Australia – The trials of 2020 and 2021 were eye-opening for digital marketers in higher education. The pandemic not only increased reliance on digital channels and made online education essential, it made a generation of digital natives – somehow – even savvier. 

It’s within this context that Siteimprove launched the ‘2022 Australian Higher Education Digital Marketers Survey’. The study explores recent trends in Australian higher education and how those trends have impacted digital marketing strategies. 

How digital transformation went from nice-to-have to need-to-have

Across industries, the pandemic was a tipping point for digital transformation. Without traditional in-person workflows, the rate of digital innovation skyrocketed. 

Last year emphasised the need for higher ed marketers to create an optimised digital presence to reach and influence key audiences. A pre-pandemic report found that 90% of incoming students were concerned about having a consistent digital experience from their university. Though some Australian universities are further along than others, the vast majority just aren’t where they need to be in their digital transformation. 

The findings of the Siteimprove survey reflect a sector in transition:

  • More than 90% of Australian higher ed digital marketers believe they’re investing in and building digital elements for their institution.
  • But when it comes to integration of those elements, marketers are less confident. Zero respondents said their digital elements are fully integrated across the institution, let alone being used to drive and evaluate marketing decisions.
  • The good news is that more than half (60%) expect increased marketing investment into their institution’s website in 2022. Search efforts, site optimization, A/B testing, and digital media are expected to claim the lion’s share. 

Turning a higher education website into a core marketing tool

The modern components of digital marketing success (like SEO, SEM, and content quality and efficiency) have only become more crucial throughout this period. Looking back at 2021, respondents to the survey ranked content, website QA, and SEO as the top three most important efforts for improving their institution’s website performance for that year. And 80% of respondents expect web accessibility to be a priority for their institution in 2022. 

Without the ability to connect with students and donors as they used to, digital marketers in higher education are now fully aware just how important these factors are. Alongside pandemic-related restrictions, changing web demographics, and a digitally native target audience, institutions need to re-envision how they reach their desired population – before they ever visit campus. 

Marketing spend under the microscope 

Website analytics are at the heart of an effective digital marketing strategy. Unfortunately, most web analytics tools make it difficult to get the whole picture of your website’s performance, accessibility, and effectiveness. 

That’s a problem for 78% of survey respondents, who said they felt more pressure to prove the impact of their marketing efforts on their institution’s website performance in 2021. Connecting the dots between marketing ROI and website performance is easier said than done. 

“Even though survey respondents felt confident in tracking their site’s performance, they were less sure of the impact their marketing activities had on that performance,” noted Siteimprove. 

In 2020, Loyola saw a 149% increase in organic search and a 165% increase in direct traffic to their website after launching the Siteimprove platform. Actionable data helped them to fill content gaps, optimise content, and better address the questions students had when they visited the site. And all the while, measuring the impact their changes had on ongoing website performance and ROI. 

Using Siteimprove, Harvard Extension School reduced broken links by 81% across its three sites, all of which provide information to prospective and current students. The information they got from Siteimprove helped them draw connections between content quality, content efficiency, accessibility, site health, and search performance to provide a consistent user experience. 

How higher education digital marketers can get more from their websites and content

Analysing the survey results, the Siteimprove team came to three broad considerations for improving higher education website performance. And it all comes down to content: 

  • Content efficiency
  • Content creation
  • Content quality

After these past two years of change, digital marketing success for higher ed won’t only require more content. It’ll depend on the ability to audit and optimize existing content, create new content faster, and align website content with search intent. Identifying benchmarks, setting goals, and tying optimisation efforts to website revenue will be marketers’ strongest tools in executing their digital transformations. 

To make the most of the opportunities presented by digital transformation, higher education organizations will need to carefully consider what role each of their digital marketing investments plays in creating an optimised digital experience. 


With the fast-paced digital world, marketers and communicators have a bigger challenge in their hands to deliver communications that would truly snare consumers’ attention – and in a sustained manner. The boulder becomes even bigger as communication strategies differ per each industry. One such industry that is often perplexed in resonating seamlessly with consumers is tech.

With its intricacy, tech providers are continuously improving their own solutions and as part of the process to promote new offerings, they must rely on effective marketing communications. Being able to hit this area of the business right is vital, allowing existing and prospective consumers to see how their services work and to create an impact on their purchasing decisions. 

But the biggest question remains: in spite of all these ways of communication, how do tech companies actually communicate their services to clients, way beyond their technicalities? In an age where numerous tech brands are all vying for consumers’ attention, effective technological communication becomes the crucial element to win over clients–and create a difference for their respective customers.

In our newest The Inner State feature, we roped in three marketing leaders from various industries; namely Kat Warboys, marketing director for APAC at HubSpot; Kyra Kuik, global head of content at Siteimprove; and Azadeh Williams, founder and managing director of AZK Media–to learn more about their insights, leadership takes and advises in executing the ideal and impactful communications for their clients.

On the principle of storytelling: How one marketing software company uses its ‘flywheel model’ concept

In reality, there is this thing called a flywheel, where it is a spinning wheel that is extremely energy-efficient, pushing something into higher speeds while maintaining a constant source of energy. This is what HubSpot, a marketing software company, utilises through its “flywheel model”. For the company, their business model uses the momentum of happy customers to drive referrals and repeat business. In addition, this model is applied to their products and solutions, which is then adopted by their marketing teams when it comes to bringing product launches to life.

This is what the ‘flywheel model’ does across their organisation, according to Kat Warboys, marketing director for APAC at HubSpot. When asked about their key methodology in their tech communication, she explained the importance of their business model, noting that we are now in an era where customers hold all the power: they’re informed and have higher expectations from businesses and marketing teams than ever before.

“The flywheel model also helps to identify and eliminate any friction, which will act as something that slows down the speed of the flywheel. This could be poor internal processes, lack of effective communication between teams or misalignment with customers. The more marketers increase speed and decrease friction, the more they’ll create promoters of the businesses, and those promoters become the force that keeps the flywheel spinning,” Warboys said.

