What You Need to Know in 2018 About Digital Marketing for Higher Ed

digital marketing trends 2018

The more you understand about what’s happening in digital marketing for 2018, the more you can impact what happens at your institution. Want a better applicant pool? Higher enrollment yield? More students who enter your programs, find success and graduate? Then you need to find the most promising prospects. Digital marketing can help you accomplish that—as long as you use its tools effectively and do it before competitor institutions.


Marketing is built on technology. Digital marketing for 2018 will be even more reliant upon technology than it always has been. Artificial intelligence is just another way of pointing to algorithms that learn behavior and adjust accordingly. Your marketing plans could do the same—whether you turn to programmatic media buys, use behavioral targeting or build out messaging based on a user’s action. How would you like to sync your email campaigns with digital ads that pitch relevant content and messaging based on a potential student’s specific interests? You can! A bit of forethought, a snippet of code, and you can target your future students exactly where they are in the enrollment funnel.

Video’s gone VR.  We’ve barely scratched the surface of all that can be done within the domain of virtual reality. Even if the only video you have are teaser homepage images, or professorial lectures, it’s past time to increase your video presence. But just plain video is so 2017. Imagine a snail mail arrival at a hot prospect’s door that includes cardboard 3D VR glasses with 360 degree images featuring your school. IKEA already offers its customers the ability to use VR to picture IKEA products in their home. What if future students could picture themselves on your campus? School tours will never be the same!

Native ads can supplement traditional digital ads. Especially if you’re not doing digital ads correctly to begin with, they can quickly become intrusive, annoying or just plain invisible to the user. That’s definitely not the result you want. On the other hand, native ads with the look and feel of the third-party sites on which they appear can generate interest—and clicks—from the right users at the right time. Most students cannot distinguish sponsored content from actual news. Picture your sponsored article or video on a site your future students already trust and visit every day. Your content is more likely to be consumed, appreciated and maybe even clicked upon.

The story is more important than ever. Did you know that Google likes longer form content and will likely boost your rank because of it? Wait, you’ve heard it a hundred times that that human attention span has been on the decline for years, especially among the young. So how can longer be better? I’d posit that it’s not a shorter attention span necessarily, but a more discerning one. If you put content before potential students that they actually care about, they’ll watch and read and interact. Just don’t shoot them short, boring blog posts, or hard-sell videos. Tell a story they care about, do it well and make it easily accessible wherever they roam on the internet.

Embrace your own data. There isn’t a better trove of data on who your next best students will be than what is already available in your own database. Chart the course of your most successful students and graduates and share that info with your marketing team. They can target prospective students accordingly. Share it with institutional development and you can target potential donors most likely to give back to their alma mater. Leverage the information you already have to its fullest potential.

At ESM Digital, we know what worked in 2017 and what will hit the mark in 2018. Want to find out more? Contact us today and let’s have a talk about your plans and how we can help you improve enrollment yield through digital marketing.

~Linda Emma