Increasing Web Traffic: Content Strategies to Achieve Marketing Goals

For the past decade, digital marketing agencies and experts around the world have emphasized the phrase “Content is King,” but even to this day, a majority of marketers still do not understand how to increase website traffic to the content they’ve generated. For this reason, I have decided to tackle the intricate subject of content development and discuss how this can help to drive traffic to your site.

Every website on the Internet creates content that serves a specific purpose related to the site’s marketing objectives. An online content strategy should provide transparency about daily operations, share relevant industry news and allow the company to share their unique story. As we all know, a strategy that incorporates content marketing and link-building can bolster content SERP rankings which in return will increase the amount of organic traffic. My analysis shows that there are four primary types of content marketing objectives a website can optimize for, but the best equation for any website is to use a multifaceted content approach by utilizing each of the following content marketing objectives.

 

Lead Generation:

To reach this objective, content is created based specifically on user-intent searches or an audience that is actively searching the web for information on any given subject. Since the content is built to be extremely relevant to the user’s search, the end goal for this type of content is to collect a lead which usually consists of a visitor’s name and email address.

  • Example search: What is the best car insurance for teenagers?
  • Example content for search: The Best Car Insurance for New Drivers

 

Advertising:

When building a site using a business model based on advertising, content is created for a niche audience with an entertainment purpose. Most of these advertising-based sites implement Google Adsense or native advertising, which pays the web owner through three different methods: cost-per-click (CPC), cost-per-impressions (CPM) and cost-per-engagement (CPE). In order to generate as much advertising revenue as possible, it is imperative that these sites drive high amounts of traffic through their shocking, entertainment articles to increase ad impressions and clicks.

  • Example search: What did Kanye West Talk to Michael Jordan About?
  • Example content for search: Jordan and West Speak on Upcoming Shoe Collaboration

 

Informational:

This type of content objective is used to drive traffic based on informational, educational and newsworthy articles that provide value to the reader. Some of these sites may generate minor income from advertising but that is not their sole purpose. An informative site’s core mission is to bring together a like-minded community of individuals with similar demographics. Once the strong niche community is established, the site can promote new jobs, national events and sponsored posts to this audience.

  • Example search: How do I find a civil engineering job?
  • Example content for search: 10 Civil Engineering Job Hunting Tips

 

Awareness:

To meet this objective, websites create content that provides a behind-the-scenes perspective on daily operations, showcases business transparency and creates a community for social good. Unfortunately, there are very few sites that are created for pure awareness and transparency purposes.

  • Example search: How much pollution do Nike factories create annually?
  • Example content for search: Nike Reduces Pollution by 25% Thanks to Volunteers

 

The Sites We Analyzed:

Through countless web searches and backlink analyses, I found the four best sites that provide unique insights on content marketing and highlight the different SEO and ranking metrics that prove each content strategy works.

Lead Generation: Bankrate

Advertising: Only in Your State

Informational: Education Week

Awareness: Coca-Cola Unbottled

 

Bankrate

bankrate

Bankrate has a major emphasis on lead generation within the automotive loans, mortgage loans and credit card industry. When taking a quick glance at their homepage, you’ll notice topics like “10 Best Tips for Buying a Car” or “Anxious about the mortgage process? Start Here.” As you can tell, each of these topics is built around a user’s intent, and in this case, they are topics that emphasize a purchase that would require a loan. Throughout Bankrate’s articles, their team will include call-to-actions (CTAs) which ask the visitor to conduct a loan or credit card rate search. These CTAs link back to their loan, mortgage or credit card rate calculators. When a visitor fills out the rate calculator form, their information is collected as a lead and then usually sold to a number of loan companies. With Bankrate, creating content that precisely matches the user’s intent, whether it is tips on buying a car or mortgage refinancing, provides the user value with their easy-to-use calculators, which then generates a lead for them.

