International Higher Education

How digital content marketing boosts student placement

Over the last few years, digital marketing has dominated engagement with prospective students, whether through smart social media campaigns, leveraging alumni stories or working with vloggers to share student experiences. The biggest challenge for university marketers is how to stand out from the crowd in a way that drives conversion.

Looking at which of our campaigns are most effective in driving traffic and conversion, we noted that over the last 12 months prospective students are 83% more likely to submit email enquiries to institutions with video-driven Content Hubs compared to those without. We also saw higher levels of web-clicks and email enquiries to institutions with Content Hubs consistently across popular destination countries such as the US, Canada, UK, Australia and New Zealand. This aligns with global trends which suggest that global video traffic will account for 80% of all consumer Internet traffic this year (according to SmallBizTrends).

As we expand our end-to-end suite of services to institutions, we’ve set ourselves the task of finding out how our digital content marketing campaigns are boosting student enrolment rates.

Dissecting the data

Our data team dived in by looking at IDP student placement figures for institutions with Content Hubs versus those without Content Hubs for Financial Years 17/ 18. What’s important to note is that they only looked at institutions that have been IDP partners since the beginning of 2017, thereby ensuring longevity.

Institutions with Content Hubs saw a 45.8% YoY increase in IDP applications and a substantial 31.1% increase in IDP enrolments, while those without Content Hubs saw a 40.6% YoY increase in IDP applications and only a 14.2% increase in enrolments. The tangible difference between the high-performing group of institutions and the average performing one is that the latter has Content Hubs. These latter institutions are seeing higher rates of students converting from the research stage to enrolment. What makes Content Hubs so successful is that video content is immersive – it allows students (especially those who cannot visit open days) to get a true feel for what it’s like to study at a particular university.

Kunal Lalchandani, Business Data Analyst for IDP Connect, believes that the connection between Content Hubs and higher enrolment rates is no coincidence: “Content Hubs are designed to grab user attention and entice them to engage in institution-specific content. The logic is that the more time a user spends on a Content Hub, the more likely they are to go on to pursue their academic journey at an institution.”

End-to-end student journey

Content Hubs form part of our holistic, bigger-picture funnel designed to support prospective students from the moment they start their online research all the way through to face-to-face counselling and enrolment.

As the basis of our work with clients, our model comprises of four steps. First, we work with institutions to identify market opportunities and set data-driven objectives; secondly, we build demand through tried-and-tested digital content marketing campaigns run across our global student-facing sites; thirdly, we reengage and retarget users to generate applications, and finally we conclude the student journey by providing expert in-country counselling aimed at enrolment.

Kunal says of the model: “We are on the verge of building an unrivalled funnel to give us full visibility of the user journey from the minute they search our websites all the way through to enrolment. This presents a major shakeup in the student placement world – we can now begin to associate categories of leads to numbers of applications. In turn, this means that we’d be able to allocate resources aimed at enhancing lead sources.”

Rising influence of digital leads

To illustrate the power of digital content marketing, we looked at seven lead sources resulting in enrolments in the UK from FY 2014/15 through to 2018/19. The biggest contributing lead source throughout this period is referrals, while digital marketing comes in second place with a consistent rise in influence. In FY 2014/15, digital leads resulted in 428 enrolments, while in 2018/19, this figure had increased to 1741; a 307% growth rate. This trend indicates that consistent digital exposure over time leads directly to an increase in applications and enrolments.

Lead sources

Rohan Rego, Destination Manager for IDP Middle East, believes that the marriage between digital content marketing and face-to-face counselling is crucial. He says: “Our digital expertise combined with very strong in-country face-to-face interaction between students and counsellors means that students are supported at every step of the way. International students, especially millennials, are going to online channels now more than ever to do their research – it’s vital for institutions to be seen and known from that very first online search.”

Diving even further into the power of digital, we tracked that for 2018/19 digital leads led to 1,741 IDP enrolments, 11,880 applications and 4,620 offers to institutions in the UK alone.

Putting student needs first

Daniel Jones, Digital Marketing Executive at IDP Connect, believes that universities should remember to create content that answers the questions that prospective students may have. He adds: “What’s important is for a prospective student’s online journey to be as seamless as possible. They should feel as if they are making their own decisions at every step of the way and not being forced down a specific path.”

Our research with prospective students consistently shows that they are especially interested in learning about universities via the experiences of current students. Content Hubs are built on this principle and designed to give users a more tangible glimpse into what life at uni is like. By listening and responding to the needs and interests of users, we are able to drive high levels of traffic and help students find the right course and institution for them.

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