However, Warboys noted that as much as the “flywheel model” is ideal, bringing it to life requires cross-functional teams to be in unison and aligned every step of the way, ranging from website updates to product pages, running webinars to highlight the product and its benefit.

“At the core of powerful storytelling is identifying a common enemy – in the case of a technology or product story, that’s often a pain point, a barrier to growth or a cause of friction – and the role of the hero. For any new product to be successful in the market, it must solve for the customer. Tapping into customer pain and leveraging effective storytelling ensures your audience feels as though they are being heard and as a result, the messaging will resonate,” she added.

When asked their preferred communication channels to deliver their tech-related messaging, Warboys said that more and more people are leaning towards preference of visual content.

“They’re also shifting where they’re reading content, opting for social media platforms over more traditional or long-form outlets. When it comes to communicating with your audience, we must meet them on the platforms and channels that they’re accessing, if that means visual content or social media, then those should be the preferred channels of engagement,” she explained.

Despite this, Warboys noted from their ‘State of Marketing’ report that traditional channels are still being used, such as blogs, infographics, case studies, interviews, eBooks, white papers and checklists. In other words, there is still a hybrid approach for the company to communicate their tech-related messaging.

“When launching a single product, we lean into specific content such as thought leadership, social channels, public relations and webinars to address both the pain point that the technology solves and also share insights from research,” she stated.

In regards to their key performance indicators (KPIs), they have their so-called ‘Customer Code’ philosophy, where the success of a tech-related messaging is determined when a built campaign that customers love has the customer at the forefront of their decisions.

“It’s not about what you sell, but how you sell. It’s about making your customers more successful, building relationships by doing the right thing and focusing on the long-term even if it’s not always the easiest path,” she stated.

In addition, a more metric-driven approach is measuring demand, where for example, if it’s a well-known product and there is already strong market awareness, they can look at metrics like free trial sign-ups, sales demo requests and opportunities with their sales team.

However, Warboys notes that when they launch a brand new product, they need to consider a much heavier content and education strategy over the long term. She added that this is when they really lean into thought leadership and market surveys to help validate a new concept.

“In these instances, the metrics would be more interest and awareness based, such as webinar registrations or attendance rates, podcast downloads and listen-through figures, and or resource downloads. These metrics give us an insight into how effectively we’re communicating our messaging and help us understand how engaged our audience is,” she stated.

A mix of a multi-pronged approach and understanding of technical differences: How a SaaS company does their communication

Meanwhile, for global software-as-a-service (SaaS) company Siteimprove that specialises on website governance and optimisation, a multi-pronged approach in communicating their brand message and service lineup is vital, as stated by Kyra Kuik, global head of content at Siteimprove.

“We create an overall messaging map for each audience who might want to learn about the product (e.g. customers, prospects, media, etc.). From there, we assess what each of those audiences needs and wants to know about the product. Then we create content and communications that address those needs while maintaining consistent messaging for that audience,” Kuik stated.

She further explains, “For example, we might need to create in-depth tutorials with technical specifications for super-user customers, whereas prospects might only need a light explanation of why our new product brings them value. Overall, this approach ensures we give each person all the information they need without anything irrelevant or overwhelming.”

Meanwhile, on the subject of balancing their messaging to their expert and non-expert audience, Kuik notes that they have carried out extensive personal research, so that they have a good understanding of how technical different audience segments are.

“We always make sure our communications are tailored to their level of expertise and their overall interests. Overall, our tone of voice and brand personality are very approachable and personable. We believe in making things as simple as possible,” she stated.

Meanwhile, regarding their form of communicating, she said, “If we have an important technical update for customers, then we use email or in-product messaging. For more public-facing channels, we use our blog, the website, our social media channels, webinars, emails, and we regularly distribute press releases about significant updates.”

Lastly, on the subject of how they measure KPIs, Kuik says, “We always ask ourselves what success looks like when we embark on a new campaign or launch. We clarify who we want to reach, how, and what we want them to think, feel, and do afterwards. This helps us adapt our KPIs to each project, so we’re measuring the things that actually drive value for us.” 

An understanding of how others digest information: How an integrated marketing agency relays tech-related information

From tech vendors themselves, we move to marketing agencies that have a similar issue when crafting communications for their tech-related clients. 

For Azadeh Williams, founder and managing director of AZK Media, they believe that everyone digests information in different ways, as some people prefer to read a press release or article, while others watch a video or listen to a podcast, and some just prefer to see a one-page slide or infographic.

“When we help our technology clients scale their go-to-market strategy, we ensure the campaign integrates a product launch video with great messaging, all on a beautifully designed and SEO rich web landing page. We then amplify that content with a press campaign, and scale inbound activity with a mix of paid and organic digital, creative and social marketing campaigns,” Williams said.

Williams further added that when it comes to communicating the tech message, they often see technology companies struggle when marketing a new product. To fix this issue, they aim at making complex technical concepts easily understandable, digestible and ‘attractive’ to their prospects and a broader audience.

“So what we do is first deep dive and understand what critical problems or pain points the technology solves for customers at a micro level, along with the wider economic, social and industry benefits of the innovation at a macro level,” she stated.

She added, “We then take a look at what emotions the product evokes: is it trust, confidence or peace of mind? Is it empowerment or excitement? Once we connect the product solution to those key emotive elements, the message resonates at a deeper level with both experts and non-expert audiences.”

Meanwhile, from her eyes as a public relations person, they amplify their client’s press releases and thought leadership content across the thousands of publications in their global media network. In addition, they also have strategic partnerships with key publishers, technology institutes and industry organisations where they further syndicate and scale their client’s messaging.

