The Essentials of Pay-Per-Click Marketing in Higher Ed – Part Three: Own Your Brand


By: Michael Flores Jul 26, 2017

If you’d like to learn more about how EducationDynamics manages our schools’ marketing campaigns, download the recent webinar Managing Your Digital Marketing Portfolio: Optimizing Your Marketing Mix for Enrollment Growth.

Our Pay-Per-Click Marketing five-part blog series distills the EducationDynamics approach to Paid Search. These are the practices that put us consistently #1 in Auction Insights for EDU. You might like some concepts and you may disagree with some. Either way, this overview will help demystify PPC for you, and aid in making better decisions with your media spend moving forward. To dig in deeper on each topic in our five sections you can download the full eBook: The Essentials of PPC Marketing in Higher Ed now!.

Part Three: Own Your Brand

Imagine you have the #1 position for your school name, Example University, an achievement in itself. Theoretically you could thus obtain 35% or so of all queries for your school name. If you have solid meta descriptions or delineate the SERP (Search Engine Results Page) with descriptive sitelinks, you might also capture up to 52% of the clicks every time someone searches Example University. Because of this, many potential clients don’t bid on their own brand terms. Why should I pay for that, they ask, when I am getting it for free? They’re getting maybe half of the available clicks for free. But what about the other 48% or even 65% of clicks on the page? If you’re not getting them, someone else is. Worse still, you may lose your most valuable clicks to a competitor. The simplest solution to this is simply bid on your own brand terms. Key Takeaway: Bid on multiple variations of your own school’s brand, even when you have the #1 organic position.

“Permanently Closed”

It’s obvious why you might want to do this, once you realize that a 52% clickthrough rate on your #1 organic listing is still giving away half of the clicks. In addition, you can better control messaging in ads than with Google Plus listings or consumer-facing communications scavenged from your meta. We had a client who, before working with EducationDynamics, had a giant Google Plus listing taking over the side of their version of Example University. The listing said “permanently closed.” Who knows how much business they gave up on queries around their own brand as a result?

Separately, all clicks are not created equal

Imagine the kind of page that will rank best for a #1 SEO listing. It’s likely your school’s homepage. If your school is anything like most of our clients, your organic homepage will have all kinds of things like giant image sliders. There’s likely useful information for potential students, such as how to pay for school, an “about us” section along with program and faculty profiles. In the industry, we call any such options to click around your homepage (or other navigation) “escape routes.” YOU DO NOT WANT POTENTIAL LEADS TO ESCAPE, especially traffic you paid to capture. Let’s benchmark conversion rates at 25% and the value of a lead at $100 (possibly more or less than your actual stats). If your homepage is littered with escape routes, you may be lucky to obtain six potential students for every 100 visitors. Here’s an example comparison to generally similar populations with 10,000 visitors:

 Number of VisitsConversion RateLeadsLead ValueTotal Value
Paid Search Landing Page10,00025%2,500$100$250,000

If 10,000 people look for Example University in this illustration and visit your homepage, you could stand to make about $60,000 in value. But minus escape routes—and if one escalates conversion rate and makes the lead form fill-in the only thing to do on the page—that number jumps to $250,000. The important thing to remember is that these are the same people. In both cases they’re searchers who seek Example University on Google. In one case, you get to keep a quarter of them and in the other you throw away 94%.

Align Interests… with yourself

This is not to say that you shouldn’t have a homepage with lots of useful information about your school or other resources to help students pick the right school. But to drive people to those kinds of resources, paying good money is unnecessary. If your objective is lead generation and ultimately tuition revenue, align interests with yourself. In this example you should probably be willing to pay anywhere up to $189,999.99 for that otherwise organic traffic. You’re better off paying for traffic you would have theoretically gotten for free. That’s because the value per click is more than four times the value of your homepage traffic for the same searchers. On a Max CPC basis, your own keywords are worth at least a $19 bid. An added bonus – it’s unlikely you actually get charged $19 if your Quality Scores are high. And why wouldn’t they be? People are looking for Example University and literally no website on earth is better positioned to deliver them advertising and content around that than you. And for the complete guide to maximizing performance in PPC Marketing, download our free ebook here.