Digital Byte: Own it! Why PPC Matters Now More than Ever

Carnegie Higher Ed Sep 13, 2013 Carnegie Higher Ed Persona The Visionary Frontrunner

College admission season is in full swing. The back-to-school buzz is over, and students across the country are entrenched in the search for the perfect college—if they’re not already furiously filling out their applications.  Coupled with a competitive college marketplace, maintaining a prominent online presence in this peak college search season is critical. Consider yourself very fortunate if your institution has a website with all the SEO best practices in place—rock-solid content, updated title tags and descriptions, and a great social media presence is a big accomplishment. It puts you at the top of the organic SERP (search engine results page), so there’s no need to actually pay for clicks during the busiest time of year on campus, right? Wrong. Paid search is still very important for your online recruitment efforts this fall, and here’s why:

Your competition is there, but you are not

If you were to query a variation of your institution’s brand name, top programs, or degrees offered, a competing institution could show up in the SERP. That’s because many companies will bid on their competitor’s brands or top programs in order to leverage their own site traffic and, essentially, steal your clicks. Schools need to own their institution’s brand name, nicknames, top programs, and values that set them apart through PPC. Likewise, many find that they can bid on competitors’ keywords to some degree in order to capture those visitors in the exact moment they could really be looking for you.

Brand name keywords improve account quality

Your Adwords quality score is a result of a sophisticated algorithm Google uses to rank your website’s advertisements in order to help the right people find you when they are searching online, to give them the best experience. A higher score increases the likelihood of that person seeing your ad, while actually lowering your costs per click. Needless to say, the score matters and running PPC ads against brand name keywords factors into the equation, potentially giving you a higher quality score.

Quick turnaround

While SEO is a long-term investment, PPC can help generate awareness almost immediately. At an undergrad level, text ads are a terrific way to promote events or news that’s happening on campus. For example, let’s say a new branch campus is opening, or a new building named after a prestigious donor is being celebrated: You can highlight these events right in the text of the ad. It can take months for a new program to gain organic visibility, since content, site links, and sharing all take time to ramp up and allow search engines to display in the results. However, PPC can take effect immediately, giving you some exposure now, when you need it most.

Flexible copy and budget

On any academic level, by bidding on your brand name, you can capture those who know about your institution already to essentially give them road signs about news, opportunities, programs, and any updates you want to advertise. For example, if you’re promoting your online programs, but don’t want to spend the dough on a competitive keyword like “online MBA”, you can bid on your brand name and still have multiple site links that point to different areas of your website. This allows prospects to choose the page of your website right for them and get there with just one click, which gives enormous visibility while maintaining affordable bids.

If you’re not getting good organic search visibility then you should implement a paid search campaign. But even if you own your organic SERP, there’s still a tremendous value in appearing in the paid results as well. By bidding on your brand, you get exposure in both places, for an affordable rate. PPC allows you to leverage the content you have, cross-device and multi-channel using various keywords, copy, and site links to keep your traffic moving through this recruitment cycle. Don’t let the competition wipe you out—own your brand this recruitment season before it’s too late!

If you need help running a PPC campaign, talk to the experts who can set-up a program based on competitive industry keywords and bids, run A/B testing, and help analyze trends that will give you an ROI that makes a difference.

Angie can be found on twitter @angiemayward.

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