“On top of this, we leverage powerful inbound marketing strategies, email marketing and social media amplification methods to really amplify all the messaging at scale. From a social media platform perspective, we’ve found LinkedIn as a highly powerful platform for B2B technology message ‘stickiness,” Williams added.

On the topic of business KPIs, she further explained that there are many measurement tools now that can show exactly what revenue can be attributed to inbound marketing efforts, versus other marketing and sales activities.

“We suggest technology marketers measure social media engagement (not just ‘reach and impressions), site traffic increase, click through rates, inbound sales inquiries (leads), number of demos booked and share of voice against competitors. Now this list is not exhaustive, but it’s a good starting point to make more data-driven decisions to help further refine your marketing messaging,” Williams concluded.

Minneapolis, USA and Copenhagen, Denmark – Siteimprove, an enterprise platform that enables marketing and web teams to transform content into customer experiences that drive revenue, has announced the findings of the Forrester Consulting Total Economic Impact™ (TEI) global study. The TEI study commissioned by Siteimprove showed Siteimprove’s platform delivered a 275 percent return on investment (ROI) over three years for a composite organization. Siteimprove’s solutions payback period for costs associated with the platform is in under six months and deploying Siteimprove led to increased profit and widened market reach. 

“Sitemprove’s performance-with-a-purpose optimization allows marketers to spend more time on efficient, effective content creation that truly impacts revenue,” said Shane Paladin, CEO of Siteimprove.

“The Forrester analysis validates our core mission: helping marketing teams consistently deliver the most accessible, inclusive, relevant, discoverable, and usable content,” added Paladin.

The study conducted by Forrester interviewed several Siteimprove clients across North America and Europe, who are focused on providing a more consistent and elevated digital experience for their customers. According to the TEI study findings, prior to using Siteimprove, the interviewees noted how their organizations lacked the necessary capabilities to deliver a consistent and high-quality digital experience across their expansive websites. By identifying errors and performance issues, the study found that Siteimprove’s enterprise platform delivers: 

  • Increased profit from refined site UX and design, using Siteimprove to methodically apply insights-driven approaches to page redesigns, content creation, and marketing campaign spending.
  • Increased profit from improved accessibility, as Siteimprove customers expanded their customer base by proactively ensuring web practices are aligned with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. By viewing web performance through the stringent lens of accessibility, companies not only enable visitors with disabilities to interact with their brand, but ultimately expand their audience by offering an ease-of-use that benefits a broader base of consumers with a range of digital abilities.
  • Automated Monitoring & Workflow led to significant savings via site monitoring automation, reducing the average time spent on error detection and content monitoring by 90%.
  • Bolstered traffic from SEO, through the optimization of web content and identification and remediation of technical, content, user experience (UX), or mobile issues.

The Forrester Total Economic Impact™ (TEI) global study includes quotes from the companies surveyed: 

“We have multiple in-country based websites, all with different teams. I needed a solution that could help us centrally understand the quality of these sites and provide them with easy-to- understand actions to rectify the identified problems.” – Head of web marketing, information technology

“We are focusing more on customizing our content for organic search, and that data is obtained from Siteimprove.” – Marketing technologist, information technology

“We’ve partnered with Siteimprove in the light of a major website relaunch with the objective to merge three heterogenous website presences spanning over 10,000 pages into one unified estate to strengthen our brand and create one voice. Given a rather short timeline of eight months, this was a tremendously ambitious project,” said Jörg Lothal, senior manager of corporate communications, web intelligence & SEM at Merck.

“Despite the challenge, the Siteimprove platform enabled us to not only maintain but significantly improve the quality of our content, setting a new standard for the website experience we offer to our visitors. Since the relaunch, we were able to quadruple traffic to our website and gain deep data-driven insights into the mechanics of content design, which will guide our digital marketing efforts moving forward,” added Lothal.

This post is sponsored by Siteimprove.

In the latest episode of MARKETECH Mondays, we chatted for the very first time with a marketing leader in the education space – Neil Cullingford – the current director of marketing and communications of Murdoch University, the Australian-based public university in Perth. 

With this, we aim to bring greater attention to the dynamics of marketing and branding in higher education, and most especially, what strategies are becoming the trend in the industry now that it has become one of the hardest hit this pandemic, shifting students and all stakeholders to navigate virtually. 

Currently, as the lead of marketing at Murdoch, Neil is mainly responsible for the brand, marketing, and strategic communications strategies of the university, to build its reputation and future growth. Within Murdoch, he’s had quite a journey rising through the ranks, starting out as an associate director, and eventually landing his current position. Before we dive further into Neil’s inspirational successes, let’s first get to know his humble beginnings. 

The journalism major that soon became a marketer

Neil in fact started his professional career in publishing. He was a graduate of Journalism, Film & Broadcasting at the University of Wales in London, and therefore started his career in the UK capital.

While not entirely related to marketing, Neil had his jumpstart in managing campaigns through a small publishing company called Quest Media. His first-ever was a B2B campaign with the target to drive subscriptions to a magazine. Neil shared how very different it was back then: direct marketing, sales letters, flyers, and call-to-action campaigns, and even going as old school as involving fax numbers. 

I learned a lot there, and I still carry lessons with me that is about the importance of having good data, [and] also knowing your audience. While it didn’t go as I hoped, [and] didn’t get many subscriptions [at the time], what that did is kind of improve myself as a marketer and also how [I] perform in future campaigns.

Neil in the MARKETECH Mondays Interview 

Neil shared that most of all, the important thing is that Quest Media was an entrepreneurial company, where in such an environment, he was given the opportunity to work with other marketers and learn his trade. 

From there, Neil started venturing to become a marketer of bigger brands such as market intelligence Centaur. He also became a brand and marketing manager at B2B events firm United Business Media (UBM), and most recently at electrical company Western Power, before stepping into Murdoch University. 

