Today we live in a “wired” world. Students are turning to the internet to explore their options in obtaining and international education. Are you able to be found when students are looking for you or the programs, degrees and courses that you offer? How can you be found on the internet, not just your website, but on other sites and partner portals and be part of the conversations that are happening about you online? It is all about having a solid web presence that goes above and beyond your school’s “official” website.
So what is a web presence? A web presence is simply how one appears on the web, whether a person, business, school or other entity. It goes beyond your website and involves other websites, partner sites and portals, all where students are searching. Your web presence starts when someone is searching for you and how easily you can be found. It then moves to perception and how the people that are looking for you perceive your school and/or programs being offered and then it moves to how you interact with the people that have looked for you and found you. Let’s break the components down.
Be found when students are searching: The answer seems simple. You must be found on search engines when someone is searching for you or for the programs that you offer international students. That sounds easy right? When someone searches for your school by name, they will obviously find it and it will be sitting atop the Google search listings. But, it does not stop there. What if an international student Google’s, “Study culinary in the US?” Will your culinary school or program be found?
There are two ways to be found when students are searching for the right place to study. The first is by paying to be found, called pay-per-click advertising. This is when you bid on key words that are relevant to your school and programs. Key words like “study culinary in the US”, or “study in New York”, and only pay when someone actually clicks on the link. Pay-per-click provides instant results, as you appear as soon as you begin your campaign and continue until your budget expires.
The second way to be found when students are searching is in the “free” or “organic” listings. This is the slower of the two that takes time to be found. In the simplest terms, the key to being found in the organic listings is to have relevant content and key words in that content so that what the person is searching for matches what you have to offer on your site. In other words, the search engines will match your search to the websites that are most relevant to it.
Be found in multiple places: To be found, you need to think beyond your own website and think about certain online marketing partnerships. These would include portal sites with the ability to search for schools, content generation, marketing partnerships, etc. This will allow you to be found much easier on the web. Some of these can be free (see our blog on How to Recruit International Students for Free), while others you will pay for. There are companies that are in the business of promoting colleges and universities on their sites. Some will build out other standalone micro-sites that mirror your official site or they include you on their own site in special “featured” content sections. They then enlist tactics mentioned above such as pay-per-click or organic search. This allows you to be found in multiple listings on the same page of search engines and therefore dominating the search.
Be part of the Conversation: This is the “social” portion of your web presence. Knowing what people are saying about you whether on Facebook, Twitter or even Yelp. Social media, for the first time allows us to be a part of the conversation when students are talking about you. It is a way to interact with them, get them information such as deadlines and upcoming activities as well as address their questions. It is where the students are comfortable socializing and getting information. For more information, see our blog on Facebook best practices.
A good web presence will accomplish a few things. It will help students find you, give you multiple ways to be found and make you part of the conversation that is happening about you, all online. Do you have a website, or a web presence?