Site Statistics:

ahrefs-bankrate

13.9 million backlinks

76,200 referring domains

6.7 million monthly organic traffic

1.4 million organic keywords ranking

Top Organic Keyword: “Mortgage calculator” generates 372,110 visits per month

Top Content by Traffic: Bankrate Auto Loan Calculator – 614,400 monthly traffic

Top Content by Backlinks: Bankrate Mortgage Calculator – 95,926 backlinks

 

Only In Your State

only in your state - sedalia, mo

This website was created for entertainment and advertising purposes. Only in Your State has a unique approach on how they create content, but it is apparent that their end-goals for the website was to become an advertising revenue platform. Right when you enter the page, you’ll see a number of banner ads displayed at the top of the page and off to the right-hand side. Only in Your State isn’t focused on advertising a particular product or service, their goal is instead to give the ad position to the highest bidder. But you may be interested in knowing how they drive nearly a million organic visitors a month. Here’s how: their blog is focused on geo-based or localized content within each state, so not only do they produce content related to specific residents within each state, but they utilize “near me” searches as content opportunities. For instance, Only in Your State has created numerous articles on “fireworks displays” you must see in each state.

fireworks

Anytime someone types in the phrase “fireworks near me,” Only in Your State generates a large amount of traffic because they have localized content with high SERPs for searches in every state. Additionally, many residents are passionate about their state and where they live, so they are more inclined to share content that reflects who they are. This is another reason why they are able to generate high amounts of organic traffic and backlinks. Overtime, the more backlinks they receive the higher their domain authority gets and this will increase the number of organic keywords they rank for. As you can see, when developing a site based on the advertising objective, traffic is your best friend. To learn from Only in Your State’s strategy on generating traffic, be sure to create content that is localized to an audience, relates to people’s personalities, provides a laugh and easy to read.

Site Statistics:

ahrefs-onlyinyourstate

131,000 backlinks

5,410 referring domains

875,000 monthly organic traffic

835,000 organic keywords ranking

Top Organic Keyword: “Fireworks near me” generates 2,250 visits per month

Top Content by Traffic: Texas Amazing Beaches – 7,822 monthly traffic

Top Content by Backlinks: The Ultimate Georgia Waterfalls Road Trip – 341 backlinks

 

Education Week

education week

Education Week was created as an informative central hub for all K-12 educational news. EdWeek emphasizes that they are the leading news community for American educators and administrators. Since they are targeting a specific niche, they are able to create personalized high-quality content pieces for the sole purpose of informing this demographic. As they continue to create trust and loyalty as a leading education news source, there will an uptick in the number of repeat visitors and the community will only get stronger. Once established, they are able to start to promoting career fairs, job boards and educational events which is one of their revenue streams. With EdWeek being viewed as a leader in education, they receive higher engagement rates and generate more backlinks from other education and news sites.

Site Statistics:

ahrefs-edweek

6.68 million backlinks

25,300 referring domains

127,000 organic keywords ranking

119,000 monthly organic traffic

Top Organic Keyword Phrase: “No child left behind” generates 14,204 visits per month

Top Content by Traffic: No Child Left Behind Overview – 35,634 monthly traffic

Top Content by Backlinks: Carol Dweck Revisits the ‘Growth Mindset’ – 892 backlinks

 

Coca-Cola Unbottled

Coke-Unbottled

This blog was created by Coca-Cola with the purpose of transparency in addition to creating a community for the millions of worldwide Coke fans. Coca-Cola wants to create awareness on their social responsibility and provide behind-the-scenes access to their products. Their top organic search term is “Coca-Cola Life” which is one of their newest products that uses cane sugar and stevia, so when users search this term, they will find the product information and ingredients. As you can see from the other types of top content by traffic and backlinks, Coca-Cola focuses on highlighting community initiatives such as “Share a Coke” and conservation partnerships that impact the world. When implementing awareness as your main content objective, use the Coca-Cola Unbottled Blog as an example and be sure create content that provides insights your brand’s values and overall mission.

