5 Tips for Writing Ad Copy in Facebook for Higher Education

I remember the days when you needed a “.edu” email address in order to set up a Facebook profile – heck, looking back on it, I remember the act of doing so almost as an indoctrination of myself into the university experience. Over the years, Facebook has evolved into so much more than a place for blossoming academics — it’s become a Social Media behemoth, a staple of our daily lives and a marketing utopia where, according to the New York Times in 2016, would-be students and non-students alike spend on average 50 minutes per day. The increasingly ubiquitous nature of Facebook is in part where the channel becomes so valuable to Higher Education marketers like myself.

The vision and specter of your ads across newsfeeds can be a make-or-break moment in the target user’s experience – it can facilitate a potable, attractive touchpoint for prospective students to consider and/or engage with your brand or degree program. Being a numbers kind of guy, ad copy creative tends to fall low on my totem pole of priorities – that’s why I keep this short list of imperatives taped to my desk.

  1. Know your target audience
  2. Use a strong call to action
  3. Use high-quality images, with as little/much text as required
  4. Use verbiage that transitions effectively between all placements
  5. Introduce Ad Variations, and prioritize relevancy score

 

1. Know your Target Audience

According to an article published by the Pew Research Center in 2016, “On a total population basis (accounting for Americans who do not use the internet at all)… 68% of all U.S. adults are Facebook users” – so it can be said that the chances are high, if you’re seeking prospective students, they are more likely than not to be found somewhere at some time on Facebook. After sculpting this user base into highly-targeted (and segmented) ad sets, always keep at the forefront of your mind who you are speaking to, and be sure to tailor your ads’ verbiage to your audience segments. Creating ads which resonate with specifically targeted individuals will foster a more genuine, personable user experience. It may even bolster your conversion rate and ultimately lead to a lower Cost per Lead metric, enabling greater lead volume within a static budget. High quality, personally relevant content (whether sponsored or organic) lays the foundation for the ultimate goal of student acquisition.

2. Use a Strong Call to Action

A strong call to action is so much more than merely a button you append to the bottom-right corner of your newsfeed ads. One could say that the entirety of the ad you’re creating is itself a “call to action”. After all, your objective is to inspire users to act toward your goal. In addition to tailoring your ads to your target users’ characteristics, this could also mean including a timeframe in order to instill a sense of urgency — such as adding enrollment/application deadlines to your ad copy. Do you have a lead form incentive on your ads’ landing page, such as a program brochure? If so, consider include verbiage that creates a thirst in the user to view that content — for example, “download a FREE brochure to learn more about this award-winning program”.

3. Use high-quality images, with as little/much text as required

Selecting the right image to serve up with your ads can have an enormous impact on click through rates on your ads. While it’s not essential to choose an image that’s visually representative of your product or service, in Higher Ed marketing I’ve noticed that images which feature a campus logo tend to produce more academically-geared results.

Text can also be a great eye-catcher, however you must be careful not to exceed Facebook’s text-to-image restrictions, or your ad may suffer the penalty of throttled impressions — or otherwise might be rejected by the Ads’ interface entirely. Facebook’s Text Overlay Tool is always a great last-stop for your ads’ images before they make their way onto the ads themselves.

Lastly, Facebook recommends an image size of 1,200 x 628 pixels as a best practice for most of its campaign goals – you can approximate this, but beware that your image will need to be cropped in order to fit the display of your ads. It’s also recommended to stay away from images that feature the particular shades of blue and white that comprise Facebook’s color scheme, as these ads can often be overlooked by users fatigued with scrolling through their newsfeed.

4. Use verbiage that transitions effectively between all placements

We live in a multi-device world, so fluency between devices is a must if you’re going to capitalize on user experience.”Keep it short and sweet” is the motto to keep in mind when creating ad copy that will transition seamlessly between placements. This maxim applies equally so within Facebook ads due to the inherent nature of “oCPM” bidding — an automatic ad placement feature where the Facebook API optimizes ad impressions across all of its placements to the maximum benefit of your Cost per Result. This feature relies on the Facebook pixel as well as a standard event (e.g. ‘Lead’) implementation, so you should make sure the pixel is firing correctly before you try it out.

