Lead generation strategies

How to Build your Education Marketing Strategy on 1st Party Data

Miguel Doughty

Miguel Doughty

Content Manager

October 08, 2021 ยท 4 min read

Started planning marketing for your next intake?

The digital marketing strategies you've come to trust and love are about to die.

Google announced this year that it will follow Apple's Safari and phase out 3rd party cookies on its Chrome browser. Pulling the plug on the party and putting digital marketers across higher education in a spin.

And even though cookies will be stored for a few years into the future, this won't help. The research window of prospective students is short. A constant stream of new data is needed to target them with similar results.

So if you want to avoid seeing your Cost per Student skyrocket - change your strategy now. With these 5 tips you can get a head start to see more student enrolments for your marketing buck for future intakes.

Third-party cookies in Higher Education Marketing

Let's recap. You've probably heard about 3rd party cookies and 1st party cookies. They store the same information. But the way that they are created and how they operate is different.

A 3rd party cookie is essentially a tag created by advertising companies to track users across the web. With the data they collect, they can build a profile of the user based on their individual browsing behaviour. 

The positive side is that it allows you to deliver a relevant ad about your programme to a prospective student who is doing their research on what and where to study.

So, why stop it if it benefits both the advertiser and the user?

Privacy concerns. 

From Cambridge Analytica to sweeping changes brought in by GDPR - personal data protection hasn't been far from the headlines. 

People are more informed today and demand that online companies put their privacy first. That’s why Google will join its fellow tech giants in charting a more responsible course by the end of 2023. 

Which gives you a reasonable amount of time to start adjusting your education marketing strategy to increase student enrollment. But how?

Use First-Party Cookies in your Education Marketing Strategy

Remember earlier we said that 3rd party and 1st party cookies store the same information? But the way that they are created and their functions are different?

1st party cookies are created by your school website, and only you can read the information stored in them. 

They're most commonly used to provide a better user experience. By tracking user activity as they move from page to page, for example. 

A tool like Google Analytics can help you collect 1st party cookies, analyse your traffic and gain some useful insights about prospective students visiting your website.

But let's talk about 1st party data more generally

Every piece of information about prospective students you collect from your own sources is 1st party data. Everything from your CRM system and social media accounts to survey results to your website offer mountains of data.

And since it's data that YOU have gathered, whether you use it to create new audiences, segments or whatever - it's GDPR compliant.

But how does this fit into the brave new world of digital marketing in higher education?

Contextual advertising and why it matters

Your 1st party data is going to come in handy to build personas. Yes, those fictional characters that represent different types of prospective students and help you understand their needs, experiences, behaviours and goals. 

You see, without 3rd party cookies tracking individuals across multiple websites, you'll need to start reaching your audiences where they are - at an aggregated level.

Let's look at how this might play out.

What might a prospective student do during their research for their perfect Master programme? Some might already start looking at careers websites to get an idea about the industry they want to move into. 

Say your school offers a Masters in Data Science. It makes sense to bid for an ad placed on a careers website where the user has searched for Data Analytics jobs.

This approach of paying for your ad where your message is relevant to the content is called contextual advertising. The idea is not completely new; it's always been used in magazine and newspaper ads where you'd chose in which section of the paper your ad should be placed.

Leverage digital tools in your Education Marketing Plan

A contextual advertising service you’re probably familiar with is Google Ads. Your ad appears on the search results page when keywords within your ad group fit within the context of the search.

Well, today 2 million advertisers use Google’s ad networks and this is looking to increase. More advertisers competing for ad space will drive up prices.

So testing the waters of Bing, Yahoo, Yandex and other search engines in your education marketing strategy could be a smart move. Just don’t expect the same results as before.

Oh, and while we’re on the subject of search engines. It should go without saying that your website SEO ranking will become more important than ever to your education marketing plan. So give it the attention it deserves.

Make the most of the traffic you get on your website

There’s a lot of unknowns on the horizon - but one thing is for sure. 

Whether it’s SEO, SEM, Paid Social or contextual advertising. You’re going to invest a lot of time and money to drive prospective students to your website. 

So make sure to capitalise on your hard-earned traffic and don’t let it slip away. It’s a goldmine of 1st party data waiting to be uncovered.

Build personas - Use your 1st party data to really understand your prospective students’ interests and goals. With a well thought out profile, you’ll get stronger results from your targeting. 

Email marketing - paid media to reach target audiences will become trickier. So emails are a key channel for inviting prospective students to webinars, open days & events. After you capture their email address, you’re in full control of the conversation.

How can I collect more 1st party data?

Adding compelling CTAs to your website can motivate potential students to leave their personal details.

The brochure download is a common CTA which allows you to collect the basics like name and contact information. Today’s smarter, more intuitive chatbots are another way that you can go a little deeper.

But did you know that there’s a better way to capture the rich data you’ll need for your future marketing plan?

Our Digital Student Advisor is a multi-step lead form which does just that. Curious to learn more?

Key takeaways

  • Focus your strategy to collect more 1st party data - today!
  • Unlock the potential of email marketing
  • Look into contextual advertising eg Google Display Network, Native advertising providers or content platforms like Quora
  • Add search engines like Yahoo, Bing or Yandex to the mix
  • Give your SEO on your website the love it deserves

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