All posts by Michelle Rhatigan

6 is the New 30: The 6-Second Ad for Higher Ed

Why do in 30 seconds what you can do in six? That’s the challenge YouTube presented to agency creatives and filmmakers at Sundance.

In a world of constant media consumptionwhere anyone can post and go viral through YouTube, Facebook, Twitter or Vimeoit’s more important than ever to stay relevant. On top of that, we know the average human’s attention span is now shorter than a goldfish.

The best way to share information? By showing, not telling. Students know you want to give them personalized attention and financial aidwhat they don’t know is how your program will make them feel, what it can help them achieve or why your alumni network is so close knit.

WHERE DO I START?

Your narrative should be different than what you would typically execute for a longer form video. Get to the point (it should be just one) and make it count. Participants in YouTube’s challenge did not cut down longer videos to fit the six seconds. Instead, they crafted films to specifically fit the parameters.

 

Build curiosity, our brains aren’t constrained by time the way we think they are. Keep it simple by starting with an emotion: the pursuit of a craft, the focus of a deadline, the roar of a crowd at Saturday’s game.

 

IS ANYBODY LISTENING?

85% of Facebook users are listening to video with the sound off. Know this and understand what it means. By making your video visually appealing, you’ll catch eyes before the autoplay even starts. Think strong creative showcasing campus beauty, collaboration and passion.

 

LET’S KEEP IT 100.

Prospects know intuitively that they’re being marketed to, but why does your video have to feel that way? Share authentically. If you don’t have the resources to create Sundance level films, just send a fearless leader (re: real-life student in your program) out with an iPhone and Vimeo account. They know what they care about and your prospects do, too.

 

WE LIKE TO MOVE IT, MOVE IT.

Everyone is on the go these days. Assume your video is being sneakily glanced at during a Monday meeting, or from the train or while standing in line for today’s second cup of coffee. Utilize text overlay if necessary, but keep it brief. Highly qualified prospects already know they’re ready to advance their careers. Be the university that convinces them that the time is now and the provider is you.

 

MEET THEM THERE.

Customize the style and length of your video on different platforms. The six-second video is relevant and necessary, but I’m not suggesting all your videos be this brief. What I am suggesting is that, when you focus dollars on social channels, you understand the mindset of the end user.

 

If I’m watching a TED talk on YouTube, I might be ready to listen to a 30-second video with a testimonial. If I’m scrolling through Facebook, looking for my friend’s new baby pictures, I might only have six seconds to spare.

 

NEXT-LEVEL ENGAGEMENT.

Finally, make sure your video has an indirect CTA. Direct them back to your site for more of that great content you’re producing on blogs, through alumni spotlights, through student treks. Channel the momentum from your six-second ads to a page for student work, so the narrative keeps going and the conversation has a clear next step.

 

Excited about video and interested in other new and next ideas? Check out our recent webinar, Dazed and Digital: 10 New Ideas in 30 Minutes.

Digital Disruption with Michael Schinelli from UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School

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Michael Schinelli, CMO at the UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School, presented the opening keynote on University Marketing and Communications in the Age of Digital Disruption at Converge 2017. Michael is an experienced speaker and fierce advocate for what is new and next in digital.

His session shed light on the complex landscape facing our industry today. Prospective students are finding your school or program through digital channels, which means their journey to enrollment is far more fragmented. Michael offered many helpful insights during his keynote, but these three takeaways stood out to me.

Customer Centricity – Focus on Insights, Not Agendas

Michael’s first strategy to combat digital disruption resonated with me the most. He shared a video by Valspar Paint where they partnered with EnChroma, maker of color blindness-correcting glasses, to help people experience colors for the first time. By creating an emotional connection with their brand, they will forever be first in my mind when I consider what brand to purchase to paint my home.

 

 

Students are no longer enrolling at your institution simply because they’ve heard of it, or even because of your brand’s clout. It’s time to dig deeper and find ways to connect with them on a personal level. How do we make them care?

Digital Agility – From Data to Decisions

Personalized emails—where content is customized based on information provided—see 30 percent higher open rates and 40 percent higher CTRs. Students today receive automated confirmation emails for every inquiry they submit. How can you use the information you’re requesting to create a personalized experience for them?

