From the moment a prospective student embarks upon the journey of researching options for higher education, there is incredible opportunity to provide branded and relevant information that will guide them along their decision making process. A U.S. Custom Education study performed by Compete, Inc. found that nine out of ten education researchers begin with an open mind, not being certain which school they want to attend. In a highly competitive market, reaching prospects immediately with the information that they desire is crucial. So how is this done most effectively?
1) Say “Hello” to PPC Search
The study performed by Compete, Inc. also concluded that 78 percent of converters on education websites are influenced by search at some point in their decision process, most often in the earliest stage of research. Colleges and universities do rely heavily on organic search to drive prospects to their website. Search engine optimization (SEO) is a highly effective technique, and if done well, can get a first page listing. However, even the best SEO strategies cannot place above paid search ads. Nor can they target as precisely on individual keywords to reach a very specific audience, show on a predefined schedule, or provide a clear, concise description and call to action.
PPC search ads for the higher education market can be a huge win for universities wanting to promote specific programs, advertise events such as open houses, or drive large numbers of leads to their website. Once there, marketers can begin the inbound marketing of nurturing these leads, building relationships and guiding the prospect down the conversion path.
One word of caution about using paid search ads to drive traffic to your website: it is crucial that you have clear, concise and relevant landing pages. Too often, advertisers make the mistake of directing clicks to pre-existing pages on their site or to their home page. Start the relationship on a more personal level while building your brand.
2) YouTube Video Advertising: Seeing is Believing
Think of your market: where are they spending their time? If you said watching videos online, you are right! In fact, according to Variety, YouTube stars have become more popular with U.S. Teens than mainstream celebrities.
Running well produced in-stream or mid-stream video advertising is a huge opportunity for colleges and universities. Not only is it a phenomenal brand-building technique, it can be very affordable. When running YouTube video through Google AdWords TrueView format, the advertiser only pays when the video is viewed for either 30 seconds or to the end of the video, whichever is less. If your video is well-produced, and the brand message is in the first few seconds of the video, you are pretty much getting free advertising when a viewer clicks off. Not to mention that AdWords gives advertisers free companion banners with their video advertising when the space is available. Boom.
3) Facebook Advertising: It’s Smart to Pay for Social
Without a doubt, Facebook has the absolute best targeting options for the higher education market by offering targeting by age, gender, interest and parental status. This provides a great opportunity to segment out your campaign to both students and parents very effectively, and tailor messaging accordingly.
Facebook ads can direct either to your college’s website, to your Facebook page, or to both, giving tremendous flexibility to your campaign. In addition, the launch of Facebook newsfeed ads in 2013 created a unique opportunity for advertisers by enabling them to speak to prospects in a more personal and casual tone. Well crafted Facebook newsfeed ads are known not only to receive high CTR’s, but also to engage the audience, encourage social interaction with the brand, and to build a loyal following. Add in some Facebook video ads, and you can’t lose.
4) Re-engage with Search Remarketing
Search remarketing is a great technique to deliver more personalized messaging to known visitors. Once it has been established that a prospect has visited specific pages on your website, you can begin to feed them more detailed information about programs, events or campus features.
Keep in mind that the first search is usually by a person at the top of the conversion funnel. It is a good marketing technique to offer quality content such as ebooks, webinars or whitepapers in exchange for contact information. If a viewer does not leave information, search remarketing is a great way to re-engage them, and drive them back to your site.
5) Mobile Strategies: The Multi-Screen Journey
Remember that most relationships that you will have with your prospect will span multiple devices. It is extremely important that you first look at your data and begin to establish where your website viewers are coming from.
A study performed by Google in collaboration with Nielsen in 2013 revealed that over 40 percent of all search queries occurred on mobile devices, with many prospective students beginning their journey on smartphones and later switching to desktop or laptop computers. This allows a tremendous opportunity for PPC advertising, with its ability to create messaging tailored specifically to where viewers are, or on which device they are on.
A solid mobile strategy is not only device aware, it also delivers a relevant experience which can include a mobile optimized landing page with easy navigation, short contact forms and embedded video. In addition to PPC, mobile strategies can be created for YouTube video advertising, social advertising and for website specific and in-app display advertising.
The ever changing landscape of digital advertising offers a tremendous opportunity for higher education institutions to connect with, build relationships with and nurture prospects as they embark on the decision making process. By taking advantage of new digital tools and smart PPC strategies, institutions can focus on engaging potential students with relevant information and a fulfilling experience that sets them apart from their competitors, and helps to build a strong and vibrant student community.