Site Statistics:

ahrefs-unbottled

31,600 backlinks

2,630 referring domains

16,000 organic keywords ranking

24,000 monthly organic traffic

Top Organic Keyword Phrase: “Coca-Cola Life” generates 1,261 visits per month

Top Content by Traffic: Is Your Name on a Coke Bottle? – 6,874 monthly traffic

Top Content by Backlinks: Happy Anniversary: Coke, WWF Celebrate Progress for the Planet – 536 backlinks

 

Conclusion:

As you continue to plan your future content and fill your editorial calendar, remember to first decide what content marketing objective you want to achieve. From there, the subject matter of your content is all based on what industry or niche you reside in. As I mentioned, your website may have one main objective, such as advertising, but that doesn’t mean every post should be created for entertainment purposes. It is smart to diversify the type of content your site produces in order to attract new audiences, generate more traffic and reach the business’s overall goals. Now that you’ve finished reading this article (thanks again!), it shouldn’t take you very long to formulate your next post and start generating traffic.

 

andersonideaAustin Anderson is a forward-thinking, motivated growth marketing specialist. Before joining Circa, Austin built an e-commerce business and managed online marketing for startups in San Diego. Austin strives to be a future influencer in the world of digital marketing and e-commerce. Connect with Austin on LinkedIn and Twitter @andersonidea.

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:

Custom Audiences HEMJ 1

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’:

Custom Audiences HEMJ 2

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?

 

 

5 Reasons Why Digital Public Relations Should be a Part of Your Marketing Budget

Within higher education, digital marketers are lucky, because we have access to professors who are thought leaders on the cutting edge of their respective field. Clearly, professors are incredible resources for their students inside of the classroom, and outside of the classroom, professors function as brand ambassadors for their programs and the larger institution. Of course, marketing teams are aware of a professor’s value in order to attract students, and they build videos and web assets around them to create trust and illustrate value. But when it comes to student generation, are marketers effectively leveraging professors to accomplish larger organizational goals, such as increasing organic rankings, acquiring traffic to their website, and creating new touchpoint? What is clear about higher education digital marketing is that even in 2016, when changes in the SEO and social media industry have forced marketers to rely on the highest quality content, professors are not being leveraged effectively. Here is what they’re missing:

Marketing teams can utilize their professors to acquire more students by leveraging traditional public relations practices for a digital world. This is commonly referred to as digital public relations.

Digital public relations uses the larger media in order build brand awareness, increase the thought leadership for professors and university stakeholders, improve organic rankings, and, ultimately, generate more students. In order to illustrate the importance of digital public relations for higher education digital marketers, I created a list below that focuses on why all higher ed digital marketers should strongly consider incorporating digital public relations into their marketing strategy and budget.

 

1. Digital Public Relations Influences Search Rankings

Digital public relations is the best way to build the highest quality backlinks, which serve as indicators—or votes—that convince Google your site is relevant, trustworthy, and valuable. These indicators will in turn help to place your university program higher up in the search engine results page (SERP). When you land a backlink from a domain authority of a website that is strong, then that helps to strengthen your own website. (The higher domain authority of a website, the more value for Google.) The larger media landscape is one of the best avenues to land high quality backlinks, because they have incredibly strong websites, and they are constantly looking for content.

By leveraging faculty members, a skilled communications team can build stories around professors and pitch them to the mainstream media as sources. It’s very difficult to acquire a profile in the Wall Street Journal or CNN, but a digital public relations team can pitch professors to take part in a larger conversation. For instance, as the news broke on the controversy between the FBI and Apple over an encrypted phone, a digital public relations team can pitch their professors in criminal justice and computer science to provide expert commentary on the story. Reporters will include quotes from the professor, and the public relations team will ask for a link within the article. To see more about our successes, you can read the following article: Tracking digital public relations with SEO goals.

Byline articles are another way to leverage faculty members to create high quality backlinks. (It’s best to have a team who understands how to pitch articles to publications, and it takes someone with a background in journalism or public relations to land these types of opportunities.) In order to build backlinks at high quality publications, the team will pitch article ideas generated in collaboration with the professor to editors. By collaborating with the professor, the team will send an approved article to the editor, and in the bio information on the site, the professor can add the link. The best communication teams provide ghostwriting services.

Expert commentary and byline articles are essential strategies that digital public relations teams implement to reach the highest quality publications, and by landing a link on these sites, it will help build your site’s domain authority as well as send indicators to Google that your site should be higher in the search results. Students will then find your program organically for your targeted keywords, which creates leads without spending any money.

