When Should You Start Running PPC Ads for Your School?

There are many marketing activities that will help your school grow over time. Search engine optimization (SEO), blogging, social media, video marketing and email marketing are all marketing strategies that are worthwhile investments for school. However, while these strategies are essential to have in your marketing toolbox, they take time, effort and patience to gain traction.

Pay-per-click (PPC) ads offer schools a way to get your school seen by potential parents relatively quickly. In the past, PPC ads were primarily used by commercial businesses, but in recent years it has become more common for schools to use PPC ads to effectively reach prospective parents.

What is PPC Marketing?

Pay-per-click (PPC) refers to paid advertising using online channels (Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Bing, Twitter, etc.) where the organization running the ads is charged when a user clicks on an ad.

Schools use PPC ads to:

  • Increase brand awareness
  • Generate inquiries
  • Generate enrollments

PPC ads use keywords to match users with an active ad. When a prospective parent types in a query that is relevant to the keywords selected by the school running the ad, the parent will be shown the ad.

When implemented correctly, PPC ads can provide your school with inquiries from prospective parents. If you can create a seamless enrollment journey, the reward for your school can mean a positive ROI for your PPC efforts.

Benefits of Pay-Per-Click Advertising

Many schools are realizing there are numerous benefits of investing in PPC ads.

  • Speedy results

PPC ads notoriously produce speedy results. Unlike content marketing and organic SEO, PPC advertising drives fast results. Schools have the potential to reach hundreds, maybe thousands of parents, very quickly.

  • Increase website traffic

PPC ads drive traffic to your website. While paid ads do not contribute directly to your rank on the search engine results page (SERP), they do increase the overall number of click-throughs your website receives. Over time, this increase in website activity will contribute to higher organic search ranking.

  • Effective in spite of Google algorithm changes

In the past ten years since Google started updating its algorithm, Google has released many new updates. Today, Google releases one or more changes to its algorithm on a daily basis. In addition, Google releases what they call Core Updates several times a year. This can create challenges for schools focusing on content marketing and SEO strategies. PPC ads do not depend on SEO; you pay for clicks, and Google places them at the top of the SERP.

  • High return on investment

Schools invest in PPC in order to attract prospective parents and invite them to convert and enroll their child in their school. Overall, a whopping 74% of brands (of all types) say PPC ads drive a significant amount of their revenue.

  • Increase brand recognition

Brand recognition is an important aspect of marketing. The more people that know about and recognize your school and what you have to offer their child, the more likely they are to inquire about enrolling their student in your school.

PPC ads can ensure your school appears online in the places your prospective parents might see information about your school.

  • Many ways to target your ads

PPC ads give you the opportunity to specifically target your ads to the right people. There are many ways to design targeting for your ads. You can target based on demographics, custom intent, audiences similar to enrolled families, remarketing, topics, placement, content keywords and display extension for search.

  • Able to utilize geo-targeting

Geo-targeting allows you to specifically target an area – such as a city, metropolitan area, or region. You can also exclude certain areas related to proximity. You can even target a geographic location different from where your school is located. You aren’t stuck targeting a too-large area, but can narrow your marketing efforts to generate leads in the specific areas you need.

  • Improve your SEO using PPC data

When you run PPC ads, you receive data on how well your keywords perform. This information can help you optimize your website and content. This will help you rank higher overall in the SERP.

  • Get shown in the coveted “map pack”

The “map pack” refers to local results that are displayed beneath a map of the local area where the searcher is requesting information. Usually three snippets are displayed with information and a website link beneath the map. The Google Map Pack appears on almost 93 percent of all first pages for organic results. PPC ads can feature your school’s specific location so you are displayed in “near me” results. You can even set up location extensions to increase the likelihood your school will be featured.

  • Utilize retargeting

Most landing page visitors do not take action. As a matter of fact, research conducted by Wordstream indicates, on average, only 4.4 percent of visitors convert. However, most PPC advertising channels allow you to “retarget” those individuals by serving them a new, customized ad. This means you can re-engage those visitors and encourage them to complete an inquiry form or take another action. This is perhaps the most powerful feature of PPC ads because you are targeting people who already have familiarity with your school and have “clicked-through” on an ad to your landing page.

How Long Does It Take For Google Ads to Work?

Google Ads take a while to mature. While it is true you can get some results very quickly, it can take at least three months for ads to mature and then approximately 4-12 months to develop a strong campaign.

It takes time because it takes Google a while to collect enough data to effectively serve your ad to the right audience.

Here’s an approximate timeline:

  • When you first set up your Google Ad, it will take Google 24-48 hours to review and approve your ad.
  • Once the ad is approved, it will take another seven days for Google to:
    • Gather information about your business
    • Learn about your selected keywords
    • Understand your target audience
  • After collecting vital information during the first week, Google will build momentum during the next 2 to 4 weeks. During this time, do not make any changes to your ads so Google can work without having to adjust to changes.
  • When you start a new campaign or make significant changes, Google will set your account to “learning”. During a learning phase, performance will decrease and cost-per-click will increase. If you introduce too many changes to your account, you may trigger a new learning phase.
  • After the algorithm has completed the learning phase, your account will show as “eligible”. After this happens, you can make optimized changes to your ad account. Each time you make optimization changes, it will take about 1-2 weeks for the algorithm to adjust to the new information.
  • The third month is when you start seeing results from the optimization work you’ve done.

Manage the Timing of PPC

PPC campaigns can be very effective, but schools need to effectively manage the timing of PPC ads in order to conserve their budget. Some schools run PPC ads on an as needed basis, some run them seasonally, and others run them consistently throughout the year.

Determining the right time to run your PPC ads is often overlooked. If you want your school’s ads to be as effective as possible, you need to figure out the right best times to run your ads.

Applying common sense to your PPC ad strategy is vital. If you want your school marketing to thrive, you will need to adapt to seasonal trends with analytics. For example, an effective PPC ad management can improve your spring conversion rate while preventing overspending during times when prospective parents typically are not active on your site. To determine the right timing of your PPC ad campaigns, you should conduct a three-month, year-over-year analysis to determine the seasonal fluctuations of your ad traffic.

While SEO is an important strategy, schools who invest in PPC campaigns rank higher in searches for targeted keywords. Schools need to increase their exposure with the use of a PPC advertising strategy. As a school marketer, implementing an ongoing marketing strategy that includes timely PPC ads will be an important element of your success. By effectively managing your PPC marketing, you can reach the right target audience, turn those prospects into enrolled families, and successfully build your school enrollment.

Do you run PPC ads as part of your school marketing strategy? How do you manage the timing of your ad campaigns? Please share your experience in the comments below…

About the author 

Brendan Schneider

Hey, I’m Brendan, and this is my blog. After 28 years working in private, independent schools in mostly admissions, enrollment, marketing, communications, and fundraising roles, I decided to make SchneiderB Media my full-time job, where I help schools get more inquiries through my Fractional Digital Marketer program. I also started the MarCom Society, a membership created expressly to help, support, and train marketing and communications professionals at schools.

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