All posts by John Staak

The Digital Advertising ROI Benchmark for EDU

Free ebook: Digital Advertising Benchmark for EDU

In the world of digital advertising, there is a seemingly countless number of KPIs to track, analyze and benchmark. The amount of available data and questions to ask can be overwhelming. What should our click-through-rate be? Is this a typical cost per click? What about our conversion rate? Is that normal?

To pull in a sports analogy, only looking at metrics like click-through-rate (CTR), cost-per-click (CPC) and Cost-per-Lead (CPL) is like asking how many free-throw attempts, fouls and blocked shots a basketball team had without asking about the final score. These statistics absolutely have a direct impact on the outcome of the game, but do not actually tell us if a team won.

 

So what is the ‘digital advertising’ equivalent of asking “who won the game?”

The answer would be “what is the return-on-investment for our campaign?” Of course, this is not a simple question to answer, but it can be navigated—and we are here to help. This free ebook provides a step-by-step guide to calculating the ROI of your digital campaigns. 

Download Now

 

 

 

Establishing New Marketing Strategies on the Fly

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Luke Phillips, Jeff Corral and Debra Mitchell Benavente from Southern California University of Health Sciences in Whittier, CA shared the steps for developing a quick and efficient program marketing strategy during their session at Converge 2017 in Palm Springs.

Here are three great takeaways from the session:

It’s Never Too Late to Know Your Market

Whether you are looking to start a new program or managing an existing program, the first step to a sound marketing plan is conducting research to get to know your market and how it’s changing. How many students graduate with this degree each year? How has the job market changed in this industry? These are questions you should be asking yourself before thinking about developing a marketing strategy.

The SCU team walked through various helpful tools and resources for the market research process. Here are just a few:

  • National Center of Educational Statistics
  • Licensing bodies, accreditors, examination boards
  • Board of Labor Statistics
  • Google Trends
  • Student and alumni focus groups and surveys

Your Marketing Plan Needs the Right Components

After you’ve done your research and are ready to dive in to developing a marketing plan for your program, where do you start? There are many moving pieces in a marketing plan. Be sure to include the following:

  • SWOT Analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats)
  • Segmented target audiences based on research and messaging targeted to audiences (value propositions)
  • An execution plan for how messages and value propositions will be communicated to target audiences

Take the Guess-Work Out of Budgeting

Use an economic logic model to determine the marketing budget for your program based on your lead-to-enrollment rate. For example, if your lead-to-enrollment rate is 5 percent, you will need approximately 20 leads to sit one enrolled student. From there, use this ratio of leads-to-students and an expected cost-per-lead inspired by industry benchmarks to forecast your budget based on enrollment goals.

If your goal is to gain an incremental 10 students from your marketing efforts, your model might look something like this:

200 leads at 5% lead-to-enrollment rate

x $150 cost per lead

= $15,000 total budget

When determining where to allocate your budget, look first to vulnerable programs or top revenue drivers for your institution.

The Premier Higher Education Marketing Conference

Check out the slides from SCU’s presentation here and check out the rest of the presentation recaps from Converge 2017.

Facebook vs. LinkedIn Advertising: Who Wins the Matchup?

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Clients constantly ask us which advertising platform is better for marketing specific programs. In the spirit of March Madness 2017, our digital advertising team hosted a matchup between fan-favorite, Facebook, and the underdog, LinkedIn. While we can make informed recommendations based on ongoing data analysis (call us digital bracketologists), there’s always the potential for an upset.

Is this a Cinderella story in the making?

MBA Programs

Both Facebook and LinkedIn have solid targeting capabilities for MBA prospects, allowing for targeting based on criteria such as location, demographics, user behavior, education level and professional background. However, when capturing awareness from prospective MBA students, LinkedIn has an advantage over Facebook.

LinkedIn is geared more to a business-professional audience and has robust targeting methods, including years of experience and skills, that are currently not available on the Facebook advertising platform. The ‘years of experience’ option is especially valuable for MBA programs that require a candidate to have a minimum amount of experience. Skills targeting on LinkedIn allows MBA programs to reach prospects with desired skills — a tactic no other social media channel offers.