Among several examples, Michael referenced LinkedIn Dynamic ads. This ad type pulls in the user’s LinkedIn picture and auto-populates your university logo, allowing them to picture themselves alongside your brand.

Creative Clarity – Visual and Written Language

The average person processes images 60,000x faster than they do words. In a culture where the average attention span is eight seconds (and that’s rounding up), it’s more important than ever to capture a person’s imagination and ideas. Every student knows that your MBA curriculum is flexible and that your faculty is dedicated. How can you reach them quickly, before you lose their interest?

UNC launched a digital app for their alumni magazine—and it’s launched or opened six times per user, on average. This is driven by interactive, visual content.

How do we turn disruption into opportunity?

All of Michael’s points remind us to put the user first and live out our authentic story in a way that helps us build real connections. The bottom-line is always more leads, inquiries, applicants or enrolled students. Let’s reframe the discussion when it comes to engaging our students, alumni and communities. Start by asking yourself and your team:

  • How do we make them care?
  • How can we make the experience more personalized?
  • How do we keep them engaged with us?

You can view Michael’s presentation in its entirety on Prezi.

Geofencing Best Practices for Higher Education: 3 Strategies to Test

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Geofencing is a hot topic in higher education marketing. It is a very targeted way to place paid mobile advertisements in front of people within a specific location—think recruitment fairs, community college transfer days, local businesses, on-campus events and more.

Users within 30-feet of your set location will see mobile ads when they’re on their phone or within a supported app. A successful strategy encompasses several designated market areas (DMAs) or state-wide geographic targeting to ensure a strong volume of traffic. Here are three geofencing strategies we recommend testing:

Targeting The Traditional Undergrad

One of the more widely-used strategies for geofencing is to target high schools and community colleges in your state or states of interest. Each time they’re on their mobile browser or an app that supports banner ads, your target audience is eligible to receive an ad about your school.

Friends University in Wichita, KS, targeted 16 community colleges and high schools in the state of Kansas. Within three months, geofencing efforts drove a 50 percent higher engagement rate when compared to overall prospecting efforts.

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McMurry University in Abilene, TX, setup geofencing for high schools in ‘Big Country’ Texas. McMurry University’s primary geo-target has led to an exceptionally high click-through rate—over 1.35 percent. This significantly exceeds contextual targeting, and even retargeting initiatives.

Reaching The Local Community Audience

Northwest Nazarene University in Nampa, ID combined their targeting of high schools and community colleges with targeting Nazarene churches and local malls with specific scholarship ads.

As optimizations were done based on engagement and the audience grew more specific, NNU saw an increase in click-through-rate (CTR) of 51 percent from geofencing efforts. Geofencing efforts also saw a 1,033 percent higher CTR than traditional prospecting efforts.

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Engaging The Event Attendee

The School of the Art Institute of Chicago utilized geofencing for their undergraduate and graduate portfolio events. These events give prospective students the opportunity to have their work reviewed and gain a better sense of what a portfolio should look like when applying for programs.

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This targeting was used as a standalone strategy and results varied by the location of the event. Most events were held at event centers and art schools around the country and results improved when the geofenced area encompassed local shops, cafes, restaurants and hotels.

Geofencing efforts drove higher site engagement, when looking at the undergraduate and graduate admissions pages, geofencing traffic spent an average of 2 minutes, 7 seconds on page while the average user spent 1 minute, 20 seconds.

Want more digital advertising best practices?

Display advertising is a great tactic to support your branding efforts. It’s not typically a lead driver, but it does contribute to the overall impact of your digital marketing. It can lead to engagement on site, which in turn produces people who are more cognizant of your brand and will think of you when they’re closer to making a decision.

Still have questions on how to utilize geofencing? Reach out and let us know.

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Why Discovery is Important and How It Impacts Project Success

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One of the first meetings our team schedules with any new client is the discovery meeting. This phase is crucial for laying out every project – whether it is an inbound marketing project, digital advertising project or website redesign.

Why is this phase so important? It drives the strategy, design, copy and most importantly, our joint goals for the project.

During this time, we dig deeper into your university, your college and your programs to gather details on what you’ve tried and whether your efforts were successful. We get to know your program directors, faculty members, marketing personnel and tech support. We uncover what sets your program, faculty and university apart. If the conversation goes well, you convince me to go back to school and study a new field, earn a master’s degree or at the very least, visit your campus.

