The Dos and Don’ts of PPC Advertising for Higher Education

The Dos and Don’ts of PPC Advertising for Higher Education

college kids sitting in the tips with a computer

Paid search advertising is an important part of your higher institution’s digital marketing strategy. It boosts relevant traffic to your site, increases brand awareness and gives you full control over your campaigns. The problem with paid search is that it can quickly run through your budget. This is why it helps to work with a digital marketing agency that specializes in PPC for higher institutions, as your campaigns will be more efficient and successful.

Below we share some of the most important dos and don’ts of PPC advertising for your college, university or trade school. Let’s dig in!

Do advertise year-round, not just during peak seasons.

To save money on paid search, some schools will only run PPC campaigns during peak seasons. During their off seasons, they rely on organic search and other marketing channels. While it’s not a bad idea to be more aggressive when admissions deadlines are growing near, you shouldn’t ignore the rest of the year.

First off, it takes time to nurture prospects into applicants. Students often start researching colleges much earlier than their senior year of high school, so getting your programs on their radar is important. By having a strong digital footprint, you can acquire new leads throughout the year.

Also, not all programs are predictable. A typical four-year college degree program may follow a stable pattern, but graduate degrees and trade school programs do not. Students may choose to continue their education in the middle of the year. Bottom line: Don’t fall off the radar. Keep your digital presence strong all 12 months.

Do use sitelink extensions.

You’re paying for PPC ads, so why not make the most of them? To add more links to your ads, Google lets you create sitelink extensions. These links can take prospects to specific pages on your website. This is good for users because they get to go where they want, and this is good for you because it facilitates more meaningful clicks.

Be mindful when adding sitelinks to your ads. Stick to relevant links that will appeal to your audience, such as Programs, Campus Information or Admissions. It can be tempting to list out your individual programs, but this won’t be very helpful to your audience.

Do bid on broader keywords.

Sometimes, students don’t know what type of degree program they should be searching for. They know what area they are interested in, but they don’t know what to call it. For example, a person interested in pursuing a marketing degree program may search for “marketing” or “marketing communications” rather than the formal “Bachelor of Arts in Marketing.”

When bidding on keywords, consider the terms that your audience may be searching for. You don’t want to mislead students or run up your budget bidding on all types of terms, but you do want to capture prospects who are searching for your programs using broader terms. Work with your digital marketing agency to determine what keywords your audience is using.

Do optimize your landing pages.

It’s easy to get wrapped up in your PPC ads and getting people to click, but where are you sending them once they do this? In order to have a successful PPC campaign, you must send prospective students to a targeted landing page that meets their expectations. If you send them to a generic home page, you will probably lose their trust and interest.

When launching a PPC campaign, make sure that you optimize your landing pages. Keep your pages clean and simple and include one image, one CTA and a simple path to conversion. Too many distractions might send the person off in a different direction.

Don’t leave out an incentive.

As a college, university or trade school, it’s a bit harder to offer an incentive. You can’t exactly say, “Click here for 50% off your tuition.” But, this doesn’t mean that you can’t offer prospects something worth their while for clicking on your CTA and filling out a form. You just have to be more creative.

Free content is the best incentive in the higher education marketing sector. Students in the research phase want all the information they can get, so choose content that is helpful, valuable and easy to consume. Ideas include:

  • An ebook comparing your school to others
  • An interactive campus map
  • Blog posts from students sharing their experiences
  • Listicle of the best things to do on campus
  • Free course catalog  
  • Interactive quiz (e.g., What type of student are you?)

Don’t use generic images in your ads.

People relate to people, and college is a big decision that taps into many emotions. Seeing an image of a smiling, successful student is more powerful than an image of a building or dorm room.

We always recommend using original photos when possible, as this is more personalized and unique. Plus, you don’t have to worry about another school using the same photo. But, if you need to use a stock photo, there are many great sites that can be used in a pinch. Edit the photo to give it a distinct look that fits with your brand.

Don’t ignore branded terms.

SEO is a core part of your brand marketing, but it can’t achieve everything on its own. Bid on your brand terms to have greater control of your school’s messaging, location targeting and landing pages.

If this wasn’t motive enough, here’s another one: If you don’t bid on your branded terms, your competitors might. As a result, their ads may show above your organic listings, and this could take qualified prospects away from your school. Fortunately, brand terms are less competitive, and therefore less expensive, so bidding on them should be an easy decision.

Successful PPC Campaigns are Within Reach

Running profitable paid search campaigns is possible when you consider the competition, create engaging, useful ads for your audience and optimize your landing pages. WSI Net Advantage offers digital marketing services to colleges, universities and trade schools. We are conscientious of our clients’ budgets and know how to get real results. Contact us today at 510-687-9737 or fill out our contact form to discuss your school’s marketing needs.

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