Winner: LinkedIn

 

Law School Programs

A traditional law school with students comprised primarily of recent undergraduates who studied pre-law, psychology or political science to prepare for law school should consider where their audience connects socially. Many LinkedIn users are between 30-64 years old (about 61 percent), so this is a great platform for targeting prospects with years of working experience, but not as effective for reaching college juniors, seniors and recent graduates. This age segment (21-25 year-olds, let’s say) is more active on social channels like Facebook and Instagram.

We recommend targeting law prospects on Facebook over LinkedIn, using targeting methods including field of study (pre-law, political science, etc.), interests related to the LSAT and law school and any common feeder schools for your program.

Winner: Facebook

 

Graduate Education Programs

In the past, we’ve seen Facebook outperform LinkedIn when it comes to qualified lead generation and overall cost per lead, but over the past year, LinkedIn has given Facebook a run for its money. While Facebook continues to provide a more efficient cost per lead, LinkedIn has great momentum with many of their new and updated advertising solutions.

Both platforms offer detailed audience targeting options such as job title, field of study and employer. Facebook offers more options for interest targeting, but LinkedIn offers skills-based targeting, which allows you to hone in on specific skills — a real advantage for the niche education programs. However, we suggest testing out both platforms for yourself.

Winner: OT (To Be Determined)

 

Who will Take Down the Net?

When it comes to generating brand awareness and program leads for the best value, Facebook and LinkedIn are both No. 1 seeds. Each channel provides effective options to target your prospective students and highly visual elements to help tell your program’s story. Though the channels have their advantages and are better suited for certain programs, we recommend testing both channels to see what works best.

Want more insights on digital advertising best practices? Learn more about our services.

Facebook Audience Insights: The Free Market Research Tool for Higher Education

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Facebook is where big data meets social networking. You have likely heard the jaw-dropping statistic:

“If Facebook were a country, it would be the third largest—only behind China and India.”

Over 1.2 billion people log into Facebook on a daily basis, which is an incredible 18 percent year-over-year growth (from 2015-2016). Think about it. Facebook is in its 13th year. That kind of sustained growth in daily usage after 13 years is truly unbelievable, and with it comes an immense amount of data about people from every corner of the globe.

So how can we, as higher education marketers, use this to improve our methods?

Facebook is one of the most valuable market research tools available to the higher education marketer today—specifically, the Audience Insights tool (find this under the ‘Plan’ section of your Asset Library in Business Manager).

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With Audience Insights, Facebook is the only social media platform that provides advertisers with information on how their specific target audience stacks up against the ‘average’ Facebook user in terms of demographics, engagement and a host of other factors.

You can use Audience Insights to better understand how your target audience compares to the typical Facebook user.

There are three ‘sources’ you can use to measure your audience against the ‘average user’:

  1. Everyone on Facebook: Compare users who match your demographics (age, industry, location, etc.) to the average user.
  2. People Connected to Your Page: Compare your Facebook followers (likely students, alumni and faculty) to the average Facebook user.
  3. Custom Audience: Compare remarketing or email lists (assuming large enough scale) to the average user.

All three options are extremely valuable in their own way. Here is a look at how you might use each option:

Everyone on Facebook

You are thinking about advertising a Masters in Teaching program located in San Francisco on Facebook, but are not sure if it’s the right way to reach your audience. Your primary target is prospects with 5-10 years of teaching or education experience.

After selecting Job Title: Education and Library and Location: San Francisco within Audience Insights, it becomes clear that Facebook would be a great choice to reach your audience. About 50 percent of users with ‘Education’ job titles fall into your target age range of 25-34 in San Francisco, whereas only 24 percent of all Facebook users in the area fall in that age range.

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People Connected to Your Page

Most college/university Facebook pages are a mix of students, alumni and faculty, but let’s say you want to know how many prospective students are following you on social media. For a traditional undergrad program, look at your followers by education level to get a sense of this metric. Below is the breakdown of a small liberal arts college in the Southwest U.S. by education level.

