What is paid search Paid search or search engine marketing (SEM) should not be confused with search engine optimization (SEO). In SEO you craft quality content to rank organically on search engines. With paid search, you bid on ads that appear above organic results on Google, Bing, Yahoo! Or other search engines. As we’ll discuss later, quality is still essential, but it’s not the only factor that determines whether and where your ad will be seen. Your visibility on the page also depends on how much you’re willing to spend to get a lead. Paid search follows one of two pricing structures: pay-per-click and cost-per-impression (the price per 1,000 impressions). PPC is more common. We could write an entire eBook about PPC marketing, and in fact we have, but for now, what you need to know is that strategic PPC advertising should be a part of your marketing strategy. Here’s why.
Why use paid search for higher education?
You’ve heard the conventional wisdom that social media is rising in prominence and people are starting to tune out advertising. This might suggest that you should focus your advertising content strategy on social. After all, social is where students hang out. Facebook has 1.47 billion daily active users as of June 2018. That’s a lot of eyes on your ads. But in reality, allotting at least some of your marketing dollars to paid search is a better idea now than ever before. Students have better recall of search engine ads than ads on any other platform according to the Online College Students, 2018 report. Thirty-one percent of students said they remembered seeing search ads, while only 25% said they remembered ads on Facebook or other social media sites.
When you consider that Google processes an average of 40,000 search queries per second, (that’s 3.5 billion a day and 1.2 trillion a year) you start to get a sense of the opportunity paid search represents. And that’s just Google. It doesn’t take into account other search engines. Imagine what you could do by showing up in even just a tiny fraction of those searches.
Paid search is focused lead generation
Paid search pushes students to your institution’s website, which is exactly where you want them. According to the Online College Students, 2018 report, 41% of students say the school’s website was their primary source of information about a college. Internet searches were a close second at 34%.
The other advantage of paid search for higher education is that you can push students to very specific areas of your website. Organic search is likely to land your potential lead on the home page or perhaps on a blog post. These pages have plenty of hyperlinks and information that could distract your reader. Many leads are lost to distractions.
On the other hand, paid search pushes students to a landing page. There, they have one option, fill out the contact form There are no links or sidebars to distract them. Your conversion rate will likely be much higher.
For this reason, our chief marketing officer actually recommends paying for PPC ads targeting keywords for which you’re already ranking. Paying for these ads has the potential to bring in significantly more leads than relying on organic search alone.
Paid search doesn’t have to be expensive
The biggest objective we hear is that paid search is expensive. Yes, paid search costs money, but with smart strategies, you can make back your investment 10 times over.
If your strategy for getting seen is to keep increasing bid amounts, you’re going to spend a lot of money with minimal return. Increasing bids is a blunt tool. You can end up in a bidding war that causes ROI to plummet.
Meanwhile, your quality score is a major factor in the likelihood that you’ll win your bid and get displayed in a search. And more importantly, it’s one you have a lot of control over.
A more effective way to improve your return on investment is to improve the quality of your ads. Make sure they are relevant to the search being performed and make them as engaging and useful as you possibly can.
Ready to get started with paid search?
Paid search can be a cost-effective way to get your message seen and remembered by students. At EducationDynamics digital marketing teams are experts in paid search for higher education. We focus on earning you as many qualified leads as possible as cost efficiently as possible. Want to learn how? Get in touch with us or download this eBook from our CMO.