Date of Publication: 23 Mar 2023

How can we increase admissions online? The strategies

In recent times, audiences and technology are fast changing. In the digital space, known and proven strategies are fast becoming ineffective. But you still need your admissions. With digital becoming the preferred medium of choice, you are looking for strategies and tactics to increase admissions online. In this blog post, we will explore some of the best practices, from optimizing your website for conversions to leveraging social media marketing. We’ll discuss a range of strategies and tactics to help you draw in more applicants. So, let’s get started!

Anirban Guha

Anirban Guha

Digital Marketing Expert | Media Strategist | Entrepreneur

Table of Contents


• Buyer Generations have changed

• 79% of people who don’t like what they find on one site will go back and search for another site.

• 87% of online engagement starts with search.

• Incredible 75% of marketing managers saying that Google ads are effective.

90% of consumers read online reviews before physical visit.

• For each student enrolled, colleges and universities spend between $429 and $623 on marketing each year.

To increase online admissions we first need to understand who are we trying to reach out

Check out some the latest statistics to understand the changing trends that will blow you minds: click here > Stats & Quotes 

Buyer Generation Classification


Let us first understand the target categories. For higher education,ie, under graduation and post-graduation, I believe the target audiences are the students and their parents.

Likely age of the student – 18 – 24 years (Generation Z

Likely age of the parent – 49 – 58 years (Generation X)

Both are different sets of audiences with different platforms for engagement and different communication streams. Interestingly, you see I have left out the Millennials (27-42 years old). Neither they are likely to enroll in UG & PG courses, nor they are the parents of college-going students (considering the average age of becoming a parent is 31 years). 

Millennials can be a target for self-financed professional and certificate courses. Basically, skill development. They can also be targeted as parents for school admission. There they are the soul target groups as Gen Alpha is still not into decision-making or into influencer zones when it comes to the choice of education.


Herein the blog, we will discuss how to increase admissions online for the core academic college curriculum – UG & PG courses.

In my previous blog, Don’t Generalize Buyer Generations, I explained the traits and nuances of the buyer generation.

Persona Identification


It is very important to find the right parents and students for your educational institution. Understanding the right audience is much more than just age and geography. You must have a clear understanding of the socio-economics and behavioral patterns of these two sets of audiences.

Are you providing top-quality infrastructure in your institution and expecting high-income parents to pay your high monthly fee?

Or you are expecting ordinary people who can afford the standard monthly payments.

What kind of meritocracy are you looking at? Are you providing exposure to sports and vocational activities?

These are clear sets of questions you need to answer first. Then you identify the persona for your audience sets.

Mass targeting of yesteryears is a stone age theory. You will only end up wasting your resources. The easiest way to go about this is to ask your own students. When you put forward the right kind of questions you will be surprised to check the outcome. If you have the bandwidth and budget you can try market research. (Tip: if you are doing research on your student, never do it yourself, you may get skewed replies.)

The benefits of doing this are:

  • Give a Better understanding of the audience categories
  • Helps in targeting and positioning your communications
  • To motivate both the parents/students to take admission
  • Helps to generate more leads of quality for your institution
  • It increases ROI

Create a journey cycle plan


Did you know in 87% of cases the first touch point for audience engagement is through search (organic or paid)? The journey cycle plan starts there and ends at enrollment.

It is the visualization of end-to-end customer experience. I have explained customer journey mapping in detail in a previous blog, Improve ROI with CPA Model for Digital Media Budgeting.

It is a visual story of how your target groups interact with you at each stage. It allows for deep insights into your ideal parents and students’ pain points that lead them toward your institution away from your competitors.

  • Where did they first hear about your institution?
  • How are your target groups interacting with your institution’s digital touchpoints?
  • Where are they interacting – the website, social media, or any other online platforms?
  • What motivates or causes rejections towards your institution among your target groups, and how can you improve for better results?

This customer cycle mapping would help your educational institution, it will reduce the time and spends on the conversion window; i.e. admission for your institution.

The benefits of doing this are:

  • Able to attract individual target groups 
  • Implement customer-oriented engagements for smoother transitions across levels and phases.
  • Create a target-group-focused mentality in your institutions, especially among the first contacts and councilors. 

Understanding the new 'Liquid Expectations' to increase online admissions

The concept of ‘Liquid Expectations’ can help you better understand the expectations of your target groups. It is based on the idea that expectations can be “liquid,” meaning that they can adapt and change as needed. Liquid expectations seek to create an environment in which the individual has clear and realistic expectations of their online experience. Another consideration of the concept is that the expectations of customer experience seep from one industry to another.

As an educational Institution, you may often think about your marketing compared to your direct competitors. But now, when it comes to the online experience. They’re comparing your institution’s online experience to any and all online experiences they’ve had — even those with brands like Amazon and Netflix.

During the pandemic times, people got into doing almost everything virtually, setting expectations high across the board.

The success of liquid expectations is based on several key elements:

  • Providing standard experience based on their expectations
  • Creating an engaging, interactive environment
  • Understanding their individual needs and interests.

These elements help create an environment where the target group feels safe, supported, and motivated.

What should you do to increase online admissions?

1. Optimize your website


Some stats:

  • 94% of the first impressions are design related.
  • More than 2/3rd of the visitor use mobile handsets to access your website.
  • Mobile users are 5 times more likely to abandon a task if a site isn’t optimized for mobile.
  • 79% of people who don’t like what they find on one site will go back and search for another site.
  • You lose more than 50% of the visitors if the webpage loading time is more than 3sec.

Major issues that often plague the website are not having regular upgrades be it technological framework or content. 

In the previous section, I expressed my concern about user engagement and experience. ‘Liquid Expectations’ is an important concept to follow. The focus should be on what the user wants to see and not what you want to show.

Your website should have a mobile-first approach, it should be lite and responsive. You should do away with unnecessary and frivolous elements. Make sure your website looks trendy, not just in comparison with your competition but benchmarked with the top website around the web.

Make the navigation simple. Create excitement with your anchor texts and the creative use of buttons. 

A common practice among most institutions is giving accreditations and affiliations an extra focus. You must understand having accreditations and affiliations are basic for educational institutions. It’s like having a Trade License or GST Registration for a business. It is a need for the institution not a delight for your target groups. Well, if you have some very unique achievement it is only then you can put a focus.

I would rather advise you to put the following in focus:

  • Career Scope 
  • Curriculum
  • Personal Development Scope
  • Parallel Certifications
  • Infrastructure & Facilities (I am not talking about just the acreage and the real-estate of your campus)
  • Faculties & Support Staff
  • Industry Mentorship Programmes 
  • Industrial Training
  • Alumni Association and Network
  • Special Talks and events
  • Newsletters
  • Regular Blogs
Another recommendation I would like to make is for you to have chatbots. It will increase the level of engagement available 24 X 7. 

2. Optimize your search engine strategy


Some stats:

  • 87% of online engagement starts with a search.
  • 90% of consumers read online reviews before visiting a business.
  • 84% of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendations.
  • 65% of people see online searches as the most trusted source of information.

Like your website your, search engine strategy is one of the fundamental steps you need to optimize. In a previous blog, Searching for Success: How Paid and Organic Search Can Fuel Business Growth, I discussed paid and organic search strategies in detail. Optimizing your organic and paid search using right keywords depending on who you want to target with a specific landing page is critical.

When optimizing search engine strategy let’s look at the 3 key elements:

  • SEO
  • PPC
  • Reviews


Search Engine Optimization


As of February 2023, 97.37% of all searches happened through Google. So when we speak of SEO we are talking in terms of optimizing your website for Google’s search algorithms.   Since Dec 2022, Google Quality Rating Guidelines, with E-E-A-T, is the new Bible for SEO.

SEO is a long game that most educational institutions cannot afford in terms of time or resources.  The stats suggest steep competition. Search Engine Journal reports, 25% of people click the first Google search result. The first page has just about 10 organic results and only 10% of people go beyond the 1st page.

Have you ever looked beyond page 1 of the Google search result?

There are many competing for small real estate. It takes time and effort.

Getting good results requires,

  • Extensive keyword research and implementation
  • Image Optimization – size optimization, caption, alt text, Title & description.
  • Good technical SEO, ie, having title tags, meta tags, snippets, excerpts, and optimized content.
  • Generate schema for your content
  • Social Bookmarking
  • Backlinks
  • Cross-posting
  • Article Submission
  • Feed Submission

and many other strategies to be implemented.

Whenever you are writing content for a webpage see to it that it demonstrates E-E-A-T even for AI-generated content. But in general, try to maintain some basic technical hygiene:

  • Put focus keyword in the SEO title
  • Put focus keyword used inside the SEO meta description
  • Put focus keyword used in the URL
  • Your focus keyword must appear in the first 10% of the content.
  • Webpage should have at least 600-800 words
  • Use H1, H2, H3… tags with the focus keyword and combinations
  • Have a keyword density of at least 1-1.5%
  • Link to external resources
  • Use optimized images and infographics.
  • Maintain data compliance.

