The Fundamental PPC Guide for Education Marketers

Crafting a smart and effective PPC campaign is a vital ingredient to a successful student enrollment strategy. It can help you reach new students, geo-target specific campuses, and strategically remarket to those potential students that have landed on your site but haven’t yet converted.

In this guide, we’ll go through the PPC tips you need to succeed in the education industry.

  1. Google Ads Quick Wins
  2. Optimizing the Google Display Network
  3. Reporting for Education Marketers

1) Google Ads Quick Wins

According to Google, 25% of people seeking education services never look outside of the internet. However, out of all education related searches online, only 20% lead to a conversion. With the industry growing at a rapid pace, advertisers have the daunting task of efficiently reaching potential students and persuading them to enroll in their courses.

To ensure that you are making an impression in the education industry online, here are a few quick wins:

Target the Right Location

When it comes to location targeting, the first step is to ensure you’re reaching students who are able to attend your services. For example, If you’re a small community college and the majority of your students live within a certain radius, you should eliminate spending on users who live too far away.

Once you have the required location targeting applied, you can then start optimizing for specific locations using Google Ads’ location reporting. The location report can be found on the Predefined reports tab, selecting Geographic -> User Locations as the view, as shown below.

By using the report to determine over-performing and under-performing areas, you can set bid adjustments to increase or pull back budget as required.

Segment by Campus and Program

To guarantee that you’re allocating the right amount of spend to your campaigns, segment your activity not just by campus, but by program too.

Below are some examples of what location and program specific campaigns could potentially look like.

  • Atlanta_Nursing » Budget: $200/day
  • Atlanta_Computer_Science » Shared Budget: Atlanta $100/day
  • Atlanta_Business_Management » Shared Budget: Atlanta $100/day
  • Chicago_Accounting » Shared Budget: Chicago $100/day
  • Chicago_Computer_Science » Shared Budget: Chicago $100/day

You can see that location wise, a shared budget has been allocated for both locations, Chicago and Atlanta, but the top performing campaign, Atlanta_Nursing, has its own budget.

Adjust for Seasonality and Day Parting

With such high competition in the education industry, you want to make sure you are being as efficient as possible with your spend throughout the day, week and year. You can analyze this data under ad schedule in the left-hand menu.

When reviewing this data, look at the metrics that matter most to your business. These may include; click-through-rate, conversion rate, cost/conversion, or impression share. Once you have determined when your account performs most efficiently, take actionable steps, like using our 24/7 bidding script, to ensure you’re capitalizing on these times.

Utilize Negatives

This tip can save you money and time. With cost-per-clicks in the education industry already so high, any opportunity to avoid irrelevant traffic can help reduce your overall cost-per-click.

This can be achieved by adding embedded negatives to campaigns and ad groups. For example, you should be adding irrelevant terms throughout your campaigns that may generate impressions from search queries by users who already have a degree and are job searching. Below are some general terms that can be easily missed.

  • “job”
  • “career”
  • “occupation”
  • “for hire”

Take Advantage of Ad Extensions

Ad extensions are key to ensuring your ad stands out among your competitors. Taking up more ad real estate can potentially be the deciding factor between users visiting your site versus visiting a competitor’s site. Below is a list of the different sitelinks and how they can be beneficial.

Sitelink Extensions: Use these to highlight various degrees offered. They can also be used to highlight more general information regarding the school or program.

Location Extensions: Use these to confirm the location of the program campus.

Call Extensions: Use these to show a phone number users can call instead of visiting the site.

Callout Extensions: Use these to highlight various offerings like 24-Hour Answering Service, Scholarship Opportunities or High Placement Rates.

Utilize Remarketing

Remarketing is an important tool in any education advertiser’s marketing kit. With a typically long research phase, targeting previous site visitors is an invaluable way of placing your ad in front of users who are already familiar with your brand and are still actively searching.

Remarketing list for search ads (RLSA) is a Google Ads feature which allows you to layer audience data on top of your search campaign. You can set bid adjustments that let you bid higher when a previous site-visitor searches for one of your keywords. 

Countdown Ads

Countdown ads are a great way to create a sense of urgency by sharing when enrollment is about to expire or when a program is about to begin. With countdown ads, you will need at least two active ads in your ad group, one static ad where there is no ad customizer and one ad where you have the ad customizer in place. Once your countdown hits zero these ads will pause.

2) Optimizing the Google Display Network

When running a lead-gen marketing campaign, upper funnel activity like the Google Display Network can compliment your Google Ads campaigns and help you reach new audiences.

Reaching New Audiences

A great place to start is creating a display campaign through Google Ads. 

First we’re going to consider reaching new audiences via prospecting campaigns with interest targeting in the “topics” tab in Google Ads. As an example, we’ll be looking at a post-secondary school educator offering programs in healthcare, business, and trade skills. 

Below you can see that we’ve created three different Interest-Targeting display ad groups, separated by program.

Using the blue edit button, we’re able to add targeting for a selected ad group by browsing available topics and selecting corresponding audiences. Below are the search results for “nursing” – Google Ads has a few audiences we can try for our new campaign. We just need to apply the ones we require and make sure to save any of our changes.

Our prospecting ads lead users to a landing page with a lead-gen form which collects their email address and registers interest in receiving more information about a program.

After our campaign has run for some time and started collecting data,  we’re able to optimize our ads by pulling a “Automatic Placements” report in the Dimensions tab. This report shows us on which websites our ads are appearing on and their performance. For poor performance websites, we can improve performance by excluding them from any further targeting.

Turning Leads into Conversions

In order to turn leads into conversions, we can then use a display remarketing tool called Customer Match. With Customer Match we’re able to upload the email addresses of users who’ve registered interest in a program and target them with YouTube and Gmail ads.

It’s important you keep your Customer Match lists up to date to avoid inundating converted users with ads.

3) Reporting for Education Marketers

Isn’t all PPC reporting the same? The basics might be, but with every industry comes specific KPIs and insights you should be tracking. In the education industry, the final conversion is a student starting a class (a start) and it’s often useful for marketers to consider metrics like % of leads that convert to enrollments and the % of enrollments that convert to starts.

In this section, we’ll discuss the key daily, weekly and monthly reports you should be using.

Daily Spend and Location Report

This report is important for making sure you are staying on budget – and allocating your budget to the right locations. Tracking daily helps to eliminate runaway spend at any one location. You probably won’t share this report to anyone outside of your own team, but it can be utilized at a moment’s notice if anyone needs clarification.

Weekly by Campus/Search vs Display Report

This report helps keep tabs on how many leads are being generated for each campus and whether they are driven by Search or Display. This helps you understand where you should be investing your budget.

Weekly Phone Leads Report

Linking the phone calls to campaigns will allow you to attribute leads to PPC activity.

Monthly Report

The monthly report is where you tie everything together and see the connection between leads, enrollments and starts.

For example, you might be collecting data similar to below and from this  you would be able to see that 8% of your leads convert and usually 50% of the enrollments start. As there’s a long time between lead and start, it’s important you go back and update past months with actual starts.

Once you’re all set with your account set-up and reporting, you can start feeding results back into on-going performance optimization.