The New TEF Awards – Part 2: Drilling down into marketing behaviours of individual institutions

Following on from last week’s blog sharing first impressions of the new TEF awards here we go into more detail in three specific areas:

  • The varying approaches to publishing
  • Building awareness through organic search and
  • Building awareness through social media

The varying approaches to publishing

Our research indicates the vast majority of the 59 institutions awarded the TEF “Gold” rating in 2017 published new content to their website to build awareness of their achievement. Many, such as The University of Kent and Edge Hill University, published news or blog articles, while others, such as The University of Huddersfield and De Montford University, added dedicated pages to their “About Us” section in addition to news stories. City College Plymouth was the only institution that did not publish any new content relating to their TEF Gold award.

Gold rated institutions gained higher levels of engagement on social media when publishing news or blog posts. This is likely due to the “real-time” nature of social media, meaning that current, recently dated news or blog content will attract more clicks from social browsers than an apparently static, undated page.

On the other hand, where a dedicated “About” page was published alongside a blog or news story, our research shows that Google would frequently rank the dedicated page ahead of the news story in general searches words relating to the university and TEF.

Of course, where no content was published, no awareness was built through either social media or Google rankings.

Building Awareness Through Organic Search

We reviewed the rankings of each Gold-awarded institutions’ websites for a range of related keywords including “TEF”, “teaching excellence framework” and “TEF Gold”. These keywords had received a significant surge in demand in June, amounting to tens of thousands of searches in total. The increases in searches for these keywords provided an excellent opportunity for Gold rated institutions to be found amongst the results, and build awareness of their award, by creating engaging, keyword-focused content.

As digital marketing experts, Altain Education understand that there are myriad ways that Google judges a page when deciding where to place it in its organic search engine rankings for relevant keywords. Among the most important of these, however, is the use of target keywords within the titles, headers and copy on the page itself.

The vast majority of Gold rated institutions did indeed create new content to raise awareness of their award. However, it is evident that not all of this content was created with the same care to include relevant keywords.

Those articles that did include the words “TEF”, “Teaching”, “Excellence”, “Framework” and / or “Gold” within their content and, crucially, the title of the page were vastly more likely to rank ahead of the websites of other institutions for searches that included these words.

Building awareness through social media

Our research revealed a vast difference in the level of social media engagement earned by each Gold rated institution upon sharing the news of their award. Of course, institutions with a larger “following” on social media started at an advantage here, there appears to also have been other factors at play.

For example, Edge Hill University has 85% fewer followers on Facebook than The University of Birmingham, but upon announcing their respective awards, Edge Hill received several times more social engagement in the form of likes, comments or shares. In this case, the significant difference could be that Edge Hill pinned their post to the top of their Facebook feed, where it remains at the time of writing. This has allowed the post to continue to attract engagement and build awareness of the award over a month after original publication.

Some institutions also failed to take advantage of the opportunities made available by the wider range of social channels, preferring to focus on Facebook and, to a lesser extent, Twitter. In many of the cases in our study, greater engagement was achieved by the sharing of content on LinkedIn than on Twitter, indicating that digital managers in higher education institutions are neglecting this channel.

We also noticed that some institutions were failing to share their content efficiently. For example, many institutions informed their Facebook followers of their Gold award by posting images, instead of links to their content, limiting the engagement that might otherwise have been made.

See our next blog for key takeaways and some suggestions

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