All posts by Hayley Warack

A Guide to Launching Smarter Digital Campaigns: Holiday Edition

Optimize. Maximize. Energize.

In the spirit of giving this holiday season, we’ve put together the ultimate resource to prepare your digital advertising campaigns for the new year. This beginner’s guide to launching smarter digital campaigns is jam-packed with resources and insights from our digital marketing experts. Consider this a gift from us to you and your team.

This ebook answers pressing questions like:

  • What is CPC, CPM, CPL and how do I use these terms to understand the ROI of my campaigns?
  • How do my averages and costs compare to similar programs?
  • Which channels are the right fit for my marketing mix? Any new platforms I should know about?
  • What can my team do now to prepare for success after Winter Break?

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How the Enrollment Journey Has Changed

Amiry_Twitter_Feature-image

It was a full house at LinkedIn’s session, Change Brings Opportunity: How the Enrollment Journey Has Changed and How to Best Influence Prospective Students Today. LinkedIn’s Global Marketing Director of the Education Vertical, Saied Amiry, shared great insights from LinkedIn data and updates to the platform, and he presented a new way of thinking about student recruitment.

The Trap of Short-Term Thinking

As marketers, we’re all guilty of putting too much emphasis on short-term results. We want instant gratification and are tempted to pull the plug on anything that doesn’t suffice. Saied offered some tips for changing your mindset:

Rule #1: Think Beyond Direct Response

Are you curious about how you should allocate your media mix between brand and direct response? Saied advises that the optimal media mix is 60 percent of budget spent on brand. Investment in a long-term brand strategy, combined with a short-term campaign, maximizes the benefits of both investments.

Rule #2: Rethink Measurement

Saied shared that it may take six months to three years to see the long-term effects of brand marketing. With this figure in mind, we should look at metrics such as net promoter score, brand sentiment (quality vs. vanity metrics) and multi-touch attribution.

Connecting with Today’s Prospective Students

LinkedIn has the largest global community of professionals – 467M+ professionals, including more than 40 million students or recent college grads. In addition to volume of users, the LinkedIn platform gives advertisers the opportunity to market to those who matters with a unique combination of benefits:

Market-To-Who-Matters-On-LinkedIn

LinkedIn surveyed 15,000 respondents to learn more about the higher education decision journey. Their key findings are included below:

  • The prospects’ shortlist is exclusive and critical
  • Peer groups and professional networks are a significant influence
  • Millennials are driven by a different mindset than Gen X
  • Prospects seek specific content at each stage

It’s critical to think about these points when developing your marketing strategy:

Engage early in the decision process with a relevant social strategy and content strategy.

According to LinkedIn, only three schools make a prospect’s shortlist – 72 percent of prospects develop their shortlist before reaching out to a school, and 93 percent end up enrolling at a school from their shortlist. This is why a relevant social strategy and contact strategy is critical for building awareness for your school, program and brand.

Build a presence on digital platforms that align with your prospects’ mindset and your school’s brand identity.

Unsurprisingly, higher salary is the most influencing factor for obtaining a degree, but influencing factors do vary by generation.

Millennials-GenX-Influencing-Factors

Source: LinkedIn – Base: MBA and Master Intenders (n=502)

 

Developing a specific strategy based on persona, including a strategic approach to channels, content and messaging, is key to success.

Understand the nuances of your audience and target them with relevant content by decision stage.

Prospects look for different content at every stage of their decision making process. In the beginning, they might be interested in rankings, but when it comes to enrolling, they might be looking more at outcomes and alumni stories.

Content-in-Decision-Making-Process

Source: LinkedIn – Base: MBA and Master Intenders (n=502)

 

When you’re developing content for social as opposed to content for your communication workflows, keep this data in mind. It’s important to be strategic when creating and promoting your content throughout the decision-making process.

How LinkedIn is Adapting the Platform for Higher Education

LinkedIn’s aims to exceed marketer objectives, prove value through analytics and insights, simplify access to products and capabilities and target audiences that matter. LinkedIn plans to do this by introducing new products and streamlining existing ones, improving and expanding data tracking capabilities and providing additional and updated audience targeting features.

Exceed marketer objectives

LinkedIn Lead Gen Forms are back! These forms can help advertisers generate high-quality leads from campaigns based on a variety of CTAs and objectives. Expect this to be rolled out during Q2.

LinkedIn-Lead-Gen-Forms

 

The LinkedIn Audience Network will allow advertisers to reach your target audience outside of the LinkedIn platform. Scale your professional reach beyond LinkedIn.com to include high-quality destinations. This update should create more inventory and drive down pricing for advertisers, with roll out expected in April 2017.