I strongly recommend adhering to character limitations in order to create ads that will look good; no matter where they appear in the gamut of Facebook’s network. If you exceed these limitations you risk truncation, or worse, ads which appear incomplete or misleading. Keep it within these limits if you can:

  • Keep your ad’s headline (the bold title, just below your ad’s image) at 25 characters or less.
  • Your text (the introductory snippet above the ad image) should be limited to 90 characters wherever possible — anything more will be truncated, however the user may opt to “see more” if they so chose.
  • Use a link description that speaks to the landing page — but do not feature critical information in this portion of the ad, as it is strictly truncated on mobile (where the majority of your impression are likely to occur). Instead, opt to have this critical information in your text or headline.

5. Introduce Ad Variations, and prioritize relevancy score

A/B testing is a hallmark of high quality, results-driven marketers, and it should be an integral part of your PPC marketing strategy in Facebook as much as it is in any PPC channel. This means introducing new ad variations on a regular basis for each of your ongoing campaigns and respective ad sets.

Similar to Google’s “Quality Score” metric, which the AdWords system uses to factor ad rank in PPC search results, Facebook holds a similar metric of its own: Relevancy Score. According to Facebook’s documentation, “The more relevant an ad is to its audience, the better it’s likely to perform. Ad relevance score makes it easier for you to understand how your ad resonates with your audience.” Do not be deterred if your ads start out with a low relevancy score — it is not unusual for ads that begin with a 1 or 2 relevancy score to blossom over time into higher relevancy scores are user engagement becomes stronger. Nonetheless, over time, unless performance metrics indicate otherwise (e.g. high lead volume, at a favorable cost per lead), you should consider eliminating ads within any ad set that lag significantly behind their peers.

Leveraging these 5 tips is a surefire way to boost performance in your Facebook Ads. Don’t see one of your go-to tricks listed above? Feel free to list it in the comments below!

 

Andrew croppedA graduate of the University of California, Andrew is our analytics and paid search team lead. He is both Google Analytics and AdWords certified. With an ROI-focused and problem-solving approach, he researches, plans, and manages our clients’ PPC campaigns.

Facebook Ads Tips and Tricks for Boosted Posts

 

Getting started with advertising on Facebook can be intimidating–especially for those with lackluster experience or an otherwise narrow purview of Facebook Ads. However, Boosted Posts are a great avenue for such individuals to get started, enabling them to utilize many of the channel’s advanced targeting capabilities–such as Interests, Fields of Study, Income Level and Job Titles– without the necessity of knowing all the ins and outs of Facebook Ads’ user interface. Ready to boost your first post? Follow these Facebook ads tips and tricks for boosted posts:screen-shot-2016-10-19-at-4-05-34-pm

Select the post you wish to promote and click “Boost Post” in the bottom-right corner to get started

This will open a lightbox window, wherein you can adjust the settings (e.g. the target audience, budget, and duration) of your boosted post.

screen-shot-2016-10-19-at-4-25-34-pmFirst, select the target audience you wish to reach. This can range from people who like your page (in addition to their friends, if you so choose) to custom audiences you have saved in Facebook (for useful tips on creating custom audiences, check out part one of my Custom Audience series “Improving Your Facebook PPC Results with Remarketing”) to people you can choose through targeting (e.g. interests, age, location and gender). Unless you have a saved audience in mind, or otherwise wish to only reach users who have liked your page (as well as their acquaintances), go ahead and select “People you choose through targeting” and hit the blue “edit” button to the right of this option.

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Select your target age and gender (not shown) and proceed to selecting geographic locations. Note how on the city level of geo-targeting, you can adjust the radius of targeting by up to 50 miles.

Search for interests which you would like to target–I’ve selected “facebook advertising” as an example–and click “Save” to set your audience.

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Next, enter your total budget and select a post duration of one, seven, or 14 days. If you have the Facebook Pixel implemented on your site and it’s configured appropriately (for more info, see “7 Tips for Maximizing Facebook Ad Performance“), then it will be a good idea to select your pixel here before boosting your post. Lastly, confirm the payment method you wish to use for this post, and you are finally ready to hit “Boost” in the lower right corner. That’s it!