Components of Discovery

Define and align goals

This is when you tell us what you want the digital campaigns to accomplish. We want to hear how you will measure success – maybe you want an even ratio of domestic to international applicants, an increase in leads from key feeder schools or more registrations for an on-campus information session. Whatever it is, we’ll help you set realistic goals and provide benchmark data.

Understand your target audience

We want to hear all about your students: your average students, your ideal students and even the students you want less of. Tell us about their hobbies, their interests, what drives them to pursue a degree and what holds them back. Tell us where they come from, how they spend their time and what their family is like. Pretend you’re describing your dream date to us, only instead of dinner, we’ll focus on submitted lead forms.

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Examine program(s) in detail

We want to know the same things prospects want to know when evaluating your program. What are the pre-requisites? Is it flexible and affordable? Can I take classes online? What do alumni have to say? When is the next start date?

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Tell us which faculty members currently work or have formerly worked in their fields. Share recognition and rankings your program has received. Tell us how it can advance a student’s career or fulfill their intrinsic desire to learn. Help us build an effective strategy to fill your lead pool.

Discovery never ends. We continue gathering information and competitive insights, reviewing past marketing data and continually researching your target demographic to ensure we can generate new strategies for your goals.

Questions about discovery? Ready to begin your digital advertising journey? Check out our digital advertising services.

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Are You Making These 5 Common Search Mistakes?

A solid search strategy is an integral part of any digital marketing plan. Many marketers allocate more than half of their ad spend to search, hoping to reach the people trying to find them.

To maximize your budget and run your campaign effectively, avoid these five common mistakes.

Not setting up proper tracking

By placing the AdWords conversion pixel on your confirmation page, you can monitor which keywords and ads are working well and which ones might need to be retired. Each click on your ad tags the user, so when they reach your confirmation page and that pixel fires, you can return to the platform to assess cost per lead and conversion rates.

If you can’t place the conversion pixel, it’s still possible to track conversions by appending your landing page URLs with tracking parameters. The required parameters are source (Google), medium (CPC) and campaign. You can get creative with campaign by using something general like “search” or something as granular as the keyword. There is another variable, content, which allows you to input a word that denotes an ad copy theme.

If this is done, you can utilize Google Analytics reports by segmenting data by source, medium or campaign and the confirmation URL you are interested in.

Not utilizing remarketing lists

This is similar to conversion tracking in that you need to place a tag on your site. The difference here is that you want it on every page of your site and on your landing pages and thank you pages.

Once this tag is placed, you create audiences based on URLs visited. Again, you can get as broad or as granular as you want. In AdWords, you can set up something like “All Visitors to /executive-mba” and exclude visitors to “/executive-mba-thank-you.”

In Google Analytics, you can create remarketing lists by behavior, such as a user who spends at least 30 seconds on site or visits a page more than once. Being able to segment users like this means remarketing more engaged users and spending less on less active users.

Overlooking the importance of ad extensions

Ad extensions have been around for a while, yet many advertisers neglect to spend enough time on extensions or optimize them as frequently as ad copy. Extensions ensure you take up as much real estate on the search engine results page as possible. There are a few we love using for higher ed: Sitelinks, callout extensions, structured snippets and call extensions.

Sitelinks have a headline and two lines of text, just like an ad. They link to pages besides your landing page and allow you to showcase additional benefits and offers.

Structured snippets are pre-defined categories set by Google that allow you to list popular courses for singular program advertising and degree programs for an overall college.

Callout and call extensions are fairly straightforward and simple. Provide your phone number for those who don’t want to explore independently and use callout extensions for small tidbits (fewer than 25 characters).

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It’s true that position one is important, but it’s not the only position worth achieving. There are now four positions above the organic results, thanks to Google removing sidebar ads and changing the ad indicator from yellow to green to make ads blend in even more.

Because of this, I recommend aiming for positions one through four. Pay attention to your CPC, CTR and CVR rate when considering your optimal position. If you receive better CTR, pay less per click on position three versus one and continue to see great lead volume, you’ll pay less per lead overall and stretch your dollar.

