Questions are a critical component of higher education content marketing. To increase traffic to your higher ed website, you’ve got to understand how questions make your content marketing work.
The beginning of everyone’s search on the Internet begins with a question.
It’s so deceivingly simple. Every time you and I go online, we’re trying to find the answer to a question.
When users go to Google, they literally type in the question they have in their mind. Google then finds the answer.
So if you want to rank higher in Google, you must answer the question that people are typing into the search bar. SEO really is that simple.
But of course, it goes farther than this.
Let’s say that the user arrives directly on your homepage. Perhaps one of your enrollment officers met them at a high school college fair and gave them a flyer with your URL. So now they’re on your homepage… and they’re asking a question.
“Is this the school that I am looking for?” Or maybe it’s even bigger than that. Perhaps they’re asking, “Do I even want to go to college?”
Maybe they’re asking questions that are specific to a particular department within your college or university:
- How do I give a gift?
- Where can I find other alumni like me?
- How do I get my college transcript?
- Does this college offer the major or program that I am looking for?
There are all kinds of questions that people have when they go to the Internet.
But the bottom line is that every time an Internet user logs on, they are asking questions. So, to drive more traffic to your website, landing pages, and other content, you cannot afford to ignore or forget:
Write content for the web to answer.
Write content for Google or Bing or Yahoo to answer. Write content for your website to answer. Always be thinking of which questions you are answering when you are creating content for your website, blog, newsletter, videos, or any other type of content.
Because if you create content without clearly understanding the question you are answering, you’ll be answering questions your audience is not asking. And eventually, they’ll turn you off and go somewhere else for the answer.
And your website traffic will suffer.
That’s why it’s so important that your content answers the questions your audience is asking today. Specifically, your answers must be…
I’ve already covered this a bit in my introduction. But whatever question you’re answering in your content—whether it’s an e-book or a blog post—it needs to be relevant to your audience.
This is why I stress the importance of creating marketing personas before creating your content.
You need to know your various audiences so that you can understand the questions they’re asking.
Parents will ask different questions than prospective students. Current students are asking different questions than prospects. And alumni and donors are asking very different questions than all of the above audiences.
Make sure your content is giving relevant answers to your audiences. (Bonus Hint: Rarely is it relevant to go off touting your institute’s various awards and achievements. Let the relevance of your content speak for itself.)
Secondly, your answers have to be authoritative. This comes down to what answers your audience is looking to get from you.
Some private colleges and universities waste their time and resources creating content for questions that nobody is looking to them to answer.
An all-too-common example of colleges or universities going outside their area of content authority is when they become political commentators. Of course, you and your audience care about the current political climate—but putting your brand in the middle of the firefight is not always the best idea. Truth is, colleges and universities—on the whole—are not where people are going to get their political analysis.
Be sure to keep your content in the area of what people look to you to answer.
Like an ebook on how to pick the right major for your career goals or something of that sort. This is what you would expect, or hope, a university would talk about.
Thirdly, your answers should be timely. People rarely listen to answers that come before they ask the question. In the same way, people rarely listen to answers that come much later than the question.
It’s important to answer the questions that people are asking now.
I’ve written before about editorial calendars and how they can help your marketing team create the right content – at the right time – for the right audience. Editorial calendars are the tool you should be using to guide your content creation process so that you’re publishing content that answers the questions on your audience’s mind at that time.
The right time to release your ebook on preparing for dorm life? A few months before the semester begins. The right time to begin blogging about finding financial aid? About three months before the new semester begins.
These are the times when your audience is asking these questions. Do your best to answer their questions at the moment that they’re asking them.
Next, your answers need to be emotional. No, that doesn’t mean they need to be overly dramatic. But it does mean that they need to have a story-like quality that helps your audience see themselves in your school.
You are creating content for human beings, not computers. The old adage of “show, don’t tell” really applies here.
So tell them a story.
Tell them the story of a student who came to your school. Tell them the story of a donor who started a scholarship fund… or how your latest research is making a difference in the world.
Whatever question you are answering, make sure that you bring the answer to life in a way that the audience can see what it’s like at your school.
Lastly, your answers need to be purposeful. In order for marketing to work, the audience needs to know clearly what to do next.
Marketing exists to motivate your audience to perform behaviors that support the goals and mission of your organization. This is why your answers must be purposeful in how they guide your audience to these behaviors.
Earlier, I wrote about the various types of behaviors that you should be tracking among your audience. We call these key performance indicators. Some of them include…
- Click-through rates
- Content downloads
- Website traffic
- Form submissions
The Core of Content Marketing
There are many components to digital marketing—which makes the whole thing a bit complicated. However, the core idea of it all is rather simple: answer your audience’s questions.
If you can keep this North Star in front of you, you’ll rarely go wrong with your content.
And if you’d like a hand in defining the key questions that you should be answering in your content, we at Caylor Solutions would be happy to help.
Just give us a call. It’s free, and there’s no obligation.