LinkedIn-Audience-Network

 

LinkedIn Dynamic Ads allow you to personalize your creative to better resonate with your target audience. This ad format can help increase engagement by leveraging profile data.

LinkedIn-Dynamic-Ads

 

Prove value through analytics and insights

Conversion tracking was introduced in 2016. If you haven’t taken advantage of this feature yet, it’s easy to get started—first install a JavaScript code across all pages and then set parameters around actions you consider to be ‘conversions.’

Campaign demographic reporting beyond-the-click enables advertisers to analyze campaign performance at different levels such as conversion rate, click-through rate, engagement rate and more. This enhancement will allow advertisers to better segment data by audience.

Campaign-Demographic-Reporting-Beyond-the-Click

 

Third-party impression tracking will allow third-party advertisers like DoubleClick and Atlas to provide better data and transparency to advertisers.

Simplify access to products and capabilities

University Pages and Company Pages have now been merged and are simplifying the brand and user experience. LinkedIn has created a new, unified university page that still includes the Alumni Tool and an all new, streamlined admin page. While this transition has been difficult or frustrating for some universities, with their content expiring after 30 days, we believe the merging of the pages is a positive change for long-term marketing and branding.

Sponsored InMail is now available for all advertisers in the self-service platform, eliminating minimum spending requirements once in place for the ad format. Reach your target audience in a more personalized way while utilizing the same audience targeting options available in the self-serve platform.

Sponsored-InMail-Self-Service

 

LinkedIn is enhancing advertiser APIs allowing for more seamless integration with various marketing tools and automation systems including Hubspot, Oracle, Sprinklr, Adobe and more.

Target the audiences that matter

LinkedIn is rolling out website retargeting later this year, and we’re extremely excited! While they might be late to the game, we know audiences that are active on LinkedIn are often think about advancing their education or career, making the platform invaluable for engaging with prospects.

Website-Retargeting

 

LinkedIn will also be introducing email and company targeting this year. Like many other advertising platforms, you can upload a list of your prospect emails to target them with specific messaging. LinkedIn offers the same function for targeting employees on a specific list of companies as well. You can manually upload these lists or integrate them with marketing automation tools like Marketo, Eloqua, Acxiom and LiveRamp.

As Saied wrapped up the session, he said LinkedIn is committed to higher education and investing in its future. We’re looking forward to these big updates in 2017 and the impact they will have on higher education marketing.

Interested in learning more about LinkedIn marketing for higher education? Check out LinkedIn’s Marketing Solutions Blog.

Send a Message: The New Digital Advertising CTA

New-CTAs_Twitter_Feature-image

The next evolution in digital advertising is here. Instead of sending users to your website or landing page to inquire on a form, get the user to message you directly for a more immediate, meaningful connection. More advertising platforms are introducing solutions to do just that.

Google AdWords Click-to-Message

Recently out of beta, the Google AdWords click-to-text message extension gives users the option to connect with advertisers via SMS. When users click the message extension or icon, their phone’s SMS app will automatically open to start a conversation with the advertiser. This is a great alternative to engage with audiences that dread phone calls.

Click-to-Message-Ad

 

LinkedIn Sponsored InMail

LinkedIn Sponsored InMail has been around for while, but it recently became available on the self-serve platform, eliminating the minimums that once prevented many advertisers from using this ad format.

Sponsored InMail gives advertisers the ability to send messages directly to users while they’re active on LinkedIn. Announce a new program, invite users to upcoming information sessions or send your audience engaging content – the possibilities are endless!

Desktop-InMail

 

Facebook Messenger Destination Ads

Use your Newsfeed ads to connect with users via Messenger instead of sending them to a landing page. When a user clicks the CTA button within your ad, Messenger will open, allowing users to start a conversation with the advertiser instantly.

Facebook Messenger Destination ads have become more prevalent, allowing advertisers to connect with their audiences on a more personal level. Target your current prospects with this ad format to help answer admissions and application questions.

FB-Messenger-Ad

 

Facebook Sponsored Messages

This ad format hasn’t been rolled out to all advertisers yet, but it will be the next evolution in promoting direct communication with your target audiences. Sponsored Messages can be delivered directly to a user you already have an existing conversation with via Messenger. This ad format is best for reengaging with your current audience.

Want to connect with your audience in a more personal way? Adding sponsored messaging to your existing digital advertising efforts is a great next step.