 

2. Increase Brand Awareness

Online education is more competitive than ever, and one way that your program can position themselves in front of your targeted audience is by creating media opportunities at publications with large reaches. By leveraging publications that are trusted, you’ll establish your program as being on the cutting edge of their industries. This will send signals to potential students that not only are the program’s professors actively engaged in the research they’re teaching, but show prospective students that they will be a part of the most relevant conversations and receive an education that will propel their careers. This type of publicity can serve as an opportunity for a prospective student to interact with your brand in a unique way.

While many online programs have marketing strategies that focus on creating interactions with potential students through landing pages, social media, and websites, those brand assets might not initially convert the student because of a lack of clout. Brand awareness and trust can be an issue. Digital public relations begins to create interactions with potential students by leveraging vetted organizations in order to build upon their brand. By interacting with prospective students in a natural way, the message will sink in easier, and the brand assets as well as the larger content marketing strategies will only be strengthened.

 

3. Create a Path for Students

As digital marketers, we’re always trying to imagine the research process of how prospective students come to make a decision about signing up for an online degree program. When a student searches for information about a degree program further along in their decision process, what will they find? Will they simply come across the program’s web assets—or will they find that their program is in the news and that their professors are not just engaging in an academic community, but that they are trying to tell their program’s story to a larger audience?

Digital public relations changes the way that a student researches a degree program by creating a new digital narrative. For instance, a prospective student will benefit by encountering a story about a professor who is quoted in a larger article at the Los Angeles Times, discussing the future of their profession. Perhaps they will remember a professor’s name in the Wired article on the future of 5G technologies. Perhaps students can also come across how a professor is a part of the evolution of digital education and dedicated to creating the optimal environment for students to grow. Or perhaps a prospective student will benefit from seeing a profile highlighting a professor’s advancement in their field based on a new grant. What digital public relations helps with is creating a path, an outline, for students to follow in their research, which illustrates the career options they will have when they graduate.

 

4. Build Relationships with Professors

One of the thoughts that many stakeholders consider when investing in digital public relations is whether or not a marketing team can handle the complex nature of the academic world. In order to have professors invest their time into a digital public relations strategy, they need to trust the team they are working with and know that they will represent their work in the highest regard. So a digital public relations team working in education must have the ability to understand and translate complex academic topics into something that would make sense for the mainstream media.

It’s essential that digital public relations professionals are experts in the art of turning complex academic jargon into something more informal and journalistic. Often, our team has found that professors have no idea how to change their style, so we help them learn to tell their stories in a way that can attract major media outlets. Our team accomplishes this by staying up-to-date on industry trends, interviewing professors the same way a journalist would engage with them, and doing our homework on a professor’s research and background so we can prove to professors that we can not only represent their university but their own personal brands.

But most importantly, we help professors shape their stories outside of academia, and this often creates great relationships with the team and the professor. They value our hard work and expertise, and when professors see their names or bylines in leading publications, they appreciate the value of a larger marketing strategy. Digital public relations benefits both the program and their professors by supporting their research and academic interests. This helps bridge the gap between the marketing team and the individual stakeholders that make up the program. The more a professor’s work is promoted, the more they become thought leaders in their industry, and they will be sought after by other journalists and editors, leading to the opportunity to create new backlinks and touchpoints.

 

5. A Long-term Investment

When it comes to deciding how to spend resources in a marketing budget, the fundamental question every stakeholder wants to know is: What is my ROI? With paid search, a stakeholder in an online program can see how their money is being spent in the short term and evaluate their cost-per-lead as well as their cost-per-acquisition and quickly understand whether or not their strategy is working. While this is an essential part of the larger strategy, a diversified marketing approach will take into account how to leverage all available tactics and try to think about ways to maximize the budget spent on paid ads.

Digital public relations is different than paid search in the sense that it is a long-term approach, and it is essentially free advertising. By building up the number of touchpoints potential students have with your brand as well as the number of backlinks from high quality publications, digital public relations helps online university programs increase their organic rankings, and students will naturally find the degree program without paying for keywords or social impressions. It’s a strategy that pays long-term dividends when it is a part of the larger digital strategy, and it’s an worthwhile investment in the long haul.

