Mobile PPC for Higher Education: AdWords Call Extensions

In higher education search PPC marketing, call extensions can be a valuable asset, enabling prospective students to speak with an admissions or enrollment advisor with just a single click. Within the modern PPC marketing mix of search and social PPC campaigns, mobile traffic often accounts for the majority of paid-click user sessions; the terminus of this ongoing mass exodus of users, from their desktops to their smartphones, remains to be seen. As our friends at Unbounce put it back in 2015, “[every year] since 2009, it’s been declared that whatever year it was must certainly be the year of mobile.” Nearly a decade later it’s a sure bet, no matter what year it is, now is the time to be revamping your mobile student acquisition strategy. Today’s blog post is part 1 of my series on Mobile PPC for Higher Education: AdWords Call Extensions.

Why should you make call extensions part of your higher ed search PPC strategy?

  • AdWords call extensions would enable users to call directly via your Google Search PPC ads
  • Phone call inquiries can be an indispensable asset in student acquisition, as many would-be students are actively looking for a specific program to enroll in, and speaking to an enrollment advisor at this moment could make or break that individual’s decision
  • The AdWords API likes it when you use every extension you (appropriately) can
  • You can set Call Extensions to show only when your representatives can take calls
  • Conversion tracking is easy to set up

In lieu of these facts, I find it’s usually in the best interest of most higher ed PPC accounts to implement AdWords call Extensions.

One important thing to remember whenever you’re dealing with (any) extensions in AdWords: when there are multiple extensions at different levels (account, campaign, or ad group), AdWords will elect the most specific to be used. In other words, when you add extensions to an ad group, those extensions show instead of your campaign (or account-level) extensions. Similarly, campaign-level extensions override account-level extensions.

Let’s walk through the steps:

  1. Find a suitable number for prospective students to dial when inquiring about the respective program(s) you’re advertising — typically an Enrollment Advisor, or an Admissions Office hotline
  2. Open your AdWords account
  3. Go to Tools and then Conversions. Select +Conversion
  4. Select Phone Calls and opt for the 1st option (“Calls from ads using call extensions or call-only ads”)
  5. Create your Call Conversion Event, naming it something besides “Calls from ads” — as this is the default call reporting conversion metric AdWords has by default (and it will be difficult to discern between them if they have the same name). You do not necessarily need to assign a value to these conversions, but regardless I recommend setting the call length to 30 seconds and opening the conversion window to 60 days; the other settings can remain at their default
  6. Navigate back to your AdWords account home screen and select the campaign (or ad group) from which you’d like to start receiving phone calls from prospective students
  7. Go to the Ad Extensions tab (hint: if you can’t see it, click on the down-arrow to the right of the viewable tabs – you’ll be able to enable it here)
  8. From the View menu, select Call Extensions
  9. Select +Extension
  10. Select +New Phone Number and enter the number you obtained in step 1
  11. Leave Call Reporting as is (“on”), and leave Device preference unchecked (unless you have mobile-dedicated ad groups)
  12. Open the +Advanced options and select +Create custom schedule – populate this with the hours during which your representatives will be available to receive calls
  13. Check Count calls as phone call conversions and select the conversion event you initially set up in step 5
  14. Click Save

You should be ready to start receiving calls from prospective students! Repeat the steps above and add up to 20 call extensions to each account, campaign, or ad group.

 

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.

 

How To Appear In Google’s Featured Snippet In 2017 (Knowledge Graph)

In May of 2012, Google announced the launch of their knowledge graph. This is a knowledge base that is used by Google in order to enhance search engine results. Basically, it increases user experience by displaying information from a query directly in Google’s search results without requiring a user to click through to a site.

This may seem like a nightmare for digital marketers since we want users to click through directly to our websites, however, knowledge graph results take up an incredible amount of real estate within organic results. It’s actually hard NOT to click them.

Before we get into how to be featured, let’s look at some examples of the different ways we see the Knowledge Graph in Google’s search results.

Types of Knowledge Graph Results

People

The first type of knowledge graph result is the detailed view of a person. These appear on the right hand side of Google’s results. For example, I did a search for the president of Florida State University. See below:

knowledge base example: people

As you can see, Google pulled much of this information directly from Wikipedia.

