Digital Marketing Strategy for a School/ College Admission Campaign

Today, I want to talk about the digital marketing strategy for the Education sector. It could include a digital marketing strategy for a primary school to college and universities running several programs across countries. Not all the sections of this article are relevant to your need. So, refer the table of content below and choose what you need at the moment

Defining the Target Audience

Defining the right audience is as important as defining the right channels and delivering the right message. You need to answer the following question in order to define your target audience

  • In case of primary or secondary school, do you want to target students above 13 years through digital ads?
  • Who is the decision-maker? For primary/ secondary schools, it would-be parents.
  • Decision making also depends on ethnic background. For an Indian or Thai student coming to study in the west, the decision is mostly taken by their parents. But, that might not be the case of a student from the west, going to some other country for some other courses.

You should also remember that though since small students/ kids do not often take the final decision, it would be a good idea to include kids during the brand awareness phase but not during the conversion phase.

Targeting Students in General

The next step would be to know the timing, device type, and operating system of the devices that students use. Some of the common factors that you might consider would be

  • What are the top channels that these students spend most of their times? YouTube? Instagram? TicToc? Facebook? Google? Snapchat?
  • Different geographies might have different popular local channels as well.

The best way to get these data would be to take an internal survey from your current pool of students. The higher the sampling size is, the finer the result would be. After the internal survey, you should have the data in hand such as:-

  • Targeting mobile or desktop
  • Best time to target
  • Android or iOS
  • Budget percentage share and purpose of different social channels
  • Best channels to reach to international students

Targeting parents

Since a major chunk of decision-makers are the parents though it depends on the culture and the targeted region. Some of the factors you should consider in online targeting are:-

  • Age group
  • Income level
  • Best time to target (Office hours, after dinner? higher budget on weekends?)
  • Gender (prominent decision-makers?)
  • Device type
  • Device OS
  • Social Channels & budget share etc.
  • Affluent region of the target local city if the admission fee is high

The above targeting options for the students and parents can also be sampled in the campaigns and later optimized towards the best performing segment. Apart from that, there are some basic building blocks which once set are hard to play around.

Brand Awareness Tips for Schools

The first and foremost thing that you would need is to do brand awareness. You are free to choose the organic or paid media channels you think would fit but brand awareness is a must. Here are some tips on brand awareness:

  • You need to define a tone to your brand awareness campaign which matches with the school’s motto.
  • You can take a completely different approach to it. Some unconventional approaches that you can use towards brand awareness are:
    • Challenging the traditional education system
    • Focusing on suppressed thoughts of the students in making the school choice
    • Showing freedom, determination, and limitlessness in the tone
    • Showing your past achievements
    • Showing Alumni’s voice, etc

The above examples would need a brainstorming but there is the way from where you can gain an insight into these things i.e. take a survey of your present students and note down their thoughts for their future peers. It is also important to know what are the best things that the current students like about your school and what factors they considered before deciding to go ahead with the current school.

Those are the most possible points that those students talk to their friends about the school. It could many things such as opportunities to try new things such as drama, Acting, music, sports, campus, freedom to learn & follow the passion, etc.

It is important to lead the tone of the campaign through the tone of a student. It allows prospective peers to connect more with the brand voice. The campaign tone for the students should focus more on the highlights that a student might like. On the other hand, the campaign tone for the parents should focus more on a parent’s point of view.

School admission landing page Tips

Create a separate landing page which showcases the life, fun, tours, and opportunities in a very colorful way to the students. It can include stories, small GIFs, videos, etc. with internal links to other similar pages on the website with options to like and share. The success of such landing pages can be measured on the basis of likes, shares, video watched, time spent on the page by the students, etc.

A part of the admission landing page

A part of the admission landing page

The landing page for parents or college students would ideally be targeted towards the conversion or lead form submissions. It should include relevant information such as fee, admission, transportation, meals, education, etc. All the information that you think parents might be interested in knowing before the admission.

Admission Ads: Copy, Creatives & Language

The admission creatives for small students should be fun-filled and influential enough to attract their thoughts and match their vibes. Also, keep the language light on the creatives for the students to make it easier for them to understand. On the other hand, the admission creatives for parents or college students should be considered to have a traditional line base. So that it can match their thoughts. Sometimes, I also like to try with creatives in black & white or on the greyscale.

