Champlain College (Computer Forensics)

Situation Analysis

Champlain College’s department of Computer Forensics & Digital Investigation was building a reputation as one of the nation’s up-and-coming forensic programs. After seeing the results of our work with Champlain Colleges Online division, they asked us to help them gain greater national exposure and improve their go-to-market model with a special eye on online marketing. Our initial marketing audit showed the way towards several opportunities for change. Most notably, their existing online presence was poorly structured to provide visibility to search engines. This, coupled with their need to compete with deep-pocketed online national competitors (such as Devry University, University of Phoenix and Full Sail University) kept the college’s programs off the first page of Google results.

Strategy/Methodology

Our audit indentified the need to address several structural issues with their servers, the limitations of their existing domain name structuring, as well as reeducating the academic side of the college in how it could use its content to generate higher search engine rankings. We realized that the way to compete with national institutions several times our size was to create a micro-site specifically designed to optimize search engine ranking; we knew that the college's reputation and offerings were strong -- we just needed to get more traffic onto the site to provide an opportunity to close the sale. In addition to listing and describing the college's Bachelors Degrees, Masters Degrees and Online degrees, we realized that students and professors could be trained to provide engaging content that would please Google and other search engines. The micro-site would be part of a three-pronged approach; a fresh start on a new server and website platform, enhanced content strategies for optimizing search traffic, supplemented by enhanced traffic from targeted ad campaigns spceific to their course offerings.

Execution

We started by solving a significant problem related to the serving environment hosting the college’s website. The old servers were on-campus, had not been properly maintained or updated. For the back-end of the site, the first thing was to set up a new server that allowed control over caching and compression to speed up the delivery of files to visitors, as well as more memory to cover the increasing traffic we were expecting from the ad campaigns and eventual organic traffic. We then set up the foundation for the new site on a platform that allowed us to perform customizations to further our goals of speed and SEO optimization. The new platform would also allow us to integrate with the CRM system in place at the school, and therefore track ROI from the ad a visitor first clicked on down to the enrollment.

We enhanced the user experience (UX) by updating the navigation to allow visitors to navigate the site with less clicks and reach the enrollment stage more quickly. As part of our re-education efforts within the college, we identified the need for consistent content generation in order to sustain high levels of organic traffic to the website. We enlisted the help of those individuals who are responsible for making Champlain College so well respected in the nation for its Computer Forensics programs: the students and faculty. Students were enlisted to post case studies they created for class onto the micro-site’s blog. This tactic ensured that the content being generated was unique, authoritative and in many cases, the first of its kind. Some of the students were performing forensics work with their professors on devices that had only been publicly available for weeks or months and they were often the first to suggest ways to use these devices during forensics investigations. One particular post on forensics on the newly released Kindle became a popular destination within the professional forensics community. We encouraged the creation of unique forensics content, and helped the college produce a “blood splatter video” that also received significant viral traffic.

We also realized the importance of the synonymity of web page content to our paid search campaigns, carefully orchestrating content and keywords as well as compelling content to maximize search optimization. In many cases, we were able to create unique landing pages optimized for the paid search and paid social campaigns we were running in the market.

Results

The results were immediate and dramatic. Within the first four months of our efforts, keywords most related to Champlain College’s online forensics programs shot up to the first page. Within another month, we had displaced our national competition, and have essentially owned the top two results in Google for the past year and a half. This, from a broader marketing perspective, has been extremely profitable for the college. Overall traffic increased by 42%, while out-of-state inquiries rose by over 208%. See the above screen captures, which illustrate the degree to which our SEO efforts have allowed Champlain to dominate nearly all relevant key search terms related to computer forensics and digital investigation.

 

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View the new site.

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Computer & Digital Forensics at Champlain College

Working with Champlain College we realized an opportunity to drive enrollment in one of their flagship programs, Computer and Digital Forensics. Working across three divisions, the Traditional on Campus division, the online Continuing Education division and the Graduate division we created a microsite to serve the needs of all three divisions. We utilized our SEO knowledge to help develop content strategies, a search engine friendly website structure and search engine marketing campaigns that helped drive this site to the front page of Google for many search terms related to online computer and digital forensics programs and degrees. To read a full breakdown of efforts, please review our search engine optimzation case study.

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