Great success: Increasing student numbers

Each industry in marketing is different and goes with that is the uniqueness of what it means to call a branding and marketing endeavor a success. For Neil at the university, it has always been about working with ambitious and determined students. 

What I really enjoyed about working in Murdoch is the audience – we get to work with high school kids going into university, using the breadth of channels, and that is from commercials to delivering campaigns and then performance marketing

Neil entered Murdoch University in 2016 as an associate director, and shortly after that, assumed the role of acting director. Within 6 months of entering the university’s team, Neil was given the big opportunity to lead as director following the incumbent’s leaving. 

I took that opportunity to really draw [out] what I felt were the important things the university needed to do at the time. The experience has been really beneficial for me in terms of my development as a person but also as a professional. It’s taught me [to become the] determined and persistent [person that] I am. I’ve learned a lot of lessons from working in academics and the importance of that when you have your research, you gotta be spot on with that.

According to Neil, when he entered the university, the student numbers were in a decline, and so to name a great success within his journey, without a doubt, would be being able to lead the marketing team to increase the market share of Murdoch University. 

“It’s a massive achievement for anybody. [To think] [that it’s a] very mature market, a disruptive market, and with some very strong local brands in terms of the universities here [in Australia], [and then] to see that growth and come back from the decline, so we’re very proud of it,” added Neil  

One top achievement that Neil also cited is the recent rebranding of Murdoch University. It was unveiled in May, coinciding with its 50th anniversary, and was executed with the aim to better represent the University’s vision of a modern institution. According to a statement from the university, the revamp supports the university’s goal to be recognized as a world-changing university by Western Australians as well as national and international communities.

Leadership: “I believe I am someone who brings people and ideas together.”

Within almost 20 years in the industry, Neil started his leadership journey when he became a marketing manager for United Business Media. From there, he took on roles of brand and marketing manager and consultant at Western Power, and presently as Murdoch University’s director for marketing. 

Neil said that as a leader, he is someone who brings people and ideas together, and strives to be a leader that drives change, and is committed to growing himself and those around him.

“You can’t achieve anything alone so it’s really important to work with others in a positive way in which everyone sees the benefit,” Neil said. 

“First of all, I am myself. Being authentic is critical. I surround myself with talented people who share my values. I also believe that as a leader my role is to join the dots and see the opportunities ahead,” he added. 

Marketing strategies for higher education

When we asked Neil what the biggest challenge higher education is facing now, he said that international student mobility is the imminent and obvious one. Adding to that, he said one of the challenges is demonstrating to students both local and international the value and relevance of university education. 

With this, here are his go-to strategies as best response: 

  • Have a brand strategy that is a platform to differentiate and relate to both current and future students. 
  • Higher education institutions must challenge traditional notions of education and be prepared to adapt their educational offerings to meet the needs and expectations of students. 

I think the biggest challenge in a university sector that is well-established is how do you keep pushing the boundaries, how do you stay relevant to your customers and stakeholders, and everybody that you want to connect with. And that kind of takes me back to looking at the brand and understanding within yourself what you are, what you stand for, and showing yourself authentically.

Advice for budding marketers 

As part of his last words in the conversation, Neil shared his simple tips on how aspiring marketers can get their headstart and eventually trail the path of their own success:

  • Don’t wait for the world come to you – always look for how you can do something differently or make a difference 
  • Be true to yourself and others – believe in yourself but always seek to be self-aware of your strengths and what you need to work on
  • You’ll never know it all – and that’s ok, just believe and be kind to yourself. 

“Don’t put yourself under too much pressure too soon. Let yourself make mistakes, understand where you’re at, at your career, and don’t be someone else, be yourself. People will quickly see through it if you know yourself,” said Neil. 

Watch the interview with Neil:

This interview was done in partnership with Siteimprove. Siteimprove is a global SaaS solution that helps organizations achieve their digital potential by empowering their teams with actionable insights to deliver a superior website experience and drive growth. 

Australia – Last 13 April, MARKETECH APAC’s webinar production unit ‘Inside Innovation’, through the webinar ‘Asia-Pacific Outlook 2021: Reimagining your higher education web strategy‘, has gathered digital marketing leaders and experts from higher education in APAC to talk about how the massive shift to virtual learning changed universities’ approach in engaging students and the challenges and new opportunities it has brought to higher education institutions in delivering an excellent and effective digital experience. 

Graced by panelists Paul Gower, deputy director for marketing & user experience at Australia’s Curtin University, and Monica Hong, the digital marketing national manager of Australian Catholic University, who were moderated by global SaaS solutions Siteimprove’s Vice President for APJ Gabriel Ponzanelli, and likewise joined by its Digital Marketing Consultant Rick Elenbaas – the group found that what stands out to be the most valuable opportunity right now in the education space is increased accessibility

The international and domestic market

While the pivot to online for almost all aspects of campus life such as admissions, enrolment, and the educational instruction itself, has imposed restrictions due to the lack of physical interaction, the greater focus on digital has also opened up a lot of opportunities for both institutions and students, which may not have been possible if weren’t for the nationwide lockdowns. 

One would be the reach to international students. Although both Gower and Hong agree that due to cross-border restrictions, the blow of the pandemic has been greater to their international market, it has also proved to be beneficial for reaching the said cohort in other areas such as implementing open days. 

“Moving forward into a hybrid deliverable is really good because we found that delivering a virtual open day meant that we can reach the international [audience] which we knew preferred to actually find information online, rather than physically go to open day, which was more for school leavers,” Hong shared in the panel.

Now that international reach has become more tightened at large, this then pushes universities to reimagine their curriculum and offerings and to put more attention to their domestic market. 

Siteimprove’s Ponzanelli having worked with different institutions shared that a common problem for schools at the start of the pandemic was the disruption of university attendance, where international students had to stop at the middle of the academic year and couldn’t come back to continue due to borders closed. 

