Digital Byte: Banner Up!

Carnegie Higher Ed Jul 02, 2013 Carnegie Higher Ed Persona The Visionary Frontrunner

In a technology-driven world, display advertising plays an increasingly important role in marketing. What were once those memorable commercial breaks in prime time TV for many of us are now text ads and pre-roll video during a YouTube episode. These banner ads are ubiquitous in our online experience and, on some level, influencing us. Higher education marketing is no exception. A recent survey* collected data from 11,244 college-bound and transfer students, and found that more than one in three graduating high school seniors indicated that advertising influenced their application enrollment decisions. Furthermore, surveyed students identified online banner ads as more effective and recalled more favorably than all other forms of advertising combined.

What does this mean for you? It’s more important than ever to incorporate a solid online display advertising campaign into your enrollment marketing plans. We all know a blanket banner ad campaign can be lack luster, not to mention a bit pricey if you’re buying directly through premium local media sites. However, a highly targeted display campaign using a network of hundreds of websites proven to hold your prospective students when and where they spend time online can be a powerful branding and awareness tool.

It starts with defining your audience and goals. Maybe you want to recruit transfer students with two years of school under their belt and encourage them to attend an upcoming information session. You could employ a network of academic, social, and entertainment sites within their demography, and consider geo-restricting ads to the local community colleges and surrounding areas within a driving distance from the event. Then focus on the creative and call to action. Be sure you take them to a landing page on your site that is designated for transfers and speaks to the benefits of your school. Most importantly, ensure your landing page has easy navigation to sign up for the event quickly, whether that’s on a smart phone or desktop computer.

Let’s say your target audience is high school juniors, and your goal is to increase early applications. You can serve impressions only to the densely populated areas that hold the likeliest prospects for your school, based on household income, test scores, and other proprietary data. This is a form of online display we call the Student Select Online Network. Layer in keywords and behavioral targeting to enhance your campaign’s reach. The creative messaging, call to action, and landing page should be customized for these students, while boasting your school’s credibility and the benefits of applying early. From there, you might consider linking your ads to content marketing efforts or even right to an inquiry form.

Don’t forget to measure! Reporting with transparent site lists, communities, and creative performance can indicate key areas for optimization. Place conversion tracking on high-engagement pages to provide data that will allow you to enhance your user experience and future campaigns. Google analytics data cannot be understated as well. You have access to key insights and results from your display campaigns at your finger-tips! So be sure and use them.

Banner ads are not one size fits all. Whatever your audience and goals are, you can design a highly targeted display campaign with a customized network, using creative that fits the needs and goals of your institution. Work with an agency that specializes in higher education and has a tried-and-true understanding of network building, creative design, and reporting abilities in order to wean out wasted impressions and maximize those outreach dollars. So banner up this summer and set the foundation for a solid recruitment season this fall!

To learn more about online display advertising for higher-education, attend a Carnegie Connect webinar.

Angie can be found on Twitter @AngieMayWard

* This study was conducted by Lipman Hearne and Cappex. The survey was distributed to high school sophomores, juniors, and seniors and college students who are considering transferring from their current school. With 11,244 valid respondents nationwide, this is the largest survey of its kind ever conducted. You can learn more about the survey here.

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