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PPC is a type of online advertising where an organization pays a fee each time its ads are clicked. Universities, like other organizations, now pay to have their ads displayed alongside organic search results. Paid search results usually appear above organic results with a small “sponsored” disclaimer.
Most people searching for your institution by name are likely current students, followed by faculty or staff searching for the university as a quick way to navigate to your homepage. This means when your ad appears and a current student or faculty member clicks on it, you still have to pay for the conversion.
The reason your university pays for clicks is to have its web content convince prospective students to apply. So, offer them content that provides a clear overview of the program and a direct call-to-action, like inquiring more about the program.
SEO best practices for higher education.
Though it may seem obvious to distribute your keywords naturally throughout your content, it’s easy to overdo it by stuffing in as many keywords as possible. This keyword cramming not only sacrifices the quality of your content, it’s actually bad for your SEO.
Until recently, it wasn’t necessarily commonplace for universities to have a search strategy. But both students and parents rated college websites as the most influential and reliable recruitment resource when selecting a university, according to the 2019 E-Expectations Report from Ruffalo Noel Levitz, OmniUpdate, CollegeWeekLive, and NRCCUA.
It may seem simple but changing up your ad copy can hugely impact click-through rates. Universities using phrases like “no application fee required” and “GRE not required” in their ads are positioning their unique selling points to stand out and drive clicks.
Each year, millions of student-hopefuls apply to higher education institutions. And with thousands of options to choose from, selecting a university with the best programs and opportunities to meet their goals can be a challenge. This is where search comes into play.
Bidding on “branded” terms means that you bid on your university name. While this is effective for e-commerce businesses attempting to attract traffic away from competitors, it’s not well spent money for universities.
Once you’ve audited your site’s current performance, you can further optimize well-ranking pages and come up with strategies to optimize the poorer ranking pages with more suitable keywords.
2. Keep keyword relevance and intent in mind.
As a university, where do you start? There’s a lot to learn about these multidimensional marketing strategies, but we’ve narrowed it down to some best practices and actionable advice to help you dive into your search journey.
Both these strategies are valuable and can be combined to promote your institution.
Before worrying about keywords in your university’s web content, there are some basic, technical aspects related to your site’s user experience that also affect SEO and rank factor:
Speaking of testing performance, it should be part of your organizational culture to continuously check in with your PPC campaigns to see what keywords, ad copy, and bid strategies do a better job of helping reach your goals.
4. Test and tailor your ad copy.
If you use a tool like Siteimprove Ads, you’ll see that certain keywords are highly competitive and very expensive, such as MBA-related keywords. This may encourage you to bid more on related keywords that help meet your search strategy goals. You can then reduce investments in expensive keywords that don’t deliver value.
Next, use a tool like Siteimprove Keyword Suggestions to brainstorm related words to your value propositions. These tools will show related keywords, long-tail searches (longer and more specific searches), and questions users ask that are linked to your core keywords.
Tools like Siteimprove Ads or Google Ads can provide information about average monthly searches, how competitive a keyword is, and more.
To target the right audience, remember to use specific keywords like “nutrition and dietetics” + “bachelor’s degree”. The more specific and relevant your target keywords, the more likely they’ll reach relevant users at the right moment.
No matter what information you choose to highlight in your ads, test it on your audience. Some digital analytics tools create ad variations by making changes to headlines, calls-to-action, or ad extensions. And some tools automate the rotation of these variations so it’s easy to identify the most effective ad copy combination for increasing clicks.
I am an assistant professor at Mays Business School in Texas A&M University.
I examine the impact of corporate giving and other nonmarket strategies on both firms and society. Specifically, I study the heterogeneity in how firms give and its implication on the strategic benefits of giving. I also examine the social impact of giving, by highlighting the conditions under which giving that is strategically beneficial may not be socially beneficial.
My dissertation and other papers were recognized with many awards, including 2019 Robert J. Litschert Award and 2018 Distinguished Paper Award from the Academy of Management, and the 2018 Outstanding Paper Award from the Annual Conference of Alliance for Research on Corporate Sustainability. My research has been published or forthcoming in the Strategic Management Journal.