What You get:

  • Free unlimited traffic to your webpage
  • Improves the visibility of the website
  • Grows your brand awareness
  • You get more opportunities for engagement
No matter how long it takes or the resources required, an involved SEO strategy is essential to your survival in the digital space.

Pay-Per-Click Advertising

Initially, it is difficult to be found on organic search results. But since 87% of audience engagement starts with search. Yet you need to be found in search results. If you can’t do it organically, pay for it. This is where PPC ads come into play. PPC ads are a powerful digital advertising tool that you can use to help generate more awareness and website traffic for your educational institution. 
With the right kind of intent-based keywords, you can get those new users into your website. However, it is important to ensure that the ads are well-targeted and relevant to the audience, otherwise, the clicks may not result in conversions.


It is good to have experts to run your PPC campaign for better ROI.



Online Reviews


Get a good number of reviews, and testimonials. Good reviews like 4 & 5-star ratings build trust and improve your image in the digital space. Create opportunities for people to put in a review for you. 


3. Have official newsletters and regular blogs

Content marketing through official newsletters and regular blogs can build your brand and develop the trust factor.

Newsletters can cover the topics like,

  1. News and updates about the institution
  2. Talks, webinars, and events
  3. Case studies
  4. CSR activities involving students and faculties
  5. How-to guides
  6. Sports and arts
  7. Tag your featured blog post
  8. Latest YouTube videos
  9. Special offers and discounts by sponsors for the students
  10. Industry stories
  11. Expert interviews
  12. Job postings
  13. Student of the month
  14. Anecdotes about the institution
  15. Interviews of students who got really good job offer/internships
  16. Vacation ideas
  17. A regular column, featuring articles from the students.
  18.  Interviews of senior teachers/other staff who have been on campus for years.

You can use emails and push notifications to alert audiences both your target groups as well as internal audiences.

Have a dedicated team of professionals, faculties, and students to come up with regular blogs. Bookmark them on social media and post them as feeds on different available platforms, be it article submission or feed submission platforms. Blogs enormously help your SEO and build a passive communication channel with your audiences. It creates brand identity.

Through blogs, you can discuss independent and collective views on various topics related to education, your institution, the associated industries, companies, markets, etc.

You can use blogs to communicate about courses and curriculum and reach out to prospective students and their families to inform them about your institution and its offers.

Some other ideas for content that will appeal to parents include:

  • Educational resources that they can use at home
  • Tips for helping their child adjust to college life
  • Information about your institution’s financial aid opportunities

You can also have blogs on some of the topics already mentioned in the newsletter.

The demarcation would be that the newsletter is an official version and it reaches only the people you send, while blogs can have independent views, though moderated, and are accessible through your website, paid and organic searches, social media etc.

4. Unlock social media 


The goal of social media marketing for higher education is 

  • To increase awareness
  • Create interest
  • Bring them to specified landing pages
  • Get leads for the institution and its programs

As well as,

  • to build and maintain relationships with key audiences.

This can include,

  • Reaching out to prospective students and their parents,
  • Engaging current students and parents
  • Building alumni and industry connections.

Social media is the modern word-of-mouth. Social buzz and chatters help you not just become a talking point but also monitor what your audiences think about you.

You can leverage the best platforms to communicate according to your target group.

  • 23% of Gen Z and 18% of GenX contacted a brand through social media DMs.
  • 84% of social media marketers say social media will become consumers’ preferred channel for customer service.
  • Facebook Ads can potentially reach 22.1% of the Indian population while YouTube has a potential ad reach of 67.50% of the Indian population

3 best social media platforms for ROI perspective,

  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • YouTube

In a previous blog, Facebook Ad Sales Funnel: How to create an effective campaign, I discussed the use of the Facebook Ad Sales funnel at different levels of your target groups’ journey. When I say Facebook Ads, I mean Meta Ads for both Facebook and Instagram.

YouTube with its universe of videos is the platform to explore. Effective use of YouTube Video Ads to promote content can give you a targeted reach that no other platform can come close to.

Instagram may be the sought-after platform for Gen Zers, yet does not have much following by the senior generation. on the other hand,  YouTube and Facebook remain common platforms across the 2 generations.

5. Leverage video content 


If we talk about engaging social media content, nothing comes close to video.

Video content offers much more value compared to textual or image-based content. Video content is also highly versatile. For example, it can be consumed with or without sound.

Using video content in long and short formats, you can show

  • Your facilities,
  • Speak of opportunities
  • Talk about the programs your institution has to offer
  • Have interviews with alumni, industry buddies experts and more
  • Showcase talks and events
  • Show campus life
  • etc.

