Higher Education Marketing Keyword Research

At Evolve Digital Labs we pride ourselves on keyword research. It’s a critical component of SEO audits and a benefit for brands to make sure they are targeting the correct audience. Keyword research is the foundation for implementing successful paid search campaigns and bolstering website content which drives conversions.

Advantages for Higher Education

The advantages of thoughtful and efficient keyword research for Higher Education institutes cannot be undersold. Universities both large and small are facing shrinking budgets, and an applicant pool, which assumes the education investment, is not worth the cost.

Those contributing factors make marketing initiatives all the more important, especially as it relates to cost-efficiency. Our goal in executing keyword research is to determine the terms and phrases prospective students are searching for to find a solution. Keyword research needs to be at the core of the marketing plan to ensure organizations are getting the most traffic for their investment.

Evolve Digital Labs analyzes five components for keyword research, including search volume by keyword, organic difficulty, client’s customers, client’s products/services and the client’s consumer path.

Segmenting Keywords

By segmenting keywords into campaigns we’re able to assess phrases in terms of search volume and organic difficulty.

Search volume relies on the number of national searches for a term each month, these terms are often broad vs. very specific queries for a brand or product – thus they are harder to rank for.

Organic difficulty is set up on a zero to 100 scale, with 100 being the most difficult. Organic difficulty is calculated based upon the total effort of competition in the search engines. Because the scale is incremental, ranking organically for high difficulty terms should be considered a long-term goal.

MBA Program SERP

In this case, the phrases at the top are paid, while those below ranked organically. There are a few colleges listed, vs. Wikipedia entries, and media articles. The organic difficulty for the term “MBA Program” and the search volume are both high, meaning ranking or moving up on the SERP will take time.

Higher Education marketing keyword research has multiple applications for growth in terms of both paid and organic strategies.

Paid Search Application

Like other businesses higher education organizations will have keywords which are difficult to rank for organically. Improving a website’s authority, to be capable of ranking in organic positions for recommended terms, requires a strategic plan and can be time-consuming. Paid search offers the flexibility of short-term exposure to targeted audiences, as organic efforts get underway. In cases where pages do rank organically, paid search for targeted “brand” terms may still be used to keep competitors from stealing prospective traffic.

Organic Search Application

Organic strategy should start by targeting terms from the keyword research that contain moderate search volume and moderate to low organic difficulty. Those keywords will allow for “quick wins” on the search engine results page, while concurrent site improvements and content optimization will help organizations eventually rank for significant more difficult terms.

For some universities keyword research may only be a component of paid search, but it should be at the forefront of all aspects of a higher education marketing plan.

Download our FREE online market audit checklist to learn more about our approach and how we can help your organic and paid search efforts.

Capitalizing on New Opportunities

Finding and capitalizing on new opportunities is critical to the success of most online operations.

With each new website visitor there are two options – a conversion and click through, which lead to a sale or to a dissatisfied searcher, who keeps looking… eventually becoming a loyal supporter somewhere else.

While that may seem like the most basic explanation of commerce online, Evolve Digital Labs unique audit strategy delves deeper, analyzing the factors driving conversions, and the obstacles standing in the way. Here’s how our audit can work for you.

When equipped with the right tools that enable effective communication, a website can provide the brand’s consumers with solutions to their needs. The first step in the assessment process is to evaluate on-site performance, ensuring the website is accomplishing this goal.

We review the health of a site usability and content, which include analyzing everything from the speed in which a page loads, domain authority, to the SERP rank, and how that stacks up against competitors. We take into account the optimum user experience, layout and design, and review content to ensure a user’s needs are being met, with clear solutions.

We will bring to the forefront issues that need immediate attention as well as barriers to successful SEM/SEO and organic traffic.

Included in the audit process is also a deep look at target customers. We research the resources they use, how often and why. We discover their language, and help businesses determine whom to pursue online. We’ll help your business pursue your true market.

True Market

A closer look at competition is needed to learn the threats in any given marketplace, whether that is new digital applications, or traditional media.

The marketplace may have a different look depending on the consumer. Our thorough analysis details the ideal consumer and the desired outcome.

Additionally reviewing the marketing mix is crucial, every channel, impression and visitor has a value.

If you’d like the team at Evolve Digital Labs to share insight on your website and how to make it better contact us today.

