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15 Inbound Marketing Terms Every School Marketer Should Know
Mia Major

We’ve been blogging about the importance of inbound marketing for schools since late 2015, but it hasn’t been until just recently that the term “inbound,” has taken communication offices at independent schools and higher education institutions by storm. And, we hear it all the time from our clients, too.

Most schools we speak to say something along the lines of: “We need to ‘do inbound;” or “We need inbound marketing to help with our enrollment;” in some cases, “we think we’re doing inbound, but we really have no idea what we’re doing;” and in others, “what is inbound?” And my personal favorite, “I bought inbound marketing software but never used it because it was confusing.”

Sound familiar?

In any case, the complexity of inbound marketing has left school marketers with a universal feeling of “I know I need to do this, but I’m not totally sure what I’m doing.”

And that’s alright. For that reason, I want to provide some clarification by defining 15 key inbound marketing terms every school marketer/admissions professional/advancement professional should know, understand, and practice.

1. Inbound Marketing

Inbound marketing (for schools, specifically) is the process by which you use numerous digital mediums — including SEO, PPC, social media, email, and your website — to attract, recruit, and retain families at your school.

Further Reading:

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2. The Admissions “Funnel”

The “funnel” is the process by which prospects are taken from prospect to graduate. If you work in admissions, you’re likely familiar with the standard “admissions funnel,” which looks like this:

inbound marketing funnel version 1

The inbound marketing funnel for schools though, looks a bit different as in some cases parents and students are involved, and they require different types of content and engagement:

inbound marketing funnel version 2

3. Conversion

A “conversion” is an action a website visitor takes on your site, such as filling out an inquiry form, registering for an open house, making a donation, etc.

4. Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)

Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) is the process by which you attempt to increase the number of conversions to get on a given landing page, rather than trying to get more prospects to visit that landing page.

For example, say you have 100 prospects visiting your Open House landing page every day, but you only get two conversions. Rather than trying to get 200 prospects to earn four conversions, you strategize ways to get double or triple the number of conversions out of the original 100 prospects.

This is essential for schools who don’t have large ad budgets to bring in additional traffic.

5. Lead Nurturing

To “nurture” a prospective family or donor means to gently nudge them down the funnel from awareness, to engagement, to commitment. Typically “nurturing” (also known as lead nurturing) begins once a prospective family fills out some type of form on your site, whether it be for a piece of content, an inquiry form, viewbook, or open house visit. Based on the type of conversion, you would nurture that prospect differently.

For example, someone who downloads a viewbook about your school is likely in the research/consideration stage of the funnel, and therefore should be treated differently than someone who fills out an inquiry form, as that person is clearly in the consideration phase.

At each stage, your goal as an inbound marketer is the gently nudge them from one portion of the funnel to the next.

6. Landing Page

“Landing page,” is probably one of the most confusing terms in relation to inbound marketing, because it is a term used across the marketing space, each with a different definition. For designers, it means a main parent page of a site, like “admissions.” For Google Analytics, it means the page that searchers literally land on. And for inbound marketing, it is a page that has the specific goal of earning conversions.

Further Reading:

7. “Thank You” Page

A “thank you” page is a page that a website visitor is redirected to after making a conversion. There’s more than meets the eye when it comes to “thank you pages” and in some ways are as important as the page that got them there.. Thank you pages should be used for all types of conversions, as they are critical for maintaining engagement, nurturing a lead down the funnel even further, and providing relevant information immediately.

Further reading:

8. Call-to-Action

A call-to-action is a button on your website that has a specific purpose for nurturing a prospect down their path towards conversion. Calls-to-action buttons don’t always end in a conversion, as they may just be pointing a website visitor or email subscriber to relevant content, but in all cases, they help nurture a prospect further down the funnel.

Further Reading:

9. Workflow and Drip Campaigns

A workflow, also known as a drip campaign in some cases, is a series of automated emails that are triggered based on some type of enrollment activity. The goal of workflows is to automate marketing processes to save you time, while continuously providing personalized, relevant content to the prospects in your funnel.

Workflows can be used to engage prospective and current families, as well as alumni, and are often segmented by persona or another defining factor.

