We are in a period of rapid change led by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. For some companies in the education sector, it’s an exciting opportunity to discover new business opportunities like virtual learning. For some companies in the education sector, it’s an exciting opportunity to discover new business opportunities like eLearning.
It’s a race to modernize old delivery models as enrollment drops. As it stands, 75% of households changed their college plans in the last year — a frightening statistic for major universities, but an opportunity for disruptive startups to grab a larger chunk of the market.
With so many uncertainties, prospective students also need to feel reassured about where they’re investing their money and time. For this reason, many of the top education marketing trends of 2023 are focused on delivering transparency and ensuring confidence in the minds of the most qualified leads.
Trend 1. Leading with COVID-19 transparency
The COVID-19 pandemic led to widespread school closures as districts and universities faced student and teacher outbreaks — but even today, as pandemic restrictions ease, the guidance is murky and ever-shifting. Some schools are poised to require vaccinations and/or masking, but others are not. Some schools will limit certain activities and require testing. Other schools have already shifted to a virtual learning model, which upset students who were paying tuition but felt cheated out of the full learning experience.
With all the unknowns, the American Council of Education expects enrollment in higher education to drop by 15% among all students and 25% among international students throughout 2023.
During this time, the best thing companies in the education sector can do to market themselves offer full transparency to prospective and returning students.
How will admissions, courses and campus life be affected?
How will you respond to outbreaks and changing guidance?
Sharing your company’s policies that address these and other questions is particularly important if your educational institution largely relies on in-person learning.
TREND 2. Using a lookalike audience
This marketing tactic transcends the education sector — it’s actually a valuable method for most B2B and B2C businesses who plan to market on social media platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn. In short: a lookalike audience is an audience that’s similar to your current audience. Basically, you’re targeting people who look and behave like your existing customer.
You can build upon a lookalike audience by incorporating data from users who have previously shown interest through inquiries, information requests and by submitting forms. This will help you focus on marketing to the prospective customers that are most likely to show interest.
TREND 3. SEO optimization
It’s hard to call SEO optimization a trend. At this point, it’s a tried and true baseline digital marketing strategy, and in 2023, it’s of particular importance to the education sector. Why? Two simple reasons: online learning is up, but search clicks are down.
The truth is, people are looking online for education — not just to research curriculum, but also for their actual learning. With the educational landscape evolving, the need for innovative solutions like your eLearning Platform becomes increasingly evident.
By 2026, the online education market is projected to have ballooned by 110%, but this extends far beyond the regular old online degrees that have been advertised on television over the last decade. This is innovation: think interactive learning platforms, language training, driving theory test, apps, and functional skills development, spanning the gamut of higher education, hobby courses and corporate training.
You need to reach virtual students where they are — online. Unfortunately, recent research has shown that as many as 49% of Google searches end without a single click. This figure is part of a downward trend, particularly as people increasingly search on mobile devices. SEO optimization can help combat this by bolstering organic growth and ensuring that those looking for your services actually find them.
TREND 4. Getting a little less personal
Personalization is no longer a trend in marketing for education — it’s a prerequisite. Think of it as a core course, rather than an elective. So, where are we seeing personalization? It’s in:
● Segmented email campaigns: Would you really want to send the same marketing messages to prospective, current and past students? Probably not. Some research shows that segmented campaigns increase email marketing revenue by as much as 760%.
● Custom website content: For example, a commuter student at a state university has different needs than an international student. So using customized web content or landing pages will allow you to target both the most meaningful messages.
● Dynamic social ads: This type of ad changes based on actions a user has previously taken elsewhere on the web. So, for example, if a user clicks on a course without enrolling, it could trigger an ad that promotes that specific course.
But that’s not to say personalization is always the right way. We’re in the midst of a cultural privacy shift where both Google and Apple seek to limit or completely eliminate the use of tracking cookies. Luckily, there’s still proven value in contextual ads, ads based on website content rather than user behavior. In 2020, at a time when ad revenue historically sunk, a study found that contextual ads provided a steady increase in ad revenue over the course of six months.
What’s this look like in the world of education? Marketing courses along with content that’s similar in subject.
TREND 5. Embracing short form video
Video courses have long been rising in popularity, but video — particularly short-form video, is increasingly important to marketing in the education sector. Did you know that 50% of people who watch short-form videos tune in for the whole thing? That’s a wildly low bounce rate, and modern social media platforms have made this type of marketing more accessible to brands that previously didn’t have the technical knowledge.
Over the last year, we’ve seen businesses in the education sector use short-form video to:
● Showcase short tours of physical learning facilities
● Explain niche topics to draw interest
● Promote coursework through brief technical tutorials
● Highlight campus life and company culture
● Showcase student testimonies
● Answer common customer questions
● Host live Q&As
In addition to short-form videos, education businesses that serve Gen Z have found increasing success by marketing on YouTube and TikTok. For example, one study found that 27% of prospective teen students admitted that YouTube videos played a major role in helping them decide where to enroll. Nearly 70% of prospective students used social media to help them research colleges and universities. At the end of the day, social media — and especially social video, remains an integral aspect of a modern education marketing strategy.
