Digital Byte: Put PPC at the Top of Your Marketing Wish List (Again)

There are a lot of shiny new toys out there this holiday season. The iPhone 6 and Star Wars everything seem to be must-haves this holiday season, which is no surprise.

Higher ed marketing is not so unlike a child’s endless list of presents and stocking-stuffer possibilities. With digital tactics like mobile location geofencing, IP Targeting, and lookalike modeling, it’s easy to get overwhelmed when determining how to best put your marketing dollars to use. As I enter my fourth New Year’s here at Carnegie, I have seen that one of the most effective and fastest ways to ensure you are reaching prospective students and their parents online is through Paid Search (PPC). Year after year, PPC makes the list as one of the top strategies for small private colleges, large public universities, and independent schools alike.

Here’s why:

1. You only pay when an interested person clicks. With PPC (Pay Per Click) your ad only appears to a relevant user, based on their keywords and location, and the impression is free. You only pay if they choose to click on the ad right then. Talk about bang for your buck! You can also set your budgets accordingly so you never go over, no matter how much activity is going on around those keywords.

2. Platforms have never been more sophisticated. Sitelinks, structured snippets, call-out extensions, and dynamic keyword insertion are just a few of the ways you can customize your text ads in order to have the highest relevance and most positive user experience, all while keeping up a good quality score. Now it’s a full-time job in and of itself to stay on top of these new capabilities and algorithms, so we advise you to work with an agency that specializes in it, with higher ed experience and platform certifications to boot. Advanced capabilities are there to actually increase your ROI—use them!

3. Your competition is there—you should be too. Whether you are promoting your general undergrad offerings or a niche graduate or degree completion program, everyone has competition, and I challenge you to do a search for colleges in your area to see who shows up. Often times, you will notice that other schools are actually bidding on your brand! So it’s imperative you not only own real estate for general non-branded terms so people are aware of your offerings but also that you dominate the SERP (search engine results page) for your brand to stay ahead of the competition.

4. RLSA can boost your search performance. Retargeting is a common strategy for reengaging prospects who’ve visited specific pages of you website with relevant banner or text ads after they leave your site. But now, you can leverage those Retargeting audience to customize your paid search ads through RLSA (remarketing lists for search ads). This means you can not only bid differently on them to ensure your ad appears in front of a more relevant audience, but you can also create different ad copy geared towards those past visitors. Tailoring your campaigns with this knowledge is imperative for ensuring a more relevant ad appears at the time of the search, resulting in more qualified clicks.

5. PPC works—and quickly. While organic search engine optimization is critical for long-term website marketing, the pay off generally comes later. However, PPC works immediately. You can start a campaign and literally start seeing clicks, conversions, and Google Analytics data the very same day. Of course, every campaign is very different in terms of the instition’s goals, messaging, budgets, landing pages, platform, and creative, so you would want to set expectations accordingly. But, in general, expect to see results and fast.

While PPC may not be a shiny new toy, it certainly has some fancy bells and whistles that continually reinforce its appeal and, more importantly, its effectiveness year after year. Not unlike a new iPhone 6 or another Star Wars gadget, sometimes the best new things are actually just new and improved versions of the old.

Follow Angie on Twitter @AngieMayWard

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