To learn more about our digital public relations strategy, see our process here: Circa digital public relations

 

JoeJoseph Lapin M.F.A. is an author, creative director, and journalist, and his writing has been published in the Los Angeles Times, Narratively, Salon, Slate, and more. He is a former adjunct professor at Florida International University, and he has worked on PR campaigns for Ernst & Young, Brentwood Associates, and more.

6 Ways Prospective Students Find Degree Programs Online [Video]

Online education has taken large steps towards a highly regarded and powerful industry over the past decade. Increased trust toward these types of degrees have stemmed from elite, traditional universities emerging in the online higher education market. The continued development in communication technologies and an increase in savvy online tools have cleared the air of a once cloudy online learning environment.

With this open window into higher education, the current workforce has an opportunity to expand their knowledge and gain graduate level degrees while continuing their day-to-day responsibilities. Universities are investing in professors and tools to provide top-notch education to their future students. Students are using the tools at their disposal to find the right program for their goals.

Higher education institutions are faced with the challenge of shifting from traditional marketing tactics (billboard, print ads, brochures, radio, etc.) to newer methods in order to strategically place their brand in the sights of prospective students. The competitive nature of online higher education is pushing institution’s marketing teams towards new platforms such as SnapChat, Instagram, and new video marketing tactics.

How Do Prospective Students Find Their Online Program?

Today, students pursing online degrees search for them, you guessed it, online. 67% of prospective students use search engines as their first source of information for higher education institutions, so it is more important than ever to have an active presence on major search engines in order to get your program and brand in front of potential students. The video below, created by our content team at Circa Interactive, provides a quick run through of the top 6 ways that students find degree programs online.

 

Organic Search

Organic search is the natural, unpaid search that occurs on search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.). If your website is optimized for your core keywords and ranks in the search results, organic traffic is a flow of free visitors to your website. Even better, if your website is on the first page of results for a keyword (ex. Master in engineering program), you are in a good position to receive these free visits.

Fun Fact: Over 70% of users click on a result on the first page.

 

 

Paid Search

While organic search is the natural results shown when a user searches in a search engine, paid search is just the opposite. As shown in the video, paid ads appear on the top, sides, and bottom of the Google search results. These ads are shown based on the search query a prospective student used and a generally marked with the word ‘Ad.’

Fun Fact: 64% of users click on a paid ad when they’re looking to purchase a product or service.

 

 

Organic Social

Similar to organic search, organic social are the general social posts shared by individuals, institutions, or companies. Popular platforms for universities to leverage to place their programs in front of students are Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and LinkedIn.

Fun Fact: 38% of users are influenced by a school’s social media engagement

 

 

Paid Social

Paid social ads are the ads you see in social networks such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram. These advertisements are a proven way to generate students for an online program. Paid social ads are able to be targeted to very specific groups of potential students.

Fun Fact: 57% of students use social media to research universities.

 

 

Digital PR

Another way to place your program and brand in front of potential students is to use the respectable faculty and stakeholders at your university. Through a multichannel PR approach, students are able to see professors published in major news outlets such as Wired, The Huffington Post, Forbes, Entrepreneur, and more.

Fun Fact: The Huffington Post has 33,647,468 unique visitors per month.

 

 

Display

While Digital PR works to land opportunities for professors in news outlets and publications around the web, display advertising places highly focused visual advertisements on these same websites. These powerful advertisements are proven to generate high quality traffic to a program’s webpage.

Fun Fact: The Google Display Network includes more than 2 million sites.

 

While the 6 avenues for student acquisition highlighted in the video cover most of the options available, there are many other tactics for savvy marketers to leverage to place their brand in front of prospective students. To find out how to locate students for your program, drop us a line here.

 

how students find degree programs hemj image

FreddieFrederic has three years experience in higher education content marketing and search engine optimization. Working with Circa Interactive, he has gained valuable experience in paid search, analytics, SEO strategy, and client management. Follow him on Twitter: @FredHigherEd

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.