With this, Ponzanelli shared the two strategies common among universities, “What we hear from a lot of them, they’re sort of looking at two strategies. One is to pivot away from say the [regions of] Central South America or Africa, or kind of away from the [regions of] China, Southeast Asia, and India; and the other one is [to] double down on the domestic,” he said. 

Gower shared that in Curtin university, they have been a lot more aggressive in protecting their domestic market share in the last 12 to 18 months – looking at offering more short courses for post-graduate students and to those that wish to take micro credentials – as a big growth opportunity. 

“[This] forms a large part of our marketing strategy for the next three to five years – developing much more [options] for short courses or nano or micro credentials which people can then use for broader accreditation [to more expansive programs],” shared Gower. 

“A lot of universities are looking at this, people just want to dip their toes in the water, learn, [and] get a bit of the flavor of a particular topic, particular skill, take that back and then see if they sort of go any further or build on that,” he added. 

The opportunity to attend school for physically challenged individuals

Aside from the dimension of opportunities with regards to domestic and international students, the new normal with the increased remote setup has given way to simply push forward accessibility as it is – for those students that are not able to attend physically such as those with physical disability, for example. 

Ponzanelli said, “The move to online and these hybrid models have really opened the door for people that probably couldn’t attend the university physically before. Somebody that is in regional areas of the country, [or] someone that [has] a physical disability, that just physically could not get to a campus. So I’m assuming and I’m hoping that accessibility is much bigger, and [is] more on the table than it used to be before.” 

The panel touched on the two-prong discussion on accessibility – first, the accessibility opened by virtual learning to get into higher ed for physically-challenged individuals, and then the other accessibility thereafter – how accessible a university’s online experience is, such as their websites in delivering a virtual campus experience. 

Siteimprove’s Elanbaas shared more on the topic in his deck presentation on how to make universities’ websites and digital campuses more accessible and effective, catering to the needs of internet-immersed digital natives. He discussed how websites should address more than just the visually impaired but also those who have cognitive impairments, deafness or difficulty of hearing, and also challenged motor functions. He also speaks of the long-tail effect of inaccessibility which could start from poor student experiences then resulting in negative word of mouth and then eventually losing out on the share on student enrolment. 

Of the topic, Hong shared, “Moving in a more digital native world, everyone goes on Google first to google everything that they do, and so it is important to make sure that we are visible on the website, [that] our website works, [and] our user journey is seamless as much as possible. So that is the most important thing.”

The webinar was done in partnership with global SaaS solutions Siteimprove. On-demand access to the webinar is now available. Watch as the panel discusses more in-depth the different challenges universities met at the onset of the pandemic, and how they have successfully adapted. Insights discussed were hybrid learning, adopting conversational platforms, marketing to influencers such as students’ parents, dealing with siloed subdomains, and diversifying global market strategies as the world continues to navigate the global pandemic. 

Australia – A lot of things changed when the pandemic marked its arrival, to say the least. One right off the bat, and probably the most important, is that everything has been transitioned to online, if it hasn’t already; switching workplaces to now take the form of our personal four corners, to making almost every human activity – from consumer purchases to travel – a feature of digitization. All had their own share of adjustments, and this is also very much true with the academic community. 

In the recently concluded webinar by MARKETECH APAC’s Inside Innovation, ‘Asia-Pacific Outlook 2021: Reimagining your higher education web strategy’, speaker and digital marketing consultant for global SaaS solutions Siteimprove, Rick Elenbaas, shared the pivotal development in the education space, one that many may have been cognizant of for a while, but a topic that’s also equally begging of further attention – the increasing count of digital natives in the university. 

In his presentation, Elenbaas shared that between the years of 2014 to 2018 – now considered to be a pre-pandemic period – the generation that birthed digital natives are growing up and are slowly taking space in educational institutions, outnumbering other students. Referencing a PwC study, Elenbaas said that there are three types of students today: the traditional, those that went through academic instruction before the emergence of the internet; the transitional, students that have experienced the internet at a young age but are still navigating school in a hybrid way, and lastly the digital natives, those that have had internet access right from their toddler years, and whose lifestyle has been deeply integrated with the internet. 

Asia-Pacific Outlook 2021 Reimagining your higher education web strategy_3

“The rise and decline of the traditional student that is happening is what we call the ‘decade of change’, and currently we are now in a situation where we really are at that final cross-line where those traditional students are leaving the universities, and we’re only dealing with digital natives,” said Elenbaas. 

The pandemic may have served as the ultimate push to finally pay close attention to the digital space in higher education, but digital natives have long been showing dominance even way before this massive disruption and it is now time to ramp up universities’ digital campus. 

So what do this new group of individuals expect for the university online experience to be? First of all, Elenbaas said the student experience must be exactly what it promises – an end-to-end online experience – “they are expecting [that] everything happens online,” said Elenbaas. 

“From the day they leave high school, the day they start searching for a study [program], and eventually [to] when they leave the university, [they expect] that they still have access to online resources, so everything in their student life, they expect to be online,” he added.

Furthermore, digital natives, having been innately accustomed to online – which lends closer lens to just about every entity and content – expect that the student journey is personalized. This means that every data point, from mobile, web, and social app access down to the basic emails sent to them, they expect to be tailored to their needs. 

And lastly, Elenbaas said, this type of students would ask for online experience to be one thing – consistent. That means having a single customer view with consistent data across the entire student journey. This pertains to the type of data and quality presented. With the massive space in digital, a lot of touchpoints will be begging for their view and mind space and students would want an online experience that would help bring focus rather than add to the clutter. 

Elenbaas said that in order for universities to meet these needs, they need to do three things: achieve a single and uninterrupted digital student journey, make their digital student journey accessible, and transform their strategies to become digital resilient and future-proof. 

Elenbaas has shared in a more comprehensive view this topic on the webinar, which is now available on-demand. You may register here to get your access. In his presentation, he discussed in even greater detail the roadmap that universities can follow and apply to refresh and accelerate their digital campus in order to truly cater to the needs of digital natives in the new normal. 

