Higher Education

7 Ways to Boost Your PPC for Higher Education Strategy

Melissa Rodriguez
Published on Nov 5, 2019

7 Ways to Boost Your PPC for Higher Education Strategy

Marketers in higher education live in a complicated world. The job of attracting enrollments, managing advertising budgets and optimizing campaigns for an array of target audiences is challenging.

Wouldn’t it be great if their job could be made easier? 

Enter pay-per-click marketing, in which advertisers pay a fee each time one of their ads is clicked. In other words, PPC is a way of buying visits to your site, rather than attempting to “earn” those visits organically. It has several applications in the digital landscape, including:

  • Search engines: Google, Bing, Yahoo
  • Social media: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter
  • Display advertising: YouTube, mobile apps

As you can see, there’s a lot of opportunity in paid advertising. That’s why we’re enrolling you in PPC university and sharing these 7 ways to boost PPC for higher education. Apply these tips to supercharge your advertising return on investment!

Table of Contents
Things to Consider
1. Optimize Your Landing Page
2. Competition Research
3. Be Mobile-Friendly
4. Long-tail or Go Home
5. Content Is Everything
6. Remarketing Is Marketing
7. Test and Optimize
8. Hire an Agency

Let’s dive right into your first lesson. 

Things to Consider in Your PPC for Higher Education Strategy

Paid advertising is an effective way for higher education marketers to only spend money when their advertisement is effective (i.e., it yields a click). PPC also allows for specific targeting based on various parameters for the most effective campaign. 

This means that institutions can segment their audiences for various groups they market to regularly, including: 

  • Prospective students
  • Incoming students
  • Current students
  • Alumni  

So what’s the catch?

The cost of PPC advertising has never been higher for educational institutions. To be at the top of the page on Google, Bing and Yahoo can cost around $60 per click. 

For example, the phrase “online bachelor’s degree” in higher education costs $36.09 per click and has a search volume of 14,800 per month. A high intent keyword in higher education like “online degree in business management” will cost you $72.24 per click on Google.

ppc for higher education

When students (or parents) begin research to choose a college the winding road can extend for months. What will it cost you to stay top of mind?

Here’s another thing to consider:

How many clicks does it take for you to actually land a new student? For some colleges and universities, it may take a thousand or more.  

When you multiply the PPC, the numerous keyword possibilities and the long time frame you see why annual budgets can disappear in a few months.

This is why it is important to have a solid higher education marketing strategy in place. You’ll be able to:

  • Clarify your unique brand
  • Develop a search engine optimization plan
  • Build a great website experience
  • Identify key performance indicators

And much more!

1. Optimize Your Landing Page 

Optimizing your landing page will help you secure valuable leads to use in your pay-per-click campaign and higher education email marketing campaign.

You want to capture information from visitors that will allow you to stay in touch. Offer a valuable piece of information in exchange for their email address. Lead generation is fast-tracked when you keep forms short and to the point. Move the prospect further down the funnel with your follow-up sequence. The journey may flow from prospect to qualified lead, to applicant, to enrolled student. 

To maximize PPC for higher education, define and segment your audience. For example, a prospective student is any user who downloads an admission application. You can also segment on factors including age, career interests, social background, and geographic location. 

2. Competition Research 

Keyword competition in higher education is very high, meaning it could take months to show results. Research speeds up the process. Tools like SpyFu will reveal the keywords other education institutions are using in AdWords. 

For example, this screenshot taken from Spyfu offers a general overview of competitor performance within Google Ads:

ppc for higher education

Social media ads on platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter can help raise awareness for interested or prospective students. Facebook is great for top-of-the-funnel advertising. It can put you on the radar for high intent keywords like “online master’s degree” on Google. 

The following screenshot provides a list of higher education competitors targeting the keyword “online masters degree”: 

ppc for higher education

Your ad strategy, content and messaging needs to be tailored to each platform. Engage with your audience by developing a consistent voice, personality and response time for inquiries. As more potential students become familiar with your brand, you will be able to move them into a remarketing (also known as “retargeting”) campaign.  

ppc for higher education

3. Be Mobile-Friendly in Your PPC for Higher Education

Teenagers don’t just use mobile phones to keep in touch with their peers. Their mobile is the constant accessory for everything they deem important. More than 70% of college-bound students use a mobile device to look at websites. Your recruiting needs to be mobile-first to reach students conveniently and effectively. 

Many colleges are using mobile apps to connect with prospective students via social media, and integrating elements of gamification, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR).

Students want an instant response and sometimes seek information outside of office hours. To address the demand, chatbots and voice assistants are becoming increasingly popular. Some universities program common questions that students ask into chatbots to provide conversational answers 24/7. 

ppc for higher education

4. Long-tail or Go Home

Not all keywords are created equal. Long-tail keywords are those three and four keyword phrases that are very specific to what you are selling. For example:

  • Short, general keyword: Nursing programs
  • Long-tail, specific keyword: Nursing programs in Miami 

You can think of “longtail” from two perspectives. The first is the angle of less targeted words. The second angle is longer search queries that are more specific. They show levels of buyer intent that can improve the effectiveness of your PPC targeting. 