HEMJ 1




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

HEMJ 5

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

How to Leverage the Marketing Funnel to Generate More Students

In this post, you will learn:

1) Why the marketing funnel is important in higher education
2) How the marketing funnel is changing
3) How to leverage the marketing funnel to generate and nurture prospective students
4) Solutions for content creation if you have a small team

It’s no secret that the higher education market is saturated and highly competitive. Prospective students have more choices than ever when it comes to where they get their degree, and for many, making the decision to pursue a degree, let alone which one, takes a significant amount of time and research. More and more prospects are delaying the process as they gather information, seek questions to their answers, and decide if a degree is still worth it or not.

As this trend continues, program and admissions directors are facing a dilemma. Many are held to quarterly enrollment goals, so they need leads to convert into applicants today, not tomorrow. As a result, top-of-funnel prospects are overlooked and never enter the funnel, especially those who are undecided, despite the fact that they’re equally as qualified to convert. I’ve seen this many times while working in admissions, and it’s a critical marketing juncture that many higher education professionals are failing to take advantage of in the name of meeting short-term enrollment goals.

Here’s the reality: paid search efforts are still effective in driving quick transactional conversion, but you must pay to play, and generating worthwhile rankings in Google for some degree programs is an uphill battle that takes serious time and money. If you’re short on budget and looking for an effective solution for driving sustainable lead flow, content marketing and effective use of the marketing funnel could be the solution you’re looking for. Here is our guide to working prospective students through the marketing funnel and to an application.

How the Marketing Funnel is Changing

The idea of a marketing funnel is nothing new, but it’s certainly changing. Consider the fact that the traditional marketing funnel has quickly evolved into a non-linear “journey,” rather than an actual funnel. As you may have guessed, the digital landscape is quickly changing and in order to remain competitive, most institutions and organizations must create massive digital footprints to cut through the enormous amounts of noise we experience on a daily basis. With so many touch points (social, blogging, digital public relations, SEO, pay-per-click) for a prospect to find you, it’s no wonder why the funnel continues to change shape.

The transition from a focused conversion path to one that is less predictable isn’t a bad thing. We just need to adjust our strategies a bit to ensure we’re offering all prospects with the conversion path they’re most comfortable with, whether they’re ready to sign-up or want to be nurtured a bit more before they take the next step.

How to leverage the marketing funnel to generate and nurture prospective students

To effectively leverage the marketing funnel, it’s important to first understand your buyer personas. Who is your audience? What are their pain points and what type of content do they find valuable? What search terms do they leverage and where do they consume their information? It’s important to answer each of these question as it will provide insight into the topics you should cover, where you should distribute your content and what type of content you will need to produce, no matter what stage the prospect may be in.

Once you have a complete understanding of your audience personas, you’re ready to begin crafting your strategy. Let’s take a deeper look at each stage of the sales funnel/buyer journey and if you should be rethinking your marketing funnel.

Stage 1: Top-of-Funnel [Awareness]

Step back for a moment and take a look at your target audience. How many are ready to make a purchase decision immediately after the thought crosses their mind that they have a need? If you’re selling a degree program or big ticket item, a large portion of your prospects will most likely fall into this category. The top of the funnel is focused on awareness and providing value to prospects. These individuals may not know who you are or why they need you, so it’s your job to educate and provide solutions to their problems. These problems may not always be clear, so consider leveraging keyword research and interviewing current students or customers to gain insight into what topics you should be covering.

The key to successful top-of-funnel marketing is to create content that not only helps to educate prospects but also provides value to help them solve a problem.

What to Remember:

Goals of the Awareness Stage

  • Build trust
  • Educate
  • Provide solutions
  • Entertain [show some character!]
  • Move prospects from limited knowledge to a better understanding, all the while leaving them wanting more.
  • Capture the information of prospects

Top-of-Funnel Content

  • Whitepapers (really useful, capture their email)
  • Infographics
  • Blog posts
  • Webinars
  • Top 10 lists – “Top 10 Reasons to Get an Accounting Degree”
  • Checklists – “Checklist for Masters Degree Prospects”
  • How-to and explainer videos

What terms and phrases do top-of-funnel prospects use?

  • Which master’s degree programs offer the best career opportunities?
  • How do you become a diagnostic medical sonographer?

 At this point, you may be thinking: “I have a small team, how can I possibly create all of this content?”

