There is no question that the coronavirus pandemic has severely altered the landscape of just about every industry in the United States. Businesses and industries have come to a standstill. Our typical approach to marketing has been forced to change rapidly and in unexpected ways. The hardest-hit industries like travel are expected to show double-digit drops in Google ad spend.
Higher education is one of the industries most impacted by COVID-19. It’s a good bet your student acquisition strategies are going through some big adjustments. Most major schools have closed or gone online-only during this crisis. This move leaves higher ed marketers wondering how to promote everything from: future class starts, what messaging may be right in a time like this, and whether digital spend should even continue right now in order to keep future enrollment numbers up.
The truth is, this may actually be a good time to ramp up your paid search enrollment-generation efforts. With such an unprecedented situation before us, it’s hard to predict exactly how user behaviors and digital strategies will react. Listed below are the top three trends to watch for in your higher ed marketing campaigns during COVID-19.
Response to the COVID-19 pandemic has shined a bright light on online education in the U.S. Nearly every college has gone to virtual learning as campuses have shut down. Online education programs have been a growing trend for several years now. But this may be the push that propels interset in online classes to all-time highs.
No one knows for sure when traditional classroom learning will return, and at what scale. Current and prospective students are aware of that. It’s a good bet that searches involving the “online” modifier will soon see a sharp rise, as prospective students seek out ways to continue their education in what could be the only way for the near future. Paid search campaigns built out to target the “online” modifier in long-tail keywords are a great start. That way, if you offer any online classes, you can adjust bids higher or re-allocate budgets to maximize impression share as this specific search type begins rising (and likely sees more competition).
Keep Ad Messaging Current
Your messaging should be in a constant state of testing and adjusting no matter what. But in these times of national change, checking what message you’re putting out there should be one of your first moves. There’s a good bet the ad copy that typically works for your school would not have relevance right now. You don’t want to utilize ad copy that encourages in-person campus visits, promotes on-ground start dates that are now delayed, or shows a lack of awareness of what’s currently happening globally with the coronavirus pandemic.
Instead, adjust ad copy to focus on the value propositions that matter most in this current climate. Use “learn from home” or “flexible scheduling” messaging to promote online learning that your school offers. You can build brand awareness and interest through sitelinks that direct prospects to virtual tours or informational videos. Even if campus is shut down.
Plan for Non-traditional Learners
One looming impact of COVID-19 is the long-term financial impact the pandemic will end up having. We are already seeing markets react, and with countless businesses having to close the unfortunate reality is that many people will end up seeking out new careers when this is over.
Non-traditional learners are already one of the largest prospect pools for higher education. This group is often untapped by student acquisition strategies. With jobs and finances uncertain for a lot of workers right now, it’s highly likely that even more adult learners will be flocking back to higher education in search of new training or a new career.
Here are the top paid search strategies to adjust your campaigns for non-traditional learners during the coronavirus outbreak:
- Make sure you have campaigns built out, and budget allocated, for your school’s programs that could be a focus of adult learners. Certificate programs, IT (such as cybersecurity or coding classes), and business are always strong performers for under- and unemployed adults looking to boost their careers.
- Use ad messaging and landing page content to address the typical concerns of this audience: the need for flexible schedules or evening classes, frequent session start dates, affordability, and online access.
- Make sure demographic bid modifiers are in place. This will help maximize visibility with higher age groups, in anticipation of a surge in searches.
- Build out new keywords (if you don’t already have them in place). Target some broader searches that indicate a nontraditional learner is looking for a solution. Workers affected by COVID-19 closures will begin figuring out what comes next for them. These searches could spike for terms like “unemployment options near me” or “new career training”.
None of us truly know what comes next as the world deals with COVID-19. But more than ever, people are likely going to turn to higher education to help them take the next step. Trends and behaviors may change; but if your digital strategies remain turned on and adapt to the daily changes we’re seeing, you can ensure your school will come out the other side more successful.
Want to know more about keeping your digital enrollment marketing impactful and successful during this time? Get in touch with our higher ed marketing experts.