STL Digital Symposium Takeaways #STLDigSym

There were a lot of beer and toasted raviolis consumed at Ballpark Village Wednesday afternoon for STL Digital Symposium. #STLDigSym. That’s not necessarily a takeaway but a sign of a good time.

It was also a place where people were willing to go to extremes to keep tweeting.

 

Beer for phone chargers

And tweet they did. According to @TrendTopicsUSA #STLDigSym was trending for more than six hours. That’s impressive.

St. Louis trending topics

 

 

If you had too many of the aforementioned beverages and missed something here are a few quick takeaways.

Gunnard Johnson, SVP Data & Analytics at Centro, shed light on the Five Pillars of Performance: audience, channel, execution, exposure and response.

Johnson took time to brake down how data & analytics factor into generating tangible insights. You can read more about his key points here.

One take away from Gunnard and the panel that included, Evolve Digital Labs president, Derek Mabie, is data and analytics are meaningless if there is no narrative to assess and relay.

Data narrative


 

Shawn Stevenson detailed a discussion on content vs. context and contributing relevant information. His advice is about messages that actually provide value.Content and value

 

 

And with any valuable content, don’t forget the call to action. (See ours at the end of this post.)

 

Gunnar Kiene of SapientNitro talked about forging brand consistency vs. cohesion in a digital world.

Consistency as one tweet put it is about identifying what your brand is…and of course is not.

know your brand

 

Dan Pollman the founder of happyMedium wrapped up the day with an idea that should strike a cord with startups and growing firms.

 

Happy Medium builds.

We agree on 100% with the statement about making tools if they’re not available. Make something great and then share.

Here’s our final takeaway.

 

always changing

Thanks @AdClubSTL for organizing an engaging event.

Also if you’re interested in sharing ideas on data, analytics and actionable insights get in touch with us. We’d love to talk shop.  Want to collaborate on a project? Drop us a line.

What We Learned at Inc. 5000

We want to share a few of the takeaways from our experience at last week’s Inc. 5000.

The diverse groups of entrepreneurs and managers for the Fastest-Growing businesses in the U.S. have one thing in common – a relentless drive. While the industries spanned everything from beauty products to broadband, many are wrestling with the same issues.

It’s okay to take a breath and recognize success. We’ve hit the Inc. Fastest-Growing Companies List twice. It’s a major feat that comes from hours of hard work from a talented team. We’re guilty of pushing forward without stopping to enjoy success. This was one of those rare milestones.


Evolve Digital Labs Inc. 5000 ranking

So what did @Derek Mabie and @Justin Watkins learn? How were some of Evolve’s guiding principles reinforced?

Shark Tank personality Robert Herjavec gave one of the best presentations and most energizing commentaries. He at times comes across like a sports coach with an edge that’s transformed into a competitive advantage at the Herjavec Group. ($250 million in annual sales.)

Herjavec reminds us “Business isn’t about competing on the days you feel like competing. It’s about competing every day.” We just put up a sign at Evolve that echoes that sentiment, “Attacking this day with enthusiasm unknown to mankind.”

Attacking this day with enthusiasm unknown to mankind

 

Herjavec encouraged attendees to  capitalize on strengths and leverage those strengths to deliver hyper-specific excellence. Forget your weaknesses.

  • Don’t apologize for being aggressive/competitive. Don’t lose the will to win, as complacency won’t bring home paychecks for employees, and just “being” will not suffice.
  • Derek and Justin also gained insight on how to build a successful sales team, identify the key personality attributes that work, and how to integrate those into a functioning, effective workforce.
  • It wasn’t surprising to hear staffing is a top challenge among growing firms. One we can relate to. (By the way, we’re hiring in St. Louis and Denver.)
  • Success can be lonely for some. Many are looking for mentors or trusted vendors to help carry the weight. Vulnerability is a great tool to leverage, wisely, so acknowledging you need to leverage all expertise and resources is key.
  • Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there, even if that means playing a giant jenga game. It’s an opportunity to perfect your jenga skills or commiserate with new people about work passions. (i.e. have a conversation about #JTBD.) You may also end up making great contacts.

As the Inc. 5000. conference wrapped up there was one obvious theme; everyone is looking for ways to grow their business. Maximizing growth takes a solid approach. While Evolve is eager to be recognized on next year’s Inc. 5000 list at the end of the day, it’s about surpassing a customer’s needs and expectations. As our clients grow we grow.

