Building Your Digital Marketing Portfolio: Paid Search (PPC)


By: Chris Mahoney Apr 10, 2018

This post is Part 1 of our series on “Building a Digital Marketing Portfolio for Enrollment Growth.” Want more info on higher education PPC marketing? Michael Flores, CMO of EducationDynamics has detailed all you need to know in the eBook: Essentials of Pay-Per-Click Marketing

Not All Prospects Are Generated Equally

Paid Search is mighty. It’s likely to be the most competitive channel in any digital marketing mix, largely because a lot of schools use it. Although PPC leads might cost 3 times as much as display ads, prospects from paid search may enroll at an average 4 times higher rate. That’s due to the level of intent shown by prospects first searching for your brand or degrees, and then also taking the second step of reading and clicking on your advertisement. A recent study* shows that 6% of all search clicks go to paid ads. That’s a very big number considering Google alone now processes over 3 billion searches per day. These clicks provide even more value thanks to the positive feedback loop generated with tracking and improving your ads using a strong PPC strategy. Best of all, Paid Search doesn’t just generate leads. It also serves as a branding mechanism to strengthen your overall position in the market. So, you’re increasingly relevant among competitors. One of the big bonuses of Paid Search is how much information it brings to your business. PPC isn’t just about clicks. For instance, this user intent we talk about. If you’re at all unclear about what your users want, PPC can get you those answers through looking at their search queries. This can get you highly targeted traffic as well as the information you need to optimize so your site can compete.

How to Stay Competitive in Higher Education PPC

User intent is crucial to help maintain your competitive edge. That’s why you must implement follow-through strategies with the intent information you gain from PPC. One great example is A mere glance at some Higher Ed numbers show what a hypercompetitive marketing channel it can be. Enrollment rates sit between 3%-6% and Google AdWords first page bid estimates are more than $45 in this category. For instance:

  • Online colleges: $66.61
  • Online bachelors degree: $53.96
  • Online masters degree: $53.72
Outcomes Required for a Successful Campaign
61% of students chose first school to get back to them

1) Landing Page Alignment

A resilient and impactful Pay Per Click Strategy doesn’t just keep click costs down. Those clicks also work harder for your business with a strong PPC Strategy in your toolkit. That’s why it’s crucial to make the most of your landing pages. Use your territory to its fullest potential. That means aligning your content with your ideal user’s intent. They should feel like your page addresses their interest directly and compels them to stick around. In fact, keep your primary objective in mind. You want them to engage with either an inquiry or submission of some kind.

2) Engage Users FAST – Be Bold

Make the most impact fast with a mobile first approach. Potential students simply can’t tear themselves away from their phones. Approximately 80% of online actions occur on Mobile Devices. So, don’t make reaching them more challenging than it needs to be. Reach them in their comfort zone. Like anything worth having, you’ve got to earn those clicks and this is one crucial way to do it. Why is FAST so important? Adult students make their decision to attend a school quickly. In fact, 80% of online college students choose where to apply in eight weeks or less. Not only that, 61% choose the school that responds back to them after their first inquiry.**

3) Stay Relevant

Relevance remains the most effective way to cultivate higher Quality Scores and thus positively influence page rank and/or CPC for your ads on search engines. But is it really as simple as it sounds? Well, it’s all about listening to your users, so sound actually does play a critical role when it comes to relevance. Stay relevant to your users by hearing them out. For instance, you can monitor what ads they click through and what entices them on your landing page. Listen and learn to these results and then make that information work for you by tweeking your ads and Landing Page. Establishing this circle of listening, learning, and improving to stay ever more relevant can make all the difference in your Quality Scores.

4) Establish Baseline KPIs and Target CPX

Target CPX means payment of action rather than just payment of reach. You don’t just want to reach potential students. That’s because, ultimately, you want to capture more than a moment of their attention. They need to take an action of an inquiry or form submission to serve a true value. It’s only then that your business sees a cost benefit. Thus if your KPIs are connected to these more meaningful click-through outcomes, you can truly measure the value of your PPC strategy and keep track of how it’s working for your goals. This means tracking rates such as Click-Through to Inquiry Conversion Rate, Application Rates, Enrollment Rates, Speed-to-Inquiry, and many more. These are the actions that matter most. So, it makes sense to place them at the forefront of your strategic learning and KPI priority list. This high level work requires expertise and that’s where the hard part comes into play. But A strong partner can alleviate these inherent PPC challenges. It can get costly and time consuming to stay competitive in this often cut-throat culture. Paid Search may even strain resources and budgets if your operation’s on the small side. But even the smallest contender can confidently step into the ring of fire with a knowledgeable partner. Let Education Dynamics show you how to make it a winner’s circle.

Want More Info? This is just the beginning. Find out more … such as:

  • What percentage of your portfolio is best served by PPC?
  • How can you best utilize your resources?
  • What’s the best proportion for all your marketing channels?
Want more on higher ed PPC? Michael Flores, CMO of EducationDynamics has detailed all you need to know in the eBook: Essentials of Pay-Per-Click Marketing
Download the eBook

References: * Conductor, 2017: ** Online College Students Report, Aslanian Market Research: