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.

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?

 

 

A Guide to Understanding Audiences and Creating Personas in Higher Education

First developed in the 80’s by Alan Cooper, a software engineer, audience personas have become a key element to any successful design program or marketing strategy. Initially created to understand how different groups of people use software, personas have evolved to help marketing and advertising professionals target very specific groups of people to deliver the messaging and content they want, expect and respond to.

In the world of higher education, it’s more important than ever to have a clear understanding of who your target audience is and what makes them tick. Competition is as fierce as ever and budget dollars are often hard to come by, so if you want an immediate competitive advantage and a way to run more efficient and effective campaigns, you must know exactly who it is that you’re marketing to. This short guide will help you get started on identifying your target audience, understanding what’s most important to them and leveraging that information to improve your marketing efforts. You’ll be able to use what you learn through this post to:

  • Inform market and prospective student strategies
  • Inform ad messaging and help to establish a common language with target audiences
  • Inform future marketing and sales strategies
  • Inform visual elements of marketing and web design
  • Create audience personas

Initial questions to ask and why

As you begin the audience exploration process, gather three to four key stakeholders to begin crafting probing questions to lead the audience discussion. Marketing, admissions, student services and an engaged faculty member comprise an ideal group of individuals to help achieve this. Each department will provide valuable insight and differing perspectives that will ensure your discussion is well-rounded and thorough.

While some of the questions you need to ask may be specific to the niche or degree area, there are tried and true questions that will help accomplish your goals no matter the program or department you’re working in. Here are eight questions to get you started:

  • What are their problems, pains, and challenges?
  • What is important to them in their personal and professional lives?
  • How do they consume information?
  • Are they active in social networks?
  • Have they previously interacted with your institution?
  • Who or what influences their decisions?
  • What sorts of images and information appeal to them?
  • Do they have the desire, authority and ability to take action?

Some of the answers for these questions may be obvious, but make sure to open up each one for discussion with your group of stakeholders. Each individual will provide a unique vantage point from different sides of your institution, and you’ll most likely find that each question will still receive slightly different answers depending on the stakeholder.

Taking it a step further

To validate or expand what you learn during the initial probing exercise, additional research is required to solidify target audiences and personas. Here are seven ideas to get you started:

  • Analyze your CRM (customer relationship management) platform or Student Information System, such as Banner.
  • Take a look at competitors and similar degree programs – what is their strategy for messaging and imagery? Can you identify who their target audience and demographics are? What can you learn from them?
  • Check magazine editorial calendars in your industry for upcoming topics that signal areas of interest to their readers and your audiences.
  • Conduct surveys, focus groups, and one-on-one conversations.
  • Monitor and participate in social networks.
  • Read industry publications, blogs, and analyst reports.
  • Run a keyword analysis and Google Trends report for relevant topics.

Putting it all together

Armed with deep insight into your audience, it’s time to consolidate the information you’ve extracted to create a handful of very specific personas consisting of no more than five or six. A word of caution: you want to avoid creating more than a handful of personas as your targeting will lack focus and defeat the purpose of the exercise. If you aren’t able to boil your audience down to five or six personas, you’ll need to rinse, repeat and ask more questions until you’ve dug deep enough to get a true sense of who your audiences are. Remember these are audience themes, not specific people. Personas are representative of a group of people within your audience, not one specific individual per se.

Once you’ve identified your personas, it’s time to put them into action. At this point, you should have a well-rounded view of who you audiences are, the content they crave, the messages that resonate with them, what they dislike and what incentives will propel them to take action. You know how old they are, where they work, where they live, their education level, what they do in their free time and what’s most important to them. This information is especially useful when creating social pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns as you would in Facebook, for example. When marketing on Facebook or LinkedIn, segmentation is key, and with detailed persona data this process becomes much easier and significantly more effective than the typical guesswork required without them.

When building out your personas, consider this template as an example:

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Courtesy The Buyer Persona Institute

Key takeaways:

  • Personas will inform all areas of your business and are the foundation to any and all marketing efforts.
  • Involve multiple stakeholders in various areas of your institution to truly be effective in the brainstorming process.
  • Personas are generalizations of your target audience, not specific people. Use them to inform messaging, images and marketing strategies, not direct marketing.
  • Be sure to share your audience and persona findings with each department, as it could also be used to improve their services. For example, student services may leverage this to produce support systems that will help with retention.
  • Marketing on Facebook or LinkedIn? Personas are key. Use them to help carve out very specific audience segments and deliver highly personalized messaging.

