Paid Digital Advertising for Higher Ed

While higher ed doesn’t exactly have a reputation for adapting quickly to change, evidence that institutions are aware of and adapting to the expectations of students is seen in the lauded annual Ruffalo Noel Levitz E-Expectations Report. The report noted that 34% of seniors and 43% of juniors have clicked on a college’s ad online. These students are more engaged, according to the report, in that they are 10% more likely to have visited a college Facebook page and 10% more likely to have viewed a college site on a mobile device.

Schools that are interested in starting online advertising efforts should take some important preliminary steps to make sure they make the most of their advertising budget and end up with actionable data.

Quick research on Kissmetrics quickly provide a beginner with some definite first steps.

As I’ve previously noted, step one in a SEO strategy is creating a keyword list, including important long-tail keywords. Using tools like Google’s Keyword Planner tool, you can the words that your customers are using to find institutions like yours, not necessarily the highest-traffic head keywords.

Where to begin

You can pay for online ads a lot of places, but given the dominance of digital advertising giants like Google and Facebook, I’d start there. Google has a range of resources for those who are just starting out in their understanding of understanding web tracking from their Analytics Academy all the way up to certifications in AdWords, Analytics, and Video Advertising.

Facebook similarly has a courses on advertising best practices, etc. I took their “Reporting & Analytics Learning Path” course this summer and learned more about the business’ thoughts on their own advertising.

For the first time I can recall, the recommendations in the 2015 version include a direct call for colleges to invest in digital advertising.

“There are enough students clicking on paid interactive ads on Google and Facebook that campuses should use these cost-effective advertising methods.”
On a related note, there’s also a call for a deeper look at the actions of your website visitors.”Make sure you capture key data through web analytics, email open and click rates, SEO rankings, and other data points that help you measure the success of your efforts.”
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About Geoff Campbell

Geoff Campbell is an Assistant Director, Communications & Marketing at American University.

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