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Once boosted, you can view how many people your post has reached by finding the post in your newsfeed.

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Once the boosted post has run its course, you can elect to boost it again if results are favorable. You can also drill down into the results, which can help you optimize your target audience for future boosted posts.

Knowing the approximate age and gender of the user base that is engaging the most with your post can help inform audience optimization for future use.

Knowing the approximate age and gender of the user base that is engaging the most with your post can help inform audience optimization for future use.

Next time on Facebook Ads Tips & Tricks: Best Practices for (traditional) Newsfeed Ads

Andrew croppedA graduate of the University of California, Andrew is our analytics and paid search team lead. He is both Google Analytics and AdWords certified. With an ROI-focused and problem-solving approach, he researches, plans, and manages our clients’ PPC campaigns.

PPC Tips & Tricks: Facebook’s Lookalike Audiences

Facebook is an incredibly powerful platform, where marketers can seek and engage new prospects across a variety of business goals (purchases, lead generation, awareness, etc.). As I’ve said before, the channel is an indispensable asset for generating prospective student leads to the degree programs we market.

Beyond the vanilla demographic targeting options available (Interests, Fields of Study, remarketing, etc.), wrapped within custom audiences, there lies an enormous bastion of advertising potential. This is the second part of my series dedicated to Facebook’s Custom Audiences, and today’s post examines Lookalike Audiences – a feature that is undoubtedly one of the greatest tools the channel holds in its arsenal. Here’s a bit of info:

Custom Audiences Beget Lookalike Audiences

Although powered by data from Facebook’s trusted third-party partners Acxiom, Datalogix, and Epsilon, Lookalike Audiences must have a source to mimic in order to inform the amalgamation of a viable target audience. If third-party data partners are the fuel, then Custom Audiences are the engine of this vehicle. Traditionally, Lookalike Audiences are cloned from one of these 3 sources: Custom Audiences (Customer Lists: email addresses, phone numbers or mobile advertiser IDs, Website Traffic, App Activity, or Engagements), Conversion Tracking Pixels, and Facebook Pages; of these options, I have found Email Lists and Conversion Pixels both to be viable resources for spawning a killer Lookalike Audience.

The more data, the better…to a point

Screen Shot 2016-07-21 at 2.44.56 PMAccording to Facebook, “The optimal source [for creating a lookalike audience] is 10,000 to 50,000 people”; however, it also notes “Lookalike Audience performance declines when it’s based on a source of over 50,000 people.” If acquiring an email list of this magnitude is not feasible – don’t fret! “The most important aspect of a source is that it is made up of high value customers” – and I’ve seen exceptional results from lists as small as 1,000 high-quality users.

Lookalike Audiences are HUGE

That list size of 1,000 to 5,000 users? It’s about to seem really, really tiny. Get ready to reach a vast amount of users across Facebook’s placement options (Desktop, Mobile, Instagram, etc.) – and that’s still while only leveraging the highest degree of similarity Lookalikes can be set at. If Customer Lists are David, then Lookalikes are at least ten Goliaths.

In the penultimate step of Lookalike creation (which we’ll cover next), remember, “when choosing the size of your audience… smaller audiences more closely match your source audience. A larger audience increases your potential reach, but reduces the level of similarity to your source audience.”

So, let’s walk through creating a Lookalike Audience:

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With a Custom Audience (or Conversion pixel) already in mind, navigate to the ‘audience’ section of your business manager and select Create Audience > Lookalike Audience. A light-box will appear, prompting you to ‘create a lookalike audience’:

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Click on the Source entry field and you will find a myriad of your saved Audiences available to choose from. Next, select a Country to target.

Custom Audiences HEMJ 3Finally, select an Audience Size; this is where you will decide the degree of similarity between your source audience and the resulting Lookalike. As illustrated in the graphic below, “Audience size ranges from 1% to 10% of the total population in the country you choose, with 1% being those who most closely match your source.”

I prefer to begin with a one percent Lookalike (the highest degree of similarity). When performance of that segment starts to ebb, I then begin to spiral out towards three percent — although I haven’t dared go beyond this degree of dissimilarity, my Paid Search teammates have gauged success in as large as a four percent Lookalike audience.

