking data and seeing how effectively a page’s layout and opt-in fields are working. The goal of “contact” and “to-learn-more” forms is to generate inquiries and turn them into promising leads — or enrolled students. Breaking down information requests by area of interest can also help your institution respond more effectively.

Interactive Course Content

For distance education universities, providing and promoting course content via the Web enhances student-learning appeal. Invite students to interact with one another while completing school projects using online resources, webinars and forums. Providing digital spaces where remote students can communicate with one another helps mimic live classroom environments and personal peer interactions.

Cohen explains that for his Sustainability Management graduate course, he had his students post video presentations on the course website. Students were required to watch other students’ tapes, comment on a class board and vote for one. For Cohen’s curriculum, interactive online educational opportunities enhance the learning experience. Staying up-to-date on the latest and forthcoming digital trends keeps your institution highly marketable.

Ensure that your online course content is:

  • User and learner friendly
  • Meaningful
  • Helpful for understanding complex concepts
  • Easy to locate and navigate
  • Usable and credible for achieving goals

Social Media & Blogging

Distant education universities and online colleges fully engaged in social networking sites can effectively communicate with students and reach a wide range of potential leads. As of October 2012, Facebook has more than 1 billion users, 600 million active mobile users and more than 42 million pages, according to TheNextWeb.com and InsideFacebook.com. As for other social media source: Twitter has 140 million users; LinkedIn has 175 million users; and Google+ has 400 million registered users.

Without a prevalent Web presence and no following on various social media platforms, your institution isn’t engaging with lead-generation opportunities to its highest potential. You’re not reaching those millions of users.

Maximize social networking sites as a marketing tool with the following tips:

  • Build a community: Acquire Facebook fans, page likes, followers and connections with top-quality content and market authority to grow your school.
  • Offer email subscriptions: Communicate to potential leads with email campaigns. By including an email subscription button on social media platforms, you’re providing more opportunities for potential students to learn about your degree programs, majors, curriculum and how you can help them reach career goals.
  • Create dialogue: Start a conversation with your online educational community to gather insight and opinions of faculty and students who are enrolled or interested in enrolling. Institutions can use online social interaction as market research for improving academia.
  • Identify a brand: Provide information and content that solidifies the mission and identity of your university or college. With a clear identity, your institution will maintain its credibility.

According to BrandWatch.com, “a staggering 68 percent of marketers claim to have created leads from social media.” Brand Watch’s blog also adds that 55 percent of marketers have closed deals because of social media leads. To secure those new leads, find your target demographic and where they spend time on the Web. A Mashable.com infographic further explains that schools can enhance recruitment efforts by offering virtual tours, posting student body videos, promoting campus activities, reaching out to parents and connecting with alumni — all through social networking.

The content of this post is licensed: The post is released under a Creative Commons by-nc-sa 3.0 license


About the author

Danielle Smiley

As a contributing journalist to numerous Home and Community blogs, Danielle Smiley covers topics ranging from design and decoration to higher education, health, fitness and food. When she is not writing or putting her Strategic Communication degree to use, she spends her time with her Great Dane, Bravo Charlie. Connect with Danielle on LinkedIn, Google+, and Twitter.

This post was written by Danielle Smiley


  • http://twitter.com/julie_wuthnow Julie Wuthnow

    Nice post, Danielle – really thorough. So what kind of email subscriptions do you think work well in higher ed? Thanks!

  • http://twitter.com/Image_Media Tim Lorang

    Great post Danielle,

    Higher Ed would greatly benefit from inbound and lead
    generation marketing. I think the goals of the school, especially in reaching
    potential undergraduate and graduate students would benefit from effective
    online lead generation marketing. From my experience there seems to be many
    obstacles that seem to increase with larger universities.

    Lack of common goals: Unlike a for profit company where the
    bottom line is easy to measure and success or failure is clear to all different
    parts of colleges and universities can have varying, even conflicting goals.
    Since most half way decent schools are going to fill up no matter what not
    everyone buys into the need for online marketing.

    Internal resistance: Many higher education institutions are incredibly
    conservative when it comes to marketing, especially among the faculty who
    should be one of the prime sources of content.

    Coordination: The bigger the institution the more likely it
    will be divided between different, even competing, silos.

    I think it is possible for schools to engage in lead generation
    and inbound marketing. Any marketing efforts will need clear and measurable goals.
    It must have buy in on all levels and strong leadership. Schools with strong
    marketing and outreach departments with the support of the President should be successful.
    The other option would be for individual departments to take the lead and be an
    example for the rest of the institution.

  • kesavan

    Thank’s for your information. It’s really nice and informative.

  • Ejaz

    Very helpful tips.

    Improve Website Traffic

    Thanks for sharing.

  • http://www.solidessay.com/ SolidEssay.com

    I agree with the author that in the present day it’s necessary to maximize social networking sites as a marketing tool because this is the future and the this kind of media will be used more extensively in future.

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