Don’t worry, we get this question quite often and have experienced this ourselves!

Content creation is always challenging, especially for those who lack the resources to do so. Here’s how we overcome our resource challenges to build quality content (these concepts apply to all stages of the funnel):

  • Outsource your content creation – For a small fee, leverage Upwork.com to tap into a network of talented and hungry designers to help build infographics, whitepapers, and videos. Better yet, are there any students on campus looking for an internship that could help write blog posts or run webinars for prospective students?
  • REPURPOSE, REPURPOSE, REPURPOSE – Repurpose blog posts into whitepapers, whitepapers into infographics, infographics into videos. The opportunities are endless.

Stage 2: Middle-of-funnel [Interest]

Once top-of-funnel prospects are in the funnel, you must begin the nurturing process. In this stage, it’s important to continue educating the prospect and building their trust. The key to success with middle-of-funnel prospects is delivering content that helps them solve a problem or answer a question. Put yourself in their shoes: What type of content would be most helpful to you if you’re not sure when to start your masters? Use soft call-to-actions (CTAs) and other metrics to gain insight into the prospect’s level of interest and to determine if they’re a good fit for your degree program

What to Remember

Goals of the Interest Stage

  • Align the prospects needs with specific solutions
  • Gauge level of interest and determine if prospect is a good fit
  • Continue to educate
  • Build trust
  • Move prospects closer to making a decision

Middle-of-Funnel Content

  • Case studies
  • eBooks
  • Email marketing
  • Newsletters
  • Tools

What terms and phrases do mid-funnel prospects use?

  • Best diagnostic medical sonographer programs
  • Job opportunities with an accounting master’s degree
  • What can I do with a computer science degree?

Stage 3: Bottom-of-Funnel [Purchase]

You’ve educated, built trust, and qualified prospects…now what? You turn them into leads. It may take a few weeks or a few months, but once your funnel of prospects is full and healthy, then you’ll benefit for many semesters to come. Solidify your relationship with prospect and make it easy for them to make a decision and take the next step. Provide a direct link to the application, use a bit of urgency in your messaging (application deadline is March 31st), and offer them the ability to speak directly to the Director of Admissions who can help them move forward.

Goals of the Purchase Stage

  • Reinforce relationship and value provided
  • Overcome final objections
  • Empower prospect to make a decision

Bottom-of-Funnel Content

  • Email marketing
  • Special offer or incentive – Example, waived application fee
  • Testimonials from current students and alumni
  • Offer phone call with Director of Admissions

What terms and phrases do mid-funnel prospects use?

  • What is the cost of a diagnostic medical sonographer degree program in Orlando?
  • Accounting Master’s degree program in Detroit

Often overlooked, the marketing funnel is the key to successful marketing in higher education. Effective use of the funnel requires time and effort, but if managed effectively it can be a cost-effective solution for degree programs looking for sustainable lead flow.

How do you use the funnel in your marketing efforts? Share with us below!

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.

5 Tips to Drive Prospective Students to Your University with Pinterest’s Promoted Pins

On January 1, 2015, Pinterest expanded its Promoted Pins beta by making it available to all U.S.-based companies. Many marketers saw this as an exciting opportunity that carried some big question marks. Although it was clear Promoted Pins could reach a substantial audience at a relatively affordable price, it was still unclear how to reach a desired demographic within this audience, making it difficult to develop a cost-effective strategy.

Over the past year, Pinterest has shown steady improvements. In September of 2015, Pinterest announced it had crossed the threshold of 100 million monthly active users. In addition, it has doubled the number of active male users in the past year, as 1 in 3 new signups are male. As for Promoted Pins, new targeting features have been implemented in order to reach desired audiences in an even more relevant context. Due to Promoted Pins extensive progress as they near their one-year anniversary, I’d like to share 5 best practices for higher-ed marketers to strategically reach prospective students.

1. Create Pin Boards That Reflect Your University’s CultureUniversity of Oklahome

The first step in creating visually appealing and consistent content on Pinterest is to create boards and pin pictures that are clearly and unquestionably related to your university. This could include anything from campus photos, sports, alumni, the surrounding city, specific programs, etc. Any content that creates a story of what it’s like to be a part of your university culture will be most effective in generating engagement.

