Optimizing Education Search Marketing Campaigns – Digital Marketing 201

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Niche Presents: Digital Marketing 201

Part of the 201 series, a deeper dive into various topics for enrollment marketers.

What Does Optimizing A Campaign Mean?

Paid search campaigns on Google can be a powerful resource when marketing your school or organization. On their own, they can generate leads, traffic, and gain the attention of your audience. However, like most marketing efforts, there are ways to tweak and edit your paid search campaigns to get optimal performance. When “optimizing” search campaigns, you are simply refining the campaign you have already created to serve a stronger audience, cut cost, improve metrics, or maybe a combination of goals. While there is not a “one-size-fits-all” solution to properly optimize every campaign, there are various levers to manipulate for better performance. We’ll share tips to help you get the most out of your search marketing budget.

What To Optimize

Audiences and Demographics

It is always important to know who you’re serving ads to and whether or not they are the right group. The first thing to check is that the audience you have created or selected fits your ad(s). Just like you wouldn’t want to advertise snow boots to someone in Florida, you also wouldn’t want to show your ads to someone who has no need for your school or service. 

If your audiences happen to be too small and your ads aren’t showing or have low clicks and impressions, you can always create additional audiences. One option available is the detailed demographics that Google offers allowing you to reach a broader audience (best practices would involve targeting the demographics on these audiences because they are normally very large). You could also use the similar audiences option which takes your preexisting audience and finds people to serve your ad who have similar interests. 

You can further target a group by selecting or negating specific demographics as audience members. The four key demographic features Google offers include: age, gender, parental status, and household income. These are incredibly helpful modifiers because while your audience may generally fit the mold of your perfect customer, you can drill down even further to serve a group that is more likely to convert.

Landing Pages 

When creating your ads it is also incredibly important to consider where you are sending the user once they click. Does your page work and load properly? Does the content on the page relate to the ad you’re showing? Can the page be easily navigated? If your ads are showing on mobile devices, is your website responsive? These are all incredibly important as bounce rates can impact your accounts performance levels. 

A few easy ways to evaluate your landing page performance would be to see how long your average session duration is, ensuring that your bounce rates are at a stable number, and use goals to track the users’ journey. 

Budget Adjustments

What you spend on your paid search campaigns can greatly affect their performance. Not spending enough can prohibit your ads from showing, while spending too much could drive your cpc (cost per click) sky high. Determining your daily budget, max cpc, and bid adjustments can help you reach your goals within a spending range that aligns with your budget. 

Changing your daily budget will allow for an entire campaign to spend more or less throughout the day (this includes every ad unless adjusted otherwise). Changing your max cpc will impact the specific ad the cost is associated with. This gives you the opportunity to raise the amount you are willing to spend on ads that are performing or lower the spend on ads that are not doing as well. Rather than impact the entire campaign as the daily budget would, this gives you individualized power. 

A bid adjustment allows you to increase or decrease spend across various options on the platform.  You can adjust specific audiences, demographics, locations, times, and devices. The adjustment is done on a percentage scale. Setting an adjustment allows Google to raise or lower your max cpc to be X% higher or lower than what you have set. This is a great option if you want to spend more on specific cities or countries, know that mobile leads to higher conversion, or have seen poor performance in the early hours of the morning. Within Google Ads you have the ability to make all of those adjustments and more to better suit the goals of your campaigns.

Copy and Keywords

When driving down the highway, you often won’t stop to think about what you saw unless it was super applicable to you, right? Google search ads have a fairly similar concept. If the copy of the ad isn’t relevant to the person you are showing it to, they will most likely continue scrolling past without giving it a second thought. Writing ads that are compelling/relatable to the audience you’re serving can make or break your ad performance.

 

Using the right keywords can also have a significant impact on who sees your ad. Back to the boots ad referenced earlier, if someone was looking for a swimsuit you wouldn’t want your ad for snow boots to pop up. Targeting the right keywords is important as it guides prospective students or their families to your ads. 