As you would assume, the clear majority of followers are in college or college graduates—both falling into the ‘College’ bucket. About 13 percent of this page’s following, however, does consist of students with ‘high school’ as their highest level of education indicating a healthy following among what are likely high school students interested in the college. This reinforces the importance of creating content for both current and prospective students.

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Custom Audience

Here is a look at how the CRM list of prospects for an Executive MBA program in the Midwest compares to all Facebook users in the metro where the program is located. Using Audience Insights, we know it is 80 percent more common for an EMBA prospect to fall in the $150-250k bucket than the typical Facebook user in the same metro area, and 16 percent less common that they fall into the $50-75k bucket.

householdincome

 

Now, go leverage the power of Facebook Audience Insights.

These are just three examples among countless experiments you can run with Audience Insights. The power of this tool cannot be understated. Next time you conduct market research for your program or institution, do not make the mistake of overlooking the world’s largest social network.

Have questions? Shout them out in the comments below or reach out to me directly to talk more about digital advertising.

AdWords Now Offers Demographic Targeting for Search

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For the most part, we know how prospective students are searching for programs. Have you ever wondered who exactly is searching on Google for your program?

Google AdWords provides a wealth of information on search activity by time of day, device (mobile vs. desktop vs. tablet), location, and of course the actual term keyed into the search engine (search terms report). But how much do we know about who is on the other end of that computer screen? Until recently, the answer was ‘not much’.

To start pulling the curtain back on this dilemma for search advertisers, Google has rolled out a new feature called Demographics for Search Ads—or DFSA. You can find this option by navigating to the ‘Audiences’ tab, and selecting the ‘Demographics’ tab—from there you will be able to view your data by Gender and Age groups.

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Much like the ‘locations,’ ‘device,’ and ‘ad schedule’ tabs within AdWords Settings, DFSA will begin reporting data on clicks, impressions, conversions—you name it—by age and gender. This is big.

So how does Google know your age and gender? This is where we must take some caution when drawing conclusions about data by age and gender. If you are logged into Google and have indicated your age and gender, AdWords can then assign you to DFSA groups. This is the ideal way to attribute demographic data, but it’s not the only method Google uses.

Google also uses several data-collection methods to make an educated guess about your age and gender—including previous search behavior. It is also worth noting that as of May 2016, Google is only able to assign an age and gender to about half of its users.

Although this limitation does pose a few questions about the reliability of DFSA metrics, this is data that has not been available to advertisers historically and is a monumental step towards uncovering the profile of your highest-intentioned digital audience. Google will only continue to get better at capturing this type of demographic data.

Until we are at a point where we can group users into DFSA groups with a high level of certainty, the best way to use DFSA is by setting bid adjustments on your top performing demographic groups. In other words—we do not recommend excluding entire groups searching for your keywords, as these groups are not perfectly refined.

Instead, look at which of your demographic groups are seeing strong click-through and conversion-rates, and adjust your bids to target those groups more aggressively. You can also take a proactive approach and bid more aggressively on certain demographic groups at the onset of your campaign launch based on what you know about your audience.

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Need help with a digital strategy for your program? We can help. Learn more about our Digital Advertising services and reach out with questions.

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Advertisers Rejoice: LinkedIn Now Supports Conversion Tracking

Earlier this month, LinkedIn rolled out perhaps the most important update to its advertising platform to date – conversion tracking. This update finally puts the social channel of 450 million users in the company of Facebook and Twitter as advertising with conversion tracking abilities.

Prior to the addition of conversion tracking, there was no way for LinkedIn advertisers to understand how many conversions (i.e. leads, transactions, etc.) ads were generating without using a third-party analytics tool like Google Analytics. Conversion tracking within the LinkedIn platforms will now enable advertisers to easily optimize audiences and ads to maximize ROI.

What Makes LinkedIn Conversion Tracking Different?

