4 More FAQs About Digital Advertising for Higher Education

4 More FAQs About Digital Advertising for Higher Education

Many of you might remember my post on frequently asked questions about digital advertising in higher education from a few months ago. During my on-boarding at Converge and transition from admissions to agency, I had several enlightening conversations with our digital strategy team. As I wrapped my head around acronyms that are new to me and reflected on everything I learned, I found answers, but I also discovered new questions.  

My last post focused on navigating the digital space and understanding ROI on a more macro level. Naturally, I wanted to hear what it all meant on a more micro-level. I want to know how this information can help marketing and admissions professionals better understand the value of the digital space. What can digital really do to help admissions offices achieve their goals? Once again, my old friend John Staak stepped up to the plate and didn’t hesitate to find time for us to connectdespite his busy life as an MBA student and part-time Converge consultant.

Here are four more FAQs about digital advertising addressed for higher education:


1. A few months ago we talked about terms like ROI, CTR and CPL. I learned a lot,  but also realized I needed just a bit more information to help me put things into context. What data should colleges focus on when determining ROI?

There are a few things that all higher education institutions should really consider and know when calculating return on investment for digital advertising spend.

  • # of enrollments from digital advertising: this can be determined using a CRM or manual ‘match back’ process through identifying duplicate records in Excel
  • Avg. revenue per enrollment: better yet, lifetime value of one enrollment (this would include alumni contributions)
  • All costs associated with running a digital advertising campaign: including ad spend, management and implementation costs.


2. You mentioned “all costs associated with running a digital campaign.” What if a school hasn’t run a campaign before. What kind of data can they use to see if entering the digital space is a good idea.  

If your institution has not run any digital advertising and is considering this option, you can use the following information to calculate a projected ROI based on a specific budget. Here’s an example for context:

  • Proposed budget: Let’s say $20,000 for ad spend and $15,000 for management & implementation.
  • Cost-per-Lead: Assume your CPL will fall between $150-300
  • Lifetime Lead-to-Application Rate: Use your institution’s internal data to estimate your rate of matriculation from program lead to application. 5-10% is a common range.
  • Lifetime Application-to-Enrollment Rate: Use your institution’s internal data to estimate your rate of matriculation from application to enrollment. 10-20% is a common range.
  • Avg. revenue per enrollment: For simplicity, total lifetime revenue from tuition is a good place to start.

At $20,000 in total ad spend, a $200 average CPL, 7% lead-to-application rate, 15% application-to-enrollment rate, and $100,000 revenue per enrollment – projected ROI would be:

$10,000 spend / $200 CPL = 100 Leads

100 Leads x 7% Lead-to-Application Rate = 7 Applications

7 Applications x 15% Application-to-Enrollment Rate = ~1 student

1 student = $100,000 in revenue

$100,000 revenue  – $35,000 cost  / $35,000 cost = 1.86 or 186% ROI


3. What factors should colleges and universities take into consideration regarding the timing and pace of their digital marketing campaigns?

We highly recommend a year-round digital presence because recruitment never really stops. However, there are certainly periods throughout the year that merit more aggressive ad budgets. Strategic budget allocation by month will also depend quite a bit on the trends your specific institution observes. It is always best practice to review Google Analytics data over the past few years to identify which periods throughout the year tend to see more traffic – particularly, more traffic to ‘admissions’ related pages.

Traffic to your site will reflect patterns in enrollment and application activity observed by your admissions team. When students are in ‘application’ mode (as reflected by web traffic and data from your admissions team), we recommend being more aggressive with digital ad spend to encourage consideration of your institution. Test dates are also important to pay attention to when planning advertising budgets.

And finally, leverage your application deadline with digital advertising campaigns that specifically call out the date. We particularly encourage ramping up ads that call out the deadline among your remarketing and email lists, as these prospects are already considering your program. This helps create some urgency and provides the nudge some prospects need to start their application.


4. Colleges and universities are usually on a tight budget. What suggestions can you give them on how to stretch their budget and still use digital to make the most impact if they can’t be “live” every month?

If your institution is on a tight budget, which I would consider $500-$2,000 per month on ad spend (depending on your market), there are a few channels and tactics I would recommend employing first. Remarketing and email list targeting on display networks and social channels is the most cost-effective tactic in terms of reaching an already engaged audience. If your institution already has strong brand awareness and you are looking to supplement your enrollment efforts with digital, remarketing would be a no brainer. If you are a lesser-known school that needs to focus on generating awareness on a limited budget, I would consider running the following tactics in addition to remarketing:

  • Display campaigns on the Google Display Network targeting highly relevant topics such as ‘Legal Education’, relevant ‘display select keywords’, law-related websites (placements) and custom affinity audiences for law schools.
  • Facebook campaigns with a traffic or brand awareness objective (this setting will allow you to reach more individuals for your budget). Facebook is the most widely used social platform and is reasonably priced compared to Instagram and LinkedIn – so if you have one social channel to go with, make it Facebook.

If your institution has a strong brand presence and you have some additional budget after remarketing, I recommend focusing on a search engine marketing strategy the uses strictly branded search terms (users searching for your law school). You will see much lower cost-per-clicks, and this will without a doubt be the best use of your limited budget. From there, go ahead and expand to some more general search terms as the budget becomes available.



At a glance (and without past experience) the value of digital can be tricky to define. But a sound mix of digital advertising strategies will increase brand awareness, drum up interest and engage prospects in the enrollment journey. I hope these insights help you gain a better understanding of why digital is vital to EDU marketing campaigns. If you have more questions, don’t hesitate to reach out. You can contact me directly or tweet us @convergeorg.

Issa DiSciullo
Issa DiSciullo
October 20, 2017