A Few of Our Favorite SEO Tools

Have you ever sat down and thought about the tools that make your job easier? From a laptop, phone and Wi-Fi to search engines, Excel, PowerPoint, SlideShare, Dropbox and Microsoft Word.

The digital strategists and PPC managers at Evolve Digital Labs recently compiled a list of some of our favorite tools that make us more efficient and improve outcomes when it comes to SEO and SEM.

Google Adwords is at the center of most digital marketing campaigns. As a Google partner the Evolve team uses Adwords daily.

Included in Adwords are two features that make life easier and increase the cost-effectiveness of ad spending. Those are the Keyword Tool and Traffic Estimator.

Keyword Tool provides search volume for keyword lists, however the values it returns are estimates and can be wildly inaccurate especially for low-mid search volume terms.

A better solution to get the true search volume is to use the Traffic Estimator tool. We do a traffic estimate for sites and keyword lists using the maximum bid ($100) to get the true search volume for those terms.

If your keyword list is large, (>2k) you can still use this method via the Adwords API and a little scripting know-how.

SEO Mofos Search Snippet Tools  helps quickly visualize and show examples of what SERPs will look like.

Mofo Snippet

Microsoft SEO Tools are helpful options for improving Bing SEO, as most other tools available are geared to optimize for Google.

Excel sheets are something Evolve’s PPC managers pour over hourly scanning thousands of keywords and search queries for clients like Merck and Charter Spectrum. It helps to have a few easy tricks to make working with Excel and endless data a little easier.

The Pivot Tables function allows users to look at account data for top-level analysis like campaigns, or ad groups. It can also quickly drill down all the way to keyword level to find which KWs are either driving the success of a campaign or holding it back.

The Find/Replace tool helps clean up data, which is one of the most important keys to big data sets and being able to quickly analyze and make accurate cost-effective decisions.

Everyone knows how to use VLOOKUP and what it does, but a free add-in in Excel called Fuzzy Lookup can help by matching up two datasets. Like Vlookup, Fuzzy can compare two unique columns between 2 sets of data. However Fuzzy can match up two columns from each side. So you can match First Names, and Last names that may not be in the same columns without concatenating. Fuzzy is free and takes a little practice to understand how it works. There is a limit on the size of data but for a couple 100,000 rows of data it works great.

All of our clients undergo an audit to identify opportunities for growth. “Found SEO Tool” (UK) is a straightforward audit resource that provides insight into what to fix on a website, like Screaming Frog it’s used more for analysis than an SEO road map.

Webmaster Tools are critical during the audit phase; we use those insights to highlight the next steps. We pay incredibly close attention to impression data, query data and CTR to analyze organic performance and potential.

Onsite improvements and shortcomings are identified with several Google resources, including the Page Speed and mobile friendliness tests.

Those are just a few of our top tools, to learn more about how we can put them to work for you get in touch with us. If you’ve got a unique ‘go to’ SEO/SEM tool that you’d like to share, let us know!

 

 

What’s Causing Your Site’s Traffic Problems?

During the fall of 2012 Strategyn was trying to determine the root cause of an organic traffic drop. What was originally thought to be the cause of this drop, was algorithm changes, however insights from Evolve Digital Labs revealed the issue to be a recent website redesign.

By happenstance Strategyn’s team came across an article by Evolve Digital Labs, related to another site, it specifically addressed how duplicate content errors impact traffic and rankings.

Strategyn called us, and we got to work. An initial consultation exposed errors, and how those errors were significantly impacting traffic. Strategyn then ordered a complete website audit.

An audit by definition sounds scary and boring – “An official inspection of an individual’s or organization’s accounts, typically by an independent body.” However, audits are the biggest factor in turning around traffic and implementing the best practices for growth.  Get beyond the audit fear and embrace the target goal of a fully optimized site.

We determined the redesign altered website copy, causing technical errors which decreased traffic. Strategyn lost equity as a result of the redesign, because URL structures were different, and not properly redirected to new pages.

Evolve provided Strategyn with a roadmap to solutions, including URL redirecting and internal linking.

The next steps focused on developing a solid strategy, which would lead to growth. Generating content and assets with customer-language in mind helped determine key innovation terms. By changing a historic timeline image into text search equity improved. By leveraging Google Suggest key terms from instant results micro conversations on Strategyn’s site were supported.