Ignoring your search query reports

It happens far too often – advertisers see a keyword spending wildly and decide to pause it before digging into why this might be happening. There are a few important questions to ask. First, are you using the best match type? Are you paying too much for your position (see mistake #4)? Most importantly, do you know what’s matching to the keyword?

The search query report shows exactly what someone types when Google determines that your keyword closely matches it and serves an impression. Dig into this report at least once every two weeks and sort by high cost with zero conversions, high impressions with low clicks and low CTR. Add negatives by varying match types – typically phrase or exact will be your best option. Broad may restrict you from other matches you want.

This is also a great time to analyze new keywords your audience is actually searching for. By adding these keywords to your arsenal, you can continue dominating your space and reach.

Questions about search engine marketing? Reach out to our digital advertising team!

Microsoft Acquires LinkedIn: What Does It Mean?

When Microsoft first announced they were acquiring LinkedIn, I wondered why they brokered such a large deal and how it was going to impact digital marketing.

This is Microsoft’s largest acquisition to date at $26.2 billion. However, if you consider each company’s mission, they’re pretty similar.

Microsoft: At Microsoft, our mission is to enable people and businesses throughout the world to realize their full potential.

LinkedIn: To connect the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful.

Both companies want to empower people and businesses to become more with assistance from other like-minded people. The acquisition presentation included in the image below depicts how the two networks can take their strengths and create a better experience for users and advertisers.

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Casting a Wider Net

Prior to the acquisition, Microsoft didn’t have a social network. Now that they’ve gained access to LinkedIn’s 433 million members and two million paid subscribers, they have an entirely new audience with which they can connect like never before.

More Refined Targeting

Integrating LinkedIn and Bing should greatly improve search and audience targeting. Being able to layer job title, industry, skills and years of experience will help refine results and ensure hyper-relevant impressions.

Additionally, this will expand the inventory available to those already using LinkedIn for marketing. Think of the potential expansion of inventory with Microsoft Outlook and Calendar, Skype and Bing.

Outlook Ads

Gmail ads target users based on the sites they’re browsing by delivering ads inspired by their Gmail account activity. By expanding LinkedIn and social media demographics to Bing, we could be looking at a new channel in Outlook email.

Lower CPC and Higher CTR

I’m also considering how this might decrease LinkedIn’s cost-per-click and increase click-through-rates. LinkedIn is already the most expensive social channel, and they push out impressions frequently. By implementing the additional user base and targeting capabilities, it’s possible that clicks won’t cost as much and refined targeting will narrow the impression and click gap.

Have questions on Bing or LinkedIn advertising? Reach out to the Converge Digital Advertising Team!

New LinkedIn Students App: Find Students Where They Are

In a month synonymous with college graduation, LinkedIn announced it is making improvements to higher education offerings and services provided for students.

“The updates offer fantastic improvements, giving schools more transparency and control of their marketing on LinkedIn,” said Brian Connelly, Account Executive at LinkedIn. “We’re moving back to focusing on the core value LinkedIn has to offer, and that’s connecting the world’s professionals with opportunities to improve through education.”

Along with this change, a new app was introduced that will impact the way students use LinkedIn and, in turn, the way universities focus their digital marketing strategies.

The new LinkedIn Students App is extremely appealing and easy to use. Students just log in with their LinkedIn credentials, and the app pulls in relevant information, like their majors and graduation years. Right away, the app starts making recommendations in a card format for users to tap into.

These cards include:

  • Role cards (career ideas)
  • Recommended reading cards (articles of interest)
  • Company cards (companies that might be a good fit and have hired alumni from a student’s college)
  • People cards (alumni from a student’s school with shared skills and majors)
  • Job cards (current and specific job openings)

Finally, there’s the ‘extra-credit’ cards, where articles appear from relevant companies and universities. Sponsored posts are a great way for universities to offer valuable and relevant content to LinkedIn users, and they’re more native to the platform than text ads.

Job Suggestion LinkedIn Blog  LinkedIn Extra Credit Photo  ReadingLinkedIn Blog Photo

As students and young professionals turn toward this app and away from desktop and mobile sites, universities will want to utilize sponsored updates, as this will be the only way to appear in the app. Though general buzz suggests text ads will eventually be included on these cards, stay ahead of the curve and take advantage of sponsored posts.