University Admission Ads

University Admission Ads

Campaign Ideas & Targeting

Some channels will be common to target such as Youtube while other channels will be very specific to the audience. For example, most of the students in the US use Snapchat and Instagram and have moved away from facebook. On the other hand, parents are still on Facebook while college students are available on both of the channels.

Content Marketing

You can also target content through channels such as Outbrain and Taboola and share the alumni stories or success stories. Have their stories organically crafted well so that you can catch a huge influx of the interested audience.

Influencer marketing

The same set of Influencer marketing might not apply to the students as well as to their parents. Students react differently to influencer marketing than their parents. In most cases, kids are likely to trust the reviews and recommendations of the apparent celebrities. So, exploring the idea of influencer marketing could be another option. On the other hand, a parent or college students might trust more to a successful alumnus.

Open House campaigns

Organizing an open house to let the parents and students see the campus and know more about the schools is another major step that you can take towards attracting more students and parents. Remarket to the audience which has shown particular interest in the open house landing page based on certain criteria. Also, focus more on those leads because they are likely to convert fast. Here are some of the ways to organize an open house:

  • Organize a campus visit
  • Guest talk show
  • Meet and greet with current students

Promoting Bursary/ Scholarship

Bursary and/ or scholarships are a part of the huge deal for a school or college admission campaign. Parents and adult students look forward to it. In fact, promoting the scholarship right way can get you a lot of warm admission leads at no cost.

Promote Scholarship Internally

  • The landing page would be the first place you want to put the scholarship information if you are already running or planning to run a campaign to drive traffic to the particular landing page. The landing page and scholarship should be common to the program.
  • Promote the scholarship on the LMS as a push notification or even as some sort of other notifications. Most of the students check their LMS on a daily basis and this is one of the best ways to boost the scholarship idea internally. Also, embed buttons to share, message, and mail the link to their friends. You can also ask students for referrals. This will increase the reach beyond the campus and also grab you warm leads for free.


  • Play the information about the scholarship on different students touchpoints such as cafeteria, library, common hall etc where students can read and see about it. There will also be chances that students will discuss that among themselves and others
  • Most of the colleges will have an alumni email program. Why don’t prepare an email for the Alumni and asking them for their referrals if they someone out there who they think deserves the scholarship should be forwarded the mail to?

Promote on the online message boards

Online message boards are a great place to announce something like scholarships because these places will have those audiences which are totally into what they are looking for. Some of the places where you can advertise are:

It also generates a lot of content and discussions from which you can later get benefitted organically.

Promote on Quora

Quora has recently become one of the best websites to do some research for users who are at the top of the funnel. Because of the regular content updates, Quora also appears organically in the top websites in the Google SERP. Many students look for scholarships before deciding to take admission into a college.

One of the best ways to publish this news would on Quora. This could also be a part of the Off-Page SEO strategy to gain some backlinks for the long run. You can also promote on Paid quora.

Marine scholarship on Quora on Google SERP

List your scholarship on scholarship directories & websites

Yes! students visit these websites regularly in search of a proper scholarship that they are looking for. It is a good idea to advertise or post your scholarships on these websites.

Promote on social media

There is a lot that can be done towards promoting scholarships on social media. Some of the ideas are:

  • Display scholarship information on social media stories and cover photos
  • Boost the post
  • Run campaigns targeting those interests and age group

In my experience, first, boost a post or leverage an old post, paid or organically, to gain some engagement and use that post in the ad creatives. Such posts with a lot of engagements –  loves, likes, comments work a lot. On Facebook, a canvas ad seems to be performing much better for leads and stories for brand awareness.

Run brand-related scholarship-based search campaign

It might also happen that some students only want to join your university because of a lot of reasons and the first thing that they want to do is to find the scholarships in your university. And to capture those warm leads, the search ads are the best ads. Another advantage of the search ads is that there is not much competition in the branded keywords.

Scholarship Ads

Placement based ads

Make the list of the websites that your prospective students or parents might be visiting. Try to place your ads on similar websites to capture those students. These websites could be discussion forums, study portals, scholarship specific websites, etc.


