All posts by Jay Kelly

High-Impact Campus Partnerships at EMBAC National Conference

Fall is a busy time of year in the higher education community. It’s also one of my favorite seasons because it marks the height of our events. This month, our team has presented at LinkedIn EducationConnect in NYC and most recently at EMBAC National Conference in Seattle. In a couple of weeks, we are heading to Atlanta for the AMA Symposium.

EMBAC National was a fantastic experience. A huge thank you to our friends at the Executive MBA Council for hosting another incredible conference for some of the best brands in executive education. This year’s conference brought together representatives from Northwestern University Kellog School of Management, UNC-Chapel Hill Kenan–Flagler Business School, University of Denver Daniels College of Business, and more.

I had the honor of co-presenting with our friend and partner, Angela Bostick, Chief Marketing & Communications Officer at Emory University Goizueta Business School. We covered a topic that is near and dear to the hearts of many education marketing and admissions professionals.

Digital Strategy for Marketing + Admissions.

Our session High-Impact Campus Partnerships: A Fruitful Conversation on Digital Strategy for Marketing and Admissions, was an open dialogue on how our teams can work smarter, together. Angela framed up the conversation with more background on Goizueta’s target audience and markets as well as their experience in cultivating impactful partnerships with internal teams. I voiced the admissions counterpart and some of their perceptions of digital marketing throughout the enrollment journey.

Emory + Converge: High Impact Partnerships from Converge Consulting

You can view the slides on SlideShare. Have questions about digital marketing strategies for higher education? Tweet us @convergeorg or contact me directly – I’d love to continue the discussion.


The Thing About Work: Advice from An Unusual College President

Dr. Rich Moran is an unusual college president. Outside of his role at Menlo College in Atherton, California, Dr. Moran is a venture capitalist, speaker, social scientist, best-selling author and LinkedIn Influencer. He shared insights from his new book, The Thing About Work, and tips on working with millennials in an ever-changing work environment during his session at #Converge2017.

[Tweet “Dr. Rich Moran, president of Menlo College, shared tips on working with millennials.”]

His advice is relevant to education because it sheds light on three key elements: culture, communication and work/life balance. His words of wisdom (and severally well-timed jokes) had a room full of EDU thought leaders doing what they do best—thinking about the work we do and why we do it.

Here are the three points that stood out most to me:

The work we do is very important.

Education is about changing lives. Every moment we spend teaching, recruiting and interacting with students is an opportunity to impact the world. We are educating tomorrow’s leaders, inventors and advocates—there isn’t much that is more important than that.

[Tweet “Every moment we spend with students is an opportunity to impact the world. #EDU”]

Education is changing.

There has been quite a bit of disruption in the EDU world, especially in higher education over the past few years, and it isn’t slowing down. More significant changes are inevitable—let’s embrace them as opportunities.

Most of all, enjoy the ride.

At the end of the day, we should enjoy our work, our interactions with colleagues and the mission of education. It’s an important business, yes, but we should all remember to slow down, sit back and appreciate the value of our teams and their work.

Check out more highlights from Dr. Moran’s keynote below.

NAGAP 2017 Presentation Recap

I recently presented with our friend and client, Michel Frendian, at the 30th Annual NAGAP conference in Salt Lake City, UT. Michel is the Dean of Enrollment Management at Erikson Institute in Chicago. Over 125 people attended our session on Building a Digital Marketing Strategy for New & Niche Programs.

During the presentation, we covered strategies for finding right fit students through the appropriate digital channels and building brand awareness for your program. We also walked through best practices for measuring and sustaining your budget and gaining buy-in across campus for ongoing momentum.

The audience was engaged, sharing information from their experiences and asking questions throughout the session. Some key takeaways included:

  • Craft a digital media mix that builds brand awareness, generates high-intent prospects and focuses on strong remarketing efforts.
  • Identify the proper keywords and themes to draw the right students to your program.
  • Recognize the ROI of digital and its impact on your enrollment, but don’t forget to complement your efforts with human touch-points.

Want more insights from NAGAP?

Check out the full presentation on SlideShare here.

What Tony Robbins Can Teach Us About Innovation in Higher Ed

“When you’re green, you are growing… and when you are ripe, you rot.”

That quote is attributed to McDonald’s founder, Ray Kroc. Truer words have never been spoken. Ray Kroc has been credited with countless innovations in his industry, and he frequently called store managers offering his council until his death in 1984.

[Tweet “”When you’re green, you are growing… and when you are ripe, you rot.” – Ray Kroc”]

I was reminded of this quote a few weeks ago when Ann and I attended the Inc. 5000 conference in San Antonio. In a room of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs, Tony Robbins emphasized that innovation and hunger are the keys to continued and sustainable success.