Focus your sponsored posts on:

  • Notable alumni
  • Exciting program updates
  • Student success stories
  • Financial aid options
  • Upcoming events
  • Recent awards or recognition

Right now, university pages are not able to post sponsored updates – the school must also have a company page. It has been discussed, but not announced, that LinkedIn may be merging these two pages in 2016 so universities wouldn’t need to manage separate pages. This would be a huge win for marketers, as it would increase the ease of pushing out content, not to mention the wide range of analytics that company pages offer.

Make the most of your university page:

  • Add alumni and request that they provide testimonials.
  • Create posts about upcoming events where students can connect with alumni or faculty.
  • Use showcase pages to highlight individual programs.
  • Post content with open-ended questions to encourage engagement.

Connelly agrees and recommends that universities engage with students by providing meaningful information in the native feed through organic and paid sponsored content.

Need help with your digital advertising efforts on LinkedIn? Let us know how we can help!

Go from Good to Great: 5 Ways to Optimize Your PPC Performance

Wordstream posted a great blog post in April 2014 that’s still true two years later. In the world of PPC, a lot can change, but there are tried and true methods to optimize your search campaigns that remain the same.

This blog, originally posted by Margot da Cunha at Wordstream, discusses a company Wordstream worked with that had a limited budget, small staff, and not a lot of time. These are also barriers many colleges and universities face. So how can you take your PPC performance from good to great when facing these challenges?

Build a Strong Account Structure

The first point Cunha discusses goes back to the basics of when you are initially building your search account. She discusses the need for campaigns with specific goals, ad groups with tightly knit keyword themes, and keywords within your ad text.

These are all points we can agree on. Think of your search account like a house and the structure of your account like the house’s foundation – you can’t have a sturdy house without a well-built foundation.

If you are focused on generating leads for two different graduate programs at your school, you’ll want to establish two separate campaigns to ensure your account is streamlined and allocate the budget you want to each program’s efforts.

You can separate your ad groups into specific themes, such as master’s degree, online master’s degree, graduate school, etc. The keywords in these ad groups should be variations of the theme, adding in your program such as ‘social work master’s degree,’ ‘master’s degree in social work,’ etc.

Finally, ensure you are using keywords in your ad copy and using your ad copy on your landing page. These are all quick wins when revitalizing an account.

Focus on High-Performance PPC Keywords

Cunha’s next point is ensuring you focus optimization efforts on high-performance keywords.

This is another great point, but you might be wondering how you determine what high-performing keywords are ideal for your account. It depends on your goals.

Let’s return to our goal of generating leads for a graduate program. We recommend that lead generation clients focus on click-through-rate (CTR), conversion rate (CVR), and cost per conversion/lead (CPL).

CTR is an important metric as it indicates the relevancy of the keywords you are bidding on to the ad copy users are reading. If you have a high CTR, it tells you that people read your ad and the ad spoke to their search intent.

CVR is important because it speaks to the relevancy of your ad to the landing page. If you have high CVR, you are providing a consistent message and sending people to a place where they can take action on their intent.

Finally, CPL lets you know how much you are paying for each lead that comes through. In higher education, we also want to use this number alongside lead-to-enrollment rate and the cost per enrolled student.

Further Build-Out Negative Keyword Lists

Staying on top of your search query reports and adding negative keywords should be a no-brainer. Checking the search query report to see what your keywords are matching to is extremely important. You should add irrelevant terms as negative keywords to ensure your ads don’t appear for similar queries in the future.

Negative keywords also help with query mapping and ensure you are serving the most relevant ad. For example, if you have an ad group with online program keywords, you should add ‘online’ as a negative keyword to your other ad groups. This ensures that when people are searching for an online program, their query will match your keywords in the correct ad group and they will see online-focused ad copy.

Pause Keywords with Poor Performance

The next point is poor keyword performance. Ensure there’s enough data to make an informed decision before pausing a keyword. Cunha’s tips include checking that you are bidding high enough, reviewing the status column for low search volume keywords, and considering the match type.

You want to check that your most important and relevant keywords are at least up to Google’s estimated first-page bid. With the recent changes to the search engine results page, your position goal should be anywhere from one to four.

Low search volume keywords are those flagged by Google as not having enough search volume to show your ad. You can clean up your account by pausing these keywords. Checking this column for low-quality score keywords is helpful as well. Quality score is impacted by a number of things, and we recommend checking the relevancy of the keyword to your overall ad group and its relevancy to the ad it’s paired with.

