With over 700,000 international students heading to the US in 2012, the race is on to attract the brightest and most financially well-off students. Instead of relying on expensive international recruiting agents who demand portions of college revenues, here is how we are recommending colleges and universities recruit international students:
1. Build language specific or country specific microsites to target students from specific countries. Build microsites for large countries (e.g. China), and build language website for country clusters (Latin America). Provide comprehensive information such as academics with featured programs, admissions, reputation hallmarks, financial aid (scholarships, international funds transfers, etc.), student experience, and full campus support for international students.
2. Optimize the microsites content and meta-data around keywords local prospects are typing. In sharp contrast to the US search engine results, the number of search results for academic keywords is very low – which shows the large opportunity for US colleges and universities in the international markets.
3. Apply SEO best practices to the micro sites for country-customized Google, Bing, Yahoo search engines – as well as country specific search engines such as Baidu for Chinese, Yandex for Russia, Aonde for Brazil, etc.
4. Inject search signals in social media channels. For instance, message planted in Chinese Renren (China’s Facebook) and Weibo (Chinese equivalent of twitter) are as effective in influencing rankings as social signals placed in Facebook, Google+, Twitter and LinkedIn.