I am a Tony Robbins devotee. I love his take on success and living a fulfilled life. It’s simple to remember that we all need to be curious to learn and grow, but it’s so much easier to put things in our life on auto-pilot. Especially if they are working.


It’s simple, but it isn’t easy.

Think back to Ray Kroc. It would have been easy to rest on the success of a few of his restaurants and stop innovating. But he never did. Until the end of his life, he considered himself ‘green.’

This is great advice to remember in any profession or in our personal lives. It is especially true for higher education marketers and recruiters. We have to constantly stay ahead of the latest trends in attracting the right students to our programs.

[Tweet “We have to constantly stay ahead of the latest trends in attracting the right students.”]

Join us for next year’s must-attend conference.

These are the topics we will be discussing at Converge 2017 in Palm Springs, California next February. Connect with some of the brightest marketing minds to challenge the status quo and tackle what’s new and next in HEM. Prices go up on November 16—take advantage of the early-bird rates while there’s still time. Register now.

Get your daily dose of strategy, one post at a time. Join the Converge mailing list to stay up to date on what’s new and next in higher education marketing.


What’s New and Next in SEO? Turn to Nampa, Idaho.

posted by on December 23, 2015 in Converge Blog

What’s New and Next in SEO? Turn to Nampa, Idaho.

At Converge 2015, I had the privilege to present with Zach Vineyard, director of web development at Northwest Nazarene University. During our presentation, Zach shared the secret to his success at NNU.

Zach and his nimble team have enacted an inbound marketing strategy that’s producing amazing results. NNU implemented a strategic content plan that included 10 content themes in a 12-month period, and they’ve seen positive results across the board.

NNU’s plan began with a sound SEO strategy that utilized the latest tools and thinking that’s helping Zach and his team attract the right prospects to his school by engaging them with fresh, relevant content.

Value, Value, Value

Value is future-proof and algorithm-proof. If you are creating content with a point of view and always delivering value to your readers, you won’t need to worry about the next Google algorithm. You will always rank high.

Think Keyword Themes

Don’t worry about answering the question, “How will I rank for this search query?” Think, “How do I best answer the questions my users have?” You do this most effectively by thinking about keyword themes.

The Technical Stuff

Take care of the “blocking and tackling.” Make sure your HTML title tags contain keywords relevant to your page topics. Also, make sure your meta description tags and headers contain relevant keywords and descriptors.

Off-Page Links

Again, make sure quality is your guiding principle. Are your links from a quality and trusted source? Make sure those links use words and phrases you want to be found for.

Be Social

Zach used the phrase made popular by NPR: COPE.

Create once publish everywhere.

These are some of the highlights from Zach’s presentation at Converge 2015.

We hope to see you at Converge 2017 in beautiful, warm Palm Springs, CA.

Find Out Why Adult Students Are Enrolling At Your Institution

posted by on December 21, 2015 in Converge Blog

Why Are Adult Students Enrolling at Your Institution?

Chances are they’re enrolling at higher rates than ever before. Do you e2b70a83ed1e048e7d334fb38c0684dd_f1863know why? The reasons have shifted in the last 10 years.

Scott Jeffe, Director at Aslanian Market Research (the leader in adult student research), recently shared Aslanian’s findings from their annual survey, Understanding the Adult Student Enrollment Decision, at Converge 2015.

Some key findings in the last five years:

  1. Age no longer predicts learning patterns.
  2. All ages and backgrounds study all the time in all ways.
  3. Traditional, not-for-profit colleges have entered the online market in a big way, branching out to new regions of the nation previously not available to them.
  4. For-profit market share has declined significantly with some institutions closing their doors.

So why are adult students enrolling in your institution? Scott shared five key factors to keep in mind as you are recruiting this increasingly important segment.

1. Career changers are THE driving factor.

There’s usually a trigger event in their lives that initiated the move. Keep in mind that most adult students come in with some career credentials already. They are looking to round out their experience with new skills or an advanced degree.

2. There is now a mass availability of options available.

More schools that are driving distance from yours are also offering options to this important market. So not only are you competing with more schools, you are also competing with everything else going on in their lives.

3. Cost is paramount.

Cost is driving decision making both directly and indirectly. Discounts are still attractive. A majority of the students surveyed would rather receive a discount or a scholarship than lower tuition.

4. Flexibility versus time to complete.

Although “time to degree” is still important, most surveyed would choose flexibility over time to complete.

5. There is no silver bullet.

Adults or post-traditional students are choosing formats that fit best their lives. The old thinking that an online degree is inferior is no longer the case.

