The SEO Strategy That Let Leading Education Company Win in a Sudden Market Shift

Location has played a vital role for education companies. Despite distance courses being a part of most educational institutions’ offerings, it has been possible to rely on location as a key factor in students’ choice of education. The pandemic and 2020 turned everything around as educational institutions were forced to rely solely on e-learning.

This case study will tell you a bit about how a privately owned education company with a yearly turnover of approximately €65M who has been a client to us since 2015 coped with a turnaround scenario by using SEO strategies to win in the turn. The initiative came from the client and a CMO who early on was determined that a change was needed. Due to our extensive history of working together, we were able to quickly develop and implement new strategies during the pandemic in order to win in a, to say the least, disruptive market shift. By rethinking and developing an effective strategy from a sense of why, the adult and vocational education company would be positioned to meet customers in real-time. As a result, the client will be able to stand strong even in the post-pandemic digital “new normal” by virtue of their digital assets.

By developing the new strategy with a long-term and customer-focused approach, the website would generate relevant traffic – we fix the bucket instead of filling more water into a broken bucket. The result was a complete dominance of the search engines, with the client website being shown as results 0–1 for a large portion of the targeted very relevant search phrases.

Background: Adjusting to the shift in the market

The digital marketing strategy has previously been based on transactional SEO – focused on ensuring visibility for search phrases with high intent, i.e. searches done close to a purchasing decision. This proved to be an efficient way to reach SEO results – organic traffic to the website had more than doubled since the partnership with GO MO started. However, when the digitalization of the industry leaped as a result of the pandemic, the old SEO strategy was no longer sustainable. The communication needed to match the market’s real-time needs.

The hypothesis of the client’s new SEO strategy was that the winning company in education for adults will be the company that bases its strategy on the future of adult educations being shaped by future students. Across all industries, buyers look to fulfill their needs online. In education, potential students are the buyers; these are the people for whom providers must adjust. A basis for successful Pull Marketing is meeting existing demand where there is demand. When buyers use Google, a high ranking on relevant search phrases or topics are directly linked to visits to the website which, in turn, is linked to leads and conversions.

Customer-focused Strategy, Collaborative Process, And Business Case

Early on in the analytical process, we realized that a broad focus was not worthwhile, and instead opted to evaluate what specific market positions we wanted to own. A narrower field of focus facilitated closer collaboration between the client’s marketing team and GO MO Group. We identified the possibility of combining push and pull marketing and in so doing scale up the marketing efforts. GO MO took full ownership of the pull marketing from strategy to execution, while the client’s internal marketing team produced push marketing promotional material using our strategic guidance.

The digital marketing efforts were divided into themes, where we focused wholeheartedly on one business area at a time. This was in part planned according to the seasons, with search phrases related to summer courses being the focus leading to the summer. Another consideration was what would give the most efficient content structure, with the different themes supporting each other. Henrik Anderberg, Client Success Manager responsible for this project says that “without the driven individuals from the client and an extremely positive attitude of the marketing manager, the collaboration would never have yielded such positive results”.

Another essential aspect of the collaboration was to develop the organization and strategize on a deeper level based on the client’s sense of why: everyone, regardless of where they are in life, should be able to achieve their dreams and career goals. Instead of using digital channels for brand maintenance, we instead shifted to a long-term brand vision to refine and build upon what already existed. The client company will move through the digital paradigm shift with an agile and structured plan aimed at contributing to a world where all adults can change their lives through adult education.

Goals & Results

Since the SEO basics had been taken care of previously, we could focus on adding to the digital assets already procured by the client, thus “moving the needle”. In a way, this was akin to tearing down a house of cards and rebuilding it – changed goals means changed processes and activities. Having built a trusting relationship with the client over five years, it was possible to implement drastic changes together.

The prognosis – and goals – for 2020 was to increase organic traffic to the site by approximately 20%. In December, this goal was reached to a factor of 1.3. On Google, the client ranked on positions 0–1 for over a fifth of the search phrases categorized as very relevant, achieving something we call temporary monopoly. These results were reached by the client betting big on structured marketing, and that they chose to see the opportunities in a sudden digital market leap.

Henrik further says that “due to our new processes, we have managed to create synergies between different channels such as ads, SEO, and SoMe. This allows us to deploy marketing activities at speed, which produces very strong results”.

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