Niche Digital Marketing 101
Enrollment Insights Blog

Search Ads – Digital Marketing 101

Part of the 101 series, an introduction to various topics for enrollment marketers.

What are Search Ads?

A search ad is a type of ad that appears above and below organic results on a search engine results page (SERP) such as Google or Bing. When using search ads, you bid on a keyword or group of keywords relevant to what you’re promoting by setting a daily budget and a maximum cost-per-click (CPC) you are willing to spend. Keywords can be any words or phrases that describe the product or service you are advertising. Depending on how similar or relevant your keywords are to the term a user is searching for, Google will determine whether your ad will show up. Since multiple advertisers can bid on the same keywords, Google will use your CPC as your bid amount and your ad relevance to determine this. Keep in mind, when you set a CPC, you give Google the maximum amount you are willing to spend per click. Most of the time, you will be charged less than the amount you set (varying from auction to auction). You can also adjust your CPC anytime. Ad relevance refers to how relevant your ad is to the search a user performs. The more relevant the ad, the more likely it is to show up.

How to Set Up Search Ads

Keywords are the most important component of search ads. As you bid on more specific and relevant keywords you are more likely to reach your target audience and pay lower CPCs. Bidding on loosely-relevant or broad keywords can often be cost prohibitive or show your ad to a user that is not necessarily in your target audience. You can also set negative keywords for your campaign. These are the terms you don’t want to be associated with your ads i.e. when a user searches for these terms your ad will never appear. Adding these will help you further narrow down your targeting and avoid reaching users who are not in your target audience. 

*Tip: Avoid bidding on broad and branded keywords i.e. your school name or a term like “school” or “college” without setting a remarketing audience. This is not efficient as users searching specifically for your school will navigate to your site regardless, through organic search results. Moreover, by doing this you are likely to reach your current students and families instead of prospects who are likely to convert. 

All search ads are text ads. They consist of three headline fields and two description fields. You should use these fields to convey your messaging, highlight something about your school or call out an upcoming event or deadline. You also have an option to use more efficient responsive text ads. These are combinations of headlines and descriptions you enter, which Google will then use to assess which combination performs the best, and therefore optimize the performance of your campaign. In addition to headline and description fields, you have an option to add ad extensions to your ads. These allow you to include additional information to your ad such as phone number, address or any additional text or links. These give users more information about your school, increase your ad visibility and are likely to generate more user interactions.

Making sure your ad copy is relevant to the audience you are trying to reach goes without saying. Additionally, keep in mind that using the same or similar terms in your ad copy as the ones you’re bidding on will increase the likelihood of your ad to appear. Including a CTA (Call To Action) in your ad copy such as ‘Learn More’ or ‘Enroll Now’ is also a good strategy to consider, giving users a glimpse of what they should expect when they click on your ad. 

Why Use Search Ads?

If your goal is to increase brand awareness, search ads are a good way to boost your school’s visibility. Not every user that sees your ad will click on it, but the ad will help ensure they keep your school top of mind as they are searching for schools and particularly as they are searching for things relevant to your school. Additionally, running search ads is a good way to generate traffic to your school’s website, whether it’s to your ‘Learn More’ page where new users can familiarize themselves with your school or to the higher value pages such as your admissions or visit page.

Most importantly, search ads can also help you achieve your conversion-oriented goals such as generate leads, get more campus visitors, or even increase a number of applications. They allow you to target high-intent users when they are actively engaged in the search process. These users are more likely to take an action, move further down the funnel and ultimately convert. 

Search Ads With Niche

Niche runs search ads to prospects that have signaled interest in your school. Our proprietary data allows us to expand your reach to a broader pool of searches you aren’t able to reach on your own. We are able to reach a user who we know is currently searching for colleges/K12 schools and is interested in a college/school like yours. These are the people who have engaged with your profile, competitor profiles or performed relevant searches on Niche. By default, we also exclude your brand terms to ensure we are not targeting your current students or families. 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.

Lana Bogdanov is a Digital Marketing Coordinator at Niche, managing traditional and for-profit college clients' digital marketing campaigns.