In a world where content is king it is imperative that colleges think strategically about the content on their websites. Now, if there is one thing most EDUs have plenty of, it’s content. But with all that content, many colleges are missing critical content that answers the questions prospective students are searching for as they begin their college search. Another common content challenge we see among EDUs is the organization of content –the content exists, but it is not easily found. Taking a step back and formulating a content strategy can help alleviate these common content challenges and improve the student journey from searcher to lead to enrollment.
The following simple, yet effective content mapping process starts and ends with the student. But first, what is content mapping? Content mapping is the process of planning content to align with student or customer needs in each phase of their decision process. Content mapping will help you widen your lead funnel and lower the barriers to conversion on your site for prospective students.
This 3-step process will guide you through organizing and creating content that can both improve your SEO results and increase prospective student leads for your college or university.
Step 1: Identify Personas
You need to understand who are you are talking to before you begin to create content. Ask these questions as you work to identify your personas:
- What are common characteristics and/or demographics of the groups you are targeting?
- What are their frustrations, pain points or questions they often have during their college search?
- What types of content do they engage with? Video? Quizzes? Apps?
You can divide your personas up not only by degree program, but also by level (Bachelor, Master and Doctoral degrees), so you may end up with quite a few personas if you try to do everything at once. Work on one degree program or theme at a time, but start to think about how you will structure new content on your site for each segment. It is beneficial to be consistent.
Step 2: Audit Existing On-Site Content
In a spreadsheet, identify all of the URLs for a particular content segment or degree program. Next, label each URL with the part of the student journey that page appeals to the most. There are different ways you can break down the parts of the buyer funnel depending on who you ask. I prefer to use the following stages for the student journey since it tend to have a longer lead cycle: Discover, Compare, Consider & Commit.
Once you’ve assigned a stage to all the pages, you’ll be able to see where you are light on or missing content. In the example below, you can see that the site is light on content that appeals to students early in their search (discovery), as well as content for students who are interested in applying (commit).
If you want to go a step further, you can also give each page a grade based on how well the content meets the searcher’s needs and by how well it is optimized. This can be particularly useful in convincing others in your organization to make necessary changes to your site. Here is a sample grading scale:
|A||Content appeals to the searcher’s intent. Length of content is good (not too thin or too long) and the page has clear, appropriate calls-to-action. On-page optimization is strong (title, meta description, h1, h2s and internal links all follow best practices).|
|B||Page is lacking one or two of the following: Content appeals to the searcher’s intent. Length of content is good (not too thin) and the page has clear, appropriate calls-to-action. On-page optimization is strong (title, meta description, h1, h2s and internal links all follow best practices).|
|C||Page lacks key optimization elements and/or has content that needs improvement. Analytics data shows performance issues such as high bounce rates, low time on page, high exit rate or low traffic.|
|D||Page lacks key optimization elements and/or has content that needs improvement. Analytics data shows performance issues such as high bounce rates, low time on page, high exit rate or low traffic. Page also has spelling errors, poor grammar or extremely long or short content that needs improvement.|
|F||Page has little to no content or shows an error message|
Be sure to add a “Notes” column to your spreadsheet so you can easily go back and fix any problem areas you discover. Here is a content audit template to get you started.
Step 3: Map Content to the Student Journey
In the last step, you’re going to combine the personas and the stages of the student journey to map out a laser-focused content strategy for each degree program or segment. Here is what you will do to complete the content mapping process for each person you identified:
- Pinpoint the questions the student is asking or trying to answer in each part of the decision process.
- Spell out the goal(s) of the student at each step of their journey.
- Brainstorm content ideas and content types that will appeal to the student at each step of the journey based off your persona development.
- Identify the action(s) you want the student to take to move into the next stage of the funnel.
You can download our content mapping template here.
Armed with a content map and the results of your content audit, you can now begin to fill in missing or light content that will help prospective students move easily through the funnel from searcher to student. Your content map will help you organize content on your site and add effective calls-to-action, improving the student experience.