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How Harvard is Using Facebook Live for Student Recruitment

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At the end of October, Facebook launched a big ad campaign to increase awareness and promote Facebook Live. Facebook ran these ads on TV, digital billboards and within their newsfeed. Facebook Live is quickly gaining momentum—especially with marketers and advertisers. On November 22, Facebook also announced they are now testing real-time ads for Facebook Live, allowing you to push your live video out to users beyond your current audience.

sam_harp_-harvard

So how can higher education use Facebook Live as a medium to build awareness, increase engagement and boost enrollment? We took a few minutes to catch up with Sam Harp, Senior Director of Strategic Communications and Marketing at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, who has been using Facebook Live as an awareness and admissions tool.

 

CC: How have you been using Facebook Live to date?

SH: We’ve used Facebook Live primarily in two ways:

The first is for Q&A sessions with admissions; we’ve done three so far. These have been great ways to directly interact with our prospective students and answer questions many members of the audience share. As an admissions marketing tool, Facebook Live has been very easy to use—and it definitely helps that it’s free.

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The second is for marketing and expanding the existing webcast audience. We have a series at the Harvard Chan School called the Forum, which does semi-regular live webcasts on a variety of topics. We use a third-party software solution called Wirecast to connect these webcasts to Facebook Live.

CC: What goals are driving your Facebook Live topics?

SH: With the Forum events, topics are all current issues in the public health field. We use Facebook Live to increase our online audience for these events, expand awareness of scientific findings and extend brand awareness. The central communications office at Harvard has also focused heavily on Facebook Live, so the main University accounts use their reach to amplify events from other schools.

For admissions events, the key is prospective student recruitment, engagement and ultimately conversion. Facebook Live has turned out to be a powerful tool for reaching a large number of prospective students at once, while also adding a more personal touch to the admissions process.

CC: What does the planning and promotion process for Facebook Live events look like?

SH: Admissions Q&A sessions don’t take much planning. We just pick a date, time and location. We do some advance promotion on email, social media and the website, then we point the camera at our director of admissions, who has all the expertise you could ask for on the admissions process, and let him answer the questions that come in.

We usually pull a couple of questions from the admissions inbox to get this rolling. We use a staff member’s cell phone as our camera and the Facebook Page Manager app to push out our live feed. The only piece of equipment we had to buy was a small cell phone holder, which we mounted on a monopod for stability.

Promotion of all of our Facebook Live events includes email marketing targeting specific audiences and some advance promotion on social media. We also create a graphic for each event and post this prominently on our website.

screen-shot-2016-12-08-at-2-42-07-pm

 

CC: How would you suggest schools get started with Facebook Live? (strategies, tips, FYIs)

SH: The most basic step is understanding why you’ll be using it and how you’ll be using it. What goal are you hoping to accomplish? Additionally, it’s important to focus on the “live” element. What will differentiate the Facebook Live event from another video? When planning an event, audience engagement should be a key factor: What will you do to solicit questions? How will you take questions? Who’s monitoring and asking the questions? How many will you take? Make sure audience members know you want their questions!

I’ve already covered equipment, but another tip involves timing. As with anything else, consider when your audience is online and when they’re most likely to watch an event and engage with it. For us, evenings have worked best, while midday has been difficult.

CC: What audience has engaged the most with Facebook Live?

SH: Prospective students. There’s a good mix of engagement across demographics, including geographic. We’ve seen viewers from the U.S., Canada, UK, Asia and beyond.

CC: What are your KPIs? How are you measuring success and ROI?

SH: We’re looking at views and engagement (specifically questions asked). With regard to views, we are often breaking that down to see exactly how long people are watching.

For example, we’ll break it down by viewers who watched 25%, 50%, 75% and the full video and when they’re dropping off. Since we’ve invested less than $20 and a modest amount of staff time, I can say we’re very pleased with the ROI.

How else should higher education be using Facebook Live?

Try doing a Q&A with a notable alumnus or professor about something that ties to the news cycle. Live stream from an existing event. Interview a student. Get creative! Are you using Facebook Live or interested in testing out a campaign? Reach out to me, hayley@convergeconsulting.org, to discuss your ideas.

7 New Google Display Network Strategies You Should Test

Many advertisers know display advertising can be crucial for building brand awareness and long-term ROI. However, they question the effectiveness of display advertising.

With Google Display Network (GDN) reaching 90 percent of all internet users on more than two million websites, it can be a great component of your digital marketing strategy. No luck with GDN? Here are seven strategies worth testing.

Test a target CPA bid strategy.

By setting a target CPA, Google will show your ads to users more likely to convert. However, you need enough history conversion data to take advantage of this strategy.