 

DSC_0048 reduced 2Clayton Dean is an enrollment management, digital marketing, and business operations expert, leading Circa Interactive’s growth, development, and day-to-day operations. Clayton has successfully assisted dozens of institutions in developing, marketing, and launching degree programs from the ground up. Connect with Clayton on Twitter @circaclayton.

 

How Google’s Removal of Right-Side Ads Affects Higher Education PPC Marketing

On February 22nd, Google rolled out one of the biggest changes to its search engine results page (SERP) by taking out right-side ads and adding an extra 4th position above the proverbial fold line and three ads at the bottom of the page after the organic search results. This was a major change in higher education PPC. With the exception of Product Listing Ads (PLAs) and Knowledge Panel Ads, the right side of the SERP will be completely void of text ads, which lends well to e-commerce businesses since it gives them exclusive access to the now hands-off real estate. 

To the majority of the PPC community, this update cued the onslaught of widespread panic with the speculation of higher CPCs, increased competition, and the squeezing out of SMBs to companies with bigger advertising budgets. So what will happen to visibility? How much more budget will be needed to stay above the fold? CTR? Conversion Rate? More importantly to us, what does this mean for higher education digital marketers and how will this affect our programs’ performance?

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Now that it’s two months past, we finally have some well formulated insights from our internal data and higher education PPC, and they quickly put to rest the reverberating voices of panic and anxiety. We can wipe the sweat from our brows because this change actually works in our favor!

Let’s take a deeper dive:

Parameters of our analysis:

  1. Data acquired are from 12/22-2/22 vs. 2/23-4/22
  2. Google Search Network only
  3. Includes 19 programs

final

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Before the update, 64% of our ads were amongst the top 3 positions, and 36% were right side ads with no more than 15% going past the 4th position. After the update with the addition of one more top position, the number of our ads that are now above the fold rose to 83%. What’s interesting to note here is that the update essentially moved up 19% of our right-side ads to the top 4th position since most of them were previously wavering before and after the fold line, averaging between the 3rd and 4th positions. The update was the extra push we needed to convert more of our ads to the top positions without actually having to increase bids by much at all.

Now you’re probably thinking that regardless of 19% of our ads moving up to the top 4 positions, performance will still suffer since 17% of our ads are now pushed to the bottom where visibility is less than that of being on the right side. While you and most marketers are right to think that, most of our ads past the 4th position weren’t doing as well to begin with and now that more of them are in the coveted top positions, we reap the extra benefits that outweigh the negatives.

Let’s take a more granular look at each of our programs’ performance and spend metrics to support my previous statements:

Screen Shot 2016-05-09 at 4.10.04 PMComparing performance metrics from two months before and after the update, our CTR rose by 6.59% with a 4.70% decrease in CPC. This comes as no surprise since right side ads historically did not perform as well as our top placing ads. In marketing higher education, some of our Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) include Cost-Per-Lead (CPL) and the Conversion Rate (CVR). As you can see across the board, our KPIs have improved with a 3.3% decrease in CPL and a 2.3% increase in CVR. Again, with the higher average positions and increased visibility on the SERP, it comes to no surprise that our spend metrics have also improved. Not to mention that our quality scores will most likely increase in the long-run.

It would be naive to think that this update had nothing to do with Google’s bottom line, but whichever way you slice it, it’s looking to be beneficial for many other PPC marketers as well as for Circa Interactive here on the higher education side. With an increased emphasis on Highly Commercial Queries, newly formatted ad extensions, and a less cluttered SERP, it’s a win-win for advertisers and search users alike.

Helen Koh HeadshotHelen Koh recently joined the Circa team bringing digital marketing competencies that include creating and managing PPC campaigns for optimal ROI, experience with various SEM analytical tools, and creative processes of pursuing marketing avenues within higher education. She is currently a senior at University of California at San Diego with business consulting and marketing experience from multiple on-campus projects and organizations.

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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HEMJ 8

 

 

 

 

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

HEMJ 2

 

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

HEMJ 3

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).

HEMJ 4

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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.

HEMJ 6

 

 

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.