Ready for more tips for recruiting adult students? Register for Converge 2017 and save with early bird pricing.

NAGAP 2015 Recap

posted by on April 15, 2015 in Webinar

Last week I had the privilege of presenting Inbound Marketing to a full room at NAGAP with Hollie Lindner from Northwest Nazarene University. Hollie and I shared insights from our work together, and reviewed in-depth the three pillars of Inbound Marketing: Attract, Convert and Delight and how that applies to recruiting graduate students in a digital world.

Here are some great takeaways from the conversation on Twitter. Check out#NAGAPLearns for more information and recaps of lessons from other sessions.

View the full presentation below!

Jimmy Fallon, Expert Inbound Marketer

posted by on February 16, 2015 in Video

Fresh, relevant content is the fuel that drives the inbound marketing machine. One of the best ways you can get the most out of your posted content is to repurpose it. It gives you that “be everywhere” presence.

Jimmy Fallon and the executives of The Tonight Show are brilliant at doing this. How many times have we seen Jimmy and Bruce Springsteen perform together and skewer Governor Chris Christie over Bridgegate? Or Jimmy and Neil Young sing a Neil Young classic. Their performances are posted everywhere — on The Tonight Show website, Huffington Post, and all over social media. Jimmy and his team are experts at repurposing their excellent content.

So how can we be like Jimmy as higher education marketers? We probably won’t be performing alongside Springsteen or Young any time soon, so we might need to be a bit more strategic in our approach.


Outline the content you originally posted. List the main points and adapt them to the outlet you are using so the main points come through in the chosen format (Twitter, Facebook, Slide Share).


Make sure the content you are using is the right content to repurpose. Data and analytics are always great to share and repurpose. Also, pick your most viewed pieces of content, blogs, and web pages to promote. Evergreen content is always relevant and perfect for repurposing.

Take a look at these best practices for repurposing your content.


I’m an Inbound Marketer… What’s That?

posted by on January 23, 2015 in Converge Blog

Albert Einstein said, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”
For anyone who has reinvented themselves, that is something you have lived with. For anyone in the digital space that moves very quickly, that is something you also deal with. For anyone who works at a college or university, I would also bet that is something you deal with.
What does your college stand for? Why should a prospective student go there versus their other options? According to Albert, if you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.
Last week, I was at a meeting with a client in the Mid-Atlantic region. We were meeting with a variety of stakeholders from the university who have a variety of experiences and jobs in the university.
For quite a few, marketing isn’t their main job. So I first needed to explain why we were there, and what our company did. “We’re an Inbound Marketing Firm”. Really. What’s that?
“We consult and provide our clients with marketing activities that bring visitors to you rather than having to go out and get prospects attention”. Sounds great! What are some of those activities? “Blogs, videos, social media activities, SEO. Basically rich, relevant content that attracts the right prospects.” Simply explained.
So after the introductions, we reviewed a number of the school’s competitors websites. Guess what, they all sounded eerily similar. Hands on experience, small class sizes, a commitment to excellence. It really is amazing how many schools sound alike — a real sea of sameness.
How can you break free from that sea of sameness? Can you explain it simply enough that it can be clearly understood?
That is the challenge for all colleges and universities as they embark on website redesign projects or any other inbound marketing campaigns. Content is the fuel that drives all inbound marketing activities. Rich, authentic content that speaks directly to what your prospects are looking for. And, in order to do that well, you need a strong brand identity that can be explained clearly and concisely.

Explain it simply.

So the challenge is what can we say about your school that no one else can claim? Take the first step toward simplifying and further understanding your brand message. Register for our upcoming webinar to get started on a checklist of inbound marketing activities for your website.

Inbound Marketing Month: The Case for Higher Education

Last week I had the privilege to speak at the Law School Admission Council conference in beautiful Asheville, NC. My colleague, Ann Oleson, and I spoke about Inbound Marketing to the group which was comprised of admissions and marketing professionals from some of the best law schools from around the country. Stop Pushing and Start Pulling.

What is Inbound Marketing?

Inbound marketing at its core is about pulling interested and qualified prospects into your funnel or pipeline by attracting them with relevant content. It really is that simple.

The old way of simply pushing your message out by casting a wide net and hoping you connect with someone who fits your target audience is in many ways an antiquated way to market your school or institution.

For instance, if you are The University of Scranton, wouldn’t you want to be on the first page of search results if someone typed into their search bar Jesuit colleges in the northeast? That is what an effective inbound marketing campaign will result in.

When you think about implementing an inbound marketing strategy at your institution, there are four separate and distinct pillars that you should focus on.