Nowadays, more and more educational institutions are using video content to attract more website visitors and turn them into converting leads. Video is a great medium to educate prospective target groups and nurture them throughout their journey cycle.

6. Remarketing strategy to increase admission online 


What is a remarketing strategy? After you visit a website, did you observe their ads keep following you on other websites you visit, on Facebook and Instagram? Well, this is what remarketing is all about. Depending on your target group, and their position in the customer journey cycle you can expose them to different sets of communications.

The idea is simply to follow and engage those who have already visited your website or social media page or reacted to your post or ad. The logic is simple, if you keep seeing something you are interested in, right in front of you always, you generally tend to have a favorable opinion about it. When it comes to the final decision you choose it. 

To run a successful remarketing campaign you must have magnets to keep audiences interested.

Compliment your remarketing ad campaign with mailers.

7. Trigger curiosity about emails & have email workflows


eMails are a great way to reach out and increase the appetite for further engagement. Most people in your target groups open emails multiple times a day. If you are not spammy and send value-added emails, maybe once every fortnight, helps to keep them engaged. You can set up email automation and target users based on their stage in the journey cycle.

An email workflow is a set of emails that are automatically sent based on the subscriber’s contact information, behavior, or preferences. For example, an email workflow can be triggered by a contact submitting a form, but it can also be triggered by a parent’s persona.

These set-and-forget emails have a proven track record to save you time and increase engagement. They can be used for almost every purpose, including: 

  • Welcome newly enrolled families
  • Nurture prospective families who recently inquired
  • Onboard new faculty and staff
  • Remind community members of upcoming events and deadlines
  • Promote an event
  • Send newsletters and the latest blogs 

There are paid and free tools for email automation:

  • MailChimp
  • MailerLite
  • SendInBlue
  • CovertKit
  • ActiveCampaigns

8. Maximize reach with lookalike audience targeting

One of the most popular trends higher education marketers had been using since early 2022 is utilizing lookalike audience models. Lookalike audiences help educational institutions improve their brand reach and acquire new student leads. Using the data of existing students, lookalike marketing campaigns can help in lead generation among the target groups with the same interests and behavioral patterns.

It allows your institution to broaden its reach and attract students and parents who are most likely to engage with your content and enroll in your programs.

By analyzing your existing students’ and their parents’ demographic and psychographic characteristics, across the journey cycle, you can identify the attributes that make them a good fit for your institution. Then, using this information, you can target prospects who share these attributes and are more likely to be interested in your offer. This can help you optimize your admission funnel and increase the chances of converting leads into enrolled students.

9. Involve influencers and experts


 Influencers can be important individuals when it comes to promoting your institution as a powerful marketing strategy. 

Who are best suited to be your influencers:

  • Alumni
  • Guest Faculties
  • Industry Buddies
  • Parents of students
  • Educationists
  • Local political & administrative officials

 Start with an in-house approach. Go through your alumni list and shortlist the successful ones.  Ask them to write about their experience and how they benefitted from being a student at the institution. Use these alumni in your ads to promote a positive image. 

As per studies, the employment record of past students influences the decisions of prospects significantly. I would encourage you to promote the success of your alumni on your website, as well as on social media, tagging the individual. LinkedIn and Facebook can be the platform of choice. You can also encourage your brightest students to become your social media brand ambassadors.

Once you are done tapping your in-house list, you can approach the guest faculties and industry buddies, who are associated with mentoring and recruitment programs, to speak about you. They also have an ulterior motive. Better quality and more students will also help them in their purpose as well. Next are the educationists, local politicians, and administrative officials. Invite them for talks and events and have them endorse you, especially on social media.

Sounds plan, right!!

10. Use Automation to keep your audience engaged


Today with technology galloping you can customize and automate most things on your checklist.

Leverage automation tools like,

  • Zapier
  • Make
  • Pabbly

the automation tools can help you streamline processes, reduce costs, and improve the consumer experience. With automation, the scope of errors or leads going missing is minimized. And you can personalize communication.

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About the Author - Anirban Guha


Anirban Guha is an MBA graduate from Amity University, Noida. Starting his career with The Times of India Group, he has spent over 16 years in advertising and has been the founder-director of an award-winning digital marketing agency, Tejom Digital for over 6 years. He has worked with some of the top brands in India and beyond. He is an expert in creative design and digital marketing. He is passionate about helping businesses reach their goals. Beside his professional life, Anirban is an avid reader, a movie buff, a passionate gardener, an art enthusiast, and a foodie.