CFO World

What Monash did to win in search engine marketing

Tertiary education provider shares its approach to search engine marketing in-house, the technologies helping improve its game and why voice search is the next big thing

Attracting prospects to your website should be a simple matter of buying the right search terms and waiting for the traffic to roll in.

But when your site carries more than 65,000 pages, your audiences includes groups that have both varying and overlapping needs, and your core target can take years to convert, a more sophisticated solution is needed.

This is the situation Monash University found itself in in 2017 when it decided to bring its search marketing in-house.

“With a university as big as Monash we have a variety of audiences we communicate with,” Monash director of marketing infrastructure, Amin Foda, told CMO. “The priority areas we focus on driving are around work, study, research and support. So our audiences are built off the back of that. The complexity of it is they are not necessarily wearing a single hat at any given time.”

For example, a post-student might also be an alumnus, while an industry partner might have also been a student.

“The main ones are the future students, but you have your influencers around them, such as the parents and the counsellors, the schools and their friends,” Foda explained.

Search represents an important channel for Monash, particularly from an acquisition perspective. “Both organic and paid are as important as each other,” Foda continued. “We need to try and rank as highly as possible and avoid paying against our search terms as much as possible.

“But we don’t just look at one channel on its own. It really depends on our audiences and where they are at. So we make sure we are available where our audiences are rather than the other way around.”

Monash SEO specialist, Shefali Joshi, said the university chose SEMrush to provide an all-in-one digital marketing tool to help improve its online branding and Web presence. This provided Monash with toolkits for SEO, competitive research, content marketing and site auditing.

“This has helped us improve our future student platforms and optimise them,” Joshi said.

Since using SEMrush, Monash has improved its future student traffic purely from searches by 144 per cent. “And we have been able with the help of their site audit tool to fix more than 100,000 issues,” Joshi said.

These have included completing a HTTPS implementation, as well as fixing numerous redirects, missing alt tags, and broken links and email address, and optimising metadata.

The key focus now for Monash is in voice search, where Joshi claimed Monash has already captured 30 per cent of the market.

“We’ve been able to capture the voice search market because we get SEMrush’s position tracking tool which shows us the featured snippet opportunities,” Joshi said. “The featured snippet is the only answer that is going to win you the Google voice search.

“Right now, voice recognition technologies are only 90 per cent accurate. As soon as it becomes 99 per cent accuracy, it will be a game changer and everyone is going to be talking to their devices.”

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