The 3 Tiers of Higher Education Content Strategy

Have you ever had this conversation? “Hey, we need a new website. This one isn’t working. Traffic is declining, we’re not getting the applications we want, and our conversion rates are abysmal. Let’s design a new site!” How’d that go?

Like all of us, higher ed marketers are sometimes guilty of focusing on the clothes the content’s wearing, instead of getting to the root of the problem. Maybe the issue isn’t design, maybe it’s a content strategy problem. So where should you start? It might be as easy as building a 3-tiered layer cake of higher education content strategy.

Brand-Level Content

This first tier of higher ed content strategy is designed for those prospective students and parents who are just beginning to consider their college choice. It’s their first impression, what they see when they poke their head in the door. Its job is to articulate core brand messages and clearly state your school’s value and uniqueness. It focuses on major benefits and outcomes, and shows the full student life experience.

Examples of this tier include:

-University Homepage
-College or School Homepage
-Admissions Homepage
-Future Students
-Parents
-Visit

These pages should spark interest in prospects, not just provide a newsfeed for faculty. Less CNN.com, more “this is why you should come here!” The purpose of this type of content is to get them to dive deeper into academic programs and student life opportunities, request  information, or schedule a campus visit.

Academic Content

The next tier paints a clear picture of academic life for your next generation of students. As they do further research, they want to know what their academic life will be like. They have questions like “what does it take to get in?” and “what do classes look like?” In today’s hyper-competitive job market, they want to know: “what kind of jobs do your graduates get?”

Examples of the Academic tier include:

-Degrees & Programs
-Majors & Minors
-Courses
-Curriculum
-Faculty
-Requirements
-Career opportunities

The mission of Academic content is to encourage them to contact an advisor, dig deeper into curriculum and requirements, and apply!

Supporting Content

This tier is designed to expand your school’s digital reach and continue to pique the interest of prospective students. Each piece shows 1 or 2 key benefits of a program, and joins student life and academic life together. Its mission is to show that they’ll not only get a top-tier education, but have a life and make great memories while they’re at your school.  

Examples of Supporting content include:

-Blogs
-News
-Student stories
-Faculty stories
-Infographics
-Video

This content is designed to tip them towards applying, to contact an advisor, professor, and/or a current student. It also helps grow your social media reach and influence, and drives relevant traffic to your site.

What Do These Tiers Mean to You?

We’ve peeled back the layers of the tiers of higher education content strategy. What can higher ed marketers do with this information? Here’s something you can try tomorrow: take a step back, look at your site and break down what type of content you’re featuring in the different sections. You might want to analyze if you’re putting the right type of content in the right place with the right calls to action. You might have a different opinion on what type of content goes in what tier—that’s okay! Experiment and see what’s bringing you the best results.

Tell Us What You Think

What are your thoughts on these tiers? Do they match up with your experience? Do you have a totally different system? We’d love to hear about it. Share your feedback in the comments.

This post was co-written by Matt McFadden and Jeremiah Barba.

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