So, how does one go about finding long-tail keywords? There are several ways, but here are a few methods that pass with flying colors:

  • Type in your general keyword on Google search and see suggested content 

ppc for higher education

  • Use keyword search tools such as Google Keyword Planner, LSIGraph, Keyword Everywhere, Moz, etc. 
  • Mine your analytics to see what users are organically searching for

You don’t want clicks from low-quality leads. It takes time to identify the keywords that align with your strategy and programs. In addition, you need to create a bidding strategy that drives conversion while maximizing your budget.

Ineffective PPC strategies can wreck your budget quickly. If you’re not advertising competitors will reap the benefits. Students you may have reached will end up at other colleges and universities.

5. Content Is Everything 

Content marketing is a strategic approach that compliments PPC advertising in higher education. If you can promote your institution’s latest blog in your PPC ads, you will be able to drive traffic to your website. And if your blog is following SEO best practices, it may get a boost in the rankings. 

Promoting content presents a valuable opportunity to post comments, utilize keywords and ramp up engagement with your target audience. Optimize your PPC advertising by linking your blog and content. 

What kind of content should you be creating and sharing? 

This all depends on your target audience. 

Prospective students are searching for reasons to apply or enroll in your institution. Blogs about what your school has to offer (extracurriculars, educational programs, school spirit, notable accolades) will make you more attractive to a potential student. 

Always look to create valuable and relevant content. The keywords you want to rank for can be used in blogs, videos, and images. This helps build authority, trust, and social proof. You may attract backlinks from other high authority websites which will improve your position on search results. 

Pacific54 uses Google Keyword Planner to conduct research for our higher education clients. Once we’ve found keywords with low competition and high search volume we’d like to rank for, we create topics around them. 

Our content creation process is centered around a content calendar in which we organize our client topics based on the due date, offering a list of important things to cover for each blog. This sheet also includes possible titles, the focus keyword for each blog, the specific client, additional resources/things to note, etc. We separate tabs based on month or quarter. 

A content calendar is a great way to keep your higher education content organized, track progress, and to ensure nothing is being repeated. 

6. Remarketing Is Marketing 

Prospective students are busy and attention spans are short. Approximately 98% of first-time visitors to a website in any industry will leave without completing an inquiry or application.  

How can you stay on the mind of these one time visitors? Remarketing is your friend. You can use this powerful tactic to display targeted ads to prospects who previously visited your site or clicked on your links. This means as they hop around the internet and social media your adverts follow and remind them of their initial interest in your school. 

An effective tactic is to provide answers to frequently asked questions as part of your remarketing campaign. An interested visitor who viewed your financial aid pages can later be shown an ad introducing them to your financial aid calculator while browsing unrelated websites or watching videos on YouTube. 

ppc for higher education

You can also successfully conduct remarketing using Google and social media. Marketers simply install a Google Analytics or Facebook Pixel tracker into the code of their higher education website to be able to capture the traffic. 

Brainstorm possibilities that can help attract these leads back to your website and move them further down the marketing funnel. 

 7. Test and Optimize Your PPC for Higher Education

Success in PPC for higher education demands you optimize the entire online recruitment process. Identify key performance indicators (KPIs) to evaluate, track and measure the effectiveness of your advertising. 

Where should you begin? Examine your school’s active keywords including clicks, conversion rate, impressions, the average cost per click and cost per conversion. You can find these analytics in your performance overview in AdWords.

You can also invest in top-performing PPC tools that can bolster your strategy by offering detailed insights and analytics. There are several powerful visitor measurement programs that can help you better understand online behavior on your website. These include:

  • Google Optimize 360: Google's A/B testing and personalization platform. Like most A/B testing platforms, it allows marketers to test variations of a site in order to improve conversions.
  • Inspectlet: records videos of your visitors as they use your site, allowing you to see everything they do.
  • Fullstory: digital experience analytics platform for on-the-fly funnels, pixel-perfect replay, custom events, heat maps, advanced search, Dev Tools.
  • Hotjar: reveals the online behavior and voice of your users by combining both Analysis and Feedback tools.
  • Mouseflow: session replay and heatmap tool that shows how visitors click, move, scroll, browse, and pay attention on websites.

Using such tools is valuable in your PPC for higher education strategy. They give you the big picture of how to improve your site’s user experience and performance/conversion rates. 

Assessing the performance of keywords, analyzing conversion rates, and making data-based optimization decisions allow world-class universities to benefit from agile, effective campaigns that attract prospective students.   

8. Take Your PPC for Higher Education Strategy to the Next Level

Getting the most out of PPC for higher education requires commitment. Well-run and optimized campaigns can be an extremely worthwhile investment for schools. These initiatives can allow you to penetrate new markets and improve your chances of being seen by qualified prospects. PPC can even increase your organic search visibility in the long run, as the amount of prospects engaging with your ads boosts your website’s online authority. 

Target your PPC efforts so that you take control of your brand information. Pay-per-click provides increased awareness and analytical capability. It allows your university to not solely rely on organically-driven site visits.

By following these steps, you’ll be on the right track to boost your PPC results. For colleges and universities, the power of PPC is in the optimization. Are you ready to disrupt the search landscape and captivate your audience? Contact Pacific54 today for assistance. 

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