Universities/Organizations

A query for “FSU” returned a similar graph result that offers a ton of information about the university.

fsu knowledge graph

Featured Snippets

Featured snippets are a powerful Knowledge Graph result and will be the main focus of this article. The reason behind this is that we cannot control what is shown in the other knowledge graph results listed above, because the information is often pulled directly from Wikipedia and other larger informational websites. With featured snippets, Google will pull information directly from our website and display it as the first organic result, with a valuable link to your website.

Another great aspect of featured snippets is that you essentially have two organic spots within the results. For example, you may be ranking fifth for your target keyword; however, if the information on your page is structured correctly, Google will show your information as the featured snippet AND keep your original organic ranking. Plus, there’s always the chance that making these on-page changes could help bump you up the search results a few spots.

Here’s an example of a featured snippet from U.S. News:

best online mba featured snippet

Here’s another example from CostHelper:

featured snippet example

Now, let’s dive into how to show up as the featured snippet.

How To Show Up In The Featured Snippet

The most important factor in showing up in the featured snippet is giving clear and direct answers to the search query or keyword. However, in order to show up, your site needs to be ranking on the first page for queries that are showing featured snippets.

If you’ve got some page one rankings, then follow these steps to take over the featured snippet spot. Wondering how to rank on page one? Be sure to check out other articles around our blog, like this one  .

Step 1: Find Which Queries Have Featured Snippets

This is an important step, as you don’t want to commit a bunch of your time trying to show up in the featured snippet for a query that does not have one. The best way to find out which queries have featured snippets is to use the tool SEMRush.

To do this, enter in your website and under “organic research” select “Positions.” You will be brought to this page:

how to find queries that have featured snippets

On the right-hand side under “SERP Features” you will see the “Featured snippet” link. Click that and you will be shown a list of keywords that have a featured snippet. You’ll want to check these keywords and see if you already own that featured snippet. If not, then it may be time to start optimizing around that keyword!

Step 2: Used Structured Markup To Directly Answer Queries

The majority of the featured snippets that you will come across will be pulling information that lives within structured markup. Here are the most common:

Unordered Lists

You will recognize these as the bulleted results you see. Creating unordered lists is simple and just requires basic HTML that looks like this:

<ul>
 <li>List item 1</li>
 <li>List item 2</li>
<li>List item 3</li>
</ul>

Unordered lists would be beneficial when trying to show up for a search term such as “types of business degrees.” Here is how it would show up in the search engine results:

example of an unordered list showing up in googles knowledge graph

Ordered Lists

These are very similar to unordered lists. The only difference is that the information within them is numbered. This is ideal for queries that are ranking degrees or programs. Here is the HTML used to create an ordered list:

<ol>
<li>List item 1</li>
<li>List item 2</li>
<li>List item 3</li>
</ol>

Ordered lists are great for “how to” type queries. For example, let’s look at the search engine results for “how to become a lawyer”:

example of an ordered list showing up in googles featured snippet

Tables

While tables are not as common as the previous two, Google will still occasionally show well-structured tables in the featured snippet. Tables can be a very effective way of showing a matrix of data.

If you are using WordPress, there are table plugins such as Tablepress that Google tends to favor. Otherwise, you can manually create a table using HTML, but be sure to include metadata within these tables. Did you know tables can have a meta description? To learn more about creating tables, check out this resource. Here is an example of a table in the featured snippet:

example of a table shown in the featured snippet

Header Tags

These are essential to showing up in the featured snippet. You will notice that almost every snippet begins with an H2 or H3. They also almost always contain the main keyword that is being searched for. For instance, check out the featured snippet for “best masters degree.” The bolded text that says “Best Master’s Degrees for Finding a Job” is marked up as an H3 on the page.

importance of headers when trying to get into the featured snippet

It’s extremely important that your H2/H3 tag:

  1. Directly precedes the structured markup
  2. Includes the keyword you’re trying to rank for

Step 3: Perfect Your On-Page SEO

Google will reward you for having an exceptionally optimized page. Make sure you hit all of the checkpoints and leave nothing out. This includes things like alt tags, proper use of headers, internal linking, etc. Be sure to read my in-depth guide to on-page SEO .

Note: If a competitor already has the featured snippet, taking your on-page SEO to the next level could help give you a bump and take the featured snippet from them.

Step 4: Include An Image

It’s always a good idea to accompany your structured markup with a well-optimized image. Make sure you use an alt tag as well as an image title here. While writing your alt tags and image titles, make sure you are as descriptive as possible, and don’t simply include the keyword and move on. Additionally, take some time to really describe the image using synonyms of your keyword as this will most likely put you a step above your competitors. As you can see in the examples above, almost all of the featured snippets contain an image.