The webinar also presented an expert panel, comprising Paul Gower, deputy director for marketing & user experience at Curtin University, and Monica Hong, the digital marketing national manager of Australian Catholic University, and that which is moderated by Gabriel Ponzanelli, the vice president of Siteimprove for the Asia Pacific region and Japan, to discuss in depth the current challenges and opportunities of universities in their digital marketing strategies amid the surge in online activity.

Obtain access to the on-demand webinar here.

Singapore – MARKETECH APAC, the news content platform dedicated to the advertising and marketing industry in the APAC region, has recently concluded its webinar Tuesday, April 13, which tackled the changing education landscape amid the pandemic and how this has pushed the imperative for higher education institutions to recalibrate their current marketing roadmap, specifically schools’ digital marketing strategies. 

Moderated by Gabriel Ponzanelli, the vice president of global SaaS solutions Siteimprove for the Asia Pacific region and Japan, the webinar, Asia-Pacific Outlook 2021: Reimagining your higher education web strategy, presented a panel of esteemed marketing leaders from Australian universities to discuss the current challenges and opportunities for universities in delivering a student experience now that the academic community has been thrust to completely navigate in a virtual environment. 

A presentation has also been showcased by Siteimprove’s digital marketing consultant Rick Elenbaas, who discussed in detail the definitive changes in the student journey and how they have affected students’ expectations. 

As the name of the virtual event promises, Elenbaas laid out the three core steps in delivering a converting and retaining web experience, namely: achieving an uninterrupted digital student journey, making your digital journey accessible, and becoming digital resilient and future proof. More details on this presentation to be found in the webinar’s on-demand access. 

In addition, Elenbaas also covered a lot of ground on how digital natives are outnumbering other students and what vital characteristics a university’s student experience should embody in order to truly connect and resonate with this group of individuals. Furthermore, he also emphasized a strand of students’ navigation online that some universities fail to pay more attention to and that is, the accessibility of their campus websites, that goes beyond just addressing visual impairment. 

Meanwhile, the panel discussion included panelists Paul Gower, deputy director for marketing & user experience at Curtin University, and Monica Hong, the digital marketing national manager of Australian Catholic University. The panel delved into the different points of the student journey and how each has been turned around by the absence of physical interactions. Gower and Hong, through the lens of their own universities, provided a picture of how the larger education space is changing – from delivering a seamless application process to conducting ‘open days’ and ‘student orientations’ at this new normal and to adapting the digital strategy for both the domestic and international markets.

The panelists also bared how each of their teams dealt with the challenge of moving into the unknown when the pandemic first struck, and how in such a massive environment and space as digital, they manage to prioritize which communication points are most important in user experience such as the accessibility of campus websites. 

The webinar was conducted under MARKETECH APAC’s webinar series Inside Innovation, and is in collaboration with Siteimprove. Siteimprove is a global SaaS solutions that provides organizations with actionable insights to deliver an effective digital experience that drives growth. 

You may register here to obtain access to the on-demand webinar.

Singapore – Virtual learning has long been in learning institutions’ blueprint for educational provision, but the emergence of the pandemic has surged the need for online channels at an unprecedented level. This further pushes every aspect of university operations, including its student admissions, recruitment, and retention efforts to assume a digital environment, hence necessitating institutions to reevaluate and rethink their digital marketing strategies. 

This April 13, APAC-wide marketing and advertising news platform, MARKETECH APAC, gathers a panel of experts from the region to discuss and present the current challenges and opportunities in today’s digital and online marketing landscape of higher education institutions. 

Titled the ‘Asia-Pacific Outlook 2021: Reimagining your higher education web strategy’, the webinar will lay out and touch on the pillars of creating an intelligent and inspiring digital experience for students through a university’s most valuable asset – its online portal. 

To start off, the panel includes Monica Hong, Australian Catholic University’s digital marketing national manager, where the group will discuss how universities can best evolve their website and digital experience, one that would effectively attract potential enrollees and retain existing students. Joining her are top digital marketing executives, global SaaS solution Siteimprove’s Vice President for the Asia Pacific and Japan (APJ), Gabriel Ponzanelli, and its Digital Marketing Consultant Rick Elenbaas.

The expert line-up will steer the dialogue on the ways learning institutions can maintain agility to overcome common industry pain points. Furthermore, the webinar will present on the crucial features of high ed web strategy, the different ways of effectively gauging campaign success, and how schools can identify and fix the roadblocks in the bid to deliver a highly encouraging, inspiring, and informative digital experience. 

Ponzanelli leads the APJ sales and marketing teams in Siteimprove, and carries with him over 20 years of experience in traditional and digital marketing across agency and corporate sides. Elenbaas, meanwhile, has worked in Sydney’s digital landscape for the past 10 years, building a wealth of knowledge within the fields of SEO and Analytics, having worked with clients like Toyota Australia, Woolmark, and Pizza Hut, as well as Richardson & Wrench and Real Insurance.

Meanwhile, Hong boasts of 12 years of experience. In her role at Australian Catholic University, a public university in the country with seven campuses, she takes the helm of the institution’s advertising and marketing portfolio.

Shaina Teope, MARKETECH APAC’s regional editor, who will be moderating the webinar commented, “Universities’ online portals have long been an entryway for students to obtain a peek of what they would call home for the next four years or so of their lives, a place to immerse themselves in academic enlightenment, and holistic transformation in braving the real world.”

“Through this webinar, universities across the Asia Pacific and beyond will not only receive a refresher on the most effective digital marketing strategies to attract enrollees and achieve student retention, but will also learn amid changing times, how to be the fort by which talented and brilliant individuals will build their future career around,” added Teope. 

