Internet Marketing Techniques for Online Programs

Internet Marketing Techniques for Online Programs

Cynthia Gallatin (Quinnipiac University, USA)
Copyright: © 2009 |Pages: 6
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-198-8.ch182
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Abstract

The Internet has changed the way we live and work as well as the way we are educating our next generation workforce. Technology-mediated distance learning business models are providing new educational opportunities for students. According to the Sloan Foundation’s 2006 report, there were over 3.2 million students taking online courses in the fall of 2005 (Allen & Seaman, 2007). Not only are higher educational models changing, but the methods to market to prospective students are also shifting. The proliferation of media formats makes it more difficult to reach potential students interested in online programs. Consequently the average individual is bombarded by many different media messages, which results in a significant continual challenge for any online university. Success depends upon finding effective methods to break through media clutter and reach specific target audiences to recruit students for online programs.
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Introduction

The Internet has changed the way we live and work as well as the way we are educating our next generation workforce. Technology-mediated distance learning business models are providing new educational opportunities for students. According to the Sloan Foundation’s 2006 report, there were over 3.2 million students taking online courses in the fall of 2005 (Allen & Seaman, 2007).

Not only are higher educational models changing, but the methods to market to prospective students are also shifting. The proliferation of media formats makes it more difficult to reach potential students interested in online programs. Consequently the average individual is bombarded by many different media messages, which results in a significant continual challenge for any online university. Success depends upon finding effective methods to break through media clutter and reach specific target audiences to recruit students for online programs.

According to the 2007 Pew Internet & American Life Project (PI&ALP) survey, 71% of the total adult population uses the Internet (PI&ALP, 2007). Many prospective students are comfortable using the Internet and utilize this tool for a variety of activities including searching for online programs.

Businesses are shifting a portion of their advertising dollars from TV, radio and print to Web-based media in order to target customers. Last year ad spending on print newspapers in the U.S. declined 1.7%, to $4.6 billion, according to the Newspaper Association of America; spending on all U.S. Internet advertising rose 27% to $19.6 billion, says research firm eMarketer (Holahan, 2007). Educational institutions are also increasing their online marketing.

In fact educational institutions are discovering the benefits of reaching target markets via non-traditional methods. According to a presentation by Jack Wilson, former CEO of UMass Online, spending on online advertising in 2003 for UMass Online generated 72.5% of leads with only 27.4% of the total marketing budget. In contrast, radio advertising generated less then 1% of leads while taking up 13.4% of the budget (Wilson, 2003).

One of the most significant challenges in reaching potential students for online programs is the competition from large for-profit education providers. For example, University of Phoenix Online spent $79.4 million dollars for online advertising in the first-half of 2007 (Peterson, 2007).

Despite the fact that some non-profit institutions have modest marketing budgets, it is important for any online higher education institution to combine online marketing methods with traditional methods in order to reach potential students for distance learning programs. Non-profit higher education institutions as well as for-profit educational institutions are increasing their online marketing efforts. According to Ron Hendricks, Chief Innovation Officer at Datamark, a direct response ad agency that services colleges and universities:

“Although for-profit schools have been aggressively using online marketing strategies since 2001, it has only been during the last few years that a significant number of traditional non-profit schools are expanding their Web marketing to include lead generation and branding plans. While the non-profit school sector has deep experience in sales and marketing, many traditional schools are quickly catching-up by adding more aggressive marketing and sales capability onto their already mature admissions processes.”

The combination of the competitive online education market and the fact that online marketing provides a targeted method to reach potential students who are searching for specific programs via the Internet, supports shifting some of our traditional marketing budget to include online marketing campaigns.

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Background

In order to review the challenges and opportunities associated with the use of different online marketing methods, let’s begin with some definitions. There are a variety of online marketing methods which may be used to recruit students. Online marketing methods include the following: search engine marketing, pay-per-click, lead generation strategies (education directories), e-mail marketing, banner ads, viral marketing and blogs.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Online Marketing: Methods of marketing that are conducted electronically. This includes methods such as search engine marketing, pay-per-click advertising, viral marketing and banner ads.

Blogs: Blog is the shortened term for Web log. A Web log is a user generated discussion that is open to the public. The owner of the blog creates a journal and may receive comments on his/her blog from others.

Offline Marketing: This refers to tradtional non-electronic methods of marketing such as television, radio and print.

Viral Marketing: Also known as ‘buzz marketing,” this term refers to word-of-mouth advertising. Viral marketing may be associated with electronic marketing methods such as e-mails or blogs.

Search Engine Marketing: The ability to increase the visibility of a Web site by improving the search results of a site. The primary purpose of search engine marketing is to improve organic or paid searches in order to drive traffic to a Web site.

Banner Ads: A Web-based promotional ad that is typically rectangular in shape. When a potential customer clicks on a banner ad it takes him/her to a Web site.

Pay-per-click: A pricing model for paid advertising used for various search engines such as Google, Yahoo or MSN. Individuals or companies bid for key words used by search engines and place ads related to a key. A charge occurs every time someone clicks on the ad. One of the most popular pay-per-click methods for paid advertising is Google Adwords.

Organic Search: The search terms that may be located using Google or Yahoo or any search engine that naturally occur due to the correlation with the key word used for the search. These are located on the left-hand side of the screen and there is no cost associated with organic search which differentiates this from “pay-per-click” search terms.

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