More than ever, students are considering alternatives to academic colleges. Major debt burdens and poor job prospects for recent college grads has sparked a major re-think about the relative advantages of attending a trade school instead of a traditional four-year university.

That means the pool of potential students for your trade school is growing. And inbound marketing is the perfect diving board.

Here are four reasons why vocational schools are primed to succeed with inbound marketing.

Trade School Prospects Do Their Research

People who want to attend trade school are active researchers. They have a very practical outlook. They don’t want to carry a lot of debt. They want good job prospects at the end of their studies. They’ll do the hard work of investigating what school offers them the best potential.

That’s great news for you. Having a prospect pool of prospective students engaged in research means a lot of opportunity for you connect with them. The best way to get started? Draw them in with content.

Your school already has a store of content to start you off: program descriptions, alumni success stories, professor biographies, course syllabi. Talk to admissions to find out what questions prospective students are asking. Create content that answers these questions.

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Have they settled on a field of study or do they want career-choice guidance from the school? Do they want to learn more about a specific career to determine if it’s right for them? What do they want to know about campus life, especially since students live off campus? Are they wondering whether there are other students like them, whether they’ll fit in?

Get a group together from admissions, various departments, and marketing to brainstorm a monster list of prospect questions. 

>> Read more about SEO for schools here  

High Opportunity to Connect at Every Stage of the Buyer’s Journey

Because trade school prospects research so heavily, you can attract them at any point during their buyer’s journey. At HubSpot, we break the buyer’s journey into three main phases: awareness, consideration, and decision.

Align each piece of content and call-to-action (CTA) to a specific buyer journey phase. We call this “content mapping.” As your brainstorm team works on your monster list of questions, think about what questions your different personas are asking at each phase.

For example, during the awareness phase prospects are looking to educate themselves about what options exist. They don’t have questions yet about your school. They’re still trying to figure out what types of certifications or training are needed for the career they’re thinking about. Or what the career path for that trade might look like. Their questions also vary by persona. An adult who’s already in the workforce and looking to improve their credentials will have different questions than a high school student who isn’t sure yet what career choice is right for them.

Keep your school-specific content and CTAs for the consideration and decision phases, when they want to know how your school will meet their needs.

Winning at SEO: Long Tail Keywords

One of the components of successful content mapping is knowing what keywords and terms are relevant to your prospects’ search behavior. Trade schools can rock SEO because you can take advantage of very specific keywords, called “long tail keywords” (LTK).

Unlike a traditional 4-year school, your school’s degrees are already tied to specific topics of extreme interest to your prospective students. Have your faculty show off their expertise online. Don’t let them save it for the classroom only.

Help them share their practical expertise online through creating great content — e.g. video snippets of class sessions, PDFs of class handouts, blog posts about a recent principle or lesson students tend to struggle with, or enjoy, etc. Your faculty’s content, by default, should already contain many of the LTKs your prospective students are using to find the degree program and the school they’re seeking.

There is less competition for LTKs, which not only helps you rank high for the right ones, but makes it less expensive for you to do so. You have a wide range of unique strings of phrases that are all applicable for your prospects searching about trade schools and careers.

However mere word count isn’t enough. You need specificity. Your school won’t rank for “online trade schools.” But it might for “accredited online accounting degree.” Add another data point to your monster content topic list. What’s the LTK to be used with each piece of content?

LTKs have a lower search volume than common terms, but the traffic they attract is highly motivated. This is why LTKs have conversion rates up to 2.5 times better than more popular search terms. In fact, 70% of all search traffic comes from LTKs.

You’re Agile

Unlike more traditional academic institutions, trade schools often have a relatively flexible and agile marketing department. Perhaps there are fewer stakeholders who insist on being part of the conversation. Maybe there’s less bureaucracy, or perhaps more urgency.

Whatever the reason, metric-rich inbound marketing works best with a “test, review, and refine” attitude. Marketing teams that have the agility to try new things, and cycle quickly through them, will find the most success with inbound.

Are you hearing your students have adopted a new social media or messaging app? Test out some content there. Are you seeing that a lot of your traffic is coming from mobile devices? Maybe the students in your game development department can put together a fun app.


The winds of post-high school education are shifting. But the field is crowded with trade schools. Use the power of inbound marketing to attract the right kind of student for your school and benefit from increasing trade school enrollments.

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