3 Strategies To Overcome Rising Search Costs & Boost Enrollment

As higher education marketers face the dual challenge of escalating search marketing costs and the rapid evolution of search technology, finding effective and budget-friendly student recruitment strategies has never been more crucial. With the advent of AI-driven search engines and a mobile-first approach to online behavior, the landscape of digital marketing in higher education is transforming. This evolution requires a strategic pivot away from primarily search-based marketing to more innovative and cost-effective methods.

The increasing expenses associated with search marketing, combined with the continuous changes in search algorithms and user behavior, demand a more diversified approach to student recruitment. To evolve successfully, higher education marketers must explore strategies that not only circumvent these rising costs, but also tap into prospective students' genuine interests and needs.


1. Maximize Strategic Social Media Practices

Effectively leveraging social media trends is essential for enhancing higher education marketing strategies. Short-form video content on platforms like YouTube and Instagram captures prospective students' attention with dynamic, visual narratives. Simultaneously, program-forward social campaigns can broaden reach and connect with students earlier in their decision-making process while subtly introducing your school’s brand.

As social media increasingly becomes a primary search tool for younger audiences, recognizing its importance for program visibility through social SEO is crucial. Additionally, engaging specific student demographics through authentic content by partnering with niche influencers can help foster genuine connections.

2. Embrace Comprehensive Audience Segmentation & Multichannel Engagement

Adopting a nuanced strategy for audience segmentation allows institutions to connect with prospective students more effectively. Surveying and bucketing your successful students and recent grads to understand behaviors, motivations and specific needs can help marketers craft messaging that truly resonates with target audiences. This sophisticated segmentation ensures efforts are concentrated on prospects most likely to enroll.

Simultaneously, diversifying the media channels through which these tailored messages are delivered broadens the scope of engagement. By leveraging survey results on engagement preferences and integrating a variety of channels — from pay-per-lead campaigns and warm transfers to email, social media and beyond — higher education institutions can ensure they meet potential students wherever they are.

3. Partner With A Provider Like Digital Media Solutions

Finally, partnering with an established, compliance-focused provider, like Digital Media Solutions (DMS) offers a strategic solution to enhance student recruitment efforts. DMS provides three key offerings designed to meet various institutional needs:

1. High-Intent Prospects:

  • Exclusive Branded Clicks Platform: DMS drives traffic to school websites, ensuring schools retain control over the user experience by directing high-intent prospects to school-managed landing pages.
  • Digital Inquiries: DMS provides pre-qualified, targeted leads and captures express written consent, ideal for institutions ready to engage and manage follow-up effectively.
  • Call Verified & Warm Transfers: DMS facilitates direct connections through call transfers, linking qualified prospective students with school admissions teams, perfect for schools seeking immediate engagement or with limited resources.

2. Agency Expertise

The DMS agency team leverages deep industry knowledge to execute campaigns that increase brand awareness, engagement, and conversions, aligning with your goals.

3. Sparkroom Technology

Our proprietary lead management platform offers automation and analytics, centralizing data to improve marketing campaign efficiency and decision-making, while boosting ROI.

Charting A New Course In Enrollment Strategies

In response to rising search costs and digital changes, higher education institutions are finding new ways to reach students. By adapting to these changes, colleges and universities can secure a competitive edge, ensuring their messages reach the right students at the right time, through the right channels. By exploring innovative strategies, schools can dynamically engage prospective students, ensuring their recruitment efforts remain both effective and efficient in the evolving landscape of higher education marketing.

Are You Looking To Scale Your Enrollment Marketing Efforts?

DMS Education is a proven industry leader in higher education enrollment marketing, matching schools with high-intent prospective students at scale on a performance-based model. Since 2002, DMS Education has been widely recognized as a thought leader in education performance marketing, successfully navigating the evolving higher education lead generation landscape while helping schools compliantly and consistently fill their seats. Speak with one of our specialists today.

About the author

Carrie Burton

Carrie Burton, Senior Vice President of Education at Digital Media Solutions, Inc. (DMS), brings over 15 years of expertise in education inquiry generation to her role. Throughout her career, she has consistently excelled in optimizing education marketing strategies to adapt to the evolving industry landscape. With her diverse experience spanning media, remarketing, monetization, lead arbitrage, multichannel prospecting, and customer retention marketing, Carrie has demonstrated a strong track record of success in driving results. As SVP of Education at DMS, Carrie oversees the development and management of our DMS Education product offerings and solutions. This includes the supervision of our web properties and advanced technology stack. In addition, Carrie oversees our DMS Education strategic partnerships and media planning. Outside of her professional responsibilities, Carrie volunteers her time with the Utah Special Education Advisory Panel.