5 tactical paid media initiatives to give you a student recruitment advantage
Online advertising for higher education is full of obstacles. Competition is fierce, the price per click is high and turning clicks into applications can be complicated and difficult to track.
With all this in mind, we've compiled a range of tactics you can use to enhance your current paid media activity, to outrun the competition, and extend your student recruitment advantage.
#1 Include Bing in your paid search activity
When Bing launched around a decade ago, it seemed that Microsoft's search engine provided lackluster search results. But times have changed and although Google remains the market leader, Bing's market share is widely underestimated.
A third of the market in the US uses Bing (that's 5 billion searches a year by the way), and 9 percent worldwide. Part of the reason for this could be that many Windows devices come with Bing as the default search engine on browsers.
Some institutions are still deeply embedded in Google search and analytics environments but as a minimum requirement, institutions should be factoring Bing into their analytics and monitoring activity. In particular, you should see who's going after your branded keywords on Bing.
Building on this, universities should also consider allocating a portion of their advertising budget to Bing. Here's why.
- Advertising on Bing is less competitive than Google and typically costs less per conversion. A positive return on investment can be found here.
- Bing has a different demographic profile to Google search and the users are typically older. So although it's a good place to experiment for all major programs Bing can provide really excellent conversion rates for postgraduate programs, MBAs and other courses that attract an older demographic.
- The results delivered by Bing for higher education searches can be richer than on Google, for example, user reviews from Facebook and other platforms are pulled through the right-hand column following a search as well as links to social profiles for institutions.
#2 Experiment with ads on Instagram Stories and Snapchat
The Education Advisory Board (EAB), a Washington HE research and consulting firm, recently undertook a study to test and compare audience reach for ads on Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook as part of the 2019 survey of student communication preferences.
The findings make interesting reading and can be factored into your paid social activity for the upcoming year.
Snapchat was the frontrunner in terms of engagement with teenage prospective students with 16% greater overall reach.
And sponsored Instagram Stories delivered 140% more impressions and a third greater reach than ad content in the Instagram feed. Stories were much more effective too at driving audiences to landing pages than feed-based ads.
If you're not already investing in paid video content on Instagram Stories and Snapchat, now's the time to get experimenting.
#3 Back up your recruitment team's outreach activity with geo-targeted advertising
If your admissions teams are visiting schools and companies or attending recruitment events as part of their outreach activity, this should be supported through paid search and social ad campaigns.
Conversations can lead to follow-up research by prospective students and their supporters, and delivering relevant ad content can, therefore, put you in front of the mind. Campaigns can be time-bound and geo-targeted to the physical locations where the activity is taking place to maximize the return on investment.
Similarly, it's been proven that well-placed ads on social media help increase responses from students to calls to action present in email campaigns.
The integration of paid media initiatives with other recruitment and marketing activity is now imperative.
#4 Build your account structure around specific programs
The days of bidding on general terms should be over for your institution. It's time to avoid phrases like 'bachelor's degree' or 'MBA'. That path leads to extremely high costs and wastage.
The majority of prospective students focus their research on specific programs and the queries that are most effective at conversion concentrate on fields of study since the prospect's intent is more focused.
Each ad group should have a small set of keywords relating to specific programs, paired with ads and landing pages that provide tangible benefits and information the searching student is seeking out.
#5 Implement user behavior targeting initiatives
Targeting prospects with paid media based on their specific online behavior makes a lot of sense. Google Ads enables you to serve tailored ads to people who have visited your institution website, for example. And you can target specific age ranges combined with online behavior traits to deliver unique campaigns to them and drive traffic to specific landing pages.
Similarly, Facebook enables you to combine lookalike, interest and affinity audiences. This enables you to create a pool of users who are significantly more likely to respond positively to your campaigns and click through to landing pages.
Examples include visitors who have engaged with your video campaigns or visited website pages without converting, prospects that have a similar profile to users that typically convert on your site, and those actively searching for programs covered by your institution.
Investing in the right online campaign tactics is vital to convert students
One of the biggest challenges with using social media for student recruitment is measuring the return on investment in terms of conversions due to the multiple engagement and application paths. If your conversion tracking and assessment are not yet mature this should be a priority before making changes to digital advertising.
But there is still time to set up sophisticated analytics and conversion tracking and get your paid media strategy optimized for this academic year. We've only scratched the surface here, but by using these tactics you can continue to develop your advertising efforts to ensure they resonate with this digitally savvy generation.
What are your digital advertising priorities for the new academic year? We'd love to hear.
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