By Published On: October 15, 2014

Our 2014 survey results are in — and with it, several key insights into the highs and lows of higher ed marketing. This year’s audience included admissions, enrollment management and marketing professionals from 39 states. We increased our survey reach by over 60% and the number of respondents jumped up accordingly — by almost 300%!

Grading Your Digital Marketing

This year’s survey focused on the state of digital marketing in higher education. Questions were designed to uncover a peer perspective on both successes and challenges. We asked a range of questions such as: Is your digital marketing working as hard as it could? How does your website compare to others? Are you missing key opportunities to strengthen your brand and attract more students?

What did we learn? Apparently, when it comes to digital marketing, higher ed institutions still have a lot to learn. While the possibilities of this versatile medium keep expanding, colleges and universities just haven’t kept up. As the center of any institution’s digital presence, websites emerged as the main theme.

Websites Need Some Extra Help

The majority of respondents (over 85%) agree that websites are more important today than ever before. They’re an essential recruitment tool, source of in-depth information, and an important way to connect the institution’s community and express its personality and brand voice. Yet in spite of all this, websites are not receiving the attention they deserve.

More than two-thirds of respondents (67.3%) said their institution’s website didn’t measure up to the competition. About the same number (65.7%) said their institution missed the mark in terms of expressing their brand identity.

According to over 85% of our survey respondents, websites are more important to their student recruitment efforts today than two years ago.

The ability to attract and serve a diverse audience with the information it needs is an important requirement – our survey respondents said this is a mixed scenario.   The prevailing response is that websites are better at providing information to traditional-age students than adult or non-traditional students and other audiences.

Less than a third (32.3%) of participants said their institution’s website was excellent or good at providing information to non-traditional students.   The growing impact and presence of non-traditional students at U.S. colleges and universities suggests this should be a priority element of website development.

SEO and Mobile Optimization – Optimizing websites for lead generation, Search Engine Optimization, and mobile devices is also lacking. Significantly less than half (38.2%) feel their institution’s website is effective in generating new leads — causing many schools to miss out on a huge opportunity to reach new students.

Small Budgets Are A Big Factor – About half (49.9%) rated their budget for website development and maintenance as either inadequate (30% or more below what they need) or minimal (10 – 29% below what they need).

Clearly, website budgets are inadequate, particularly in respect to website development and maintenance. Institutions that understand their website is their most important brand element — and who fund and staff it accordingly — are ahead of the competition.

For more Survey Results, visit our Snapshot. Survey participants have exclusive access to the entire survey – so we hope you’ll participate in 2015!! 


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About the Author: Megan Devine

Megan Devine
Megan taps into her left-brain logic and right brain creativity—steering the business, bantering with her team, and strategizing on client work. She says it’s her dream job and we believe her. Using her passion and knack for understanding complex connections in business and marketing, she collaborates to create love between brands and customers. She possesses expertise and experience that only comes from persevering in the ever-changing marketing agency world. Megan co-founded d.trio marketing group, now cat&tonic, in January of 2000 and took sole ownership in 2019. Her vision, support, and sheer stubbornness got us through 9/11, the great recession, and a pandemic. She has judged the International ECHO Awards since 2005, has consulted for several organizations, and serves on several boards. Educated at Carleton College, she learned the importance of critical thinking for success. At home she learned the value of a good story.
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