One of the challenges that came up during our discussion is the need for a blueprint to help guide you through these pillars. Many institutions are challenged with small staffs so the need for a concise blueprint or road map is essential. Many institutions don’t know where to start.

Take our Inbound Marketing Quiz to see how you measure up! You can also download our checklist and get some other great resources. If you start with this check list, you will be well on your way to creating a sound Inbound Marketing strategy for your institution and you will begin pulling qualified prospective students that are predisposed to your school’s offerings.

Interested in Learning More about Inbound Marketing?

Unbranded keywords. The tale of the Brazilian Super Model.

We were recently doing some SEO work for a school in the Northeast.  We were reviewing their top unbranded keywords. Branded keywords are anything that contains some combination of your school’s name (Notre Dame, Notre Dame University, University of Notre Dame, ND).  Unbranded keywords are those words that people type in the search bar that do not contain your school’s name. “Catholic college in the Midwest” for instance, or top design school in New York.

One of the top unbranded keywords for this school and the fourth most popular search word overall was the name of one of their political science professors. That was curious to everyone. Although the professor had been with the university for a while, what was she doing to show up before several of the top branded keyword searches? Why were so many people searching her name? Did she publish recently? Was there a scandal? No.

As it turns out, she happened to share the same exact name with a well-known Brazilian super model. Mystery solved!

Do you know your school’s top branded and unbranded keywords? You should. Knowing your top unbranded keywords helps you understand what your school is known for. What keywords or phrases are being typed in the search bars that you rank for.

At Converge, we believe there are six essential parts to building a successful SEO strategy. If you’re lucky, you may even have a professor that shares a name with a super model as well.

Here are 6 tips that will help you to get your SEO strategy off in the right direction.

  1. Have you done a crawl on your site to see what technically is wrong with your website that can be fixed to impact SEO?
  2. Have you done keyword research to understand what keywords rank best when creating new content for your site and where you are currently ranked for keywords?
  3. Have you thought about thematic SEO and developed three to four overarching brand messages that your institution uses?
  4. Do you have an institutional understanding of the “new” way to do SEO that focuses on answering questions?
  5. Do you have an SEO evangelist on your campus that is leading the effort with ongoing SEO best practice.
  6. Do you report on SEO or have an SEO dashboard that you discuss monthly at your marketing meetings?

Contact us to discuss your institution’s specific SEO.

What Should You Look for in a Search Engine Marketing Partner?

There certainly are a number of partners to choose from. A very large number in fact! At Converge Consulting, we have the pleasure of working with a number of colleges and universities around the country helping them with their SEM campaigns. We believe it is a great strategy to combine a well thought out and executed SEM campaign to compliment your SEO efforts. We also know that the “business” of higher education is a unique one and a deep understanding in Higher Education is invaluable when it comes to maximizing your SEM ad dollars.

We often are asked the question; Why Converge? What makes you unique from some other SEM providers?

Great question! Below are some capabilities to look for when choosing a partner and what we believe sets us apart from some other providers.

Laser-like focus on conversions
At Converge, we have a fanatical focus on conversions. We utilize our data and best practices to design campaigns that bring your school qualified prospects. We also make sure to utilize our tools to crunch your account’s historical data and optimize as we go for continued increases in campaign performance. In addition to managing your campaign, we make recommendations on your landing pages to help promote the conversion process– we can even build and host landing pages for you! Our expertise in higher education allows us to draw on those specific examples to help find the correct potential students that match exactly to the programs you are focusing on.

Certified Pros
Make sure your partner is certified in Google Adwords. At Converge, we have a team of Google AdWords certified professionals who also have experience using other digital marketing channels such as LinkedIn, Facebook and YouTube.

Size does matter and we have the capability to reach 98% of the internet. However, it’s most important to be where your prospects are. We connect with clients to determine their student persona in order to make sure we are as targeted as possible.

Retargeting is a great way to “double down” on those who have expressed interested in your school. We can make sure that your leads don’t fall through the cracks, and also develop exciting strategies to move them further down your admissions funnel.

Multichannel Approach
Your SEM campaign should be one important piece of your multi-channel marketing efforts. At Converge, we look at the entire picture and to ensure all of the pieces are working to achieve one goal.

Not only do we use Conversion Tracking reporting in Google AdWords, we also use Google Analytics data to determine the quality of leads. Google Analytics data can tell a story. We analyze the user’s time spent on a page, the steps they took after getting to your landing page and more. This information can be extremely helpful in determining what is working and just as importantly what needs optimizing. We monitor this data constantly and report on key findings.

Bottom line, there are a lot SEM Companies out there, but most don’t understand the higher education industry. At Converge, we have the expertise in both higher education and Search Engine Marketing to help achieve your goals.