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, competition—the 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.