All posts by Aaron Schrock

5 Google AdWords Optimization Strategies for EDU

At Converge, we work to connect right-fit prospective students with stellar institutions. Search Engine Marketing (SEM) on AdWords allows us to show relevant ads to prospects searching for a course, program or college. It is important to make regular optimizations for search campaigns a priority as performance can change based on a variety of factors, such as seasonality, day of week/time of day, competitionthe variables are nearly endless. Using historical data is another invaluable way to gain insight into what has been performing well and what hasn’t.


We’ve learned a few tricks from managing and optimizing search campaigns for colleges and universities, MBA and graduate degrees and a wide variety of certificate programs. Here are some helpful optimization tips to keep in mind when you’re working in AdWords:



1. Utilizing Labels


Google AdWords best practice is to run between three to five ads per ad group. When testing out a variety of ads, labels make it easier to visualize and evaluate the performance of ad copy and messaging.  


Firstly, begin by setting up the labels for your ads which is located right beneath the ‘Columns’ drop down. From there, I recommend creating labels for each of your messaging themes and then assigning the relevant label for each ad.  



Once this is done, you can review the ad copy performance by going to the ‘Dimensions’ tab and selecting ‘Labels – Ad’ option under the ‘View’ dropdown.  



2. Customer Match


I recently attended a Google’s SEAL Mastery Series 2017, which discussed leveraging your customer lists in search campaigns, similarly to how you would with your remarketing lists.  


Customer Match is a great way to utilize GRE, GMAT, CRM and inquiry lists. It’s also an effective way for institutions to bid more aggressively to secure optimal ad placement for a specific list of individuals in an increasingly competitive marketplace. Note: Google does require a minimum of 1,000 emails in the customer match list.  


To get started, begin by going to the ‘Audiences’ tab and clicking the red targeting button. Select the interests and remarketing box, open the ‘Select Category’ dropdown, select the ‘Customer email lists’ and then select the email lists you want to employ.



Once the customer match lists have been selected, you can place your bid adjustments based on the current CPC and amount of bandwidth you have based on your projected break-even cost per lead.



3. Staggering your dayparting, even if you’re showing ads all day


Even if you are running your ads 24/7, setting up your ad scheduling into blocks or by hour is a great way to gain insight on what days of the week and times of the day individuals are most receptive to advertising.  


The example below shows how you would go about staggering your ad scheduling to cover all times of day, while allowing you to place bid adjustments in four-hour increments.  



4. Layering on individual city, county and state targeting


If you’re looking to target larger areas by county, DMA or state, look to stagger in areas that fall within your geo-target market to get a better idea of where your ads are performing more effectively.


In the example below, the institution is looking to capture traffic for the entire United States. We look to gather performance data for each state, so we can place bid adjustments accordingly.

5. Include a Column for ‘Keyword’ in Search Terms Report


The Google AdWords Search Terms report is already an invaluable resource to optimize your campaigns. It is a great way to see exactly what individuals are searching and how advertisers can modify their keyword lists to include either additional relevant keywords or restrict traffic by placing extra negative keywords.  


A great tool to make the search terms report even more effective is to include another column for ‘Keyword’. This captures additional insights into which specific keyword triggered the search query, allowing advertisers to make adjustments to that keyword or include additional negative keywords to that ad group.  


Want more insights on digital advertising best practices for education? Check out our recent post on FAQs we hear from our client partners.

EDU Update: The New AdWords Interface

The rise of big data and its accessibility presents modern marketers with new challenges, updates and opportunities every day. In March 2016, Google announced the start of a major rejuvenation of its AdWords interface, but most accounts didn’t start seeing the new interface until recently.

As Google Premier Partners, we were granted early access to the platform update and are excited to report that it’s very easy on the eyes. With Google’s new data visualization project, this comes as no surprise. Using charts or graphs to visualize large amounts of data makes it easier to analyze trends, convey concepts (and ROI) and share insights with stakeholders.

What should EDU marketers expect with the new interface?

The new AdWords makes it easy to segment campaign performance by type, such as Search and Display. Options such as Locations, Ad scheduling and Devices that were previously hidden—and many times forgotten in the ‘Settings’ tab—are now easily accessible as a part of secondary navigation off to the left of the page.

There are now four visual dashboards shown on the Overview page that provide insights on Biggest Changes, Campaigns, Devices and Day & Hour performance. You can customize these dashboards by editing the metrics and obtaining the data most relevant for your team.

AdWords now allows you to navigate quickly through the platform by hitting G and then T to conduct a search. This saves time and simplifies navigating throughout the platform. You can even do a quick search to take you right where you want to go.

Not a fan of the new look? Don’t worry, you can switch back to the traditional interface. To do this, you will just need to navigate to the three-dot menu at the top right of the page and then select “Return to previous AdWords”.

How do you feel about the industry trend toward data visualization? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Get Texts from Prospects with AdWords Click-to-Text


In a day and age where people increasingly rely on text messaging to communicate, it’s important to think of ways to integrate texting as a touch-point in your recruitment process.

Google AdWords recently moved click-to-text message extensions out of beta, allowing you to connect with prospective students who may not want to speak over the phone. AdWords click-to-message extensions are designed to connect interested users (your prospects) with advertisers (your program or institution) through SMS, directly from the pay-per-click ad.

Click-to-text message extensions present a unique opportunity for colleges and universities to connect with prospective students. Students can now reach out using their preferred method of communication when they’re ready to engage.



What are the requirements?

Advertisers looking to implement message extensions must have a phone number that can receive, process and send text messages. The message extensions can only be shown to individuals with mobile phones that can send and receive text messages.

How to set up message extensions

At the campaign or ad group level, you will want to go to the ‘Ad Extensions’ tab at the top and select ‘View: Message Extensions.’


After selecting ‘New message extension, you’ll be prompted to fill in the fields below:


The extension text has a 35-character limit and will be shown as part of the ad on the SERP. The message has a 100-character limit and populates after the user selects the extension, making it quick and easy for the individual to begin the conversation.

You will want to create different message extensions at the campaign or ad group level. This will give you control over the extension being served based on the target audience you are trying to reach.

Message extensions should be clear and relevant to the theme of the campaign or ad group. Extensions created around the theme of the campaign or ad group are more likely to convert than catch-all extensions.

AdWords makes it easy to schedule your message extensions by date range, day of the week or by hour of day by expanding the ‘Advanced’ section when setting up the message extension.


Schedule message extensions at times your team is available to respond to any texts received. This will deliver an immediate response for inquiries and ensures that your brand is top of mind when connecting with prospects.

Want more best practices on digital advertising for recruitment? Learn more about the new CTA for higher ed.