In partnership with Siteimprove, the virtual event will take place live on April 13, Tuesday, and will simultaneously be broadcast at the following timezones: 11 am SGT, 1 pm AEST, and 3 pm NZST. 

There is no better time for universities’ marketing teams to rethink and recalibrate their web and digital marketing execution plans. All marketing, communications, digital, and user experience professionals of universities’ marketing teams across the APAC region are invited to attend the virtual event. You may sign up for the webinar here. 

Copenhagen, Denmark – Global software-as-a-service (SaaS) company Siteimprove has released its upgraded version of Siteimprove Accessibility, the company’s accessibility product aimed at empowering organizations in meeting increased digital experience expectations through web accessibility.

Siteimprove Accessibility was initially created to allow brands to create an inclusive digital experience, adhering to brand safety standards. With it, brands create digital content which makes web content easily accessible such as with web navigation, readable text, and content being perceivable, such as including text-to-speech functionality or magnifying the text in-site.

Through the new Siteimprove Accessibility, the product empowers non-experts to work towards accessibility alongside specialists, facilitating both automated and semi-automated testing. Using the new product, organizations can define their conformance goals with customizable goal-setting, get insights into how to prioritize issues, tap into guidance through the issue resolution process, and track progress towards accessibility and conformance. 

Furthermore, the product allows organizations to easily follow and adhere to international Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) across all conformance levels and contains the latest developments in web accessibility designed to help organizations achieve a higher level of accessibility conformance and improved user experience.

“Legal requirements and customer expectations are rapidly evolving. Web accessibility is no longer a nice-to-have, but a must-have for any organization that wants to succeed in today’s digital marketplace. Organizations must ensure their websites are accessible and inclusive in order to deliver an engaging visitor experience, said Morten Ebbesen, CEO of Siteimprove.

He added, “We expertly guide organizations towards accessibility while protecting their brand from legal repercussions and creating a better end-user experience.”

Siteimprove Accessibility is created in partnership with the European (EU) Commission and the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). The product has the following additional features:

  • -Progress tracking with a comprehensive score based on issue occurrences keeps teams motivated to improve. 
  • -A guided review of potential issues allows non-experts to define whether a given issue is really an accessibility problem with the help of simple questions, providing increased testing coverage.  
  • -Thanks to filtering based on the location of content (e.g. in the header or metadata), teams can more efficiently prioritize fixing issues. 
  • -More insights and a better understanding of accessibility issues based on difficulty ratings, issue explanations, and code examples for fixes. 

“With our upgraded accessibility product, we’re empowering organizations to reach their conformance goals in the most efficient way possible, uniting accessibility experts, designers, developers, and content writers through a single solution that is complemented by Siteimprove’s expert training and services,” Ebbesen concluded. 

With marketing budgets being cut because of the coronavirus pandemic and an uptick in consumers shifting to online purchases, SEO – a cost-effective, long-term results method of getting your message, products, and services out there – matters more than ever.

But if you think traffic is all your SEO strategy should deliver, then you’re underutilizing it. Set up correctly, SEO can become your most efficient digital marketing channel in 2021. It can be leveraged to achieve your most important business goals, including increased revenue, improved brand sentiment, a bigger market share, and higher marketing ROI.

Working in healthcare? Financial services? Manufacturing? Don’t click away just yet. SEO is no longer just for big-name retailers. For organizations in digitally-immature sectors, SEO can help them stand out and move into the lead via a greater digital reach, improved brand perception, and more highly-qualified leads. Even if your organization is not investing in its discoverability online, you can bet your competitors will be. And with the average click rate for the top position on Google getting nearly 30% of all clicks, this is not a race you can afford to lose.

In short, 2021 is the year that SEO should be on everyone’s agenda. Read on to discover how to prepare for SEO success in 2021.

1. SEO requires a more holistic approach

Many organizations are waking up to the fact that when it comes to their SEO strategy, not everyone is on the same page. The key point of contention? Who in the organization actually owns this business-critical function. Some elements are managed by the IT department, some by web teams, while other parts fall under marketing’s remit.

Global enterprises with dispersed workforces are most at risk, but even smaller organizations can fall into this trap. For example, a member of the marketing team might identify a good SEO opportunity for their organization’s website but be unable to implement it because responsibility for SEO lies with the web development team. An analytics expert might spot some intriguing content gaps that your organization could plug and reap the traffic rewards from, but be unable to draft compelling, high-quality content for that purpose without help from the content team. Especially in larger organizations, it’s generally not as simple as shooting across a quick email to get an update made.  

It’s clear that coming out of 2020, many organizations are still struggling to unite key SEO stakeholders behind an organic search strategy that positively impacts wider business outcomes. With so many players – and siloes – involved, SEO strategies risk becoming confused, resource-intensive, and at worst, ineffective.

What you need to do ahead of 2021. This siloed approach to SEO will never deliver the results your organization needs. Rather than an unorganized mix of employees who occasionally optimize your site for certain SEO elements – perhaps on an ad hoc basis – a proactive, cross-functional SEO team with clear SEO roles, responsibilities, and processes must be carved out. The more closely key SEO stakeholders work together, the more likely it is they will have the information and resources they need to run a highly-effective SEO strategy.

Start by identifying who should be part of your cross-functional team. This list should include anyone who works with your website in a way that influences or impacts SEO. Though this list will look different for every organization it might include:

  • SEO specialists 
  • PPC specialists 
  • Content writers and strategists
  • Marketers
  • Web developers
  • Analytics specialists 
  • Sales
  • IT
  • PR

If your organization outsources its marketing or SEO efforts, you should also list any external vendors you’re using.

Tip: Transparency, clear task allocation, and status updates are essential for any SEO strategy to succeed. Invite all your key stakeholders to use real-time project management software or a specialized SEO dashboard to effortlessly stay on top of what’s completed, what still needs to be done, by who, and when.

Once you have defined your 2021 SEO taskforce, it’s time to get them all on the same page and working towards your broader business goals. Which brings us to trend number two.