Quick tip: it’s a good idea in managing concurrent Lookalike segments to sidestep intra-account competition by excluding Lookalikes of the same kind (source) from their peers (e.g. excluding the one percent Pixel Lookalike Audience from your two percent Pixel Lookalike Audience); this can be managed on the ad set level. Furthermore, if you proceed beyond two percent in defining your Lookalike’s size, it may also be a good idea to narrow your audience by implementing cross-targeting (see “How does detailed targeting work” under Facebook’s Targeting Basics); here I like to start with Facebook’s old glory, Interests.

Have you tried Lookalike Audiences? Let us know your thoughts!

Andrew croppedA graduate of the University of California, Andrew is our analytics and paid search team lead. He is both Google Analytics and AdWords certified. With an ROI-focused and problem-solving approach, he researches, plans, and manages our clients’ PPC campaigns.

 

Next time on Facebook Ads Tips & Tricks: Boosted Posts vs. Newsfeed Ads – which is the right fit?

 

 

Improving Your Facebook PPC Results with Remarketing

Facebook Ads have proven to be an indispensable asset for generating prospective student leads to the degree programs we market. I can’t imagine how different my duties would be without it, or how much more difficult it would be to achieve my goals without the relatively miniscule cost-per-click metric this channel affords, and likewise without the correspondingly low cost-per-lead results it produces.

However, it’s always important to figure out ways to provide even more value to your clients while reducing ad spend. So, education marketers, are you trying to bolster your Facebook PPC results? Custom Audiences, a user-based approach to targeting in Facebook, provides a myriad of ways to scale your lead volume while enhancing your presence within this essential marketing channel. This is the first part of my series dedicated to Facebook’s Custom Audiences—today we’re going to tackle remarketing.

Facebook PPC and Remarketing

Remarketing is a PPC marketing method, which helps you reach users who have visited your website in the recent past. Experience has proven it to be a cost-effective way to generate a handful of leads at a favorable CPL.

Though not immediately accessible from the traditional suite of demographic targeting that Facebook provides on its ad set level (e.g. Job Titles, Fields of Study, Interests, etc.), remarketing to your website visitors is quite feasible within Facebook Ads. It’s essential to have the Facebook Pixel properly implemented – if you need a quick reminder on how to do this, please reference Tip #1 of my previous article, “7 Tips for Maximizing Facebook Ad Performance.”

While viewing the ads manager interface, navigate to “Tools” and select Audiences.

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Next, from the “Create Audience” tab, select Custom Audience.

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To create an audience for remarketing, you’ll want to select Website Traffic.

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Upon selecting Website Traffic, you will specify the requirements for users to be included in the remarketing list. There is a host of options available (pictured in the image below) – I prefer Custom Combination, as it immediately affords the option to exclude users that have previously converted (albeit this only works if you use a dedicated URL to track conversions).

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Once you’re done specifying which URLs to include/exclude, name and save your audience. The list will now be available for targeting under the “Custom Audiences” section of your ad set settings.

If you do not use a dedicated URL (such as a ‘thank you’ page) to track conversions, after naming your first audience you will need to create a separate custom audience of previous “converters”; in order to exclude them from your retargeting initiatives. To create this audience from the Ads Manager interface, navigate back to Tools > Audiences > Create Audience, and select Customer List.

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Facebook accepts email addresses, phone numbers or Facebook user IDs in order to populate lists into a custom audience. I prefer to copy and paste email addresses from our CRM, as it leaves little room for hiccups due to formatting differences. Once your list is complete, generate, name and save your audience.

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When specifying your audience within your ad set for remarketing, under “Custom Audiences” select to include your new remarketing list, and to exclude your list of prior converters. The end result should look something like this:

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That’s it! Ads that are active under this ad set will now reach former website visitors on Facebook whom have not yet converted. You can expect to see a handful of cost-effective leads trickle through under this new strategy.

The value of remarketing is immense. Not only is it a cost-effective strategy for higher education marketers who wish to generate leads below their goal CPL, but the inherently low CPL remarketing produces affords us opportunities to pursue additional, high quality leads in other areas without sacrificing our budget. It should be considered a fundamental asset of your PPC marketing mix.

