4 Quick Ways to Conduct Competitive Analyses in Higher Ed

4 Quick Ways to Conduct Competitive Analyses in Higher Ed

Posted on Jun. 13, 2022

Are you keeping tabs on your competitors?

Monitoring prominent programs or institutions that you consider competitors is key to standing out in a crowded higher ed space. It can be challenging to make time to do a full-blown competitive analysis of other prominent programs or institutions, but read on for a few quick ways to stay abreast of what your competitors are doing.

  1. Identify areas you want to focus on – and then do some digging. Are you concerned that you’re losing out on students because of your program price? Maybe you don’t know if you are the only institution in your area that doesn’t offer hybrid formats for a certain degree. 

Mock up a quick spreadsheet with program attributes on one axis, and competitors on the other (see below for an example). Take an hour or two to look at your competitors’ sites and find the information. We recommend that you update this information every quarter or at least twice a year to stay on top of any changes.

Program delivery Time to completion Tuition
Your Program
Competitor 1
Competitor 2
Competitor 3


  1. Find common themes. You don’t have to complete a full website audit on your competitors’ sites to identify key messaging points they drive home in their copy and images. Take a quick read through your competitors’ website and see what jumps out. Are they emphasizing affordability, flexibility, or prestige?

By noting how an institution speaks about itself, you can identify areas where you can differentiate your messaging and stand out. For example, if an institution is focusing on its world-class educational experience as a large institution, you may want to highlight information on smaller class sizes or 1:1 faculty mentoring.

Bonus points on visiting a competitor’s site: there’s a chance that they might retarget you with display ads once you visit, so you can keep up with their ad creative as well (and add it to your swipe file – see #4!).

  1. Follow your competitors on social media. Even if you aren’t in the social space, the content you see on your competitors’ channels is a great way to stay updated about program information, initiatives, and announcements relevant to your institution. 

An institution’s social presence is typically a reflection of their university branding, so it gives you an idea of their priorities at a quick glance.

How can you check in on all of your competitors’ recent posts in one fell swoop? Twitter is the social platform that makes it the easiest – you can add all of the accounts you’d like to keep tabs on to a Twitter list. You can turn on post notifications for any profile you want to keep up with on Instagram and Facebook. Alternatively, you can make a second account on any of these platforms just to follow university accounts. Then, you will have a curated feed of the latest posts whenever you log in.

  1. Keep a swipe file. It’s inevitable–you’ve probably seen an ad, social post, or ended up on a competitor’s site that leaves you thinking, “We should do something like that!”

Instead of taking a screenshot and inevitably losing it to the depths of your downloads folder, keep a designated swipe file! 

This is a common practice in advertising and copywriting: you keep a folder with ads or pieces that are in some way inspiring to you. Of course, the intent is not to copy a competitor’s approach, but to spark thought on how you could attempt a parallel approach in your practice.

Swipe files can take several forms–perhaps a Google Drive folder, private Pinterest board, or a Kanban board in the project management software of your choice. Whenever you’re feeling uninspired or need a jumping-off point for a new project, refer back to your swipe file to get your creative juices flowing!

If you are interested in conducting a full competitive analysis of your space, we can help. Reach out to us to get started!

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