Although PPC campaigns are applicable to all marketing strategies, best practices cannot be blanketed across all industries. The increasing keyword competition within higher education requires a focus on click value and budget efficiency. How can this be done? By developing an industry-specific PPC strategy that can provide a greater return on ad spend, increased visibility, audience relevancy, and budgetary savings.
Understanding proper AdWords account structure can help grow conversions, while allowing your institution to maximize budget. Proper structure might begin with the separation of ad groups by degrees, programs, colleges, or other educational categories. This should be followed by a small set of keywords related to each ad group.
Keep in mind, keyword research is extremely important; tracking the same words or phrase over time provides performance benchmarks and allows you to properly evaluate your strategy. Keep keywords consistent across advertisements and landing pages. They are the basis for each campaign.
After keywords are selected, AdWords settings allow you to choose between broad, phrase, exact, broad modified, or negative match types. Each refer to a type of query that must be searched in order for your paid ads to appear on a user’s search engine results page, or SERP. Best practices generally call for a broad modified match type to provide targeted ads with greater reach. In addition, negative keywords are used to prevent irrelevant users from clicking promotions.
Given high keyword competition, higher ed institutions must prioritize budget efficiency. MBA-related keywords rank eighth highest for Bing’s cost category. Queries involving the word MBA can cost $60 per click. Undergraduate keywords can reach up to $30 per click, but costs hover around $50 per click when “online” is added to the search query.
To keep bid costs low, you’ll need to apply different strategies to branded and non-branded keywords. You may be able to cut back branded ad spend if your university secures high visibility through organic results. With that said, bidding for branded keywords will continue to increase reach and may keep other institutions from bidding on the same terms—your course of action will likely depend on cost and current site authority.
Bidding in general is a balancing act between a keyword’s authority, price, and relevance. To become more targeted, while keeping CPC down, long-tail keywords can be useful. These are longer, more specific phrases, such as “online marketing masters program,” versus the short-tail phrase, “masters program.”
Consider high-demand keywords and programs to guide ad content for each ad group. Additionally, you should provide a mix of both informational (e.g., application deadlines, program information) and call to action pieces (e.g., apply now, or request for information).
Stay knowledgeable of Google’s regulations. In 2011, Google focused on preventing misleading educational ads by banning words such as “employment” in ad copy. As of January 10, 2017, mobile popups were penalized by Google, with hopes of improving search experience. Prioritize mobile friendliness to stay competitive and attract students on their most-used devices.
Proper PPC strategy brings relevant content to valued users, without throwing away your budget.
In addition to ad text, carefully consider landing pages—users provide click value only when they convert. Your landing pages should make this easy for them with information request forms and gated content, like ebooks, brochures, or enrollment guides. A focus on the overall user path will provide more precise audience targeting, increased CTR, and increased conversion rate.
Proper PPC strategy brings relevant content to valued users, without throwing away your budget. When done right it can help you stand out among other institutions, and, most importantly, bring the right students through your campus doors. To further target your core audience, follow our PPC targeting tips.
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