We’re excited for LinkedIn to be able to cross-reference internal data to report on conversions by industry, job function, job seniority, company size and more. This nuance to conversion tracking is unique to LinkedIn and is certainly not a level of information that Facebook or Twitter is able to provide. Understanding conversion activity by industry, seniority and other audience characteristics will enable advertisers to invest in the audiences most likely to convert.

Let’s say your institution is promoting its Professional MBA program in the Greater Chicago Area to users of all industries with 5+ years of experience. After enabling conversion tracking and collecting a few months of data, you notice that a large portion of your leads are coming from users with an engineering background. After making this discovery, you may want to consider creating a separate campaign for users in the engineering industry, tailoring copy to this audience and allocating a larger portion of budget to this new campaign. Prior to conversion tracking, you would not have visibility into this trend until following up with each lead to uncover their professional backgrounds.

LinkedIn also breaks down conversions that result directly from an ad click (post-click conversions) and from only an ad impression (view-through conversion) into two separate metrics. Facebook and Twitter do account for post-impression (view-through) conversions, but these channels lump post-impression conversions with post-click conversions as one general ‘conversion’ metric. This approach makes it more difficult to understand how users are converting.

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How Do I Get Started?

To add conversion tracking to your LinkedIn campaigns, simply navigate to the ‘Conversion Tracking’ tab in the top right corner of your LinkedIn Campaign Manager dashboard. From there, LinkedIn will generate a lightweight JavaScript tag you will want to add across your domain before the end of the <body> tag. Once the code is installed, you will be prompted to set up a conversion event by defining the URL you would like to trigger a conversion. For example, if you are generating leads for a program via a landing page, you will want to use your landing page’s confirmation page as the URL that triggers a conversion.

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Not using LinkedIn for your institution? Here are a few tips to start using LinkedIn for Higher Education.

5 Steps to Forecast Search Budgets

Have you been considering search engine marketing (SEM) to drive leads for your institution, but don’t know how to budget for it? Are you unsure if you are spending too much or too little with SEM? You aren’t alone! Many institutions interested in SEM for lead generation are unsure what to spend on search campaigns.

This five-step guide will ease the uncertainty of SEM forecasting and help you confidently allocate the right spend to maximize ROI. Since Google owns the majority of search engine market share, we will focus on forecasting with the AdWords Keyword Planner.

Build Your Keyword List

Although Google’s Keyword Planner can provide spend projections using a handful of keywords, you’ll want to build out the full range of keywords you want to target for the most accurate forecasts. Be sure to include a variety of match types – Google is able to forecast for traffic by exact phrase and broad match keywords.

Add Keywords to Keyword Planner

Once you feel good about the keywords you’ve built out, export them as a .csv file.

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Next, go into the ‘Tools’ tab, select Keyword Planner and ‘Plan your budget and get forecasts.’ From here, you can either copy and paste your keywords (as pictured below) or upload the .csv directly. You can also upload any negative keywords you anticipate using.

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Select Your Location and Timeframe

Within the ‘Plan your budget and get forecasts’ section, add locations you plan on targeting with your campaigns under ‘Targeting.’ You will also want to set a timeframe Google can factor into the forecast. The default is the ‘next seven days,’ but you can set this range to a certain month you plan to run ads or estimate a range of months.

Enter a Bid for Positioning

A large component of your search budget will depend on how much you’re willing to pay to achieve a certain position on the search results page. To see the best click-through and conversion rates, we recommend aiming for the first few positions on the results page, but this depends on your preference. After you enter a bid (located in the top left corner), an estimated average position is provided. Play around with your bid until you have reached your desired range of positions.

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Once you’ve set your bid estimate, Keyword Planner will provide a spend forecast. Under ‘date range’ on the bottom left of the page, you can choose to view this as a daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly or yearly forecast.

Keep in mind there is an option to select ‘daily budget’ next to ‘enter a bid.’ You’ll want to leave this blank to get a forecast that is not restricted by a daily budget.

