The 2015 E-Expectations Report surveyed college-bound high school juniors and seniors, and almost 80 percent of respondents said that their perception of an institution was affected by a campus website. Today, higher education institutions have a plethora of channels and means to reach prospective students. From websites to social media, interactive ads, direct mail, text messages, and events, university marketing teams are building seamless omnichannel user experiences designed to reach and convert college-bound students.
But as university marketing teams develop plans and strategies to drive website traffic, it is important to consider the potential value of faculty's involvement and contribution.
1. Solicit Faculty Assistance When Crafting a Content Calendar
As experienced and proficient as a marketing team may be, any content strategy could be sharpened by direction and feedback from industry experts. In the case of universities, these industry experts are quite often their own faculty members. They have access to the latest research, are aware of trending hot topics, and possess valued industry connections. Enrollment marketing teams can capitalize on these "within arm's reach" resources by asking for links to groundbreaking research, introductions to potential interviewees, and insider opinions on trending topics.
University marketing teams can even request that faculty plan and conduct interviews. From book interviews to trade show interviews or video interviews at industry conferences, having faculty assist in the planning and execution phases can be a delight to all parties involved. The content can then be shared on the campus website, blog, and social media, and via other channels.
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2.Schedule Regular Blog Posts by Faculty
Every marketer knows that the success of every content strategy hinges on consistency. Consistent and regular blog posts drive loyalty and define expectations for readers and website visitors. Consistency is one of the keys to driving engagement, and if visitors know they can rely on your university's blog for timely and high-quality content, they are more likely to become devoted and regular visitors, thereby increasing your site's SEO rankings.
With higher education, creating unique, valuable, and in-depth content can be a challenge for marketing experts. Usually, marketing teams choose a niche and own it. But for higher education, the subjects are as wide and diverse as the university's major offerings, making quality and consistency much more difficult to maintain. So why not encourage faculty members to contribute on a regular basis? Send out content calendars to participating faculty members and set clear deadlines. But be prepared for missed deadlines or last-minute excuses by drawing on existing "backup" content.
3. Create Author Profile Pages for Well-Known Faculty Members
Think of author profile pages as a sort of celebrity endorsement. If Hollywood celebrities are the face of entertainment, then industry-recognized faculty members are the leaders in their own fields. If universities are the "brands," then faculty members are the celebrity endorsers.
In the higher education world, author names are the equivalent of brand names. Take, for example, author, TED Talk speaker, and research professor Dr. Brené Brow, associated with the University of Houston; Maya Angelou, associated with Wake Forest University; Al Gore, associated with Middle Tennessee State University; and Noam Chomsky, associated with Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The list goes on. Both parties benefit when a well-known industry professional is associated with an educational institution.
Most professors are familiar with RateMyProfessors.com, and understandably, some strongly dislike the concept. With author profile pages, well-known faculty members have the opportunity to highlight their accomplishments, passions, and pursuits and attract students who are serious about obtaining a rigorous and high-quality education.
An SEO strategy involving author profile pages can draw on the acclaim of high-ranking author names and drive traffic to the entire website—not just the author's profile page.
4. Encourage Faculty to Share Content on Social Media
It is crucial for faculty authors to share their blog posts on their own personal social media pages—blog posts don't promote themselves! When university faculty members do this, a university's impressive "brand name" suddenly becomes more personal and relatable—all because a friend on social media is connected to a faculty member of a prestigious university.
The 2015 E-Expectations Report found that 69 percent of high school seniors reported that conversations with current faculty or admissions counselors were highly influential. These conversations can happen anywhere. Never underestimate the power of in-person or online conversations to personalize big university brand names and drive website traffic.
Social media activity will further help to measure the reach, engagement, and effectiveness of a blog post. Though social media does not have a direct impact on your website's SEO rankings, the traffic that can be generated from links posted on social media can be quite significant.
As universities up their marketing game, success will be determined not only by flawless execution but by the willingness to go one step further than the competition. That first step can be inviting faculty to get involved in your marketing efforts.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Clayton Dean is the co-founder of Circa Interactive, a digital agency that specializes in higher education, and has over 10 years experience helping non-profit institutions increase marketing budget efficiency, expand brand awareness, generate inquiries and exceed enrollment goals.