By now it’s likely you’re aware of the potential of content marketing. Companies across the board are capitalizing on the opportunity to connect with their audience in a strategic and authentic way. But does this type of marketing work in the higher education field? The answer is yes!

In such a notoriously traditional industry, what does content marketing look like in this landscape? How are colleges adapting to this new-age technique in order to help attract new prospects and drive enrollments?

It’s completely natural to have questions when implementing a new process or launching a new strategy. And when it comes to content marketing in higher education, there are certain questions that always seem to rise to the surface. Join us as we offer our answers to some of the questions you may be considering.

Why should we be implementing content marketing?

This is the obvious first question – what’s in it for me? It may surprise you that content marketing isn’t just for food, fitness and fashion. When implemented correctly, there is a ton of potential for colleges and universities to reap the rewards also.

Just think of all of the questions that run through someone’s mind when researching a college or a career. In this day and age, many individuals turn straight to Google to find their answers. If your content is ranking highly for the precise terms they’re searching, imagine the impact you could have? You’ve now made a connection with a potential student without being obtrusive in any way. You simply provided them with the information they were looking for, where they were looking for it.

As different pieces of content begin ranking for different search terms and other websites start to link to your pages, you start to lift the authority of the entire website. All of the equity you’re building with these pieces of content is being channeled through to your program pages, giving everything a collective boost. This means those program pages, which are more transactional in nature, will begin to increasing in the rankings as well, which is certainly beneficial.

How long will it take for this to work?

Unlike more immediate tactics like pay per click advertising (PPC) or conversion rate optimization (CRO), content marketing is considered much more of a long-term investment. After spending time researching and developing a piece of content, it could take six months to a year after publishing before it really starts driving steady organic traffic.

But for those who are patient and buy into the process, the results over time can be astounding. Once a piece of content starts building momentum and driving organic traffic, you start gaining free visits to your website. To understand this, take a look at this chart illustrating one article written by Collegis Education on behalf of a partnering college:

As you can see, once a piece of content is living online, it starts building equity for your entire website and requires very minimal upkeep. To date, that single piece of content is garnering more than 40,000 new users to the college website and required only about 17 hours of effort.

It’s important to note that not every piece of content will be a homerun like this one. But each piece contributes in its own way to the success of the entire website.

How do we get our articles to the top of Google rankings?

Now you’re probably thinking, well why does it take so long for content to start ranking? It’s because it takes time for a piece of content to prove its worth and start climbing the search rankings. There are hundreds of ranking factors that play into the mystical Google algorithm. There’s just no way your content can be measured and rewarded overnight.

The best way to improve your search rankings is to commit to religiously following SEO best practices. Once you’ve done everything you can to optimize your page and spent some time promoting it, the next step is to be patient.

Why aren’t we talking about our programs more?

This is a tricky concept for many higher ed professionals to understand. The whole purpose of marketing is to showcase your campus, faculty, programs and other features of your school, right? This is where content marketing differs from traditional marketing.

Content marketing is all about educating and informing your audience through the channels they’re already using. It’s not about interrupting people, it’s about meeting them where they are – in the search engines, on social networks or other online platforms. Your goal should be to provide authentic, objective answers to their questions.

This means that not every piece of content is going to talk about the specifics of your programs or institution. By simply providing quality content that answers people’s questions, you are engaging with your audience early on in their college decision journey, earning their trust and building brand awareness.

Why are we featuring sources outside of our school?

This is another area that can be difficult to comprehend. Why would a college publish content that features individuals who are not affiliated with the school? It all goes back to the main purpose of content marketing – educating and informing your audience in an objective way.

It’s true that there are several impressive subject matter experts on staff at any given university, and it is definitely smart to feature them whenever able. However, it’s important to mix in external sources as well in order to maintain a balanced perspective. If a reader notices that an article is only quoting sources from their school, it begins to feel less authentic, and more salesy.

Another benefit of including outside sources is the ability to get the article in front of a new group of people. More often than not, when an industry expert is featured in an article, they will share it with their online network once it’s published. By borrowing their authority and reaching their followers, you are continuing to boost brand awareness and possibly even catching the eye of some prospective students.

Why does this not sound like academic writing?

Higher education is focused on academics, so it’s no surprise that articles and publications tend to be written at a fairly high reading level. Content marketing, on the other hand, should be written in a way that is inviting and understandable for readers. Readability not only helps your readers comprehend what you’re saying, but it also impacts SEO in a positive way.

Maintaining a conversational tone helps readers engage with your content. Using technical terminology and complicated jargon can confuse and intimidate your audience. Employing a friendly writing style helps instill trust with your reader and it feels more authentic. Nobody likes feeling like they’re being marketed to or manipulated, so keeping things clear and simple is best.

Capitalize on your content

If you’ve found yourself asking any of these questions about content marketing in higher education, you’re not alone – and you’re on the right track. Understanding the answers to these questions is the first step towards leveraging content for your institution.

As you can see, content marketing can work wonders in the world of higher education, as long as you follow best practices and understand the unique facets of the industry. Implementing a content marketing strategy can help increase brand awareness, build the trust of potential students and ultimately contribute to a lift in enrollments.

All it takes is a strategic approach, a commitment to the process and healthy dose of patience.