Monitor Impression Share and Adjust Continually

Once you apply the Keyword Planner forecast to your campaigns, you’ll want to monitor your search impression share throughout the life of the campaigns. Search impression share, which can be found under ‘competitive metrics,’ will tell you the percentage of impressions your ads are seeing from all eligible searches based on your budget. The Keyword Planner forecast should provide a fairly healthy share of impressions, but there’s always room for optimization.

If your search impression share is less than 70-80 percent, you may be able to generate more leads with additional budget. Check out ‘Search Lost IS (budget)’ under ‘competitive metrics’ – this gives you the percentage of impressions you’re missing due to limited budget.

If you see more than 20-30 percent of impression share lost due to budget, consider increasing spend. Make a note of when you increase budget, and check back in two to three weeks to determine how this affected your impression share. Repeat this process continually until you’ve reached a spend that captures your desired impression share, without sacrificing your cost per lead. Search volume (and impression share) will change as you make adjustments to your campaigns, so never stop optimizing your budgets!

Interested in learning about recent updates to Google AdWords? Watch our 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.

Save Time and Money with Responsive Display Ads

Are you interested in running display ads to promote your institution or degree offerings? Struggling to find the time and resources to design ads? Google’s most recent display product, responsive display ads, might solve your problem.

Advertisers can now create engaging display ads to fit virtually any available ad inventory on the Google Display Network. You simply provide a few basic assets, including a short headline (25 characters), long headline (90 characters), image, logo and URL.

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This update can save budget-conscious advertisers a substantial amount of time and money. Instead of tasking a designer with creating the full range of specs accepted by the Google Display Network, advertisers can now submit their desired copy and images. AdWords uses your text and image assets to create professional-quality display ads. What once required multiple hours of design time can now be set up in minutes.

If your institution has been interested in display advertising but hasn’t had the time or budget for professionally designed ads, this is a solution to consider. The update allows institutions who rely on the most common ad specs – 728×90 leaderboard or 300×250 rectangle – to drastically expand their reach.

Learn 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.

Case Study | Facebook Engagement Insights from 14 Big 10 Universities

This study sheds light on potential content strategies for university and college Facebook pages in terms of how content should be shared and what types of content should be shared. By recording the engagement levels of 1,400 posts across the 14 Big Ten University Facebook pages, some interesting themes emerged on what these fan bases found most engaging.

How Should We Share?

Posts with a link off the Facebook platform saw significantly lower engagement rates than posts with simply a photo, text or a combination of the two. This is likely due to the low probability of a user returning to engage with a post after being directed away.

The most engaging posts on Facebook for higher education institutions are photos with short snippets of text (fewer than 50 characters). Surprisingly, video content received less engagement than posts with a photo, text or both.

What Should We Share?

In this study, there were more than 60 content themes used to classify posts, so the five themes in the infographic truly stand out from the pack.

Here are the top five most engaging posts in order:

  1. Varsity Sports – Posts related to varsity sports teams saw the highest levels of engagement, as many students and alumni are passionate about their institution’s sports teams and love sharing this content on Facebook.
  2. Campus Scenery – Second to varsity sports were photos of campus scenery, especially well-known buildings and landmarks around campus.
  3. Formal Recognition – Posts that formally recognize an institution (or the institution’s city), such as a top S. News and World Report ranking, were third in engagement.
  4. Holiday Related – This includes posts on holidays that typically incorporate the institution’s logo or mascot, along with the holiday theme.
  5. Alumni Feature – Content that highlights a successful alumnus’ story is last on this list, but it beat out the majority of content many institutions promote on Facebook.

Institutions should post about many subjects to appeal to their diverse fan bases and keep students and alumni informed. But incorporating these themes more frequently will make your posts more engaging and potentially increase your following on Facebook.

How Much Should I Share?

When it comes to generating engagement on Facebook, keep it simple. Posts with 50 words or fewer were about twice as engaging as posts with 51-100 words. Videos less than one minute had an engagement rate twice that of videos between one and two minutes. Focus on the most powerful takeaway of your content, and condense it into a 50-word post or 1-minute video.