Another component of the audit found PPC campaigns were not properly optimized. Opportunities for traffic and conversions were being missed because Strategyn was bidding on single word or even number terms.  The Evolve team helped segment keywords and identified the primary customers needs through keyword research, thus allowing for singular focused paid ads, rather than ads for broad topics.

Strategyn has since seen a 200% increase in website traffic, plus and increase in conversions and new business leads.

Strategyn-1_3

The methods implemented were built around information and data shown in the audit. While there are always suggestions available and a variety of alternatives to an in-depth audit those ‘quick fixes’ won’t identify the true potential for online growth.

To learn more about the best outcomes from an Evolve Digital Labs audit contact us today.

Evolve Digital Labs Joins St. Louis Design Week

Take a walk around downtown Maplewood and immediately you’ll notice an eclectic community with a thriving business mix, from restaurants and shops to some of the AIGA St. Louis region’s fastest growing companies and budding ad-agencies, that unique vibe is one of the reasons we’re honored to join St. Louis Design Week, and the Maplewood Studio Crawl.

Starting September 19, Design Week celebrates what St. Louis has to offer and the creative minds and influencers, who call it home. From the design and structure of a successful campaign to the execution of an efficient web site, design plays an important role in the business at Evolve Digital Labs.

EDL Space

The Maplewood Studio Crawl on Tuesday, September 22, features 14 Maplewood businesses; visitors will tour a number of different spaces for product development firms, design shops, architect offices, advertisers, and photographers. Several Maplewood businesses have been generous enough to provide appetizers and drinks at each location.

The event runs from 2-5pm. The team at Evolve Digital Labs welcomes you to come learn more about our process and design strategy.

Evolve Digital Labs one of the "Fastest-Growing Companies"

“Daring, focused and determined.”

Those are the words Inc. magazine used to describe Evolve in making the 5000 Fastest-Growing Private Companies. For the 2nd time. Apparently a rarity.

Screen Shot 2015-08-12 at 9.56.57 AM

Evolve Digital Labs ranked 479th on the list of 5000 companies, with 973 percent growth, up from last year’s survey. To make the elite list companies must have grown at least tenfold over the last three years.

We once again join the list of alumni like, Intuit, Zappos, Under Armour, Microsoft, GoPro, Timberland, Patagonia, and Oracle among others.

Included in the 2015 rankings are powerful brands including Fitbit, Smashburger, Bowlmor AMF, Planet Fitness, Giftcards.com, RadioFlyer, Box, and Mindbody.

To explain this growth Evolve’s President, Derek Mabie puts it this way, “Our operation and strategy is unique for the industry. We are not trying to be an agency in the traditional sense. We’re business consultants, reviewing and changing how businesses get their jobs done.  We make online growth easy.”

Evolve Digital Labs has identified and strategically stepped up to meet needs online.  Our process is toevaluate digital media marketing investments and to offer solutions to ensure that those investments are maximizing revenue and adding value. Apparently when you’re obsessed with growth on your client’s behalf it naturally leads to our own growth. We’ll take it. Thank you to our clients who have made recognition like this possible.

Our success is your success.

 

Evolve Digital Labs One of the "Fastest-Growing Companies"

“Daring, focused and determined.”

Those are the words Inc. magazine used to describe Evolve in making the 5000 Fastest-Growing Private Companies. For the 2nd time. Apparently a rarity.

Screen Shot 2015-08-12 at 9.56.57 AM

Evolve Digital Labs ranked 479th on the list of 5000 companies, with 1,000 percent growth, up from last year’s survey. To make the elite list companies must have grown at least tenfold over the last three years.

We once again join the list of alumni like, Intuit, Zappos, Under Armour, Microsoft, GoPro, Timberland, Patagonia, and Oracle among others.

Included in the 2015 rankings are powerful brands including Fitbit, Smashburger, Bowlmor AMF, Planet Fitness, Giftcards.com, RadioFlyer, Box, and Mindbody.

To explain this growth Evolve’s President, Derek Mabie puts it this way, “Our operation and strategy is unique for the industry. We are not trying to be an agency in the traditional sense. We’re business consultants, reviewing and changing how businesses get their jobs done.  We make online growth easy.”

Evolve Digital Labs has identified and strategically stepped up to meet needs online.  Our process is to evaluate digital media marketing investments and to offer solutions to ensure that those investments are maximizing revenue and adding value. Apparently when you’re obsessed with growth on your client’s behalf it naturally leads to our own growth. We’ll take it. Thank you to our clients who have made recognition like this possible.

