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Inbound Marketing for Higher Education Enrollment Management

Tony Fraga

I’ve been going to the annual NAGAP conference for more than a decade, and it’s definitely my favorite higher education industry event. Each year I look forward to the networking and educational workshops on graduate enrollment marketing — and, of course, having fun and building relationships with our clients who attend the conference.

One of the new concepts that is rapidly growing is inbound marketing for higher education, and at the NAGAP conference, I guarantee that this will be a hot topic of discussion! Here’s why...

Inbound marketing is more than just content marketing.

Many of you may already be familiar with content marketing, which involves publishing content to establish thought leadership, and then using that content to improve your marketing reach. Content marketing involves blogs, social media, published articles, press releases, videos, and more. Does the phrase “content is king” ring a bell?

However, content without context is not very effective at generating qualified prospective students.

Of course, we all know that many institutions already have some sort of blog, but most of them lack an inbound strategy that provides a game plan for a graduate school to do content marketing effectively. 


Grad schools need to win the SEO game.

No, I am not talking about Google Ads or other paid search tactics (that’s worth an entirely separate blog post). I’m talking about organic search results driven by high-quality content and a dedicated keyword strategy!

Google is constantly updating its algorithms, and (without going way off on a technical tangent) the key thing to remember is that the search engines want to deliver to users what they are looking for. So, if your graduate enrollment marketing plan does not include creating fresh, program-specific information that is layered with keywords relevant to your student personas, then you shouldn’t expect to grow your website traffic from organic search results.

Inbound generates new leads for recruitment events.

Be careful not to jump on the bandwagon that says “direct marketing is dead — inbound is the way to go!” In the world of graduate enrollment management, direct marketing campaigns are alive and well, and they help generate inquiries and applicants for many graduate programs, both big and small.

That doesn’t mean that it’s easy to find good lists of prospective students within your target market for your next multi-channel campaign. In fact, finding new sources of leads is one of the hardest aspects of graduate school marketing and recruitment! And that’s why inbound marketing is so effective for graduate student enrollment — most grad schools are looking for fresh new leads to invite to their next information session, webinar, or open house.


Here’s how inbound marketing generates new leads:

  • You create content that aligns with your personas’ interests
  • That content attracts new visitors to your site pages
  • Those visitors give you permission to market to them (in exchange for more content)
  • You track what they read, where they go, and what they want
  • You send relevant offers to specific segments based on what you know about them

Is this starting to sound familiar? It’s probably because you may have, at one time in your life, purchased something from this little, tiny supplier called Amazon.com. I know that online shopping isn’t the same as deciding about grad school — nor is an inbound marketing strategy limited to optimizing a user’s website experience. But, there are some important lessons to learn about providing people more of what prospective students want, instead of aimlessly blasting static messages to every one of your inquiries.

Higher Ed Marketing Benchmarks

There is a lot more to inbound marketing for graduate enrollment management professionals to consider. If you’re interested in learning more about inbound marketing for schools, we’re here to help. 

We analyzed hundreds of marketing campaigns for graduate student recruitment in order to understand what's working and what's not when it comes to enrollment marketing for graduate programs in higher education.

You can access that benchmarks report here.

Topics: Inbound Marketing, Content Strategy, SEO

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