Data Driven Content Marketing Strategies in Higher Education

By Kaila Strong • Business2Community • May 14, 2013

Image: M. McNeill/Fox Photos/Getty Images

Data Driven Content Marketing Strategies in Higher Education image Data Driven Content Marketing Strategies in Higher Education

Marketers today have access to more data on website visitors, e-mail subscribers, leads and social media fans than ever before. Leveraging this data, in addition to demographic data, helps to ensure marketers can produce the best content for prospective customers. That is, when it’s actually examined and used properly.

Many brands are new to content marketing and use of data, and properly laid out strategies often fall to the wayside. Harvard Business Review reports an estimated 89% of marketers make customer related decisions based on factors other than analytics. It’s imperative to understand how best to execute a data driven content marketing strategy for the best results in today’s online environment. This is especially true in the world of higher education marketing.

Today’s prospective online students are barraged with ads, e-mails, tweets, pop ups and other forms of marketing from the large array of schools offering degrees. Consumers are growingly aware of marketing tactics, which requires marketers to be extra creative. Learning to develop a data driven content marketing strategy will ultimately aid in being able to deliver the content students are looking for and improve the effectiveness of your marketing efforts.

What is Data Driven Content Marketing?

Data driven content marketing utilizes data, statistics, market research, surveys and/or public data to dictate a content strategy. Producing content based on the backing of numbers and research is one way to tactically execute the development of content for maximum results.

The term is also used to describe the use of data to create content such as Infographics, case studies, blog posts, video and images. By discovering a unique idea to cover with data, asking the right questions, or adding the right data sets you’re able to create data-driven content. For the purposes of this blog post, however, we’ll focus more on the use of data to drive marketing efforts not data focused content.

Data Points Available for Higher Education Content Marketers

There are many third party data resources available to you as marketers. In addition, your own site can serve as a place to gather data too – even if you haven’t started utilizing a formal content marketing strategy. Here are a few of the data points you can use in higher education to help start driving your content strategy.

Student Demographic Data

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An example of a higher education demographic study that can be used as a data point for content marketing. Source: Arizona State University.

As a higher education marketer you’re likely to have done extensive research on who the prospective students are for your institution. Each degree program is catered to a different student and having a handle on who that individual is will of course be important to any marketing initiatives. Make sure you’re examining this information and using this data to focus your content marketing efforts to attract that individual. Some third party resources are provided below that may help you understand students a bit better as well.

Using your website analytics program such as Google Analytics, you’re able to see some limited demographic data such as: language and location. Dive deeply into the location of your visitors and review possible opportunities to focus content on a specific geo-area as well. Examine data on your Facebook page as well using Insights. You may find a lot of valuable information about your current student body or prospects. Insights helps you see gender, location, and age of your fans on Facebook.

Site Visitors: Visits, Time of Day, Time Onsite and % Return Visits

Another data source that can provide insight for content marketing is found on your site with visitor information, time of day, time on site and % of return visits. Looking at the content that currently draws in the most visitors, what time of day they access this content, how long they spend on that content and the type of content that visitors return to are all important areas to examine. Tailoring your strategies to address areas where visitors most frequent, return to often or stay on longer are all ways in which you can use data to support your initiatives. Develop the content that is already working for your site visitors, spend more of your efforts on those initiatives than ones that aren’t producing the same results. Analyze the numbers and get smart about why you’re developing content.

E-mail Open Rates & Click Through Rates

Do you send out regular e-mails to prospective students – maybe a newsletter or other marketing materials? Take the time to examine your e-mail open rates and click throughs on links contained within your e-mails. Which e-mails get opened most? Which links get clicked on the most? What insight can you gain from looking at this information?

E-mail subject lines and content contained within this marketing effort can provide you with insight that can be applied to future efforts. Examine this data, provide the type of content that performs well and you’ll be better off when trying to promote using e-mail marketing in the future.

