Content marketing for (higher) education: 5 metrics that you should be using

April 13, 2022

Jayde Robertson

(Higher) education marketers are faced with (increasing) pressure to deliver effective campaigns and build brand consistency through content. Fueled by competition, a wide range of student needs, and the rapid pace of digitization, these marketers are a vital component of the institutional wheel. So - how exactly can you leverage content marketing for higher education?  

The role of content marketing in higher education  

Your institution is doing important things. It’s the focal point of knowledge and its application. It’s a knowledge hub, positioned to further social mobility and the development of the future. It contributes directly to economic development by fostering and applying a culture of innovation. It is the positively disruptive force that ignites and empowers change. The characteristics that distinguish your institution add value to external audiences, such as a deeper understanding of important issues, clarification of complex concepts, and enlightenment to innovation and creativity. The most valuable asset in your possession is your knowledge and your expertise.

And it’s an asset that is highly sought after. Content marketing for higher Ed is a crucial component of your strategy! Your content is the communication method for this asset!

What it is

Because content can take many forms in the world of online marketing, the term "content" can mean a variety of things. Generally speaking, content refers to anything that you put on your website, social media, or other platforms with the intention of converting browsers into students.

  • Web content
  • Blog posts
  • Podcasts / Interviews
  • Social media (paid and organic)
  • Email marketing

Well-placed and strategized content can create an authentic and cohesive experience for your visitors, by preempting (and answering) their questions or objections, helping them evaluate your institution as a fit for their needs, and providing them with valuable information.

Content Marketing vs. Content Strategy

The lines between content marketing and content strategy are often blurred, and the confluence of the two can lead to a (minor) disaster. While the two certainly have their similarities, there is one fundamental difference.

Where content marketing is your tactic to deliberately and flawlessly attract and engage your audience, content strategy is why you’re doing anything in the first place. Your strategy is your lighthouse - one that you keep looking back on once you’ve lost course.

With this in mind, we could say that creating content for the sake of ‘having something out there’ will bring you little to no value, but publishing content that is well-strategised and aligned with your purpose is the effective way to run a campaign.

Creating the strategy

Once you’ve determined whether or not content marketing is the right strategy to implement for your institution, there are a few key factors that you need to consider when creating your strategy. While content marketing is certainly a valuable asset - doing it just because your competitors are, isn’t a good enough reason. Content marketing just for the sake of it will prove time and resource-consuming - with little to no results. If there is no room for content marketing in your strategy right now, that’s okay too! Focus instead on optimizing your existing digital assets until the time is right.

If content marketing is what you’re after, then keep this in mind!

  1. Clearly define your audience and your goals.
  2. Give some attention to your SEO efforts.
  3. Make sure that you’re communicating effectively.
  4. Always measure your campaigns, and focus on optimizing the results.

Measuring the success

An overwhelming majority of ed(tech) marketers employ some sort of content marketing in their strategy - whether they’re aware of it or not. Content marketing, without an overarching strategy (which includes the measurement of its success) is like a glass without water.

Any ed(tech) marketer will tell you that driving an institution’s success with content marketing takes a significant amount of time and resources. Production is only one piece of the puzzle; you must also consider the costs of developing the strategy, distributing and promoting the finished creative, and associated monitoring software. It’s up to us to prove the value behind all those costly resources!

The Key Metrics

Before we dive a bit deeper into the world of performance analysis these are the metrics that you should be considering when monitoring your content marketing performance.

1 - Web traffic by source or medium (you can use Google Analytics for this)

2 - Impressions and CTR (use the Google Search Console)
3 - Content shares and backlinks (you can use SEMRush for this)

4 - Keyword rankings (use the Google Search Console, or SEMRush)

5 - Lead generation (you can use Google Analytics, or your CRM to measure this)

Basic Metrics

Many marketers shudder at the thought of having to compile a report on their latest effort, even the act of seeing a performance dashboard is enough to make even the most seasoned marketer dive back into their cave. What exactly is it that you’re looking for? Where, and how are you going to find it?

If you’re not the master of measurements, that’s okay - start with the basics.  Basic metrics cover just that - the basics. In the world of content marketing, that is consumption - i.e. how many people have consumed your content on XX platform?

Key consumption metrics

Google Analytics: Users, page views, unique page views, location, source, etc.  Using advanced segmentation here allows you to take a more precise look at your content!

Email open rates: How many people opened your email based on their first impression?

Email click rates: How many people clicked exactly where you wanted them to?

While the basic consumption metrics can give you insight into the performance of your content, they won’t tell you exactly why your post about the dog at graduation was the best performing. For this kind of insight, you need to dive deeper into the metrics.

Engagement metrics

These are the metrics that you need to see in order to establish (and nurture) an authentic relationship with your potential students. These will show you how, and for how long - your audience consumed your content for.

Google Analytics: Time on page, pages/session, new vs. returning, referral traffic etc. Here you can use Content Grouping to segment your content and organize your insights into the types of content users are engaging with.

Social Media: Shares, comments, likes, and follower growth.

Email: Subscriber growth vs. unsubscribe rate, and email forwards.

The metrics that we’ve emphasized here might not be suitable for your campaign, which is why it’s crucial to include measurement by KPI step in your strategy! The metrics that you will use for your campaign should depend on you entirely. The appropriate metrics are determined by the overall organizational goals of the content marketing effort. Even if your goals are only SEO-related, we still recommend that you prioritize the development of your reputation, visibility, and audience. This is the general approach that will result in the best links over time!

Use your insights to optimize your content

It goes without saying that the most successful content marketing strategies are those that transcend the transactional element behind the content. Simply put, the success of your campaign depends on whether your audience receives your message without feeling that they’re being sold. Content marketing gives you an opportunity to mean something to people, ignite an emotion within them, and trigger a response based on your design.

This is how consumers are convinced, and a convinced consumer is far easier to convert.

Are you a marketer curious to learn about the aspects that affect our industry?

Or do you want to tap into our expertise to sharpen your tactics? Look no further than our free downloadable resources. We work hard to research our content - and offer it to you - free of charge.

Ready to put content marketing at the forefront of your campaign strategy?

We have a resource for that! Download our free Ebook: Gen Z marketing insights, and discover how to curate your content to resonate with this growing demographic.