Target_CPA_Strategy

Start a shared library for website placement exclusions.

Quality of websites included in the Google Display Network has always been a concern. While you can get extremely targeted and exclude a number of site categories, this doesn’t guarantee that your ads will be placed on the most ideal websites.

If you do a lot of display advertising and are constantly excluding websites from your targeting, try starting a shared library list of these websites. This list can then be applied to other display campaigns.

Placement_Exclusions

Remarket your YouTube visitors.

Do you have a significant following or high viewership on YouTube? You can now retarget these visitors with display advertising.

Employ ‘Similar Audiences’ targeting.

Leverage your prospect or current customer lists and website visitors to find similar audiences to target on the Google Display Network. Google has great case studies that show significant conversion lifts when using Similar Audience targeting.

Similar_Audiences

Use Display Select Keyword (DSK) targeting.

Still currently in beta, Display Select Keywords are an additional way to target users on the Google Display Network. Different from regular keyword targeting on GDN, DSK targets users based on search intent and likeliness to convert.

Try responsive ads for display.

Also in beta, responsive ads can convert to all ad sizes and native, text-only and image ads. Advertisers can upload their own image assets and copy and preview how ads will render on the web. These ads will eventually replace GDN text ads.

Responsive_AdsAdd Gmail Sponsored Promotions (GSP).

Gmail Sponsored Promotions (GSP) reach users in their inbox. Target users based on the content in their inbox, as well as the domains they receive emails from.

Gmail-Ads

Learn more about what’s new and next for Google AdWords. Register for our upcoming webinar, where I’ll join Becky Bush, Agency Development Manager at Google, and recap the biggest updates from the Google Performance Summit.

Google AdWords Expanded Text Ads: 6 Steps to Take Right Now

On July 26, Google made one of its biggest updates to date by rolling out expanded text ads (ETAs) for all AdWords users. The update includes a second headline, more characters for your description and the option to include multiple URL paths.

adwords-expanded-text-chart

Google has been testing these new ad formats for a while and seeing significant lifts in click-through-rate (CTR). We had the opportunity to employ the beta over the last few months in many of our accounts, and we’ve seen CTRs more than double in some campaigns.

expanded-text-ads-adwords-platform

Don’t know where to start? Here are 6 steps you can take right now to start using one of Google AdWords’ biggest updates:

Make use of the two headlines.

Continue to include high-traffic keywords in the first headline, but use the second headline to highlight top completive advantages.

Note: Some advertisers have seen ad headlines truncated. On Twitter, Google recommend a max of 33 characters between headlines to avoid this, as characters like ‘M’ take up more space than an ‘i.’Expanded-Text-Ads-Headlines

Limit abbreviations and be more conversational.

With longer headlines and descriptions and the newly green ‘ad’ icon, we can assume Google wants ads to blend in with the organic results. Minimize abbreviations and make descriptions more conversational.

Expanded-Text-Ads-Description

Focus on your top performing ad groups first.

Manage multiple accounts or have campaigns with 50+ ad groups? Implementing ETAs might seem daunting. Create specific messaging for ad groups that receive the top 10-20 percent of your traffic and implement templates and/or ad customizers throughout the rest of the ad groups.

Include keywords in the URL path fields.

This feature allows you to be more descriptive with your URL paths and showcase a specific page you want the user to visit. Just like standard ads, URL paths don’t necessarily need to match your exact URL as long as you are using the actual root domain (i.e. convergeconsulting.org/blogs/etas).

Expanded-Text-Ads-URL-Paths

Update your ad extensions.

Your new messaging might include messaging you highlight in your sitelinks, callout or structured snippet extensions. Update ad extensions accordingly so you aren’t being repetitive in your ad.

Take advantage of tools to save time.

AdWords Editor was updated to support building and editing ETAs offline and for making bulk edits. You can also build your ETAs in an Excel document and upload changes directly in the AdWords platform. Download the excel template here.

You should still continue to run standard ads as Google showcases both ad formats. However, standard text ads will no longer be eligible to run on AdWords starting October 26, 2016.

Interested in learning more about Google’s recent updates? Register for our upcoming webinar, where Hayley Warack, Vice President of Digital Strategy at Converge, and Becky Bush, Agency Development Manager at Google, recap the biggest updates from the Google Performance Summit.

Getting Started with Facebook Lead Ads

Facebook is now making the process of generating leads and prospects much easier for advertisers. With Facebook Lead Ads, users can send you their contact information directly in the Facebook platform without ever visiting your website.