It is also important to note that the “right keywords” normally do not involve your own school or organization name. Generally, people that are already searching for your name know that you exist. Bidding on yourself can be cost prohibitive and cause you to spend extra dollars on parents or students that were already coming to your site. Opposingly, bidding on your competitors’ names can also lead to high spend with low results. The people searching for your competitors are normally searching them for a reason. Similarly to bidding on yourself, your ad(s) showing could again lead to high costs and low conversion rates.

On the flip side of using the right keywords, there is also importance in negating keywords. There are times when certain keywords that are similar to what you are targeting may eat up some of your budget while drawing an audience that isn’t actually interested in what you’re advertising. Creating a list of negative keywords will prevent your ads from showing in instances where searches will never be applicable or could result in poor traffic. 

Location Modifications

Since Google serves users worldwide, their ad platform is no different. Unless you specify in the location targeting section of your ads account, your ads have the potential to show to anyone around the globe that fits your audience and/or demographic specifications. While this could be positive if you are looking to acquire students from a different country or city, this could also prove to be the opposite if you are hoping to target specific regions.

 

To focus on specific countries, cities, towns, or zip codes you have the ability to target by location. If you are looking for a larger or smaller vicinity you can also target by radius. 

Ad Schedule

Just like there may be certain locations you want to target or avoid, the same goes for time. When addressing your ad schedule, you have the opportunity to increase your bid adjustments during certain peak hours or decrease your bid adjustments when you see poor performance. 

From entire days down to 15-minute increments, your account’s schedule gives you direct control over when may or may not be best for you to advertise. If your ads lead to a lengthy application page, you may want to avoid the early hours of the morning. Most people scrolling through at 2am generally aren’t looking to write essays and fill out forms. Keeping your target student or parent in mind when adjusting your schedule can help guide the right crowd to your ads at the right time.  

When To Optimize

There is never a wrong time to optimize your campaign. The goal of doing so is to strengthen what your Google Ads account is already doing. If it is underperforming or not meeting the goals that you had originally set, yes, optimizing can be a great way to strengthen your ads and campaigns. When an audience is not converting, optimizing the demographics or targeting could lead to better performance. If your bounce rates tend to be higher, reevaluating the ad’s landing page and the ad schedule can help in drawing the right people, at the right time, to the right page. Optimization is also an option if your account is doing well because there’s a fairly good chance that it could be doing even better. 

One thing to note when optimizing your campaign is that there could be too much of a good thing. What do we mean by that? If you were to adjust your account to the point where only a select few people may see your ad,  there is a fairly solid chance that you will get conversions. However, you have to keep in mind that you may also be hindering your ads from showing to people that may be interested. Just like everything, moderation is key. Starting with a few tweaks and allowing for some time to pass before making additional changes will allow you to see what changes truly optimized your account.

Campaign Optimization At Niche

At Niche, we have an entire team dedicated to creating, running, and optimizing digital marketing campaigns across various platforms using our powerful remarketing audience. With our focus on families and students looking for k12 schools and colleges, our optimization tactics are tailored to help you reach the right audiences. If you’re interested in learning more you can request a demo of our products

Why is Niche Remarketing So Powerful?

We are able to ensure your ads are targeted to prospects that have signaled interest in your school, similar schools, or performed relevant searches on our site. We also make sure to serve your ads at the right time. Our ads are targeted to prospects while they’re actively engaged in the school search process, introducing your school during this critical period.

Courtney Camp

I grew up north of Pittsburgh and moved to the city for college at Duquesne to study Entrepreneurship and Marketing. After living Downtown for four years, I stayed in the city and have worked in various marketing capacities spanning from social media and email marketing to paid search analysis and implementation. Outside of work, I love exploring the city for a new coffee shop or place to eat (favorites include Dianoia’s or Gaucho but I can’t pick just one). I also spend a lot of my time running or coaching at [solidcore] and F45!
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