Since there is so much uncertainty in all industries, a suggestion – ‘and education is no exception or something like that.
TREND 6. Use YouTube content to promote higher education
YouTube videos offer a chance to enhance awareness regarding your institution, boosting SEO effectiveness and aiding other digital marketing initiatives. With its vast user base of over 2.6 billion monthly active users, YouTube serves as an ideal channel for reaching potential students.
You can captivate prospective students and pique their interest by uploading longer videos that provide valuable insights about your institute. The utilization of videos represents a significant higher education marketing trend in 2023, causing substantial shifts in enrollment numbers.
TREND 7. Chatbots
With advancing capabilities, accessibility now encompasses being available to your audience whenever and however they require your services. It’s essential to consider if any of your programs cater to professionals seeking career transitions.
While live chat may not be feasible at 11 PM on a Saturday, that’s likely when your target audience is actively exploring options. From a conversion perspective, it remains crucial to provide prompt responses to their inquiries.
Virtual chat assistants, or “chatbots,” are gaining significant popularity. Over the past three years, customer service chatbots have surged by an astounding 92%. They have become a standard feature for university websites.
When a student is comparing five different colleges, the ability to receive quick answers to their questions from your website can make a crucial difference in whether your institution makes it onto their shortlist or not.
TREND 8. Customize Email Marketing
Even though Gen Z has numerous communication options available to them, they still exhibit a preference for traditional email when it comes to interacting with prospective universities and colleges.
In a survey encompassing more than 9,000 high school students, email emerged as their top choice for communication, with 80% indicating they check their emails daily.
Students seek less intrusive methods of communication with educational institutions and typically do not require immediate contact, especially during the early stages of their search process.
- Email marketing campaigns play a crucial role in personalizing messaging and guiding students throughout their decision-making journey.
- It’s important to recognize that high school students exploring campus fraternities and sororities have different priorities and mindsets compared to current students considering graduate programs.
- Implementing email drip campaigns becomes essential in meeting prospective students where they are and guiding them through the enrollment process.
By tailoring content and email campaigns based on their specific needs, you can personalize communication and achieve better results.
For instance, creating a gated eBook titled “Top Five Ways an MBA Degree Will Boost Your Career” could trigger an email campaign that appeals explicitly to MBA students.
Developing personas for each target student group is valuable. Understanding their motivations, concerns, and the type of content they find valuable enables the creation of a strategic email campaign that yields favorable outcomes.
Gathering as much information as possible for each persona will aid in crafting personalized and effective email communications.
TREND 9. For higher education institutions, use PPC advertising to generate high-quality leads
Search engines such as Google provide pay-per-click (PPC) services that offer higher education institutions an excellent opportunity to engage with prospective students.
Running PPC ads enables institutions to specifically target keywords and phrases, ensuring that their ads appear in front of potential students who are actively searching for information related to higher education.
Moreover, PPC can be a powerful tool for lead generation in higher education. By retargeting ads to students who have shown an interest in higher education and providing them with a means to contact the institution, PPC can effectively generate leads for educational institutions.
Rather than solely relying on organic website traffic, PPC allows for more precise targeting of the audience. based on age and other demographics. This approach not only generates high-quality leads. It significantly enhances the conversion rate, making it an unparalleled method for reaching prospective students in the higher education realm.
TREND 10. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Augmented Reality (AR)
Artificial intelligence (AI) and augmented reality (AR) have already become prevalent in the realm of higher education marketing. By incorporating virtual tours, universities are harnessing the capabilities of AR technology.
Running a drip campaign is an instance where artificial intelligence is utilized. Furthermore, the potential of AI in this field is continuously expanding.
To maintain a competitive edge, it is crucial to stay updated on newly developed tools. Google’s Responsive Search Ads and Performance Max PPC campaigns are two examples of AI that have the potential to enhance your digital marketing strategy.
Google’s latest development, Performance Max, utilizes assets provided by you to dynamically create ads. These ads are then served to new audiences that share similarities with your existing audiences, to maximize conversions.
Just envision the possibilities that arise when combining this tool with well-planned SEO and PPC strategies.
TREND 11. For higher education digital marketing, use responsive ads
In the increasingly competitive landscape of higher education marketing, institutions must embrace novel and inventive marketing strategies to stay ahead. One such strategy is the utilization of responsive ads.
Responsive ads are designed to dynamically adjust their size, shape, and appearance to seamlessly blend into the content of websites or apps. This adaptability enables them to be highly visible and impactful without disrupting the user experience.
Compared to static ads, responsive ads offer several advantages, including higher click-through rates (CTRs) and increased impression volume. Google claims that responsive search advertising often has a CTR that is 5–15% greater than that of traditional search advertisements.
TREND 12. Mobile-first Design
We acknowledge that mobile internet usage among high school and college students is not a new phenomenon.
