7 Ways to Boost Your PPC for Higher Education Strategy

7 Ways to Boost Your PPC for Higher Education Strategy

Marketers in the higher education industry live in a complicated world. The job of attracting enrollments, managing advertising budgets and optimizing campaigns for an array of target audiences is challenging. Wouldn’t it be great if their job could be made easier? Enter pay-per-click marketing, in which advertisers pay a fee each time one of their ads is clicked. In other words, PPC for higher education is a way of buying visits to your site rather than attempting to “earn” those visits organically. It has several applications in the digital landscape, including:

  • Search engines: Google, Bing, Yahoo
  • Social media: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter
  • Display advertising: YouTube, mobile apps

As you can see, there’s a lot of opportunity in paid advertising. That’s why we’re enrolling you in PPC university and sharing these seven ways to boost PPC for higher education. Apply these tips to supercharge your education PPC campaign’s return on investment!

Table of Contents
Things to Consider
1. Optimize Your Landing Page
2. Competition Research
3. Be Mobile-Friendly
4. Long-tail or Go Home
5. Content Is Everything
6. Remarketing Is Marketing
7. Test and Optimize
8. Hire an Agency

Let’s dive right into your first lesson. 

Things to Consider in Your PPC for Higher Education Strategy

Paid advertising is an effective way for higher education marketers to only spend money when their advertisement is effective (i.e., it yields a click). PPC also allows for specific targeting based on various parameters for the most effective campaign.

This means that institutions can segment their audiences for various groups they market to regularly, including:

  • Prospective students
  • Incoming students
  • Current students
  • Alumni

So what’s the catch?

The cost of PPC advertising has never been higher for educational institutions. To be at the top of the page on Google, Bing and Yahoo can cost around $60 per click.

For example, the phrase “online bachelor’s degree” in higher education costs $50.44 per click and has a search volume of 14,800 per month. A high intent keyword in higher education, like “online degree in business management,” will cost you $90 per click on Google.

When school students (or parents) begin research to choose a college, the winding road can extend for months. What will it cost you to stay top of mind?

Here’s another thing to consider:

How many clicks does it take for you to actually land a new student? For some colleges and universities, it may take a thousand or more.

When you multiply the PPC, the numerous education keyword possibilities and the long time frame you see why annual budgets can disappear in a few months.

This is why it is important to have a solid higher education marketing strategy in place. You’ll be able to:

  • Clarify your unique brand
  • Develop a search engine optimization plan
  • Build a great website experience
  • Identify key performance indicators

And much more!

1. Optimize Your Landing Page

Optimizing your landing page will help you secure valuable leads to use in your pay-per-click campaign and higher education email marketing campaign.

A landing page is a standalone web page designed with a specific marketing goal, such as capturing leads or encouraging visitors to take a particular action.

For higher education institutions, a landing page might be used to promote a specific degree program, such as a master’s degree in business, or to capture leads from prospective students interested in learning more about the school.

The landing page should be designed to provide a clear and compelling value proposition that speaks directly to the target audience’s needs and desires. It should also have a strong call-to-action that encourages visitors to take the desired action, such as filling out a form or registering for an event.

Additionally, the landing page should be optimized for conversions, meaning it should be designed to encourage visitors to take the desired action as easily and seamlessly as possible. This might involve using clear and concise messaging, including social proof and testimonials, and removing any distractions or barriers that might prevent visitors from converting.

You want to capture information from visitors that will allow you to stay in touch. Offer a valuable piece of information in exchange for their email address. Lead generation is fast-tracked when you keep forms short and to the point. Move the prospect further down the funnel with your follow-up sequence. The journey may flow from prospect to qualified lead, to applicant, to enrolled student.

To maximize PPC for higher education, define and segment your audience. For example, a prospective student is any user who downloads an admission application. You can also segment on factors including age, career interests, social background, and geographic location.

2. Competition Research

Keyword competition in higher education is very high, meaning it could take months to show results. Research speeds up the process. Tools like SpyFu will reveal the keywords other education institutions are using in AdWords.

Keyword research is critical when creating Google Ads in higher education because it helps institutions understand the language and terms that prospective students use when searching for colleges, universities, and programs online. By conducting keyword research, higher education institutions can create more targeted and relevant ads that resonate with their target audience, increase their click-through rates, and ultimately drive more conversions.

When conducting keyword research for Google Ads in higher education, institutions can use tools like Google AdWords Keyword Planner, SpyFu, and AHREFS to identify relevant keywords related to their programs, courses, or degrees. These tools can provide data on search volume, competition, and other metrics that can help institutions make informed decisions about which keywords to target.