Facebook-post_infographic

Want more great social media tips? Download our free eBook on Social Media Governance.

The schools represented are part of a research project. Their inclusion does not represent their endorsement of Converge.

Google’s Ad Tag Goes Green

If you search for something in Google today, you might notice that your results page seems a little off – specifically the paid portion of the results page.

Do you see it yet?

The ‘Ad’ tag on paid results that indicates the result as sponsored has been changed from yellow to green.

GoogleTagAd

It’s a subtle change, but could have a substantial impact on Google’s paid portion of the search results page. Google received positive feedback from users during Beta testing of this update, so it has now gone live on both desktop and mobile devices. Google continually looks to optimize the aesthetic of its ad platform, and many speculate that this is an attempt to make paid results look more like organic results. Although Google reports no obvious increase in CTR from this change during testing, the update does help the ads blend in with the organic side of the page.

Since the green tag is located directly to the left of the display URL, which also happens to be green, the eye is drawn to the display URL even more so than before the update. Considering this, be sure to fully utilize the display URL by including as much description as possible. Instead of using info.college.edu for your Evening MBA program, use info.college.edu/evening-mba. Don’t overlook the display URL – especially with the updated green tag.

Ready to take your strategy to the next level? Learn more about our Digital Advertising services.

What Facebook’s Shuttering of FBX Means for Higher Ed

Last week, Facebook announced it will be getting rid of its real-time bidding ad exchange – Facebook Exchange or “FBX” – in November 2016. The company launched FBX in June 2012 to allow advertisers to purchase advertisement inventory that retargets users based on online behaviors through Demand-Side Platforms (DSPs) like MediaMath and Criteo.

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Many speculate that Facebook is making the move to reduce interaction with third-party systems to guard data and assets from the open marketplace. The shift to mobile ads is also a key factor in the company’s shuttering of FBX. Ads through FBX are only available on desktop (newsfeed or right rail), but the vast majority of ad revenue on Facebook stems from mobile traffic. In Q1, mobile ads accounted for 82 percent of total ad revenue (up from 73 percent last year).

So what does this mean for higher ed? Unless your institution is using a DSP to purchase remarketing inventory programmatically on Facebook, the elimination of FBX this fall won’t cause much disruption. And even if you are, the cessation of FBX will not impose many limitations to your digital strategy. Remarketing capabilities, as well as a vast selection of behavioral targeting, is available to advertisers through Facebook’s self-serve platform (Audience Network). The real takeaway from this announcement is the affirmation of a trend we have seen become more and more prominent over the past few months – the shift to the smart phone.

In March 2016, Facebook estimated about 989 million daily active users (DAUs) on mobile. That is a 24 percent year-over-year increase. With such a monumental shift towards mobile usage on Facebook, institutions need to think about how to adapt and stand out amid all the noise and distractions that saturate a prospect’s smartphone.

Some questions to ask before serving ads to your smart-phone-connected audience:

  • Am I using too much copy in my ads? Would my prospects take the time to read all of this?
  • Does my image seem native to the mobile platform?
  • Is my message and imagery memorable?
  • Should I be leveraging all of Facebook’s mobile ad options, including canvas ads, video ads, and Instagram?
  • Am I sending prospects to a mobile-optimized landing page or website?
  • Once prospects are on my landing page, does my content put them to sleep or spark interest to request more information?

Your prospective students are spending more and more time on their smart phones. How will your institution leave its mark in a hectic mobile space becoming increasingly saturated with content and messaging? Now is the time to find the answer.

Ready to take your strategy to the next level? Learn more about our digital advertising services.

Trends in Digital Advertising: Higher Ed Edition

Welcome to the conclusion of our three-part series on digital advertising trends.

It’s a new year, and that means a lot of new data is available in the marketplace. Converge recently released our survey of Inbound Marketing Trends. This past month, several other industry surveys have also been released, including a report on digital advertising benchmarks from Keypath Education.

The conclusion of this blog series provides an infographic of our thoughts on the trends highlighted in this study and industry benchmarks we have observed for 2015.

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