However, it remains crucial for college marketers to prioritize mobile-first design due to its significance.
According to Hootsuite, 95% of American teenagers between the ages of 13 and 17 own a smartphone. This represents a significant increase of 30% compared to the 73% of smartphone-owning teens in 2015.
It is safe to assume that upcoming students rely on their smartphones for conducting college searches. If your website and other digital marketing assets are not mobile-friendly, you are at a substantial disadvantage.
Furthermore, with Google’s transition towards mobile-first indexing, your website must be optimized for seamless scrolling on mobile devices. Failure to do so can negatively impact your search engine ranking.
Considering the growing popularity of voice search functionality through devices like Alexa and Siri, it is also essential to consider voice search optimization to enhance usability and accessibility.
TREND 13. Create student-focused blogs
Although blogs may have experienced a decline in popularity among Gen Z, they remain a valuable tool in the context of higher education.
However, blogging merely for the sake of publishing content has become outdated. Blogs continue to serve as a vital resource for students seeking in-depth information that cannot be effectively conveyed through short videos.
The key to successful blogging lies in creating student-centered content that offers applicants valuable and captivating information, fostering a sense of belonging.
Blogs play a critical role and yield significant returns on investment when it comes to achieving marketing goals, such as increasing enrollment.
There are several effective strategies to leverage blogs to attract attention. Incorporating guest blogs written by special authors and featuring student spotlights can help potential applicants. Feel more at ease with your institution, gain insights into its operations, and understand the application process.
TREND 14. Marketing Using Micro-Influencers
If you have ever witnessed a college utilizing a famous graduate in their marketing campaign, that is an example of influencer marketing.
The good news is that you don’t necessarily require celebrities among your alumni to take advantage of the current trends. Brands of all kinds, including colleges, are discovering that today’s audiences crave less celebrity-focused content and instead seek genuine content from real individuals.
Here’s even better news: Your institution is likely already surrounded by micro-influencers. Similar to prospective Gen Z students, your current students are probably highly active on social media platforms.
Whether you are aware of it or not, organic “micro-influence” is already happening when potential students search for college-related content on platforms like TikTok or YouTube.
Your college can tap into this trend by identifying students who excel at representing their school on social media. Establishing partnerships to amplify their content on web pages and in advertisements.
This approach enables you to leverage the influence of these students and strengthen your institution’s online presence.
TREND 15. Use Google Analytics for marketing in higher education
In the realm of higher education marketing, data plays a crucial role in understanding audience and making well-informed decisions regarding marketing strategies.
Google Analytics stands out as a powerful tool that enables the collection and analysis of data related to website traffic.
By utilizing Google Analytics effectively, valuable insights can be gained about website visitors, including their demographics, traffic sources, on-site behavior.
Armed with this information, adjustments can be made to the marketing strategy to better target the audience and achieve desired goals.
Google Analytics focuses on providing a comprehensive view of how the website is utilized as a whole, rather than solely emphasizing technical details.
Its enhanced metrics aid in forecasting user behavior, calculating churn, and offer more precise data controls to optimize campaigns effectively.
Undoubtedly, Google Analytics represents one of the prominent digital marketing trends in the higher education sector in 2023. Marketers can benchmark their websites against competitors, enabling them to fine-tune promotional campaigns for optimal results.
The field of education marketing is constantly evolving, and 2023 brings forth a plethora of exciting trends that can shape the success of educational institutions.
From the integration of virtual reality and augmented reality to personalized marketing automation. There are numerous opportunities to engage with prospective students in innovative ways. Staying ahead of the curve in education marketing requires embracing these trends and utilizing them strategically.
By adopting innovative technologies, leveraging social media effectively, utilizing data-driven insights, and prioritizing user experience. Institutions can successfully navigate the competitive landscape and achieve their marketing goals in 2023 and beyond.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What are marketing trends going into 2023?
Marketing trends for 2023 include a strong emphasis on video and live streaming usage. Similar to the trends observed in 2022, brands will continue to invest significantly in platforms. YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram, leveraging the power of video content to effectively engage and interact with consumers. Video content continues to be a popular medium for storytelling and connecting with audiences.
2. What will change about marketing tech in 2023?
Marketers must keep ahead of the curve to be successful in the continually expanding field of marketing technology. No-code platforms will become more prevalent, AI and machine learning will be used more frequently. Personalization will take the stage, and data security and privacy will continue to be prioritized in 2023.
3. What is future marketing in 2025?
By 2025, there will be a notable increase in the adoption of chatbots, social media channels, and virtual reality marketing methods. These emerging trends are expected to have a positive impact on business sales. The utilization of these techniques will result in more engaging experiences for customers, particularly in terms of verbal communication.
Post Contribution: Ryan Gould, Vice President of Strategy and Marketing Services – Elevation Marketing
Shahid Shahmiri is a digital marketer who helps online businesses grow with smart marketing tactics to improve sales and leads. He is passionate and driven to grow businesses online and is responsible for analyzing marketing, SEO, growth and managing promotional and media channels.