How It Works

When a user clicks on the call to action (CTA) button (i.e. Sign Up) within your ad, a form appears which is auto-populated with the user’s contact information associated with their Facebook account. With an auto-populated form and the user never having to leave the platform, Facebook makes taking action extremely easy for users.

How Can You Use Facebook Lead Ads in Higher Ed?

  • Include a download of your school or program viewbook
  • Offer to sign up for an upcoming on-campus event
  • Let users register for an educational or informational webinar
  • … and more!

SCU-Lead-AdCU-Denver-Lead-Ad SCU-Lead-Ad-2 CU Denver Lead Ad 2

Things to Know When It Comes to Facebook Lead Ads:

  • Lead Ads can be created by choosing the Lead Generation objective
  • Lead forms can only be applied to ads once they are finalized. Once finalized, you cannot go back and edit your form
  • You can utilize all the same audience targeting tactics you currently use for regular Facebook ads
  • Lead ads currently integrate with only a few CRMs, including Constant Contact, Marketo, Salesforce Marketing Cloud and others
  • Leads can be downloaded by going to your Facebook page via Business Manager > Publishing Tools > Forms Library

Based on our results to date, we are seeing very competitive costs per leads (CPLs), but also see trends of these prospects being early on in their decision making process. In conclusion, Facebook Leads Ads can be a great addition to your digital advertising strategy, but we wouldn’t recommend it replace any current tactics that have higher lead-to-enrollment rates.

Watch this quick video to see how Facebook Lead Ads work:

Have questions about Digital Advertising? Don’t hesitate to reach out!

Getting Started with Facebook Canvas

Facebook’s newest, mobile-only ad format is now available for all advertisers! With the consistent increase in mobile use, Facebook realized they needed a better format to engage mobile users-a format that doesn’t require loading the advertiser’s mobile website to learn more. Last year, Facebook began testing Canvas ads as a way to quicker engage mobile users. Today, many advertisers test out this ad format to see how it works for them.

Facebook Canvas ads allow you to tell a story and share your message more visually. With Canvas, you can create interactive ads that include video, animation, carousels, tap-and-tilt-to-view images and product catalogs. Facebook Canvas is giving smaller, more budget-conscious advertisers a way to create beautiful and engaging ads for their target audience.

Here are great examples of creative and engaging Facebook Canvas ads:

Facebook Canvas Ads, Facebook Advertising

Facebook Canvas 2

How Can You Use Facebook Canvas Ads in Higher Ed?

  • Showcase a school or program’s competitive advantages
  • Sharing student and alumni success stories
  • Highlighting alumni testimonials and career outcomes
  • Providing an overview of program highlights
  • … and more–get creative with it!

 

Things to Know When It Comes to Facebook Canvas :

  • To create a Canvas, you need to access your Facebook page via Business Manager > Publishing Tools > Canvas
  • Canvases can only be applied to ads once they are finalized. Once they are finalized, you cannot go back and edit your Canvas
  • You can utilize all the same audience targeting tactics you currently use for regular Facebook ads
  • Canvas ads will only be served on mobile and currently are only on the Facebook platform (no Instagram yet!)

With Facebook’s continuous evolution of their platform, ad formats and targeting tactics, we predict that we’ll see some updates to Canvas ads based on user feedback. For now, we recommend adding them to your Facebook advertising mix!

For more examples and resources, check out canvas.facebook.com.

Have questions about Facebook Canvas Ads? Don’t hesitate to reach out!

Google Display Network (GDN) vs. The Trade Desk

With the increasing popularity in display and programmatic advertising, we are frequently being asked questions relating to what works best for higher education. What are the best strategies for display advertising? What metrics are the best KPIs to monitor? Should I buy direct placements on websites or serve ads using a network on websites?

One question that we’ve been running into more and more is:

In this blog, we give an overview of each platform, highlighting benefits, weaknesses and best scenarios for each use.

Google Display Network (GDN)

Display advertising in the Google Display Network (GDN) is perhaps the best starting point for advertisers who are looking for a self-serve entry-point into programmatic Display media. The GDN is Google’s ad network of AdSense publishers and it can be accessed via Google AdWords. GDN offers a variety of audience targeting tactics and in depth training manuals to educate advertisers on how to run Display ad campaigns in AdWords.
Below is an outline of the benefits, weaknesses and best use scenarios when comparing the Google Display Network (GDN) to other advertising platforms that exist in the marketplace:

BENEFITS:

  • Multi-channel Display advertising across:
    • Desktop/Laptop/Tablet
    • Mobile
    • Social
    • Digital Video
    • Digital Radio
    • Native & Sponsored Content (coming soon!)
  • Self-service tools and training material for marketers who want to manage display campaigns in-house
  • Display ad builder for creating Display ads directly in the platform
  • Seamless integration with Google Analytics for data analysis and campaign optimization
  • Above average brand-safety measurements
  • Variety of audience targeting tactics including:
    • Demographic Targeting
    • Geo-targeting
    • Contextual Targeting
    • Placement Targeting (i.e. specific website targeting)
    • Interest Targeting (i.e. behavioral targeting)
    • Similar Audiences targeting
    • List Targeting
    • Retargeting/Remarketing
  • Bid management and optimization features
    • Ad frequency
    • Ad format
    • Creative
    • Geography
    • Site category
    • Position on page
    • Time of day
    • Day of week
    • Device type
    • Site placement

 

WEAKNESSES:

  • Access to only one (1) ad network which can limit audience reach
  • Audience targeting options are more basic and not as granular
  • Optimization tools and features are somewhat limited
  • Limited reach on social media and tier 1 website placements

 

GDN IS BEST FOR:

  • Advertisers who are new to display advertising and/or have lean digital advertising budgets
  • Advertisers who want a self-serve tool and only need more basic features
  • Advertisers who want to manage their PPC and display ads on the same platform
  • Advertisers who want to sync to Google Analytics for reporting and website audience list targeting

 

The Trade Desk (TTD)

The Trade Desk is an industry-leading DSP (demand-side platform), meaning it allows you to bid and buy ad inventory from ad exchanges or directly from select publishers. DSPs access multiple sources of inventory including GDN and also allow you to access both first and third party data for audience targeting. In addition, many DSPs offer more advanced programmatic advertising technology such as geofencing and IP address targeting.

Below is an outline of the benefits, weaknesses and best use scenarios when comparing The Trade Desk (TTD) to other advertising platforms that exist in the marketplace:

BENEFITS:

  • Multi-channel access to all display advertising channels:
    • Desktop/Laptop/Tablet
    • Mobile
    • Social
    • Digital Video
    • Digital Radio
    • Native & Sponsored Content
  • Access to a variety of ad networks & exchanges for maximum audience reach
  • Access to Tier 1 websites and guaranteed inventory through Publisher Management Platform
  • Access to real-time bidding (RTB) inventory for cost-effective campaign management
  • Basic and advanced audience targeting capabilities. Advanced features include:
    • Look-a-like targeting
    • Search retargeting
    • CRM retargeting
    • IP address targeting
    • Geofencing
  • Advanced audience segmentation and management through Data Management Platform
  • Bid factoring for advanced bid management and advanced optimization features which include:
    • Ad frequency
    • Ad recency
    • Ad format
    • Creative
    • Geography
    • Site category
    • Position on page
    • Time of day
    • Day of week
    • Media source
    • Browser type
    • Device type
    • Operating system
    • Site placement

 

WEAKNESSES:

  • Cannot manage Paid Search/PPC campaigns within the platform
  • Unable to integrate with Google Analytics to use reporting and retargeting audiences
  • Complex platform requires advanced skill-set and knowledge to run effective campaigns
  • Limited training and best practice resources for education and campaign management

 

TTD IS BEST FOR:

  • Advertisers who have larger digital advertising budgets and/or focused on brand awareness
  • Advertisers who want more advanced targeting and optimization features
  • Advertisers who want access to additional networks and website for larger reach
  • Advertisers who want access to advanced programmatic technology like geofencing or IP address targeting

Have questions about display advertising? Don’t hesitate to reach out!

SMX Advanced Recap: My Top 7 Takeaways

It was another great week in Seattle at SMX Advanced. In my opinion, it’s one of the best conferences out there for search marketing professionals. This year’s session was no exception. If you didn’t have the opportunity to attend, or if you did attend and don’t know where to start with applying the topics that were discussed, here are my top 7 tactical takeaways from the 2016 SMX Advanced Conference.

IMG_2208

1. Expand Your Remarketing Efforts

If you’re like me, your remarketing conversion rates and cost per conversion are great, so how do you expand your retargeting efforts? You can’t just allocate more budget; it doesn’t work like that. What you need is to find more users to retarget, but how do you that?

Applying takeaways today:

  • Create more top of the funnel traffic that drives initial awareness, and leverage those visitors with your remarketing efforts.
  • Create downloadable content offers that your target audience would be interested in and promote on social media channels
  • Use Google Analytics or other audience insight tools to analyze the characteristics and behaviors of your current audience and place display ads on relevant websites
  • Develop blog content that your audience is interested in and that also has high search traffic

 

2. Think About AdWords Quality Score Differently

Are your quality scores hurting your CPC and ad position? Search Guru, Brad Geddes, shared some valuable information during his Mad Scientists of PPC session: Quality Score Under the Microscope. He discussed the factors that go into both ad rank and quality score and the weight of each.