 

Andrew croppedA graduate of the University of California, Andrew is our analytics and paid search team lead. He is both Google Analytics and AdWords certified. With an ROI-focused and problem-solving approach, he researches, plans, and manages our clients’ PPC campaigns.

 

Next time on Facebook Ads Tips & Tricks: Lookalike Audiences

7 Tips for Maximizing Facebook Ad Performance

In the realm of social media marketing, Facebook Ads is a real powerhouse for accelerating towards your PPC goals. Here are seven best practices you can use to maximize the enormous potential this platform holds.

Tip 1: The Importance of the Facebook Pixel

Establishing conversion tracking via the Facebook pixel is not only important for the purpose of measuring your goals, but it also informs one of my favorite resources in Facebook Ads – Custom Audiences (more on that later). The pixel also enhances the insights you gather from the ads manager interface, where you can now compare performance metrics against your objective and leverage this data to inform optimization and maximize results. Facebook has a plethora of comprehensive setup and implementation guides. Here are the basics you should cover:

  1. Create the Facebook Pixel
  2. Install and Verify your Pixel

If you’re comfortable editing and maintaining the code of your website, it’s feasible for you to accomplish these steps without the assistance of a developer. However, if web development is far from your expertise, never hesitate to enlist the help of a qualified developer. Apart from implementing the pixel on your landing page (or website), your developer can help tweak the Facebook pixel to suit your individual tracking needs.

Tip 2: Troubleshooting – Use Facebook’s Pixel Helper

Whether you’re outsourcing pixel implementation or handling it yourself, I highly recommend using Facebook’s Pixel Helper – a chrome browser extension, which can be found here – to help with the troubleshooting process. The tool automatically browses your website for code that looks like the Facebook marketing pixel, and if it doesn’t load correctly, then it will recommend some likely causes and elucidate possible solutions.

Tip 3: Use Power Editor

Just as important as proper conversion tracking is the Facebook Power Editor – an indispensable tool for managing and nourishing an account (or multiple accounts) as it grows in size and complexity. The Power Editor’s utility for timesaving on major tasks becomes clearer the more you use it. Use it to download the entirety of your account and view it from any of its foundational levels. Use it to upload bulk edits and make dozens of modifications to your account in a single click. Use it to enable Instagram Ads and further your initiatives’ reach. Tired of the time-consuming task of creating new campaigns from scratch? Duplicate an existing campaign (or ad set) instead. This will preserve the structure of all components within the duplicated branch. Keep in mind that while this saves time, you still will need to alter the names of its internal components (Campaign, Ad Set, Ads), as well as modify each new ad set’s target audience. If you’re using URL parameters (e.g. utm_source, utm_medium, utm_campaign), remember that ad URLs are likewise preserved during the duplication process and will also need to be modified.

Tip 4: Different Images + Duplicate Copy = Many Ads

A recent study conducted by Consumer Acquisition confirms: “images are responsible for 75-90% of ad performance.” In other words, when it comes to Facebook, don’t jump to testing various copy syntaxes for improving user engagement – images are where it really counts. Furthermore, testing multiple images against a single audience, with identical verbiage for each ad, is an effective strategy for discovering which ads (and ad images) will deliver the best results for you. It’s a good rule of thumb to run at least 4 ads simultaneously, each with a unique image. The process of creating many multiple ads per audience is also a great opportunity to explore the utility of the Power Editor.

Another note regarding ad images: Facebook requires that all text (including logos) must take up no more than 20% of the total ad real estate. For this, I recommend using Facebook’s Grid Tool to ensure your ads are not rejected in lieu of this peculiar rule.

Tip 5: Split-test CPC Bidding vs. Optimizing for your Campaign Objective (aka “oCPM”):

This feature relies on the Facebook pixel – so make sure the pixel is firing correctly before you try it out. Within the Ad Set level, under “Budget & Schedule,” you have the option to optimize ad delivery for your campaign objective. Facebook uses its internal algorithm to determine which users are more likely to complete the specific action outlined by your campaign’s objective (so be sure to set your campaigns’ objective to “website conversions”) and then charges you by every 1k impressions. To test this strategy, simply duplicate the ad set (using Power Editor) and alter this setting within the new ad set’s bidding section.

