Boost Enrolment: Top Advertising Strategies for Education Providers

The landscape of higher education is continuously evolving. With an influx of options ranging from traditional universities to online courses, educational providers find themselves in a fiercely competitive space when it comes to student enrolment.

The challenges are manifold: from attracting the right kind of talent to retaining them, and more importantly, meeting both student and parent expectations. It’s no longer solely about academic prowess; it’s about delivering a complete package that includes robust career prospects, enriching campus life, and financial feasibility.

An empty university lecture theatre

In such a competitive arena, effective advertising plays a pivotal role. With the right strategies, institutions can stand out in a saturated market, and attract students who are not just a great academic fit but also likely to thrive in the unique ecosystem they provide. In this article, we take a look at some effective advertising strategies for boosting student enrolment. We will look into understanding student preferences, the power of outdoor and online advertising, and the importance of a multi-channel approach for maximum reach and impact.

Understanding Student Preferences

The journey to higher education is often a deeply personal and complex decision-making process. For educational institutions looking to boost enrolment, understanding why students choose one institution over another is fundamental. Is it the campus life, the academic programs offered, or perhaps the allure of future career opportunities?

Research shows that several factors come into play when students make their choice. These can include the location of the institution, career prospects post-graduation, academic focus, cost, and social activities available on campus. Each of these elements appeals to different aspects of a student’s needs and desires. Knowing these motivating factors allows for a more nuanced and effective enrolment strategy.

By diving deep into these preferences, educational providers can better align their offerings with what prospective students are actively looking for. Whether it’s highlighting the vibrant community life in the institution’s town, showcasing alumni success stories, or providing clear and helpful information about financial aid, tailoring your messaging to resonate with student preferences can make your institution more attractive to prospective students.

A group of university graduates celebrating by throwing their caps in the air

Strategy 1: Outdoor Advertising

Outdoor advertising has a unique potency in catching local attention that few other mediums can match. This is particularly true for lamppost banner advertising, which integrates seamlessly into the urban landscape, providing high visibility without being intrusive.

Creating Effective Ads

Creating effective adverts involves more than just eye-catching designs; it requires an understanding of the target audience. The key to resonance is aligning the ads with what prospective students and their parents care about—be it academics, location, or career prospects. Simple yet powerful messaging can make a significant impact.

Play Video about A lamppost banner advertising the University Campus of Milton Keynes

Video case study about a campaign we supported for University Campus Milton Keynes 

Case Study: University Campus Milton Keynes (UCMK)

UCMK sought to elevate their visibility and attract new students through a high-impact, short-term campaign. Partnering with Bay Media, they strategically placed 63 banners across various high-traffic areas in Milton Keynes. This campaign was not only impactful but also created a buzz around UCMK, driving new student recruitment.

Key Takeaways:

  • Strategic placement increased the campaign’s reach beyond just the local community.
  • Created a strong association between the university and the surrounding area.
  • Helped in building brand awareness and recognition for UCMK.

Read the full case study here.

Lamppost banners advertising Manchester University (left) and the University of East London (right)

Strategy 2: Social Media Advertising

In today’s digital age, ignoring social media is tantamount to leaving money on the table. Educational institutions must not only establish but also maintain a consistent brand voice across all platforms.

Importance of a Consistent Brand Voice

Consistency is key. The brand’s voice and visuals must align across all platforms to build a unified image in the minds of prospective students and their families.

Targeted Campaigns

Social media allows for highly targeted advertising, letting institutions reach out to potential students based on various factors like interests, location, and age. Ad campaigns can be tailored to highlight scholarships, upcoming open houses, or specific academic programs.

Role of Engagement

Engagement metrics like shares, likes, and direct communication are not just numbers; they are indicators of how well your content is resonating with your audience. High engagement levels indicate a strong connection, which often translates into higher enrolment rates.

A cropped image showing the midriffs of people all interacting with their phones

Strategy 3: SEO & Content Marketing

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is no longer a buzzword but an essential strategy for any organisation looking to boost its digital presence. For educational institutions, SEO offers a pathway to higher visibility in a crowded marketplace.

Importance of Keyword Research

SEO begins with understanding what potential students are searching for online. Keyword research is a foundational step that helps institutions target specific phrases and questions prospective students and their parents are asking on search engines.

Optimising for Local SEO

Local SEO strategies such as completing and updating Google My Business profiles can improve an institution’s visibility in location-based searches. This is especially critical for educational providers that draw a large portion of their students from nearby areas.

Financial Aid Messaging in SEO Content

Subtle integration of financial aid messaging within content can do wonders for attracting prospective students. This could be as simple as a blog post discussing the different types of financial aid available, to targeted landing pages optimised for keywords like “scholarships” or “financial aid.”

A chart tracking SEO results

Strategy 4: Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

While SEO focuses on improving organic search results, Search Engine Marketing (SEM) offers a quicker, more targeted approach through paid advertisements.


The main difference between SEO and SEM lies in their speed and focus. SEM can offer more immediate results and is excellent for time-sensitive campaigns like application deadlines or open-house dates. SEO, on the other hand, builds long-term visibility but takes time to yield results.

Optimal Platforms for SEM

For educational providers, platforms like Google Ads and Bing Ads offer highly targeted options for SEM. They allow you to place your institution in front of the exact demographic you’re trying to attract, whether that’s based on age, geographical location, or search history related to educational topics.

A laptop with Google open

Strategy 5: Mobile-First Approach

As we live in an increasingly mobile-dependent world, adopting a mobile-first approach isn’t just an option; it’s a necessity. For educational institutions aiming to boost enrolment, having a mobile-responsive website and ads can make a significant difference.

Mobile-Responsive Elements

Imagine a prospective student accessing your site through a smartphone only to find it difficult to navigate or too slow to load. This can discourage them from exploring what you offer, let alone completing an application. Hence, make sure all your digital assets, including landing pages and online forms, are optimised for mobile use.

SMS Alerts and Chatbots

Sending SMS alerts about application deadlines or upcoming events is a direct and effective way to keep prospective students engaged. Meanwhile, implementing chatbots on your website can provide real-time assistance, guiding students through the enrolment process even outside business hours.

People holding mobile phones

Involving Parents in the Decision Process

Parents and family members often play a significant role in a student’s decision-making process. Their influence can be the tipping point in choosing one institution over another.

Importance of Parents and Family

Families don’t just provide emotional support; they also contribute to tuition, logistics, and often, career advice. Understanding their influence can help tailor your advertising strategies to appeal not just to potential students but to their families as well.

Targeting Parents Through Advertising

Whether it’s through outdoor banners highlighting safety features and academic excellence, or digital ads that lead to landing pages about financial aid options, involving parents in your advertising strategy can yield significant dividends. In essence, consider them as secondary, yet important, audience in your campaigns.

An assembly of graduates wearing gowns and caps

In today’s highly competitive educational landscape, the need for an effective and well-rounded advertising strategy cannot be overstated. Whether it’s through eye-catching outdoor lamppost banners, engaging social media campaigns, or precise search engine marketing, each channel plays a unique role in capturing the attention of potential students and their families.

Adapt and Measure for Success

It’s crucial to not just implement these strategies but also to adapt them based on performance metrics. Constantly reviewing the effectiveness of each channel will allow you to allocate resources more efficiently and fine-tune your approach for even better results in future campaigns.

Bay Media are an outdoor advertiser based in the UK and Europe, and the largest provider of lamppost banner advertising services in the UK.

Contact us to find out how we can help get your business noticed in your local area.