If you’re seeing high volume but low CTR on a broad-match keyword, consider adding it to the account as broad match modified or phrase match to decrease the number of queries that match it. Likewise, if you see extremely low volume on an exact-match keyword, consider pausing it and adding a phrase or broad match modified to gain volume.

Optimize Ads & Create New Ad Text

Cunha’s final tip is one many people don’t do often enough: continuously optimize ad text.

While account structure is the foundation of your house, your ads are the exterior of the home – these are what people actually see. You want to be sure your house is attractive and inviting from the outside, much like you want your ad copy to draw people in.

The key factor is relevancy, both to your keywords and landing page copy. Be sure to set yourself apart by describing benefits or value propositions to your program and distinguishing it from others.

Finally, take advantage of ad extensions. Google wants you to use them, and your ads will have a better quality score if you do. Utilize site links, location and call extensions, callout extensions, and structured snippets.

Do you have other tried and true optimizations for your search accounts? Share them in the comments below.

This article originally appeared on Internet Marketing Blog by WordStream and has been republished with permission.

How to Spread Brand Awareness with Gmail Sponsored Promotions

If you’re like most advertisers, you’re always looking for new ways to get your brand out there. When considering branding opportunities, finding a new audience is important. Gmail Sponsored Promotions are a way to find audiences where they’re at every day (probably multiple times a day): their Gmail inbox.

What is it and how does it work?

Gmail Sponsored Promotions are Display Network Campaigns that target personal Gmail inboxes, showing up in the Promotions tab.promotions tabThere are two ad formats: the teaser and the expanded ad. The teaser looks like a text ad and is used to generate initial interest.

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The expanded ad can be a banner ad, much like you see on Google Display network sites, or you can build it out. If you choose to build it out, you simply upload an image and develop supporting copy. One thing I especially like if you go this route is that you have the ability to enter the exact hex code of your school’s brand colors.

 

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There are three trackable actions people can take on your expanded ad. They can save it to their inbox by clicking the star icon, forward the ad to someone they know who might be interested or click onto your website. Keep in mind that the only click you are charged for is the initial click from the teaser ad to the expanded ad.

What are my targeting options?

GSP lets you target by all the usual display campaign suspects – keywords, topics, demographics, device, you name it.

One notable setting for targeting is the only managed placement you should choose – mail.google.com.

Domain targeting comes into play with your keyword list. Build your keyword list with domain names your audience might be receiving emails from, including your competitor schools. For example, a school promoting a social work master’s degree might target users who receive emails from CSWE.org, or an MBA program might target users who receive emails from Wall Street Journal or Forbes.

Use topic and demographic targeting just like you would for any other GDN campaign – by segmenting the population to those likely to be interested in your program.

Why should I use it?

Inexpensive: You will see some of your lowest CPCs in Gmail campaigns.

Exposure: Google announced in early February that Gmail now has more than one billion monthly active users. Combined with low CPCs, you can be sure you’ll find the right audience.

Targeting Options: The ability to layer on multiple targeting types gives you a highly targeted and relevant audience. You can also choose to start with a broad audience and narrow it down when you see what works.

Creative: You can use a mix of image and text ads that work together to tell your story.

Do you have more questions about GSP campaigns? Reach out to me at michelle@convergeconsulting.org or leave us a comment!

The Integral Retargeting Path

Retargeting is an integral part to any digital strategy, but it is particularly valuable for those with longer consideration paths, like higher education. We know that the majority of people who are considering going back to school are not going to apply on the spot. They require more nurturing and information because it is a long term goal and something they need to plan for.

The first time a user visits your program page, whether organically or by clicking on a paid Search ad, they will likely exit without taking action other than browsing content (an equally important component of your digital strategy!)

OK, so you gained their interest, now let’s strengthen that relationship. Once a user exits, you can remain in the forefront of their decision process by serving retargeting ads to remind them of the benefits of your institution.

The next time they see your retargeting ad, they’ll remember the great things they know about you and be encouraged to explore further. Now, we’ve had a second touchpoint and can deliver a landing page where they can fill out a form for more information. We’re now on our way to growing this lead into an application!

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