Tip 6: Organization is Key: Structure Your Account According to Segment Type

Establishing a universal structure, complete with naming conventions for the components of your campaigns, is a good way to streamline processes and tidy up your account. Before embarking on this task, be sure to outline a list of your prospective/current students’ characteristics according to these targeting options (demographics) available in the Facebook Ads interface: Fields of Study (which can be found under “Education”), Job Titles (under “Work”), Interests (listed by default under Ad Set > Targeting), and Groups/Associations (which can be actively searched through the “Interests” demographic).

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For example, if I’m marketing a master’s of science in health informatics, I’ll have a campaign labeled “MSHI – FOS” (“Fields of Study), with individual ad sets for various graduates whose area of study is a logical precedent to the MSHI degree (e.g. Health Informatics, Nursing, Pharmacy, Public Health, etc.). Keep in mind that each ad set should contain at least four ads with different images.

Tip 7: Segment, Sub-segment; Segment the Sub-segments

Whenever you’re faced with a particularly large audience in any of your ad sets, or just trying to improve the performance of an existing segment, it never hurts to find ways to break an audience down and test its various components against one another. Best practices indicate starting bland before moving on to more advanced segmentation options, such as Facebook’s new AND/OR feature (whereby you can indicate that the target audience must satisfy multiple demographic options, rather than the “any of the above” setting which is default). Here’s a good place to begin your segmentation – by Device/Gender:

  1. Copy any ad set with a large audience in Power Editor, so that there are now 4 duplicates.
  2. Add to the names of each duplicate ad set:
    • Desktop – Male
    • Desktop – Female
    • Mobile – Male
    • Mobile – Female
  3. Change the targeting options in each of the ad sets to apply these targeting parameters to their foundational audience.
  4. Measure results.

Still not satisfied with your results? Segment further! Try segmenting by industry, geography, or any of Facebook’s available demographics. What’s more, with Facebook’s new AND/OR targeting feature, you can segment the audience you’re already targeting without using any additional demographics.

Leveraging these 7 tips and tricks is a surefire way to boost performance in your account. Don’t see one of your go-to tricks listed above? Feel free to list it in the comments below!

Andrew croppedA graduate of the University of California, Andrew is our analytics and paid search team lead. He is both Google Analytics and AdWords certified. With an ROI-focused and problem-solving approach, he researches, plans, and manages our clients’ PPC campaigns.

Next Blog Post: “Facebook Ads: Custom Audiences”

A Higher Education Marketer’s Guide to Conversion Rate Optimization: Paid Social

Social Media Marketing (SMM) has become an indispensable resource for generating prospective students for higher education institutions; however, it isn’t the two-buck-per-acquisition solution it was when Facebook ads first rolled out. With social media marketing becoming increasingly competitive, how then does one make the case for ongoing (if not increased) investment? The answer is simple: Lower your cost-per-acquisition/cost-per-lead, optimize performance across the board, and let the numbers speak for themselves. Here’s one tried and true method for getting the most out of your social media marketing dollars: Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO).

CRO is a process that prioritizes initiatives that convert at a higher rate in order to lower costs, optimize your cost-per-goal completion, and maximize your overall return on investment for PPC social advertising. Using this strategy, one can easily distinguish the paid social efforts that are worth the investment from those that are not.

Before beginning your optimization efforts, please note that this guide assumes the following:

  • You’re using Google Analytics; your paid social initiatives have been properly tagged with utm parameters (if you’re already bewildered – check out this guide from Koozai).
  • You have multiple campaigns running that are aimed at generating student leads.
  • These campaigns have been running for a sufficient amount of time to adequately assess their performance metrics (minimum of one month but preferably three).

Let’s begin:

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  1. Set your date rage in Google Analytics to view the entire history of the campaigns you’ll be auditing and navigate to Acquisition > All Traffic > Source/Medium.
  2. Click on the Source/Medium channel you wish to optimize.
  3. Under Primary Dimension, select “Other”; under Acquisition, select “Campaign.” Some things to note:
  • If you’ve properly tagged your URLs with the ‘utm=campaign’ parameter, you’ll now see a tidy list of all your campaigns from the specific channel you clicked on earlier.
  • Be sure to expand the amount of rows to ensure no campaigns are left out of view.
  • Under Conversions, verify that you have selected the goal you’d like to optimize for.