Our success is your success.

 

 

Are You Tracking Your URLs?

For many brands, use of Tracking URLs (also known as UTM Parameters) has become the norm. Individuals and companies use them to track email marketing, Paid Search campaigns, press releases, and even blog posts.

Used strategically, Tracking URLs can not only provide essential campaign data, they can also allow you to turn that data into decision-making results for yourself and your clients. The data Tracking URLs could potentially provide include:

  • Sources that drive the most traffic
  • Differences in the number of clicks among ads
  • The format of the source (Banner, link, post)

There tends to be some confusion when it comes to tracking URLs so let’s start at the beginning. It’s not as intimidating as you may think!

What is a tracking URL?

A Tracking URL is simply a website address (URL) that’s been supplemented with parameters to reveal information through Google Analytics. Without Tracking URLs, it would be very difficult to understand points of entrance to your website. For example, if you see 1,000 visitors to domain.com/blog, there’s no deeper understanding of how that traffic is coming to your site. Adding parameters makes it easier to gauge the performance of various mediums, sources, and messaging, which is especially necessary for managing a Paid Search campaign. A Tracking URL leads visitors to the same page as the normal URL, but Google Analytics works in the background to capture the unique campaign data that’s attached to the URL. That being said, in order for Tracking URLs to provide any meaningful data, it is essential that Google Analytics be installed properly across every page of your website.

How do you make one?

Believe it or not, it’s pretty simple to create and use a Tracking URL. There are several tools available, but the one we commonly use is the Google URL Builder.

Google-URL-builder

Say I wrote the best blog post ever and wanted to drive visitors to my post through a Paid Search campaign. Because Iam spending money, I need to evaluate ROI at the end of the campaign by creating Tracking URLs that allow me to see where readers come from before reading my blog. To do that, I will add information to the fields Google has displayed, including “source,” “medium,” and “campaign.”

Google-campaign-build

The end result is this:

http://domain.com/blog/?utm_source=Google&utm_medium=PPC&utm_campaign=BlogEducation

  • The “Source” parameter is used to identify the last place visited before a person reached your website. I have set my source field to “Google” since visitors will be coming from a Google search, but other example sources could include “November-Newsletter” or “Twitter.” /blog/url-tracking?utm_source=Google&utm_medium=PPC&utm_campaign=BlogEducation
  • “Medium” identifies the way in which the visitor arrived at that source. In our example, they clicked on a paid search ad, which is why our medium is set to “PPC”: /blog/url-tracking?utm_source=Google&utm_medium=PPC&utm_campaign=BlogEducation
  • The “Campaign” parameter is used to identify different campaigns and/or marketing tactics used to drive traffic to your site. In our example, my campaign is called aBlogEducationa: http://domain.com/blog/url-tracking?utm_source=Google&utm_medium=PPC&utm_campaign=BlogEducation

Note: Notice the way the campaign is labeled “BlogEducation.” This is deliberate. First of all, there cannot be any spaces in a URL. Second, Google Analytics is case sensitive. These are important to remember when creating Tracking URLs. However you label the parameters in your URL is exactly what will appear in Google Analytics. To see the traffic to my site from this blog post, I would look under Acquisition > Campaigns, then search for the name of the campaign in the search bar.

google-analytics-campaign-tracking

Make sure to adopt a standard naming convention, as it will help with analyzing data. If you do any importing, exporting, sorting, or filtering of data in spreadsheets, you will quickly learn what misspellings can do to the amount of time it takes to sift through it all. If I wanted to look back at my PPC campaign and see the results, I can search for “BlogEducation.” However, if I happen to misspell it or use all lowercase, “blogeducation,” it will appear as if I have two separate campaigns. I would then have to manually merge the data to get a clear picture of my campaign results. I recommend keeping an organized spreadsheet of all tracking URLs. This makes it easy to look back and find any errors. It also provides a point of reference for all tracking efforts and will help to maintain uniformity. Even when sharing content through social media, you can assemble a library of Tracking URLs that should be used according to the post and social media website.

Conclusion

Hopefully now you have a better understanding of Tracking URLs. For most beginners, the best way to understand the value is to start building trackable URLs and see the data populate over time in Google Analytics. There are plenty of great resources out on the web regarding this topic. Google support can provide answers to most questions regarding analytics. Finally, Google Chrome has a URL Builder extension you can add onto your browser, making URL building a piece of cake.