Step 5: Enjoy The Extra Traffic

That’s it! Once your page gets reindexed, you’ll have a MUCH better chance at being the featured snippet. If after all of this you still haven’t taken over the feature snippet spot, don’t panic. Take a look at what the competitor’s doing and see how you can improve on it.

While following these steps will not guarantee results, it will put you in a much better position to steal the featured snipped. Take action today and claim that extra organic real estate.

If you have any questions or comments feel free to comment below!

15+ Essential Apps and Websites for College Students

Educational Websites for College Students

Google Drive

Google drive is a great place to store all your documents, spreadsheets and presentations. The ease of access means that a file can be saved at home and easily accessed from a college computer or even a mobile phone. Because this is a cloud based system you do not have to worry about losing documents or files either!

Slack

Slack is a communication tool that can be greatly beneficial to students as well as businesses. Communicating and collaborating with those people in your study group can become a lot simpler with Slack.

Grammarly

Grammarly is an english writing tool that can improve your grammar and writing quality when crafting essays and reports. There is both a grammar and plagiarism check within the site which will ensure your work adheres to over 250 grammar rules. Simply add it as an extension to your browser and you’ll be able to easily check the quality and accuracy of your work.

Dictionary.com

Not only can this site provide you with a quick check for misspellings and allow you to expand your vocabulary, but the addition of the mobile site means you can quickly look up those complicated words your articulate professor is saying.

Dragon Dictation

Typing essay after essay can become tiring and is often very time consuming. Dragon Dictation recognizes and transcribes your words with great accuracy and speed. This is also an app that can be used on the go to save you even more time.

Research Websites for College Students

Rate My Professor

When planning your college classes for the upcoming semester, check out the Rate My Professor website.  The site provides student reviews on professors, based on criteria including class difficulty, textbook usage and grades received. This could help you get a feel for which professors will suit your learning style and how to structure your classes.

Pocket

With Pocket, students can save articles and come back to them later. Simply save the article and come back to it later when looking to pinpoint the finer details of a piece. Save articles directly from your browser or from apps like Twitter and Flipboard.

Flipboard

Flipboard is a way to create your very own personalized magazine. You simply select seven of your interests (or class topics) and the app will provide you with news content that is related to the pre selected criteria. This is a great way to surround yourself with real world information that can be used in your college work.

TED Talks

These speeches are extremely motivational and also provide valuable information. This can be a great resource when looking to come up with an original project idea.

Bibme

This app will allow you to quickly generate bibliographies and citations. The easy to use site has an auto-fill concept that quickly recognizes the source you have used or are searching for.

Genius Scan

A scanner in your pocket! This phone app allows you to easily digitize documents on your phone. You can also download extensions that enable you to sign and  fax documents or research projects.

Study Websites for College Students

Self Control

We all know that Facebook and Twitter can prove to be extremely distracting when trying to study. The Self Control app lets you block your own access to distracting websites that might get you off track. You can select the amount of time that the sites are blocked for, and even if you restart your computer or delete the app, you will not be able toaccess the blocked sites.

Audible

Audible allows you to listen to your assigned class reading when you are on the go. Not only can this save you time, but it can also come as a welcome relief from staring at a textbook for hours on end. It can also be particularly beneficial for students who commute to school. There is a monthly fee attached, but you can get a 30 day free trial and test out this handy application.

Quizlet

Quizlet is home to over 153,303,000 study sets and counting. These ready to use flashcards and study guides created by teachers and other students can be a great resource when looking to understand the key points from a particular class. You can also create your own flashcards, meaning you can access your study notes anywhere anytime.

Hemingway App  

Another proofreading tool here, but a great one nonetheless. The Hemingway editor highlights the errors that occur within your writing and will pick up on:

  • Complex words or phrases
  • Extra-long sentences
  • Long sentences
  • Too many adverbs
  • Too many instances of passive voice

Additionally, Each error is specifically color coded so they can be addressed individually.

Valore Books

Using Valore Books, students can make some money back on those expensive text books purchased for various college classes. The easy to use site allows for student to student sales meaning that purchasing books here can also save you some cash.

Scholarship Websites for College Students

Fastweb

Fastweb is one of the leading online resources when it comes to finding a school scholarship that works for you. There is access to over 1.5 million scholarships on the site.