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  1. Click on the “Goal Conversion Rate” column, which will order your campaigns from highest to lowest conversion rate.
  2. Use this data to inform your decisions to deactivate any campaigns listed with a below-average conversion rate.
  • Keep in mind that campaigns with a low cost-per-click bid can still foster a favorable cost-per-acquisition (or Cost-per-Lead), even if their conversion rate is below average.

It’s that simple! Go ahead and repeat this process for all of your paid social channels and begin monitoring your results over the coming weeks for improvement. Over time you should see an aggregate rise in conversion rate coupled with a gradual decline in cost-per-acquisition. Budget saved as a result of this can likewise be reinvested into initiatives continuing to produce optimal results.

As a rule of thumb, I use conversion rate optimization whenever a channel’s cost-per-acquisition becomes elevated or when I’m testing a new set of segments (or A/B testing ad copy). Feel free to comment if you have any questions or would like to highlight other useful applications for CRO.

Andrew croppedA graduate of the University of California, Andrew is our analytics and paid search team lead. He is both Google Analytics and AdWords certified. With an ROI-focused and problem-solving approach, he researches, plans, and manages our clients’ PPC campaigns.

PPC in Higher Education: The Potential Benefits of Pinterest & Promoted Pins

At the beginning of 2015, Pinterest made their promoted pins accessible to all advertisers, and now digital marketers are scrambling to figure out the benefits this service can provide to their clients. Like we have seen with suggested posts on Facebook, Promoted Pins are a pay-per click form of advertising, and with the introduction of this feature, Pinterest is poised to unlock the doors to a new frontier within one of the most used social platforms. But is this enticing offer ready to stand up to the needs of higher education marketers?

The potential benefits seem vast when one considers the massive audience that Pinterest has accrued, but the platform has yet to display that it can compete with the complex targeting capabilities of competitors like Facebook or LinkedIn ads. Nate Elliott, Vice President & Principal Analyst at Forrester Research, recently published an article on Forbes.com (read “The Pinterest Conundrum“) stating that: “Marketers can’t tap into most of Pinterest’s fantastic user data … Pinterest’s marketing value lies more in the future than in the present.”

I’m inclined to agree. Without a niche target audience, how can you have faith that your promoted pins will reach your desired demographic? From a pay-per-click (and budget-balancing) perspective, there is a lot of non-relevant traffic and, even worse, the prospect of wasted spend. Here are some similar responses from Twitter:


Although promoted pins have been shown to yield an increase in both impressions as well as traffic, neither of these promising metrics can guarantee the conversion rate implicit of a viable marketing strategy…yet. That’s why, in an effort to bring to fruition their continued rise in the paid social sphere, Pinterest has recently acquired the ad tech startup Kosei, a data firm which specializes in data science and recommendation engines.

So far I’ve come across nothing quite newsworthy on what specific targeting features are on the brink for Pinterest Ads, but Twitter is alight with references to the recent acquisition of Kosei, and promises of a bright future are in the wake of Promoted Pins’ woeful introduction.

While we await these enhanced targeting features, higher education marketers should not forget that Pinterest can be an outstanding tool for humanizing higher education to prospective students. In one of my favorite articles I came across during my research for Pinterest’s potential for Higher Education (“Why Pinterest in Higher Education Can Work“), Sheri Lehman writes: “I like to think of it as a retention tool, not a recruitment tool.”

For the time being, my recommendation is to use Pinterest itself (minus the ads) to work toward establishing a relatable online presence and to wait and see what promoted pins have to offer next. Promoted Pins still have an enormous amount of room to grow in order to merit significant investment, but I will continue to provide updates as we see these enhanced targeting features take shape.

Andrew is an analytics and paid search expert that researches, plans, and manages Circa Interactive‘s client PPC campaigns. He is a graduate of the University of California, Santa Barbara, and is both Google Adwords and Analytics Certified. 