For example, if a higher education institution offers an online MBA program, they may use keywords such as “online MBA,” “top MBA programs,” or “MBA degree online.” By using these keywords in their ads, the institution can increase the likelihood that their ads will be displayed to prospective students who are actively searching for these types of programs.

For example, this screenshot taken from Spyfu offers a general overview of competitor performance within Google Ads:

ppc for higher education


Social media ads on platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, and TikTok can help raise awareness for interested or prospective students. Facebook is great for top-of-the-funnel advertising. It can put you on the radar for high intent keywords like “online master’s degree” on Google.

Social media advertising can be a powerful tool for higher education institutions to increase enrollments by reaching a wider audience, using targeted advertising, being cost-effective, experimenting with different ad formats, and measuring results ona daily basis. With billions of active users on social media platforms, institutions have the ability to showcase their programs and campus life to prospective students who may not have discovered them through traditional channels. By using advanced targeting options, institutions can create ads that are tailored to specific audiences, resulting in higher engagement and conversion rates. With the ability to track and optimize campaigns based on advanced analytics, social media advertising offers a cost-effective and measurable way for institutions to achieve their marketing goals and attract the next generation of students.

The following screenshot provides a list of higher education competitors targeting the keyword “online masters degree”:

ppc for higher education

Your ad strategy, content and messaging needs to be tailored to each platform. Engage with your audience by developing a consistent voice, personality and response time for inquiries. As more potential students become familiar with your brand, you will be able to move them into a remarketing (also known as “retargeting”) campaign.

ppc for higher education

3. Be Mobile-Friendly in Your PPC for Higher Education

Gen Z don’t just use mobile phones to keep in touch with their peers. Their mobile is the constant accessory for everything they deem important. More than 70% of college-bound students use a mobile device to look at websites. Your recruiting needs to be mobile-first to reach students conveniently and effectively.

Many colleges are using mobile apps to connect with prospective students via social media, and integrating elements of gamification, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR).

Students want an instant response and sometimes seek information outside of office hours. To address the demand, chatbots and voice assistants are becoming increasingly popular. Some universities program common questions that students ask into chatbots to provide conversational answers 24/7.

ppc for higher education

4. Long-tail or Go Home

Not all keywords are created equal. Long-tail keywords are those three and four keyword phrases that are very specific to what you are selling. For example:

  • Short, general keyword: Nursing programs
  • Long-tail, specific keyword: Nursing programs in Miami

You can think of “longtail” from two perspectives. The first is the angle of less targeted words. The second angle is longer search queries that are more specific. They show levels of search intent that can improve the effectiveness of your PPC targeting.

So, how does one go about finding long-tail keywords? There are several ways, but here are a few methods that pass with flying colors:

  • Type in your general keyword on Google search and see suggested content

ppc for higher education


  • Use keyword search tools such as Google Keyword Planner, Keyword Everywhere, Moz, Answer The Public, AHREFs etc.
  • Mine your analytics to see what users are organically searching for

You don’t want clicks from low-quality leads. It takes time to identify the keywords that align with your strategy and programs. In addition, you need to create a bidding strategy that drives conversion while maximizing your campaign budget.

Ineffective PPC strategies can wreck your campaign budget quickly. If you’re not advertising competitors will reap the benefits. Students you may have reached will end up at other colleges and universities.

5. Content Is Everything 

Content marketing is a strategic approach that compliments PPC advertising in higher education. If you can promote your institution’s latest blog in your PPC ads, you will be able to drive traffic to your website. And if your blog is following SEO best practices, it may get a boost in the rankings. 

Promoting content presents a valuable opportunity to post comments, utilize keywords and ramp up engagement with your target audience. Optimize your PPC advertising by linking your blog and content. 

What kind of content should you be creating and sharing? 

This all depends on your target audience. 

Prospective students are searching for reasons to apply or enroll in your institution. Blogs about what your school has to offer (extracurriculars, educational programs, school spirit, notable accolades) will make you more attractive to a potential student. 

Always look to create valuable and relevant content. The keywords you want to rank for can be used in blogs, videos, and images. This helps build authority, trust, and social proof. You may attract backlinks from other high authority websites which will improve your position on search results. 

Pacific54 uses Google Keyword Planner to conduct research for our higher education clients. Once we’ve found keywords with low competition and high search volume we’d like to rank for, we create topics around them. 

Our content creation process is centered around a content calendar in which we organize our client topics based on the due date, offering a list of important things to cover for each blog. This sheet also includes possible titles, the focus keyword for each blog, the specific client, additional resources/things to note, etc. We separate tabs based on month or quarter. 

A content calendar is a great way to keep your higher education content organized, track progress, and to ensure nothing is being repeated. 


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