HEMJ 7

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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:

HEMJ 9

 

 

 

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”

Five Reasons Why Retargeting Is Essential for Your Higher Ed Marketing Strategy

Here is a scenario most higher education marketing professionals know too well: A prospective student visits your website or landing page, fails to convert into a lead for your admissions team and goes on their way. You’ve invested valuable budget dollars in SEO and PPC campaigns to attract quality prospects, only for them to leave you with nothing. You know they were interested in your degree program at some point, so we as marketers need to make it our mission to get in front of them again and covert them into leads for our admissions teams. So what’s the most effective way to do so? At Circa Interactive we’ve seen this frustration from many of our university partners and have a solution that is highly effective: retargeting.

Considering that 95% of website visitors don’t convert on their first visit (for stand-alone landing pages it’s closer to 80-90%), I always find it surprising to see the majority of institutions and degree programs we work with not taking advantage of this highly effective marketing tool. Retargeting can be the key to exceeding enrollment goals and decreasing your blended cost-per-lead. Yet many programs are unaware it even exists or simply fail to implement it correctly. As a result, they are missing a huge opportunity to reengage with those individuals and turn them into quality inquiries.

 

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The challenge in higher education marketing is that it’s not realistic to expect prospective students to convert on their first interaction with your degree program. Our sales cycle in higher education can be a long one, and rightfully so. It’s a large, costly decision, and we want prospects to give this process its due diligence. This fact, however, is what makes our job as higher education marketers challenging. We must expose our degree program and messaging to a prospect several times before they’ll make the decision to submit their information, and that’s where retargeting shines. Setting up a retargeting campaign should be a staple in any higher education marketing campaign, and here’s why:

  1. 95% of website visitors don’t convert on their first visit (85-90% on a landing page)

I can’t stress this enough.  Despite your best efforts to generate as much traffic as cost-effectively as possible for your degree program, there is still a large majority of your visitors that won’t convert into an inquiry. Through your SEO, PPC, email and social media efforts, you’re spending valuable budget dollars to drive visitors to your web assets. Retargeting will help you maximize the effectiveness of those dollars and ensure you’re not leaving anything on the table.

  1. Retargeting can produce leads that are easier to work through the admissions funnel.

Despite the frustration felt by higher education marketers and enrollment managers, the inquiries who need to be exposed to the brand several times before converting are generally much easier to move through the admissions process. As a former admissions manager, I can speak to this firsthand. These inquiries have done their research on your program and have made a calculated decision to submit their information to start the process. Through retargeting, you’ve stayed fresh in their mind and successfully reinforced your value propositions, so when they do engage with your admissions reps, they’re quick to apply and are much easier to work with when completing an admissions file. You’re admissions reps will thank you for these quality leads!

  1. Retargeting is cost-effective

If you could pay 1/4th of what you normally pay per click to reengage with past website visitors, would you take advantage of it? You’ve already paid for the first visit, so it’s worth paying the minimal cost to reengage with them on a second.  Whether your budget is $1,000 per month or $100,000, I highly recommend retargeting as a cost-effective solution to generating an increase in leads.

  1. The ability to create audience-specific messaging and offers.

Retargeting can be filtered and customized to specific audiences to allow for higher ed marketers to retarget to very specific groups based on where they were in the admissions funnel.  For example, a prospective student filled out page one of your online application but failed to complete pages two or three.  Through retargeting, we have the ability to serve highly targeted ads to that individual with copy that will entice them to reengage. A few things to consider in this situation when creating ad and landing page copy: Why did they bounce in the first place? Is the application too long?  Did they get distracted?  Were they missing the information that the application asked for and needed time to search for it? It’s important to have an understanding of this and design your retargeting segments and ad copy accordingly.

  1. Leverage retargeting to engage with accepted or current students

Retention is vital in higher education, and with retargeting, you can engage with your top prospects. Leveraging CRM retargeting, you can upload a list of email addresses and serve those individuals display ads across the web. This can be especially powerful for those degree programs with long enrollment periods that require enrollment advisors to maintain constant contact to ensure they stick through the start of the program or for reengaging top candidates who you haven’t heard back from and would like to subtly reengage without calling them daily.

So are you taking advantage of retargeting and have any unique ideas you’d like to share? Please do so in the comments below.

