How to use keywords to recruit students

Late last year, I ran some workshops for some Microsoft education partners, focusing on reaching more customers through blogging and other online engagement (for many, the reality is that their potential customers simply don’t know that they are there, and what services they offer).

One of the areas that I spent quite a bit of time on was keywords – the words or phrases that you want to be discovered by when people search on Google and Bing - either in the search results, or in the adverts.  This is as important to student recruiters as it is to our Microsoft partners. And keywords used effectively can also be a great way of getting free advertising.

Whilst there are some technical tips to getting this right, one of the most important aspects is to ensure that you are using the same language as your audience. For example, people don’t search on the internet for “books at no cost”, they search for “free books”. Once you start to think about people searching the internet, you can end up making much more findable content, because you can focus on the question “What would I put in the search box to find it?”.

For example, the top six phrases that people type into Google and Bing, and then click through to this blog, are:

  1. Jobs of the future
  2. How to use OneNote on iPad
  3. Office 365 for education
  4. Using OneNote on iPad
  5. Best SharePoint sites
  6. Bring Your Own Device school

They are all real phrases that real people would use, rather than dry technical terms that often normally appear on a technology blog.

If you want to recruit students, it isn’t just about having the best student recruitment CRM system. It’s about having enough students coming in at the top of the marketing funnel too. I’ve noticed that in Australia, a lot of money is spent on billboard advertising for universities and TAFEs, but with a general squeeze on funding, I’m sure we’ll continue to see a move to online advertising.

There’s a great article on .eduGuru about the four factors for a successful online advertising campaign, and factor one is all about keywords. It’s written by Mike Cready, a Web & Social Media Strategist at Lethbridge College, so it comes with good practical experience. Here’s his take on keywords:


Ensuring you select keywords that target the right people looking for your products is critical.

Blanketing all related keywords or “spraying & praying” is a poor practice that may generate many clicks and easily spend your ad budget, but will not yield conversions or leads. At one point we used an external consultant to develop our Google Ads campaigns.  They took the “spray & pray” approach with our keywords.  For example, one of our academic programs is heavy equipment technician. Some of the keywords they targeted were “heavy equipment rentals” and “heavy equipment sales.”  Shortly after, I removed all unrelated keywords and focused on keywords that included terms like “diploma”, “degree”, “certification”, “education”, etc. After revising all the keywords, we saw a 46% decrease in our  ad spend and a 5% increase in lead generations.


He goes on to give you direct advice about how to choose the right keywords, target the right audience and, critically, make sure that the webpage your advert goes to is doing the right job.

Learn MoreRead Mike's full article on .eduguru

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