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5 Digital Marketing Trends for University Recruitment in 2019

5 Digital Marketing Trends for University Recruitment in 2019

by: Aris Pilitsopoulos

Digital marketing is an industry that has continued to grow rapidly. Its popularity is clearly evident when we look at the higher education sector. Not only are most universities and institutions reporting that they are increasingly leveraging digital marketing strategies, they are also reporting about the success of such strategies in engaging current and potential students.

As an ever-evolving industry, it is integral that higher education providers stay on top of the latest digital marketing trends. Failure to do so will mean that they may lose their competitive edge and relevancy. What then are the most important digital marketing trends for higher education to keep an eye on this year? Below, we have outlined 5 of the most critical trends for university recruitment in 2019.


Instagram stories

While Facebook was once the social media application of choice, Instagram has fast become the go-to app for younger generations. Instagram reports that it has over half a billion active users daily, and according to Statista, more than half of Instagram users are aged between 18 and 34. This represents the primary target audience for universities looking to recruit prospective students. 

The potential of this social media application for higher education providers is clear. But simply relying on regular posts will severely limit your reach. The way forward for universities is to start using Instagram Stories. The growth of Instagram Stories over the last couple of years is phenomenal, with just this feature boasting excess of 400 million daily active users

How can universities take advantage of this trend? 

You can use Instagram Stories to showcase a number of aspects about your university in an authentic way. For example, you could ask students to record a “day in the life of” segment via Instagram Stories to highlight what university life is like. Or, you could show a snapshot of a lecture, seminar, or event. Another idea is to feature notable staff and lecturers. The good news is that the possibilities are truly endless when it comes to how universities can make use of Instagram Stories for their recruitment goals. 


YouTube & Video Content

Another trend worth looking into is YouTube and video content. Why? Well, 94% of 18 to 24 year olds use YouTube on a regular basis, and it is their most frequented social network by a long margin. Views aren’t just watching passively watching videos, either. A survey found that 85% of Millennials (18 to 35 year olds) purchased a product or service after viewing a video.

How can universities take advantage of this trend? 

Fortunately, there are countless ways higher education institutions can use YouTube and video content to boost their recruitment efforts. The key way is through education and awareness campaigns. Research conducted by Google found that 80% of Gen Z say YouTube has helped them become more knowledgeable about something. 

Given that this generation represents teenagers and prospective students, it would be advantageous for universities to target this group by uploading well-produced videos that highlight their university’s courses, offerings, campus life, and any other draw cards.


SEO & Voice-Based Search

You may have heard about SEO and voice-based search, but have you ensured that your efforts actually contribute to your rate of prospective students? It’s worth keeping in mind that 51% of all website traffic comes from organic search. Moreover, sites listed on Google’s first page receive 91.5% of search engine traffic. Therefore, ranking on the first page of Google for your target keywords should be one of your main digital marketing priorities. 

In order to reach the first page, universities must stay on top of updating their content with information relevant to prospective students. They should also constantly work on optimizing their keyword research and backlinking strategy. There is, however, another recent trend that influences the way that prospective universities students search for education: voice search. In fact, the increasing use of voice search and virtual digital assistants are projected to have a growing impact on how universities deliver, produce content, and market higher education. In 2017, 20% of mobile searches were made by voice, and it is estimated by ComScore that by 2020, more than half of all searches will be. 

How can universities take advantage of this trend? 

Universities can ensure that they’re prepared for the voice search boom by making concerted efforts to optimize for voice search. One effective strategy is to account for the distinct ways prospective students would speak about university education in keyword research. After all, the syntax and words used to conduct a voice search versus a typical written search are markedly different. 

Another useful strategy to optimize for voice searches is to use local information in your keyword research. The reason this would have an impact is because 22% of people use voice search for finding local information. By incorporating local landmarks and local characteristics in your keyword research, you will in turn gain more traffic from voice searches. 

More technical modifications that can be made include improving your page speed. This is vital as the average voice search result page loads in just 4.6 seconds. Another modification that would improve your chances of appearing as a voice search result is to switch to HTTPS. The reason being that voice search results are significantly more likely to use HTTPS than other websites ranking on Google’s first page.



One of the most important features of a strong digital marketing strategy that is overlooked by many universities is a mobile-optimized and responsive website. The importance of this cannot be underestimated considering that Statista reports that over 52% of global web traffic in 2018 came from mobile phones. 98% of Gen Z own a smartphone, and every day, they spend more than 4 hours online on their smartphones. Further to this, the Pew Research Center found that 45% of them say that use the internet “almost constantly.”

If your university’s website is lagging behind in terms of being mobile-optimized and responsive, you are losing out on potentially thousands of leads. After all, this is a generation that has been brought up on smartphones.

How can universities take advantage of this trend? 

It is of vital importance that your university has a well-designed and easy-to-navigate  responsive website that can be used via a mobile device. Although it might seem simplistic, this is the most important thing to keep in mind if you want your website to load on your prospective student’s smartphone. If your website doesn’t load properly on a mobile phone or takes too long to do so, prospective students will simply head to your competitors’ mobile-optimized and responsive websites. 


Digital advertising

The final trend on our list is digital advertising—and there’s a good reason it’s a vital trend for universities to focus on. Consider the prior four trends and how they demonstrate how much younger generations value online engagement as well as their smartphones. It makes sense, then, to leverage this through the use of digital advertising. 

Digital advertising provides higher education providers with the opportunity to connect with this target audience. Essentially, when successfully implemented, digital advertising can be used to influence their decision making. A successful social media campaign, for example, could convince hundreds to thousands of viewers to apply to a course at your university. Digital advertising is thus a highly effective sales channel to boost lead generation and interest in your university.

How can universities take advantage of this trend? 

One of the key benefits of digital advertising is that it is incredibly precise and targeted. It allows universities to hone in on specific target audiences and segment and track campaigns to suit the particular needs of each audience. 

Moreover, it isn’t a location-limited advertising medium. Its reach can be global, meaning that universities  can target and reach audiences worldwide, regardless of how far away they are located. It’s also a cost-effective advertising medium, as universities  can decide on a specific budget and modify the digital advertising campaign to suit your budgeting needs. 



As you have learned, digital marketing offers higher education providers a number of valuable opportunities to not only spark the interest of potential applicants, but to encourage them to apply to your university. As attending to each of the featured trends relies on effective implementation, it’s integral to partner with a digital marketing agency that has proven experience leading digital marketing campaigns to success. 

Base Element has been working with universities and higher education institutions for the last 8 years. We know precisely how to reduce the complexity of your digital marketing efforts and in turn, help you to achieve your most important recruiting targets for 2019. Contact us today to discuss how working together can ensure that 2019 is your most successful yet.