Key Takeaways:

  • 95% of website visitors don’t convert on their first visit
  • Retargeting is cost-effective
  • Visitors are already familiar with your brand and degree program – higher chance they’ll convert later
  • Ability to deliver audience-specific ad copy or ad copy to reengage prospective students at various parts of the admissions funnel
  • Ideal solution for maintaining engagement with accepted students during extended enrollment periods

About the Author:

DSC_0048 reduced 2Clayton Dean is an enrollment management, digital marketing, and business operations expert, leading Circa Interactive’s growth, development, and day-to-day operations. Clayton has successfully assisted dozens of institutions in developing, marketing, and launching degree programs from the ground up. Connect with Clayton on Twitter @circaclayton.

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.

Five Ways to Target Potential Students with LinkedIn Paid Ads

While LinkedIn’s network of working professionals and job seekers isn’t comparable in size to Facebook, it has introduced an advertising platform that is logical and effective. What LinkedIn lacks in volume, it makes up for in it’s straightforward targeting options and accurate audience segmentation, which, if leveraged correctly, will produce quality and relevant traffic that can turn into excellent leads and students.

LinkedIn is an essential advertising source for any higher education marketer looking to position their program brand in front of potential students. There is a perception that LinkedIn is composed solely of business professionals, but we have found this inaccurate and have produced great results for both our business and non-business focused programs. While cost-per-clicks (CPCs) can be higher in LinkedIn when compared to Facebook or the Google Display Network, traffic relevancy and quality also tends to be higher, which helps to keep your conversion rates to lead high.

There are two different types of advertising options: sidebar ads and sponsored content. Sponsored Ads will take up more real estate on the page and will generally have a higher click-thru-rate (CTR) than sidebar ads. If you have a large and broad audience segment, then sidebar ads can be effective at limiting irrelevant clicks. LinkedIn’s real strengths are in its ability to hone in on potential students through its targeting parameters. Here are five different ways in which you can target potential students using LinkedIn’s preset parameters, starting with the most effective:

  1. Job Titles – Simple and straightforward, LinkedIn provides job title groupings that position it as superior to Facebook when it comes to targeting individuals based on their job titles. This was a very smart move by LinkedIn, as Facebook’s job title targeting has become a jumbled mess composed of “Likes” and random titles. For any job titles that aren’t large enough to warrant their own grouping, LinkedIn will simply group them together with other similar titles in a logical way. While cost-per-clicks (CPCs) can be high, the conversion rate to lead of this traffic can be at 15% or higher, which quickly makes up for the higher click costs.
  2. Field of Study/Degree – A new addition to LinkedIn advertising, Field of Study/Degree targeting is similar to job title targeting in its simplicity and effectiveness. When targeting individuals, it is important to know what they studied in their undergrad, as this insight can greatly affect your messaging when positioning your graduate program. For example, if you wanted to market a master’s in health informatics to an audience segment who had graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, providing copy and imagery that speaks to how a nurse can benefit from an informatics education, while still utilizing their nursing skills, can be very powerful.
  3. Skills – This targeting option is unique to LinkedIn and can be very effective for honing in on potential student personas who might be challenging to target through jobs or degrees. For example, if you have a master’s degree focused on something like leadership, then it can be hard to understand whom to target as a broad array of people could be interested in a leadership degree. Through skills targeting, you can focus on individuals who have skills in executive leadership, or org. leadership/development.
  4. Groups – Targeting individuals who are part of relevant groups or associations can be a nice complement to the prior three targeting options. These can also be powerful for targeting individuals who are part of more niche industries, such as individuals who work with technologies that might not be mainstream. For example, if you were marketing a program that targeted web analysts, then targeting all of the various groups and associations relating to web analytics can be effective.
  5. Company + Industry – LinkedIn has put together broad industry categories that are less targeted but still effective. There are broad categories, such as accounting, that can be very effective for marketing a master’s degree in accounting but not very effective for more niche programs such as medical laboratory science or business analytics. Cost-per-lead (CPL) tends to be higher when utilizing this targeting option as relevancy is lower.

While we always recommend a diversified approach to marketing your program, LinkedIn is a platform that I would dedicate at least 30% of your budget. Coupled with an effective landing page, LinkedIn can be relied upon as a good source of mid-priced but high quality leads for an array of graduate programs.

