Don’t Stop Searching: Tips for Continuous Search

How many Search campaigns does your institution run per year? If your answer is more than one, then you may need to Search differently.

Admission folks need to think about the concept of continuous Search: being everywhere students are all the time. Search can’t be just a campaign, with a defined start and end date—Search needs to be an approach on a continuum.

Long gone are the days when students started their college search junior year, triggered by a stack of college brochures and viewbooks in their mailbox. In this information age where students are exposed and have access to information 24/7, they gather awareness and perception about your institution well before and long after junior year. Between the Internet, social media, mobile access, and the proliferation of multimedia exposure, students may not even realize it, but they are, in fact, learning about your institution all the time. And the sooner and more frequently they see, hear, and gain exposure to your institution the better your chances of getting a favorable response when the time is right to inquire, apply, and enroll.

What does this mean for your institution? You need to be omnipresent—everywhere and consistently throughout your potential students’ college search journey. You need to get in front of and, more importantly, stay in front them, especially online. Sure, it sounds daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are a few things to think about to ensure you are embarking on a continuous Search approach rather than just doing a Search campaign.

  1. Replenish and refresh your lists. Remember, names are always available, and new names are released upwards of 10 times a year. Consider buying smaller, targeted lists of names more frequently.
  2. Engage in an ongoing dialogue with students, from the first list purchase all the way through their senior year. Too often institutions decide after one dedicated campaign if a student hasn’t responded they must not be interested. Don’t mistake their lack of response to your e-mail as disinterest; they may be stealth for a while, so keep your communication flow going until you hear “no, thank you.”
  3. Go beyond e-mail and direct mail for continuous Search. Display advertising, PPC, and IP Targeting are all highly effective ways to gain exposure and awareness for your institution at virtually every stage of the funnel. And there is no better strategy for staying in front of students than Retargeting. For all of your marketing and recruitment dollars spent driving prospects to your website, use Retargeting to get them back; it’s an excellent way to keep your institution top of mind.
  4. Don’t forget about social media as part of your continuous Search strategy; it is a great and inexpensive way to engage with students and parents while building a brand image for your institution.
  5. Optimize for mobile. Most students are getting your Search e-mails, clicking on your ads, going to your website, and filling out inquiry forms from their phones. Make sure their experience is a good one.
  6. Be found! Make sure your website is search engine optimized so when students are looking for schools you come up on critical keywords and can be easily found.

While the principle of Search hasn’t changed—students looking for schools, schools looking for students—the art and science of it has. Don’t get caught up in an outdated methodology and thinking that confines your Search to a campaign. Thinking about Search as a multi-channel continuum will help you engage, re-engage, and enroll the right students.

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You can follow me on Twitter @adpoulin or on Google Plus as Alexa Poulin.

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