Circa Interactive is the premier digital marketing agency in higher education. Since opening in 2009, Circa Interactive has helped more than 60 university programs increase lead flow, build brand awareness, and generate more students. By combining creative and analytical solutions, Circa Interactive provides services in SEO, paid search, digital PR, content marketing, social media, and analytics. 
For more information, visit www.circainteractiveseo.com. (Circa Interactive: Generate. Search. Convert.) 

Tips on Becoming a Web-Analyst for Online Higher Ed

Beginning to analyze a school website can be a daunting task, but in the world of higher education online it’s a fundamental part of achieving and maintaining your desired performance goals. It takes more than a discerning eye to do it effectively—and even after rendering your judgments and deciding the best plan is moving forward, there’s always this epic hurdle: providing actionable insight. The insight you draw from your website data from Google Analytics should not only make your action plan look desirable, but should continuously define it—and moreover, prove that it will work.

Already sound like you’re biting off more than you can chew? Have no fear. These two key metrics (and one grouping) will make on-the-fly analysis for your school website a walk in the park. Monitoring these metrics daily, while also comparing date ranges to establish trends, will give you insight to make continuous changes that will gradually increase your conversion rate to your desired goal. Let’s start with your most important metric.

1) Goal Completions (aka Conversions)

Through and through, Goals are the most fundamental metric to look for no matter what the objective of your online presence is. Use this metric to measure the instances that someone uses your site and completes an action you desire them to do. You can set up and customize these in Google Analytics, just be sure to verify these are set up correctly before diving into the data.

Here are some ideas for goals to help you measure the efficacy of your website:

  • application submissions
  • requests for more information (lead forms)
  • email/newsletter sign-ups
  • blog subscriptions
  • visit duration greater than ‘x’ minutes.

By definition, goals measure your website’s objective—they are the baseline for measuring the success of your initiatives, the work you’re putting forth, and the site as a whole.

2) Conversion Rate

Conversion rates represent the frequency of your goal completions. Monitoring these will tell you what’s working, and in turn inform you on what you can emphasize to the benefit of increasing Goal Completions. A poor conversion rate will alert you to what isn’t working. Determining what is a good—or bad—conversion rate should be relative to your site’s current performance. The best place to start is with your current average for each of your dimensions in Google Analytics; use that as a baseline for your improvement.

Remember, proactive web analysis is a game of inches. If you see a dimension in Analytics has a declining conversion rate—but it’s also carrying the weight of your site’s goal completions—drill-down inside of that dimension so you can find and eliminate what is bringing it down. In paid search analysis I look at individual campaigns to make sure they’re holding a conversion rate at or above average to their designated marketing channels.

3) Technology

We live in a multi-device world, so fluency between devices is a must if you’re going to capitalize on user experience. Knowing which devices your prospective students are using to connect and discover your institution online is a key insight that can be easily found in Google Analytics under Mobile > Overview in the Audience tab. Keep an eye on which platforms (desktop, tablet or mobile) have the highest conversion rate, and consider an audit of the platform with the lowest conversion rate.

Now, let’s step back and take a holistic look at the user experience…

  • Is the webpage rendering properly in different browser versions (Chrome, Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, etc.)?
  • Does it render properly on mobile devices and tablets?
  • Is the lead form clearly visible on the page without necessitating the user scroll down to find it?
  • Is the site asking for personal information from the user?
    • If so, make sure your privacy policy is clearly visible, and linked to the form with a verifiable icon that assures users of your website security.

Consider whether the lead form begs too much of the user. If you’re focused on just lead-generation or building a wide list of prospective students, you shouldn’t have many more questions other than Name, Email, and perhaps a set of check-boxes that denotes the nature of their interest. Whatever the case, try to limit your lead forms to no more than 3 steps. Any more may have the undesirable effect of discouraging a user to proceed further down your funnel-path towards becoming a student.

That’s all folks!

Looking for more info on how to leverage Google Analytics? Check out our previous Analytics post: Using Google Analytics in Higher Education to Influence Marketing Decisions

Interested in learning more about Circa Interactive's Higher Education Marketing Services? Fill out the form below:

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