Math Websites for College Students

RealCalc

This app is a downloadable scientific calculator that could save you some money while enabling you to solve complicated equations in class and at home.

Math TV

Math TV is home to a great number of math resources and videos that help with breaking down complicated equations. The site also offers insight into what a college student can expect from their math class.

Fun Websites for College Students

Roomsurf

The thought of looking for a new roommate can be a daunting and unappealing one. Roomsurf allows you to search for a new roommate using various criteria, thus enabling you to find a roomie with similar interests to yours!

Reddit

Reddit is certainly a fun and interesting way to get your news and offers considerably more than your traditional news sources. This is also a platform to use during study breaks to gather some interesting stories that you will most probably be sharing with your friends later that day.

Twitter

There is more to Twitter than meets the eye. Not only is it a place to connect with friends and stalk your favorite celebs during study breaks, but students can also utilize the site to keep up to date the date with the day’s breaking news.

Alarmy

If you have trouble getting up in the morning for class then make it a priority to download this app. Once you do, you will be forced to get up a take a photo of an item related to the picture that Alarmy shows on your screen. Good luck!

Job Websites for College Students

Career Rookie

Looking for your first job out of college? Want to find some work while you are still in school? Well, Career Rookie specializes in this and is a great place to start looking for your first dream job.

LinkedIn

Another place to start when looking for that first job post college is of course LinkedIn. Use this social platform to connect with influencers and highlight your expertise/experience. Many employers will check out your LinkedIn page during their interview and hiring process.

Psychology Websites for College Students

Psychology Today

An absolute must for an Psychology Student! This said, Psychology Today is more than just your average psychology based news site. Thousands of academics from across the world use this platform to blog about their interests and expertise. This can range from psychology (obviously) to business. You may even find that a couple of your professors are writing for Psychology Today.

If you have any more suggestions on websites for college students then be sure to leave them in the comments!

George has recentGeorgely joined the Circa team in California following the completion of his master’s in marketing management and strategy degree, where he graduated with distinction from Plymouth University in England. George is a PR and digital marketing specialist who is passionate about creating high level opportunities for professors within national publications. 

The Top 4 Qualities of a Digital Marketer in Higher Education

In the Summer of 2011, I left my home state of Missouri and moved to San Diego, California, to pursue my Bachelor in Business Administration from San Diego State University. During my time at SDSU, I recognized my passion for marketing and entrepreneurship, which led me to seek a digital marketing internship in my final year of school. Luckily, I found Circa Interactive, a local digital marketing company started by millennial entrepreneurs and fueled by creative passion. The lessons learned from these leaders in higher education have been invaluable to my professional and personal development. From this experience, I learned about the characteristics and qualities needed to succeed in the digital marketing industry. I have narrowed down a large list of characteristics to the top four qualities that build the successful infrastructure of a digital marketer.

1. Creativity

Today more content is being produced than ever before. The last problem any marketing team needs is to fall into “group think” — or the concept that everyone agrees to one unified idea. If your team is not creating a constant stream of innovative strategies to get in front of the media, then the relationships will dwindle and the links will be nonexistent. That is one reason why creativity is the most important quality of a digital marketer. It is the starting point for content creation. Whether you’re pitching an editor or trying to create a story through a vivid infographic, you need to differentiate yourself and find ways to keep your content fresh in order to catch the interest of incredibly busy editors and bloggers.

This is why I learned to look creatively for stronger time pegs that are essential for a pitch. In higher education marketing, we create content around the university, their programs and professors. As we sift through news, we use our creative instinct to find relevant time pegs that connect with the uniqueness of each professor and university’s brand. For instance, one of our clients has a professor that is an expert in athletic psychology and injury prevention. As many know, Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) — a neurodegenerative brain disease — has been a growing topic over the past couple years, especially in the NFL. When we see trends develop around a subject, in this case brain injuries, that is the time to take immediate action and leverage the expertise of our professor. Mastery of time pegs isn’t easy but it can be the difference between a published article.

2. Confidence

After sending out thousands of pitches to publications and bloggers, the likelihood of getting shot down is absolute. Don’t let these rejections deflate your energy. My biggest lesson of confidence happened after I sent a pitch to Newsweek and received immediate interest in a potential publication of an infographic for a  criminal justice program. After long hard discussions between the client and Newsweek, the publication fell through. I was a bit down, but our Creative Director Joseph Lapin said: “Pitches and outreaches are like throwing spaghetti at a wall.” What he means is that you never know what will stick with the reporters, and you have to send out many pitches and ideas until you find one that sticks. This helped me understand this so called “failure” wasn’t a failure at all. It’s just a part of being a digital marketer.