At Finalsite, we’re currently rolling out a new suite of inbound marketing software late in 2018 that includes automated workflows/drip campaigns to improve your admissions, marketing and development efforts. You can stay up-to-date with inbound marketing software product updates here

inquiry nuture campaign in finalsite

Further Reading:

Learn More About Finalsite's New Inbound Marketing Software

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10. Personalization

The term “personalization” means personalizing content, emails, phrases, and words to match subscriber’s identity. This term isn’t necessarily new, especially in the world of email marketing, — but inbound marketing takes personalization to another level, as marketers attempt to go beyond “Hi {First Name},” by personalizing website and email content.

At Finalsite, we offer our clients numerous ways to personalize the content they serve up to website visitors and email subscribers. Using our new email marketing software, Messages, you can go beyond personalizing email content, and also personalize subject lines — increasing open rates, and the chance of your email content being seen.

Messages Personalization Token

For schools, we know personalization is essential beyond email, as boarding and international schools in particular recruit students from around the world. For this reason, we’ve developed a Personalization element for Composer, that allows you to serve up different website content based on a website visitor’s geographic location (state/country) and browser language.

personalization element

In a world of noise, personalization offers a truly unique web and email experience that improves the user experience and is proven to increase conversion rates.

11. PPC (Pay Per Click Ads)

PPC is the abbreviation for Pay-Per-Click ads. Pay-per-click text ads in search results are texts ads shown to people based on what is most important to them as it relates to what they are searching for. These ads are created in Google's platform, Google Adwords, based on your school bidding on (paying for) a term from Google so your school will show up when people search for that specific term. It's also important to note that these results do not have any images or videos associated with the ads.

12. SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

Organic SEO is defined as the efforts to increase traffic from "organic" or traditional, non-paid space on search engine result pages. In other words, these are the results Google will show a user based on the keywords they search, and includes search results not associated as an ad.

There are a couple additional important keywords associated to SEO and inbound marketing:

  1. Title Tag: Title Tags are the the page titles that display in search results, and at the top of your web page (in a browser tab). These are about 55 characters are less, and can be customized on your site and individual pages to rank for the keywords that matter most to your school.
  2. Meta Description: Unlike the title tag (which is displayed in the top of the browser window), a page's meta description tag is never visible to someone while he is on your site. The only time a human gets to see this text is when a search engine uses it for the body of your search result - that's the two lines of smaller text in the results shown above. What's more, Google is on record saying that they do not use the contents of this tag to influence how your page or site ranks for searches. As a result, you have the freedom to write a description (of the page in question – authenticity is important even here!) geared toward compelling the search result page viewer to click on your result over others.

13. SEM (Search Engine Marketing)

SEM is the abbreviation for Search Engine Marketing, which is the umbrella under which SEO and PPC live. An effective SEM strategy is key to getting new, qualified leads into your funnel.

14. SERP (Search Engin Results Page)

SERP stands for “Search Engine Results Page.” This is the page in Google, or any search engine for that matter, that displays all the results for a particular keyword. In all cases, you want your school’s website and/or related pages on Page 1 (and preferably in the top 3 results) to earn new website traffic. However, there are a few new Google trends controlling what appears on page one, including the Google Carousel, the Knowledge Graph, and what we call “the search impression.” 

Further Reading:

15. Content Marketing

Content marketing is an important strategy that goes hand-in-hand with inbound marketing, and is an essential component. Content marketing is the process by which you build brand awareness, loyalty and commitment by providing relevant, quality, informative and entertaining content at the right time during a prospect’s “journey” down the funnel. In order to build workflows and personalize web experiences, you need content to do so. You cannot execute an effective inbound marketing strategy without an effective content marketing strategy.

Further Reading: 

click here to download a webinar titled, %22inbound marketing: practical tips to fill your funnel in a small shop, or on a small budget%22


Mia Major

As Finalsite's Content Marketing Manager, Mia shares innovative and helpful content that helps schools and districts create captivating online experiences that increase brand awareness, student and faculty retention, and school-to-home communications. With more than five years experience in the industry, Mia has written more than 200 articles, eBooks, and reports about best practices for schools on a variety of topics from social media to web design. As a former TV and news reporter, and wedding photographer, Mia specializes in sharing how to use storytelling to power your school's admissions funnel. When she isn't busy creating content or hosting her #LIKEABOSS Podcast for FinalsiteFM, you can find her hiking with her Boston terrier, running an army wives meeting at Fort Campbell, or enjoying a well-deserved savasana on her yoga mat.

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