2014 Higher education survey snapshot.

This year’s audience represented an expanded group of admissions, enrollment management and marketing/communication professionals; we increased our survey reach by over 60%. Our resulting participation jumped up accordingly, by almost 300%. This year’s survey group represents 137 colleges and universities from 39 states. Young professionals as well as higher education veterans responded in almost equal measure. We’re pleased with this diversity and the range of experience and feedback it offers.

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: Is your digital marketing working as hard as it could? How does your website compare to other higher education sites? Are you missing key opportunities to strengthen your brand and attract more students?

Although digital marketing tactics are increasing in depth and breadth, institutional support has not kept pace. Here’s a snapshot of the two major themes revealed in the survey.

Most survey respondents report that their school’s website falls short of the competition. When asked if their institution’s website was better than their competitors’, 67.3% answered no. Only one third (32.7%) said yes, their website is succeeding competitively.

The substantial portion of websites that are missing the mark suggests that higher education website development hasn’t evolved to the level required. It is ironic that this essential marketing tool seems to be largely overlooked rather than being leveraged to its full capacity.

When asked to identify the areas of their websites most in need of improvement, survey participants noted optimization for mobile devices, effective lead generation of prospective students, and overall navigation as most in need of help.

Websites are better at providing information to traditional-age students compared to adult or non-traditional students and other audiences. Overall, 59.7% said their institution’s website is excellent or good at providing information to traditional prospective undergraduate students. However, less than a third (32.3%) said the same for prospective non-traditional students. This is a significant gap when 86.7% of the institutions who responded enroll non-traditional undergraduate or graduate students. Alumni, donor and community relations are rated average or poor.

Responses show optimizing websites for lead generation, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and mobile devices is lagging. Less than half of respondents (38.2%) agreed that their institution’s website is effective in generating new leads.


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).


Top Four Non-Website Digital Tactics

Top Tools for Prospecting

Just over two-thirds (67%) of participants agree that the presence of digital marketing tactics improved their institution’s reporting and analytical capabilities.


Digital tactics – including social media – are almost at full strength in terms of saturation/presence, doubling the number of channels and tactics institutions must use, understand and maintain. Budgets have not kept pace, particularly in respect to website development and maintenance. Institutions who understand the importance of their website as their most public facing brand element, funding it and staffing it accordingly, are ahead of the game.

Finally, the results showed that the measureable benefits of most digital marketing have not been fully realized. Our survey participants reported they are lacking when it comes to measuring (or consistently measuring), their results.

Our monthly higher education marketing blog offer solutions and best practices for how institutions can continue to address their digital marketing challenges.

To see more of our work visit our portfolio. For more information or a no-obligation consultation, contact us today.