Digital Marketing Strategies to Grow Your Business
Starting a new business is exhilarating. Unfortunately, “build it and they will come” doesn’t work in the 21st century. Those overnight success stories you hear about? Often the result of years of hard work behind the scenes. Thankfully, a marketing strategy doesn’t have to be resource-intensive or require a high budget.
So starting from the beginning: here’s a guide to digital marketing for independent education consultancies.
1. Choose the right network
New businesses tend to choose the social media networks they engage on without much strategy. Two common mistakes: trying to master every network, and trying to master a network just because a competitor is doing it.
Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Reddit, Pinterest, Snapchat, and Instagram are among the most popular social media networks today. All of them can be great content promotion and community building tools for a budding IEC, but they all have unique characteristics, voices, and tones.
Reddit, for example, consists of overwhelmingly tech-savvy white male Americans between the ages 18 to 29. Reddit is considered a much more ‘guarded’ network, detesting spammers and self-promotion, but is also the network of choice for software and IT businesses. On the other side of the spectrum is Tumblr, catering to a young, laid-back audience between the ages 16 to 24.
Each social network has its in-jokes and unofficial etiquette. It’s common to schedule multiple posts each day on Twitter, but try that on Reddit and you’ll find yourself banned quickly. Be mindful of the community you’re trying to reach.
2. Deciding when to post
Many people will tell you that there’s a perfect time to post on Facebook or Twitter, but there is no hard-and-fast rule to posting times. Teenagers will be more active at 7am and 8pm during the school year, but during the summer, you might find 3am to be the best posting time.
That being said, here are some good times the Cialfo social media team has discovered:
- Saturdays and Sundays between 12pm to 1pm
- Thursdays and Fridays between 1pm to 4pm
- Wednesdays at 3pm
- Wednesdays at noon and between 5pm to 6pm
- Weekends between 12pm to 3pm and at 5pm
- Mondays and Thursdays at any time except 3pm to 4pm
- Videos anyday between 9pm to 8am
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
Google “SEO”, and you’ll quickly discover thousands of shady businesses offering to “get you to the front page of Google” for an exorbitant sum of money. Luckily, you can do it yourself.
1. Build a keyword list
If you don’t already have a keyword list, it’s time to create one. Essentially, you’ll want to build a list of words or phrases that are highly relevant to your business. Ask yourself: what would someone type into Google to find your website? What are students searching for when they want to find information about the college admissions process?
Start with a core keyword list. This is a list of three to five keywords that completely summarize what your business does. What is it that you’re offering, and who are you offering to?
Next, you’ll want to expand your keywords into a secondary keyword list. These are much more specific: “college counseling”, for example, can spin off into: test prep, how to prepare for SATs, best colleges for archaeology, and so on.
Use tools like Semrush or Uber Suggest to find these. The best keywords will be identified by low competition and high traffic. In other words, lots of people are searching for them, but few results are being displayed.
After you’ve determined your primary and secondary keywords, it’s time to go after long tail keywords! These are highly specific phrases with low traffic and also very low competition. Long tail keywords mean someone knows exactly what they’re looking for, and may be more ready to buy.
Let’s say you’re a travel agency selling family-friendly mountaineering tours. While you can attempt to rank for “Mount Everest”, you’ll be going up against heavy hitters like Wikipedia or National Geographic. But more importantly, people googling “Mount Everest” aren’t your customers. They might be doing research for a school paper, trying to win a trivia bet, or simply mountain aficionados.
But what if someone was searching for “how to climb Mount Everest when you’re out of shape and bringing two kids”? That’s your customer. And even better: these long tail keywords will be easier to rank for because of the low competition.
2. Ranking for your keywords
Now that you’ve identified your keywords, the fun part begins: ranking for them. Before we can talk strategy, however, we need to talk about domain authority.
Domain authority is one of the most important metrics known to search engine optimizers. Your domain authority is how search engines know how important your website is, and therefore how to rank it. Sites like Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, and Google all have a domain authority of 100 – the maximum possible score.
There are hundreds of ways to increase your domain authority and boost your website to the front pages of Google, but they can be boiled down into two main strategies you’re going to be utilizing heavily:
- Getting backlinks
- Writing content
Backlinks refer to when your website is linked to by another website. For example, if you wrote a guest post article and linked back to your website in it, that’s a backlink.
A page with lots of backlinks receives “link juice”. The more link juice a page has, the higher it will rank. Link juice also helps with your domain authority.
When a website with a high domain authority links to your website, you gain a higher amount of link juice. When a website flagged as malicious or spam links to your website, you may lose domain authority.
Writing content is the easiest way to directly influence your domain authority. People are far more likely to link interesting and useful content.
Which brings us to…
1. Create a topic list
You’ve got a good looking blog and social media to promote your content on, so now it’s time to start creating that content. Before you dive in and start writing, create a topic list.
The perfect topic list is based on your core keywords. Start by brainstorming ten topic ideas around each of your core keywords. Where possible, insert the keyword into the titles, but not if it feels unnatural.
Aim for a regular publishing cycle. Nobody enjoys sporadic updates, and the more frequently you publish content, the more users have to read. Track your content with a blog calendar – from an Excel spreadsheet to a Google Calendar, there’s options for however you prefer to work. A blog calendar also helps you track topics from concept to completion.
2. Guest blog
Guest blogging is an easy way to build your reputation with search engines and other consultants. Additionally, having someone influential guest post on your blog is an easy way to drive traffic.
Start by looking for outgoing guest blogging opportunities. Many blogs accept guest posts openly, so look for a “write for us” page. If you can’t find one, just reach out on social media! Many blog owners are happy to take guest posts, provided it’s high-quality and fits their blog content.
3. Capture emails
Here’s a fun fact: emails are 40 times more effective at acquiring new customers than Facebook or Twitter. For every $1 spent in email marketing, it generates $38 for your business. There’s no reason for you not to be capturing emails on your website!
Building a list of subscribers is simple:
A valuable incentive + simple subscribe opportunities = large email lists.
Oversimplification? Maybe. But it’s also logical. It doesn’t matter how many subscription opportunities you present to a visitor if they’re not going to get something out of it, and it doesn’t matter how awesome your opt-in incentive is if you have to fill out four forms just to subscribe.
Once you’ve captured their emails, you’re going to want to send them campaigns, newsletters, and other announcements. To track how your email marketing is doing, check out the open rates, click-through rates, and unsubscribe rates.
Marketing for a consultancy is complex, especially given your limited time and resources. Yet it’s important not to ignore it — many small businesses have gone under due to a lack of marketing attention. Luckily, a simple marketing strategy doesn’t have to be complex or expensive!
Cialfo is a university guidance platform for counselors, built by counselors. For more like this, check out our blog at blog.cialfo.co, or download our latest report, Automation in Higher Education Consultancies, here!