Examining click through rates within your site, using Google Webmaster Tools and tracking URLs are also great ways to gather information on content effectiveness. Figure out why your prospects click on links, determine any patterns in the reasons why they perform that action and execute content initiatives that help replicate this pattern.

Third Party Data

Polling

Have you ever used Google consumer surveys? These fast, affordable and accurate customer market research surveys allow you to discover key insights from users across the web. Learn how it works here, as a potential opportunity to gather data.

Consider also polling your existing e-mail subscriber base or setting up a poll on your website that visitors can take, helping answer questions such as: content type they like the most (blog, images, video, etc…), where they go to find content (trade publications, magazines, blogs, etc…), and what content helps them understand more about a degree program. The types of questions you can ask are are endless, just take the time to really think through the poll and what information you are looking to gather from it.

Gathering Data

Data.gov is another site with valuable information providing “public access to high value, machine readable datasets generated by the Executive Branch of the Federal Government.” Check back to see if any data is currently available to help you understand your demographic and changes that take place with those individuals on an annual basis.

Additionally research into demographic data and marketing strategy is provided below. Have an article that you find useful? Share with us in the comments below and we’ll add it to this list:

Preparing Your Site to Measure Content Data

Now that you have a pretty good idea on what data to measure, you’ll want to dive into preparing your site to gather information and setting up baselines.

One suggestion is to set up Google Analytics to understand how prospective students utilize content onsite to gather information during such a long customer cycle. Josh Braaten, Sr. Online Marketing Manager at Rasmussen College, describes how he has worked with Google Analytics to set up multi-content funnels. This helps him to examine how users interact with web content on their path to conversion, and he’s able to make changes based on the path a user takes. This is a worthwhile read for anyone in higher education looking to gather content data and prove the value as well.

Having the means to gather data is important to the entire process of data driven content marketing. Ensure that your site is ready to gather data and use a reputable website analytics program. Test out the program and make sure code loads properly and is tracking effectively as well. Write down baselines and examine those monthly, quarterly, semi-annually and yearly.

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An example if a Muti-channel funnel in Google Analytics

Data Driven Content Marketing Best Practices

Lastly, it’s integral for your success to cover some of the best practices that are important to thoroughly understanding data driven content marketing. Here are just a few…. Feel free to add your own in the comments below.

  1. Segment and/or update your subscriber lists – make sure you have your e-mail marketing lists set up to accommodate promoting niche e-mail users. It’s pointless to promote niche content to prospective students who aren’t interested in that degree program, so make sure your e-mail lists are segmented to accommodate.
  2. Focus on quality over quantity: clean up your lists – have you de-duped your e-mail subscriber lists lately? How about checking for spam and validating e-mail addresses? Spend some time every few months ensuring you have a quality list of e-mail subscribers.
  3. Share data across departments – it’s always wise to share data that you gather from your research with other departments. Sometimes data you glean from how content performs on your site can help your PR department as well as sales or account managers. Imagine if a piece of content was providing a lot of use for online visitors, don’t you think a sales team or account management team could provide this content to help sell a student as well? Ensure you’re sharing data across multiple departments.
  4. Execute using the data you find – certainly it’s one thing to research and have a lot of useful observations available, but how well are you actually executing? Make sure your follow through matches your intent with data driven content marketing.
  5. Don’t make assumptions about your data – an incredible piece of advice is to really understand the data you’re looking at and avoiding assumptions with data. Avinash Kaushik has an insightful blog that provides great digital marketing advice, and one article “Eight Silly Data Myths Marketing People Believe That Get Them Fired“ is an awesome read. He goes over several myths with data that you should avoid, and helps you in understanding some of the basic concepts data should help you observe.

Data driven content marketing is the smart way to execute content. Use these tips to help you propel your content marketing strategy to the next level.

Attend our upcoming webinar about data driven content marketing to learn more! I will be hosting it on June 11th at 11 AM PST/2 PM EST and it’s free to join.

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