Ad Rank
SOURCE: Quality Score Under the Microscope by Brad Geddes]

 

Some key insights he discussed were the correlation and non-correlations between different metrics.

  • As quality score increases, so does your position. This often causes you to compete with different advertisers, so you rarely see a direct correlation.
  • As quality score increases, so does impression share. This results in direct correlation with a variety of metrics because your ad is shown more.

Applying takeaways today:

  • If your quality score notes “Below average ad relevance,” look to create new ads and/or reorganize ad groups, keywords and ads
  • If your quality scores are not linear with your CTR, this is usually a landing page issue, so look for opportunities to improve your landing page experience

 

3. Use Different Audience Segments Strategically

Going off the previous remarketing takeaways, it’s important to also think about what you can do with your audiences in relation to search remarketing. From excluding audiences to leveraging competitor keywords in a more tactical way, it’s important to always be thinking about audience segmentation.

  • If you’re bidding on branded keywords for your search remarketing campaigns, consider excluding your current customer base since they most likely would still visit your website organically from a search query
  • Create a Dynamic Search Ad (DSA) campaign for all your website and blog content on your website and target previous website visitors. Searches for blog content (resources, guides, etc.) typically have little competition, so it’s a great way to get your remarketing lists back to your website for a much cheaper CPC.
  • Create a search remarketing campaign focused on using competitor keywords. You typically will see good CTRs and higher quality scores than you would with a regular search campaign.

Applying takeaways today:

  • If you haven’t already, start creating audience segments in Google Analytics and Google AdWords based on time on page, number of sessions, pages viewed and type of content viewed
  • If you have a good size customer-base, upload your email address list into Google AdWords
  • From there, consider the above strategies along with your objectives, and implement a strategy that makes the most sense for you

 

4. Start Planning for Google’s Expanded Text Ads

Google is making one of its biggest changes to AdWords since launching almost 15 years ago. Expanded text ads are going to completely change the game for advertisers. How you approach this major change will determine your success.

Here is a look at the standard ad compared to the next expanded text ad via Rob Lenderman’s presentation at SMX Advanced:

Expanded Text Ads
SOURCE: What Google’s Expanded Text Ads Really Mean for You by Rob Lenderman

 

As you can see, this will be a major change from how search ads look currently. This change, along with the Google’s Ad Tag Going Green, are making search ads look more and more like organic listings.

Applying takeaways today:

So what you do you about this major change? If you were selected for the beta (we were!), you need to start making the change now. If you aren’t in the beta, you should start planning for the change as it will be rolled out to all advertisers by the end of this year (if not sooner).

  • Break up your account(s) by traffic volume and focus on the top 10-20% and implement custom ads
  • From there, look to see if you can implement templates and/or ad customizers throughout the rest of your account(s)

 

5. Take Advantage of Google Tag Manager

While the name Google Tag Manager may leave you to think it’s a tool for only managing tags, it can do so much more. And it’s not as hard as you think.

Steve Guberman, Direct of Search Marketing at GolfNow.com, presented a session full of demos on what Google Tag Manager (GTM) can do. Several of his demos were built using templates and guides that are easily available for anyone to use:

Steve demonstrated outbound link tracking, timing engagement, scroll tracking, YouTube tracking, form field tracking and even tracking how people use copy text from your website!

Applying takeaways today:

  • If you haven’t implemented GTM yet, do it now. Its free: tagmanager.google.com
  • Download a starter template from Lunametrics or from us!
  • Check out our setup tutorial and tutorials from measureschool.com

 

6. Don’t Overthink Attribution

If you’re like me, attribution is one of your least favorite topics. We all know that a user rarely converts on their first engagement with your brand, but how do you prove that?

Google AdWords recently added a feature that lets you change your attribution model in your Conversion Settings.

AdWords Attribution Model
AdWords Attribution Model

You can now pick the attribution model that works best for you. But, what model is best for you?

This topic was heavily discussed in the AMA (Ask Me Anything): SEM panel session. Many of the panelists recommended comparing assisted conversions to click-through conversions to determine similarities between keywords. There was discussion about the problems with last-click attribution modeling, but it was also noted that this model is actually best for most advertisers. However, industries with longer-buying cycles (ahem! – higher education) should look at other attribution models.