Identify the different touchpoints on the digital channels and list their positions down the funnel. Based on their position and targeted channel apply the remarketing concept. For example, the open house page visitors who also visited the admission and fee page, are your hot leads. On the other hand, admission page visitors who also visited the career page should be one of your coldest leads.

Similarly, create a lookalike audience on Facebook based on different events such as those who showed interest in the open house event and subscribed to it. Those who landed on the admission page and filled up the form etc. These things need another level of strategy.

Search Ads

Some of the keywords targeting ideas for the admission campaign would be:

  • Brand terms
  • Competitors targeting
  • Targeting based on the following search terms around which you can construct campaigns
    • (Admissions) (course) (year)
    • (school) (gender) (location) (year) (grade)
Outspoken Search Ad copy for Admissions

Outspoken Search Ad copy for Admissions

This blog just gives a general overall of the campaign & planning. The execution might need another level of expertise.

Channel Performance for Admission Campaign

  • Instagram should only be used as an influencing platform for kids. Do not expect any conversion out of it as most of the forms are filled by the parents
  • Remember the age limitation for targeting on any platforms
  • You can also try platforms like Spotify for ad recall
  • Here are some of the best performing audience in order of their preference
    • the branded audience
    • search & search remarketing audience
    • LinkedIn remarketing
    • Facebook remarketing and lookalike audience
    • LinkedIn Interest-based targeting
    • Google remarketing audience
    • Google similar audience &
    • other tops of funnel audiences.

Strategy to Improve leads quality

Let us say, you are running campaigns for college admission for different courses across different geographies and you are getting poor leads for admission. In that situation what should you do? There are a lot of things that you can do but here are some of the things that you should also consider doing.


Is there any demand for what you are trying to sell?

Before launching the campaign, you need to do research on demand and supply. For example, if you are trying to sell MBBS degree to Canada, you need to first know if people or the prospective students in that particular age group in Canada are actually looking for MBBS degree in your country.

Some of the tools that you use for this research purpose is:

  • Google trends
  • Google Keyword Planner
  • Think with Google etc.

Why should they choose you?

So now, if you are sure that people are looking for those particular courses in those particular areas, then you have to make sure that they choose you. Here, you can ask some questions to yourself:

  • What do I offer which is not easily available in the targeted country?
  • Do the students have a career orientation after they finish the course?
  • Can students from that particular country afford the tuition fee?
  • Are they willing to travel to a new country?

There could be a lot of questions that you can ask and have the answer for yourself. List as many questions as you could and try to answer those questions. You can also assign some weights to all questions based on their importance.

Another thing I would like to suggest here is, if possible, take a survey of students from different programs and ask those questions. It would become easier for you to assign them a weight. Also, you can come to know more about what students think when applying to a particular program. A proper demand and supply research can guarantee 20% of better leads.

Budget Allocation

Once you have done the entire research, I would suggest you do the budget allocation per different countries per different program. The initial demand and supply research that you did per country for each program will save you a lot of time in making the campaigns. So now, you do not make the campaigns randomly but based on some data.

Target Group

So now you have all the data to back your plan up. Now is the time for targeting. If you have historical data here then awesome. You can get everything from there for better targeting. But if you have no historical data. You can look at the current program batch and deduce a number of targeting decision from there.

Audience target group

Basically, targeting is, in short, considering a lot of different factors such as age group, gender, location, education level, etc. before making a final decision. Here is a list of sample question that you should ask yourself for targeting:

  • Should age group vary across different countries because people graduate at a different age?
  • Are you advertising in the local language and is your course in a different language?
  • For a particular course, do a student need to be affluent?
  • What ratio of the gender you think should be ideal?
  • Should you be only targeting the affluent cities?
  • What should be the level of education of the target group?
  • Which is the viable channel for a particular targeted region?
  • What is the internet speed in the targeted region?
  • How often people access the internet there?

Think of as many possible causes as you could to narrow down the targeting. Here is an example:

  • Students in some of the African country only access internet twice or thrice a week in which one day is a weekend. The internet speed is slow and the mailbox is the first thing that they check when they go to the internet cafe. 

Here is another scenario:

  • Young generations in the US use Snapchat & Instagram more than Facebook or Whatsapp. They trust a review and recommendation from an internet celebrity more than an ad. 

