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Four steps to admissions superstardom with Google AdWords

With the growth of non-traditional students, campuses must tailor their communication to each audience. A strategy that enrolls adults must differ from one that enrolls high school students.

According to the National Center of Education Statistics, 38 percent of all students enrolled in higher education are non-traditional. Admissions teams must design the “right” digital marketing strategy in order to recruit adult learners and preserve their institution’s brand. Though digital marketing tools like eMail and personalized landing pages are popular, today, a growing number of marketers use paid search to produce high-quality leads and drive adult recruitment.

Paid search is NOT Search Engine Optimization

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of improving a website’s visibility in a search engine’s search results. Paid search, or CPC/PPC, is typically much faster than SEO and is the process of purchasing ads on search engines to boost website traffic. Successful paid search campaigns can be established and executed within hours, whereas SEO campaigns can take several months to deliver results.

Paid search tends to generate traffic that converts at a higher rate. As a result of ad placement on most search engines, paid search typically attracts serious prospects interested in moving forward within the buying process. The average conversion rate for paid search in 2012 was 8.4 percent.

(Next page: How to realize success)What success looks like

The University of Cumberlands partnered with Hobsons to expand its digital presence and generate qualified leads for a growing online degree program. Based on the university’s goals, Hobsons developed a multi-faceted digital marketing campaign that included a lead generation-focused microsite; hyper-targeted keyword terms; and leveraged the Google Display Network to identify additional outreach opportunities.

In less than a year, the campaign delivered 576 leads (or completed inquiry forms), of which 113 applied and 49 enrolled. With a 19.6 percent conversion rate from inquiry to application and an 8.5 percent conversion rate from inquiry to enrollment, these figures dwarf the inquiries generated with purchased lists (a rate of only 2 to 3 percent) and has helped the university revamp its communication strategy for the coming year.

Four steps to launch your next Google AdWords campaign

Step 1: Google’s free AdWords tools can help turn your campus’ marketing campaign into a student recruitment superstar.

First, launch your campaign in Google, (here’s how), and review your data to ensure your parameters match your goals. Select the campaign you wish to analyze by choosing a substantial amount of data within the campaign’s active date range via the “Campaigns” tab. With a new campaign, I recommend using at least two weeks worth of data for your analysis. Seven days may be appropriate for campaigns with significant history and volume.







Step 2: Use the Google Adwords “Keywords” tab to sort by “average position” (more commonly known as the Google search results page where your ad appears). Select your target keyword and then select average position under the “Filter” tab.

Is your keyword’s average position “above the fold” (higher than position five) for all keywords? If not, you should reconfigure your keyword content. Either raise your bid for the keyword you are targeting or choose a different keyword.






According to Google:
“When customers search on Google, ads can appear at the top of the page, on the side of the page, or on the bottom of the page. Only the highest ranking ads are eligible to show at the top of the page. Your ad’s position on the page is determined by your Quality Score and your bid.”

By optimizing your ads to rank in the fifth position of Google’s search results or better, you will notice an increase in the amount of clicks and your campaign’s click through rate will improve. In turn, Google will reward your efforts with a higher Quality Score and lower Cost Per Click (CPC).

Step 3: Determine which keywords are taking up a disproportionate amount of your campaign’s daily budget. Review keywords by click through rate to determine if page position and keyword bids need adjusting. Generally, if your ad has a low click-through rate, additional adjustments are necessary. Use the keyword filter to sort by “Cost Per Click” and decrease your bid on keywords with high CPC and low conversions.

Step 4: Last but not least, sort your keywords by “Quality Score.” Use “pause” on any keyword with a score of only one or two. This will improve the quality score of your campaign’s ad group and improve results.
From recruitment to enrollment, digital marketing success in admissions requires an iterative approach. A strong strategy includes multiple components and should be revised based on results. These refinements will ensure that you maximize the return on your investment.

Susie Gotschall is a Search Analyst at Hobsons.

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