2. SEO reporting needs to prove ROI

It’s not enough to claim that organic search ‘drives traffic’ to your website anymore – SEO cannot operate separately from your business goals. To prove that SEO positively impacts your bottom line and get C-level buy-in and funding for your organic search initiatives (especially in a time when marketing budgets are under scrutiny), you organization needs to definitively link SEO to producing a competitive advantage online.  

The best way to do this is with data. Organizations need access to robust SEO reporting to make their case, especially when it comes to presenting organic search performance to the C-suite. While they may not have time to dive into the minutiae of every SEO campaign, it’s vital that decision makers are able to quickly and easily understand how the company’s SEO strategy impacts top-line company targets: revenue, brand recognition, and share of voice. With organizations regularly relying on multiple tools, including web analytics platforms, content optimization tools, keyword finders, broken link crawlers, and so on – with diverging and complex data – to report on their SEO activity, it can be challenging for decision makers to get a clear, cohesive picture of how SEO delivers more than just extra clicks.  

“It’s very common that the CMOs we speak to get SEO reports that have traffic increases, position increases, and that have click-through rate improvement, which are all great metrics for marketers, but it doesn’t speak to the bottom line or how it’s impacting goals for their business,” says Diane Kulseth, Senior SEO Consultant at Siteimprove.

What you need to do ahead of 2021. SEO stakeholders across an organization should prioritize working with a ‘single source of truth’ to move their SEO campaigns forward with confidence. That typically means working from a single, comprehensive SEO platform. Platforms built around the specific needs of enterprise organizations, like Siteimprove SEO, are useful for keeping track of all the moving parts of your SEO strategy across disparate teams – but that’s not all. Their intuitive dashboard overviews and metrics also help decision makers to effortlessly connect the SEO dots between content, traffic, and ROI.

3. The user experience is about to matter a lot more

Anyone who works with websites know that Google and other search engines constantly review and revise the algorithms that determine search engine result pages rankings. In 2021, this will reach a whole new level with the rolling out of Google’s new user-centric Core Web Vitals.

This algorithm change will officially make the user experience a major ranking signal for websites. Normally, it only provides limited transparency into how its algorithms operate, but in this case, Google has published extensive new guidance on how to measure page experience from the user’s perspective, including a supporting set of metrics that can be used to benchmark websites.

What you need to do ahead of 2021. Organizations need to prepare for this change now by evaluating their existing page performance and making the adjustments required for their content to rank according to the new algorithm. Luckily, good SEO and a positive user experience tend to go hand-in-hand. Examples of the intersectionality between SEO and the user experience include:

  • Fast page-loading times
  • Mobile-friendly content
  • Providing a secure visitor page experience
  • Improving web page usability

4. PPC and SEO must work together

While marketing and advertising spend is shrinking in the current environment – a trend that is likely to continue into 2021, organic search remains a cost-effective way to fill the gap. After all, you don’t need to pay every time someone clicks on your organic content, but you do pay for clicks with PPC – and depending on your chosen keywords, that can be costly. The moment you stop paying for ads, your traffic will dry up, whereas the benefits of well-ranking organic search results can last for years. Even more persuasively, good SEO can actually improve your PPC results – helping you get more value out of your paid search campaigns by identifying and eliminating inefficiencies and wasted spend. Let’s find out how.

Tip: SEO results can be harder to quantify than those from PPC and undoubtedly take longer to show ROI. So, it’s important that your SEO and paid search teams work together closely to produce a mix of quick search wins and long-term results. This should be straightforward if you’ve assigned roles and responsibilities across a cross-functional SEO team as described in step one.

What you need to do ahead of 2021. Repurpose the data from your existing PPC and SEO campaigns to plug the budget gaps in your paid search strategy. If you have a keyphrase that’s performing particularly well in a PPC campaign, you should consider using that same keyphrase in your SEO campaign to try to dominate the organic search results as well. This is a good way of growing brand awareness and trust, since users will see your brand twice in their search results. If they don’t click on your ads, the presence of your brand name at the top of the search results page will help position your organization top-of-mind.

When your search strategy is suffering from keyword overlaps, for instance, when you’ve allocated PPC spend to phrases where you’re already ranking well organically, it makes sense to lessen your spend in that area and redistribute your budget, ideally to areas where your organic search campaigns are performing poorly. This approach is even more compelling when you know that organic desktop listings still produce 20 x more clicks than PPC ads.  

Enterprise SEO tools help you organize for success   

As much as SEO is increasingly indispensable, it’s set to become even more challenging for organizations to execute successfully. In 2021, SEO teams will be expected to create larger numbers of high-quality content, keep up with search engine algorithm changes, conduct keyword research, perform technical site audits, and present clear evidence of ROI for their SEO campaigns – not to mention managing day-to-day SEO tasks – all on an even tighter budget with fewer resources, to socially-distanced, dispersed stakeholders. It’s going to be a really tough job.

Fortunately, there’s a simpler way to automate workflows, unite stakeholders, and prepare your organization for SEO success in 2021: investing in an enterprise SEO tool. Whether your organization manages its SEO in-house or partners with an agency, using an enterprise SEO solution will help you get more from your SEO campaigns by adding helpful automation, insights, and reporting capabilities into the mix. Remember, whatever initial investment an SEO tool requires in terms of budget and onboarding, it will swiftly make up for in productivity gains. According to Forrester’s ROI of SEO report, marketers that adopt an SEO platform report an average reduction of 28 hours per month spent on key SEO tasks. That’s 28 hours that can be better spent on formulating more successful SEO plans! Yet further research reveals that just one in three organizations are currently using one.

The author is Georgia James, content writer for Siteimprove. Siteimprove is a SaaS solution that helps organizations achieve their digital potential by empowering teams with actionable insights to deliver a superior website experience and drive growth.

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