Robert LeeRobert Lee is the CEO of Circa Interactive. He offers a decade of demonstrated search engine marketing expertise, working as an analyst, team lead and manager. Before founding Circa Interactive, Robert worked with higher education marketer Embanet

Two Effective Ways to Generate More Leads for Your Online Program on a Limited Budget

Each fiscal year it’s the same drill: you’re handed a marketing budget from finance, walk back to your office, and try to figure out how you’re going to meet your lead goals with a less-than-ideal budget. With often a fraction of the budget you really need, you also get the unsurprising news that lead and enrollment goals have increased 10% over the last year. Considering how much cash-strapped colleges and universities depend on revenue from online programs you can’t blame them for being aggressive with enrollment goals, but as a result marketing managers and directors must shoulder the responsibility of sourcing quality prospects and meet enrollment goals despite their lack of budget and/or resources. So, as a higher ed marketer, what should you do?

1. Focus on your student-generating channels

I know this sounds painfully obvious, but you’d be surprised how often this is missed. At Circa Interactive this is the first place we look when we begin working with new clients, especially those with limited budgets. Despite the lackluster results, many marketing managers and directors revert back to the overpriced banner ad or inefficient paid search campaigns they’ve been accustomed to using. I can’t blame them, most are stretched thin and don’t have the time to dig their teeth into more fruitful opportunities. Unfortunately, we see this quite a bit at Circa Interactive. Just recently we had a client who, prior to working with Circa Interactive, was investing roughly $10,000 per month on digital media placements with very little yield. As we looked through their data we realized that they were generating a lead or two at best at an insanely high cost-per-lead, and worst of all they continued funding these media placements for years, wasting thousands of dollars on initiatives that weren’t producing leads, let alone students. Shocking, I know, but not unheard of in the world of higher education.

It’s essential to audit past efforts and allocate your budget to the digital channels that have produced the most students at the lowest cost. If you haven’t been exposed to the various lead-generating digital channels available to higher ed marketers, don’t be afraid to reallocate those funds to test the waters in more effective channels like Google Adwords (be sure to check estimated CPCs first, not ideal for all degree programs), LinkedIn or Facebook. Not only do these channels allow you to target very specific segments or individuals explicitly searching for your degree program, they also offer a great amount of flexibility and control over your valuable budget dollars. If you don’t have the internal resources to do so, there are a few dependable higher education marketing agencies that can help.

*Pro tip: keyword-based searches for program-level search queries are on the rise, so be sure to target these terms and phrases.

2. Revisit Your Content Strategy

Content marketing is powerful and effective, but with the amount of noise online and the popularity of content as a driving factor in marketing efforts in today’s world, it’s more important than ever to approach this tactic with a great amount of precision and strategy. Gone are the days of simply producing content, publishing it, and watching the traffic and shares roll in. Sans a well thought out content strategy, it can be difficult to realize any return on your investment, and in most cases, this leads many to question the value of content marketing entirely. If you happen to fall into this category, it may be time to reevaluate your organizational goals, revisit your content strategy, and take a new approach to this highly important effort that will only continue to grow in importance for your student lead generation efforts. In doing so, you’ll at least give yourself a fighting chance to increase your return-on-investment and make better use of the limited budget you have to work with.

So where do you start?

  • First, you’ll want to define and understand your departmental strategic goals and objectives. Think one to three years ahead and discuss the goals with as many key stakeholders as possible. This is key to help you and your team determine what type of content you should be producing and why.
  • Armed with this information, you’ll next want to research and define who your target audience is and what is important to them. The more effectively you can carve out individual segments of prospective student audiences and deliver content they’ll learn or feel more empowered from, the more effective and attention-grabbing your content will be. If done correctly, your content should be magnetic, drawing in your audience, and capturing their attention.
  • When the time comes to begin the content creation process, it’s important to ensure your content is story driven, useful, engaging and sharable. All of these factors are necessary and important to create the content capable of capturing your audience’s attention and keeping it. Also, don’t forget about mobile. Mobile currently makes up about 25% of all web traffic and is increasing exponentially each year so ensure your content (and website, as of April 21) is mobile friendly.

Despite a limited budget, there’s still hope if you’re scrambling to figure out how to meet lead and enrollment goals for the upcoming fiscal year. Taking a step back to analyze and optimize your existing marketing efforts is a great place to start and it’s important to incorporate as much research and strategy into the process as possible, no matter what tactics you’re currently leveraging. You’ll be surprised how much opportunity you’ve been missing.

About the Author:

DSC_0048 reduced 2Clayton Dean is the Co-Founder, President & COO of Circa Interactive, a leader in the higher education digital marketing space.  Connect with Clayton on Twitter @circaclayton.