Digital Byte: Here’s Why Higher Ed Marketers Still Need Retargeting

Carnegie Higher Ed Apr 18, 2016 Carnegie Higher Ed Persona The Visionary Frontrunner

Retargeting, in its infancy, was commonly thought of as creepy ads that follow you wherever you go after leaving a website. A constant reminder of that thing you almost bought but didn’t. But that’s so 2009! Retargeting has evolved over the years, and across all industries—including higher education—it remains to be one of the most effective marketing strategies for reinforcing brand and optimizing for conversions.

So what is Retargeting, exactly? Retargeting is a cookie-based method of tagging users of a particular website in order to later serve them relevant ads after they’ve left the site. The term “Retargeting” is sometimes used interchangeably with “remarketing,” but in some industries “remarketing” is also thought of as a way to simply market to the same audience again. For example, you might send e-mails and post cards to a particular Search list, and then you might send them banner ads via IP Targeting, Facebook, or Customer Match leveraging that very same list to continue a conversation at multiple touch points. But for all intents and purposes, we’ll focus on Retargeting in its simple cookie form.

Now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s talk about why Retargeting matters in higher ed marketing. When you take a particular student audience you already know something about—like the fact that they’ve visited a particular area of your institution’s website—Retargeting allows you to tailor your messaging to uniquely target that audience. And advertising is all about relevance these days, so you’ll need to use what you know about their past behavior to drive your creative, calls to action, and landing pages.

For example, consider using Retargeting to serve up STEM job placement stat ads to those who’ve visited related academic admission pages. People who visit your financial aid page might be more inclined take notice of a scholarship opportunity Retargeting ad. Or push your open house ads to those who’ve gone to the visit pages but have yet to sign up for an event—ensuring the landing page has a quick and clear place for them to sign up, of course. The creative possibilities for Retargeting in higher education marketing are endless, and you should design them to fit your audience and your goals at any given time.

Retargeting extends beyond just banner ads for your school as well. Those ads can also take shape as animated banners, pre-roll video, or text ads. Their placement extends beyond standard publisher websites and can include YouTube, Facebook and other social media sites, and even right on the Google search engine results page. That’s right, you can retarget folks on the Google SERP and ensure specific text ads show up differently to people searching for you, depending on if they’ve been to your site already or not. (More on Remarketing List for Search Ads here.)

We see some of the highest conversions taking place in Retargeting campaigns over any other marketing product out there. In fact, according to Google, clients see an average 20% increase in conversions when implementing Retargeting!

Given the fact that a student won’t just visit your website once and convert (another Google tidbit says 96% of visitors will leave a website without converting), you need to get them back again and again. And again. Retargeting can provide another easy way for them to do so. In higher education, you need many touch points at multiple stages within the funnel in order to promote conversions. Students might view key pages around financial aid, academics, or housing. You can then encourage them to inquire or sign up for an event. After that point, it might be realistic for them to start the application process. If done correctly, Retargeting can drive those micro or macro conversions along several points in that journey.

So next time you’re fine-tuning your marketing strategies, remember that Retargeting is not a thing of the past. It’s here and now and should be a part of your institution’s online college search process.

Follow Angie on Twitter @AngieMayWard

Never miss an update.