Structured Snippets: Stand Out from the Competition
By: Christopher Tashjian Sep 12, 2016
As marketers in higher education, we’re always looking for new ways to stand out from the competition. Thankfully, a new set of ad extensions from Google AdWords known as structured snippets can help you do just that. But before I get into exactly what structured snippets are and how to use them, allow me to briefly talk about Google AdWords and why it’s an important addition to your marketing stack.
Google’s bread and butter Google is synonymous with the Internet itself.
Processing over 3 billion search queries per year, the search giant has become the gateway to the World Wide Web for most consumers today. However, what’s not known by most, is how Google actually makes money. Google monetizes these searches by displaying targeted advertising based on the queries entered into the search bar found at Google.com In fact, nearly $67 billion of Google’s $74 billion in annual revenue is derived from its advertising business, according to Statista. With so many people using Google to search for what they need including their education, it makes sense that a lot of higher education marketers have started using it for advertising as well. Enter “online degree” “online bachelor degree” or “online masters degree” into Google’s Keyword Planner tool and you’ll get back a page that looks like this:
Notice the average monthly searches for those Keywords – pretty impressive right? Well, you’re not the only person who thought so because if you look to the right, at the column titled: Competition you’ll see each of those Keywords scored as High. This High competition score is also reflected in the Suggested bid column. Suggested bid means that if you would like to be part of this auction for any of the keywords listed, you must be willing to spend up to $30 per click for your ads to show up on the first page. That sounds like a lot of money to spend per click – so why does it cost so much? Because Google advertising works! Google advertising is based on an auction model; the price for each keyword is determined by the demand for that keyword. The above keywords are in high demand because the marketers paying for them are seeing good results and thus are willing to pay more per click. So, let’s say you’ve decide that you would like to target these keywords too. How do you stand out from the ‘High’ competition?
Structured snippets may be one way to do it.
What are structured snippets?
Structured snippets are a form of Ad extensions. They are used to describe your school’s degrees or programs and provide more room than is allowed in the traditional expanded text ads.
Not familiar with what an ad extension is? Here’s a short video which explains them:
Ad extensions are designed to give your searchers a better understanding of what they are clicking on while also giving the advertiser:
increased real estate on the search engine results page
increased quality score and click-through-rate
To make setup easier, Google has ‘structured’ the snippets to include 12 default header values, including 2 specifically for higher education – Courses and Degree Programs.
The prep work
Before enabling structured snippets in your AdWords account, there are two things you should do.
Mine your search query data to identify the most common searched terms.
Review your course catalog to identify program and course titles.
Here’s how to mine your search query data:
Step 1. Login to your Google AdWords account.
Step 2. Click on the Campaigns tab.
Step 3. Select the Campaign you would like to apply structured snippets too.
Step 4. Click on the Keywords tab within the campaign.
Step 5. Click on the Search terms button under the Keyword tab.
Step 6. Sort the data by Impressions.
Step 7. The column on the left will be the most searched terms for that campaign.
Step 8. Take note of the terms that searchers are entering as these will become the basis for the values used in your structured snippets.
Your mined search queries page will look something like this. With the most popular search terms on the left and the impression data (sorted in descending order) on the right.
How to review your course catalog:
Your course catalog is a great resource full of long tail keywords that can help you build your keyword list. Your goal should be to match course titles and descriptions within your catalog with the most searched and relevant keyword data you identified while mining your search queries above. These matches will become the basis for the values used in your structured snippets.
After you’ve done your ‘Prep Work’ setup is simple and can be applied to the account, campaign, and ad-group levels of your AdWords account. Here’s a quick guide on how to setup structured snippets on the campaign level (Remember: your ad groups will inherit ad extensions from the campaign that they are a part of).
Step 1. Navigate to the Campaign you’d like to add extensions to.
Step 2. Click the Ad extensions tab, then choose structured snippet extensions from the View: drop-down menu.
Step 3. Click +Extension, then choose +New structured snippet.
Step 4. Set your default language and then choose a header (Course or Degree) from the dropdown menu.
Step 5. Review the terms that you identified from your above ‘Prep Work’. Enter at least 3 values per snippet.
As you can see, we’ve been able to add two full extra lines of SERP real estate by using structured snippets properly. You read that correctly – two extra lines of real estate! We can use this extra real estate to list both Degrees and Course snippets for a given program, which not only makes the ad more relevant (increasing quality score) but also ensures the ad takes up more of the searcher’s screen (increasing click-through-rate). And while structured snippets will not make or break your marketing campaign, as part of a complete higher education marketing plan it can mean the difference between reaching your enrollment goals and not. Note: I’ve tried using the service and type categories to fit in other lines as well, in an effort to describe our client’s athletic programs, locations, career outlooks, etc.—most were disapproved. But I suggest testing anything and everything you can think of; worst outcome is it gets disapproved.
Some things to remember
While, setup is simple and extension approval only takes about 1-2 hours (depending on the size of your account and number of snippets being approved), there are some important details you need to know about the structured snippet extension in Google AdWords:
These extensions are similar to callout extensions. They are not clickable; they just provide more information for the searcher and make your ad standout.
You must choose from the 12 predefined header values. To help you, there are headers specifically for Degree and Courses. Google is targeting us – the higher education paid search marketers.
You can add up to 10 values that fall under the header. Google recommends 4 as the minimum and each value has a character limit of 25. (I recommend creating multiple sets with 4-5 values in each).
The same policy requirements that apply for sitelinks and callout extensions apply for structured snippets. Your values must fall in line with the theme of your header.