Digital Byte: 5 Critical Steps to Using Your PPC Budget Wisely

Carnegie Higher Ed Sep 04, 2014 Carnegie Higher Ed Persona The Visionary Frontrunner

PPC can be a challenging strategy when it comes to admission marketing. If not done properly, it’s easy to use up a big budget with little yield. At this peak time of year, we’ve compiled a few tips for ensuring you are equipped for recruiting students via a knockout Pay Per Click campaign this fall.

1. Define your target audience

Since bidding on non-branded terms across a wide geography can be an expensive marketing endeavor, you should hone in on your target demography with as much detail as possible. For example, for an undergrad recruitment plan, you might determine if your goal is to attract in-state or out-of-state students, full-tuition paying families, or applicants to a specific major or program. For nontraditional recruitment plans, consider what types of jobs or degrees your prospects currently hold, where they are likely to commute from, or why they are looking for a particular program certificate or degree at this juncture in their life. These details will help you set up unique, long-tail keyword parameters without being too broad where you could wind up paying top dollar for the click but not necessarily reach the ideal candidate.

2. Scope out your competition

Do some competitive research by querying your search terms to see who shows up in the paid and organic SERP (search engine results page). Then perform an analysis by seeing how you measure up. A handy tool for this is Google Trends, which can give you a great trend line of your performance compared to your competitors. Keep in mind the attributes that make your institution unique to ensure you stand out from your competition and maintain a strong presence where others may fall short. After you’ve done your research, querying combinations of both branded and non-branded terms, you can use those findings as you develop keywords and bidding.

3. Develop a strong keyword list and copy

When it comes to keyword selection for higher education, long-tail terms are highly targeted and may be cost-efficient compared to more competitive terms. Once you’ve set your target demography and scoped your competition, take a look at your analytics to determine what keywords meaningful users have queried (and from where) when they get to your site. Use Google’s Keyword Planner to determine the best ads to build, ensuring your ad copy and headlines include your search keywords in it. Copy should also highlight your institution’s offerings unique to the users’ interests, with multiple site links that point to the area on your website most relevant to them. Build various versions of your text ads and site links to allow for A/B testing. (You’ll find more helpful tips for ad building here!)

4. Go multichannel

Since we know it takes several touch points over an extended period of time before prospects convert, an effective Pay-Per-Click campaign doesn’t stop with strong keywords and creative. It should be supported by other marketing strategies. Start by ensuring your site is search engine optimized for both computers and mobile visitors. According to Google, half of all prospective college students use mobile devices to research higher education institutions, so the importance of strong SEO, mobile optimization, and responsive Web design cannot be understated! Then consider layering in a Retargeting strategy—an ideal way to reengaging your audience with unique messaging after they’ve left your site. After all, you paid to get them there; Retargeting maximizes that effort as a relatively affordable (not to mention successful!) reinforcement.

Establish a strong branding presence through the PC&U Platform or by deploying a direct marketing campaign or IP Targeting program to prime the pump. Since you are likely to see a spike in search queries as a result of a branding campaign, your Pay-Per-Click ads will be ready for those new prospects once they start searching for you!

And finally, if you are not already on YouTube—the second largest search engine in the world—get there! A recent Google study determined that advertisers who ran video ads on YouTube later saw a 12% lift in search volume for their brand, making it yet another great way to increase exposure while maximizing that PPC presence!

5. Measure, measure, measure

PPC is not a set-it-and-forget-it program. Track your application funnel through a third-party application system, your CMS, Google Analytics, or all of the above! On a daily basis, optimize your campaigns by increasing bids on search terms that yield greater conversions and analytics metrics, while lowering or removing the others. Also refresh your landing pages, creative, and site links according to user behavior as needed.

If you have questions regarding how to set up a PPC campaign or need assistance with your current programs, contact Carnegie Communications today and we’ll be happy to help!

Angie can be found on Twitter @angiemayward.

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