So, if you think you know about your target audience, rethink it. That’s not the all always. A perfectly-identified target group will further enhance the quality of your leads for sure.

Targeting Channels

Once you have your target group identified, you would surely want to start researching on the targeted channels. One shoe does not fit all. So, you need to start listing down all the possible digital touchpoints in a particular targeted region. Here are some of the scenarios

  • While Facebook seems to be a viable option for targeting students ranging from 20-25 in the developing countries, the same cannot be used for targeting students in the western countries such as Canada or the US because the population has moved away from that channel.
  • In China, they have their own version of Facebook & WhatsApp.

To put the long story in short, not all the channels are viable everywhere. So, here are some of the tricks that you can do:

  • Go to Alexa and look out for the top 100 websites that people visit in those particular countries. You will surely see a difference. Can you do media buying there? Is there any way to put your ads on those websites?
  • Explore other platforms such as Quora, Reddit, Outbrain, Programmatic, media buying.
  • Compare all the possibilities to fit your needs.

Maybe, it is a good idea to list out all the channels in an excel sheet along with the country, budget, and programs.

Unique channel targeting

We often do not think of these but targeting unique channels highly relevant to the audience can be highly targeted and beneficial. Here are some examples:

  • Twitch for gaming
  • Different subreddits for the different audiences
  • IMDB for acting or movies
  • Behance or other such animation websites for animation or 3D etc.

Ads Type

So, once you have the targeted set of channels, next you would want to define the set of ad creatives. In my opinion, the ads type is more related to creativity and targeting than optimization. And, your creative department has found the perfect way to strike the ball, you will come to know what kind of ads perform better in which location. The discussion over ads type in itself is a bigger topic.

Some Ads Type Example

  • Instagram and Facebook stories are good for brand awareness for scholarships or sort of announcements
  • Google display responsive ads perform much better to static ones
  • Social media carousel ads can be used for consideration phase
  • Static images with higher ratios such as 1:1 work the best for conversion based ads
  • Canvas ads work best for scholarship announcement as well as twitter posts and videos

Writing the ad copies

Prefer to write the ad copies in the tone of the target audience. Ad copies can prove to be a great filter for non-qualified leads. Here are some examples:

  • If you are advertising in Non-English countries and your courses are in English, A simple messaging about courses in English only can filter out a lot of unwanted traffic.
  • People tend to engage with the ads in their native language than a foreign language.

Landing Page

A landing page is the first point of interaction to your prospective leads. That’s the first step towards confidence-building in the leads.

Perfect landing page

Example of a landing page

Here are some landing pages tips:

  • Build the landing page around brand guidelines while also giving it a feel of the target audience
  • Include as much information as you can which a prospective lead might be looking for before coming down in the funnel.
  • The included information could be an admission fee, placements, program structure, Alumni, testimonials, reviews, interacting with the past students, etc.

Use Google analytics to find interests

Besides the above data from your CRM system, you can also use Google Analytics to find the interests, affinity etc of the audience. Create a persona around that audience and target that persona across different platforms based on the strength of the platform.

Retargeting audience

One of the best converting audiences that I have seen are the retargeted audience. There could be a lot of strategy around the retargeted audience such as:

  • Targeting the past 6 months CRM leads
  • Targeting the leads from events and open house
  • Targeting Email openers
  • Landing page visitors
  • Landing page to others course information page visitors
  • Targeting page visitors from different sisters programs
  • Creating lookalikes of all of these relevant audiences
  • Targeting audience who interacted with your branded campaigns such as based on video interaction, engagement, etc.
  • Implement UTM or third-party cookies to further narrow down your targeting

Create More Audience

There could be a lot of different ways to get more audiences for retargeting and creating similar and lookalike audiences

  • Create Lookalike audiences based on past 6 months leads
  • Organize events, open house, portfolio reviews events, meetup events to create more audience and get more email IDs.
  • Targeting page visitors from different sisters programs
  • Run brand awareness campaigns in new potential markets and retarget the audience
  • Targeting audience who interacted with your branded campaigns such as based on video interaction, engagement, etc.
  • Landing page to others course information page visitors
  • Announce scholarships from time to time to get more interesting audience reach and retarget them later

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