How to get more highly qualified candidates in 30 days or less?

I love educational marketing for its long term focus. We are not just looking to “sell courses” – we’re looking for a fit.

But at times, it’s important to move the numbers quickly. To do this, requires a shift in thinking. We so often think about “segmenting the market”. To make an impact in the short run, we need to act on the fact that students have university segments, too.


  • “We are looking for Chinese students with a minimum IELTS band score of 7.0 and apt at engineering”
  • “We’ve found that bachelor students who graduate from these colleges are an excellent fit for us”
  • “Most students will have to pay their own way, but we have some scholarships available for top candidates”


  • “I’m looking for a top University that offers a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering”
  • “I’m willing to consider institutions in UK, Europe and Australia”
  • “I can afford total annual cost of $15,000; anything more, I’ll need a (partial) scholarship”

Only prospective students who fall into the “sweet spot” are likely recruits for next year’s intake.

Long term strategies

Long term strategy is focused on making the University more attractive, so that more students will consider it when offered the opportunity to enroll. For example:

  • Raising the institution’s ranking and profile
  • Doing outreach at secondary schools 3-4 years prior to study choice
  • making more scholarship options available.

Essentially, long term strategies focus on expanding the sweet spot zone.

The best way to get resources for long term results, is short term results.

In comparison, short term results come about by focusing on the people who are already in the sweet spot zone.

This requires a shift in thinking. It’s not about you identifying new groups of students and reaching out to them. It’s about you helping prospective students identify you as an institution they would want to consider.

Search Marketing comes to the forefront here. If someone is searching online for your institution’s name, that’s an incredibly strong indication of interest. But you can, and should, cast a much wider net to move beyond preaching to the converted.

How high is your institution showing in Google’s search results for the courses you offer?

If you offer a course in Mechanical engineering, is your website listed as the first result when people search “mechanical engineering”? Is your institution on page one?

Players that rank first get a disproportionate amount of attention.

This graph, courtesy from this article on Moz, shows the Clickthrough rates search engine results by rank. Bear with me. Below the graph, I’ll give an example of what the numbers mean.

In plain terms: If 1000 people search “mechanical engineering degree” and your website is the first result to show, you’ll get over 300 highly interested candidates to visit your site.

For the second result, that number drops to 140, and with each subsequent lower position, the exposure is much, much less.

So with this background knowledge in mind, how can you quickly move the needle?

  1. Organic search listings can’t be changed overnight, but with the right strategy, they can be radically improved in a matter of months. If your website already shows up high in search engine results, take a step back and consider if there are more keywords you could show up for. For example, by adding foreign language content.
  2. Paid ads can be placed almost immediately, so if you need more qualified candidates in 30 days or less, a targeted search advertising campaign is a great way to do it. Paid ads get lower clickthrough rates in the order of 2-10%, meaning there is a cap on the total result they can bring you, but they win in speed of implementation.
  3. Do study choice portals take up the top spots in Google? In the intermediate term, it’s best devise a strategy to replace them at the top spot. But for now, get some prime exposure on the top portal(s), so that when people click that #1 listing, your institution is the first they see. This only matters for study choice portals that are top ranked in the search engines. Don’t waste time on the rest.

I hope this article has given you some new ideas on how to get more qualified candidates within the next 30 days!

About Guus Goorts

Guus loves empowering people to develop their full potential. As a co-founder of crystal marketing, he loves helping education institutions find students that are a great fit for them, and vice versa.

With offices in Singapore and the Netherlands, Crystal Marketing is a digital agency that helps Higher Education Institutions get more high quality international candidates in 30 days or less.

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