Applying takeaways today:

  • Look at your Multi-Channel Funnel assisted conversion data, conversion path, time lag and path length (Google Analytics) to determine trends. This should help you decide what attribution model will work best for you.

 

7. Take Your Google Display Network (GDN) Campaigns to the Next Level

Google’s Learn with Google: The Google Display Network was the last session of the conference, and while I wasn’t expecting any life-changing information, their presentation did make me rethink what I considered “best practices” for GDN.

If you’re like me, you often question the effectiveness of Google Display advertising and the quality of websites your ads appear on. While so many advertisers are looking at programmatic display advertising through platforms like The Trade Desk, it might be worth reconsidering your luck with GDN.

  • Use both display and text ads on GDN: Many people don’t employ text ads in their display campaigns, but there is so much additional inventory out there (that is often cheaper).
  • Implement a Target CPA bid strategy: This will help Google help you get your ad in front of users that are most likely to convert. Of course, this is dependent on you having enough historical conversion data.
  • Create a shared library of placement exclusions: Quality of website placements has always been my big issue with GDN, so take the next step and start creating a list of placements you don’t want your ads appearing on. Then, apply to your campaigns accordingly.
  • Target similar audiences: Google has some great case studies that show significant conversion lifts when targeting similar audiences to your previous converters or website visitors.
  • Remarketing your YouTube viewers: Take advantage of your YouTube audience and remarket them with relevant messaging and CTAs.

Applying takeaways today:

While the above is a lengthy list, take a few minutes and decide what your biggest pain points are and go from there.

Did you attend SMX Advanced? What were your top takeaways? Check out some other conferences we recommend attending this year.

Digital Advertising: Increasing Your Lead to Enrollment Rate

Working in the higher education space for some time now, we are no stranger to the question: ‘How do I get my digital advertising leads to convert to enrolled students?’ With the continuous evolution of digital advertising channels and strategies, more and more schools are adjusting their recruitment strategy to be focused on digital advertising, but is that enough?

Not All Prospects Are the Same

The first thing to realize is that a lead from digital advertising is not the same as a lead from your website. Users who inquire via your website are typically more familiar with your brand, have researched the program on your website and are further along in their decision making process. In contrast, it’s very common for a digital advertisement to be your lead’s first touch-point with your brand. Your communication follow up process needs to be adjusted accordingly.

Post-Inquiry-Workflow-Example

We recommend developing an automated (if possible!) communication plan that lasts at least 6-8 weeks and includes 10-30+ touch points (emails, calls, events). Here are some touch points to consider adding to your digital advertising communication workflow:

Email Content

  • Share outcomes information based on alumni or industry data
  • Distribute your viewbook or content that provides course highlights
  • Share success stories by showcasing current students and alumni
  • Provide information on financial aid and scholarship opportunities

We suggest developing content that directly speaks to prospects in a way that highlights how your program can specifically impact their future career.

Engaging Events

  • Webinar that educates on industry-related or professional development topics
  • Online info sessions that covers program highlights and FAQs
  • Alumni hosted webinar to share experiences and outcomes
  • On-campus speaker and networking event with prospects, alumni and faculty

Recruitment-Event

 

Enhancing Your Digital Advertising

  • Include a link to your application on your RFI confirmation page
  • Retarget users who have visited admissions related pages but who haven’t applied yet
  • Advertise upcoming events and enrollment deadlines to prospects and website visitors
  • Upload prospect email addresses to advertising platforms (AdWords, Facebook, Twitter, etc) and serve ‘Apply Now’ adsDigital-Advertising-Ad

 

If a prospect hasn’t taken the next step after these 6-8 weeks, add them to your monthly newsletter or general email list – some prospects just take more time!

Time to Enrollment

The second thing to consider is that a lead from digital advertising may take longer to matriculate. Because these prospects are most likely just being introduced to your program, they often need more time to learn about your program, compare you to competitors and decide if going back to school is worth it. We typically see this decision-making process take anywhere from 6 months to two years or more!

It’s Not a Quick Fix!

Lastly, it’s important to understand that digital advertising should be viewed as a long-term strategy, not an immediate solution for next semester recruitment. Digital advertising does help generate leads, but it is an extremely powerful tool to generate brand awareness. We often see a direct correlation with digital advertising efforts and increases in organic and direct website traffic.

If you are interested in learning more about what it takes to effectively recruit in the 2016 adult and graduate market in higher education please join Dr. Brenda Harms of Harms Consulting for our upcoming, free webinar Recruitment 2016 – Playing the Long Game with Your Lead Pool on Wednesday, June 29th at 2PM EST.