The University of Oklahoma’s Pinterest page is a wonderful example of visually connecting viewers to your university. Boards like Sooner Football, Dorm Rescue!, and Local Eats not only highlight the upside of the university but the surrounding environment as well. This content has lead to 4,600+ followers, which may seem small but is a significant following on Pinterest for a university and should only grow from here as Pinterest increases in users and relevant content related to higher education.

2. Build the Perfect Pin

Phone and fitness

As always, it’s important to test what content performs the best. When it comes to Pinterest, images hold the most influence – therefore these should be the first things tested. Images on Pinterest should be high resolution and vertical as they fit the platform best. Bright images with text-overlays have proven to perform better as they catch the viewer’s eye and inspire an action.

This brings me to the next test variable: your call to action. It’s important to test the way you word your call to action so that it isn’t salesy. Avoid the words “click” or “buy” and focus on a message that provides value to the viewer. Avoid using hashtags, too, which come across to Pinterest users as spammy. In order to maximize your potential, make sure your pins are beautiful, helpful and actionable.

 3. Utilize Pinterest’s Guided Keyword Search Tool

Backend

Perhaps the most exciting and effective improvement to Promoted Pins is the ability to target prospective students based on interests and personas rather than just location, language, gender and device. This is achieved by using specific keywords. When searching for keywords, Pinterest also gives you related terms to inspire ideas and other keywords to use. It’s recommended to use at least 30 keywords, but you can use as many as 150 per pin.

In order to better reach your target audience, it’s essential to use Pinterest’s built in Guided Search Tool, which shows you the most commonly searched keywords and categories related to your search criteria. These terms will be most effective in reaching your desired target audience and give you new ideas for ways to reach prospective students.

Colors pin

4. Join Group Boards

Screen Shot 2015-12-04 at 3.23.54 PM

Another tactic that doesn’t necessarily involve Promoted Pins, but is a valuable and underrated way to generate traffic is to join group boards. In order to join, you must send a request, but almost anyone is typically accepted. Group boards make it possible for any member to post to them and some even have tens of thousands of members. When you pin onto these boards, it’s going to be seen by thousands of people and can regularly get hundreds of pins. The toughest part is finding these groups, but they’re out there. Below is an example of different boards, but the one on the end is a group board that one could join and contribute to in order to get more exposure. Group boards are easily recognizable by the little collaborative 2-man logo in the top right corner.

5. Plan for Long-Term Exposure

Source: www.brianhonigman.com

Source: www.brianhonigman.com

One of the most valuable and appealing aspects of Pinterest is the opportunity it has for long-term exposure. Compared to other social platforms, Pinterest is better tailored for circulating content rather than finding the most recent content. Think of it as a public library – a database for browsing and picking out the most relevant items rather than relying on what’s new. This means your Promoted Pins will generate impressions long after a campaign is over.

Sites like Twitter hardly ever resurface content. For example, a tweet directed at a prospective student could quickly die and get buried in a timeline. Pinterest on the other hand is constantly resurfacing content that is pulled up by search parameters from potential students. Therefore, keep that in mind when creating pins so that they remain relevant to prospective students over time and aren’t restricted to a certain period of time, season, etc.

We’ve now established that Pinterest has a significant audience and effective ways to reach users. It may be time to consider implementing Promoted Pins in your university’s marketing initiatives. To begin, start a profile as a business and create the pin boards mentioned above. Next you should consistently pin relevant content to establish a valuable profile. In order to start promoting pins, you’ll have to request to be put on the waiting list, but once you’ve been granted access, follow these steps and you’ll be on your way to creating relevant and cost-effective promoted pins!

JaredJared is a marketing student at San Diego State University, and he is inspired by all things digital. He is enthusiastic about the implementation of marketing strategies and technologies, with a focus on reporting and analysis. Jared has proven to be a key asset in identifying and applying user-friendly reporting solutions for Circa’s clients.

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).

Screen Shot 2015-11-30 at 4.56.07 PM

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.

 

95__dont_convert

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:

HEMJ 1

  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.

HEMJ IMage two

  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.