3. Organization

Without structure life is chaotic. Though it may come to a surprise, this was one of the biggest eye-openers during my internship. I never understood the importance of organization until I entered digital marketing. Before, I was saving everything in my head, whether it was a business meetings or a grocery list. After joining Circa Interactive, this habit had to change. As the work, school and life tasks continued to grow, I now had more responsibility than ever before. My brain couldn’t organize all the tasks, so our Chief Operating Officer Clayton Dean and Joe Lapin recommended a few tools to keep me on track. Here is short list on my favorite organizational tools below.

  • Trello – This is an amazing project management and organizational tool. Trello is great for tracking progress on team projects, creating checklist by due dates and structuring to-dos by niche.
  • Cal – A free and easy Calendar application for your phone. Cal can connect with your Google Calendar and can instantly send emails from the app.
  • Google Applications – Most businesses and students use this organizational tool on a daily basis. While browsing the web you can save pictures and pdfs directly into your drive. Plus, you have the ability to structure everything into folders, spreadsheets or documents.

4. Adaptability

As many already know, the search engine optimization industry changes constantly. According to SEOMoz, while most of these updates are minor, Google changes its algorithm around 500-600 times a year. For instance, ten years ago digital marketers were more focused on building sites with a lot of targeted keywords. Don’t get me wrong, keywords are important but are much lower on the totem pole than content marketing and white-hat link building. This major change shifted the focus from keyword-rich pages to creating relationships with editors and webmasters. The biggest lessons about adaptability came from the observations of CEO Robert Lee and COO Clayton Dean. They taught me how to properly see the difference between each client and how we have to adapt our services to their motives. Using teamwork and adaptability to stay ahead of the pack is one of the biggest ways we can help our clients. As the digital marketing industry revolutionizes, I believe creativity and adaptability will need to be the strongest attributes of any teams’ philosophy.

I am thankful to have an internship opportunity that has helped me expand my creative critical thinking skills, believe in my ideas, think structurally and efficiently, and learn to adapt to client needs and industry trends. Everything I learned in this internship will help me in any future profession. Whether I seek a career in the marketing industry or pursue the life of an entrepreneur, these traits will be anchored within me forever. One more realization I had while working here is not to take a day for granted. If you’re hungry, then there will always be something to learn, and everyone here wants to help you get there and succeed.

Don’t forget: be creative, stay confident, get organized, and adapt quickly or be left behind.

If you want to find out more about Circa Interactive please reach out to us on our contact form or find us on Twitter @CircaSEO.


theandersonidea
Austin Anderson
is a senior at San Diego State University majoring in marketing. He is passionate about entrepreneurship, personal development and the future of big data. Connect with Austin on LinkedIn.

 

Four Lessons from my Internship in Digital Marketing

At Circa Interactive, we pride ourselves on building a team of leaders and placing individuals in the best position for success. There is no greater example of this goal than our internship program. We not only work in higher education as marketers, but consider ourselves teachers for future digital marketing professionals. Through partnerships with local universities and organizations, Circa Interactive brings young professionals into our company with the hope of teaching them practical skills in SEO, digital PR, social media, design, copywriting, and PPC in order to build the foundation for their future professional careers. Below you will see an article from one of our first interns, Sarah Song, an exceptional young woman who took the changes in the SEO industry by the horns and learned about the crossroads of traditional PR with SEO. Learn more in her article below.

As the digital strategy and public relations intern at Circa Interactive, my experience has taught me aspects I could have never learned at a typical PR agency. Here are four lessons I learned that were essential in understanding the future of SEO and PR.

4. The Convergence of Public Relations and SEO

Public relations has become an integral aspect of any successful SEO campaign. While at Circa Interactive, I learned that through traditional PR practices, such as pitching and list building, SEO can also benefit from relationships with journalists and editors. By reaching out to the media, I was able to offer journalists quality experts from credible and cutting-edge university programs to provide commentary on trending topics. In turn, the journalists supplied our clients with a link to our targeted landing page within their story.

3. Don’t Have Content? Make Content.

Online degree programs have a plethora of resources for PR and content marketing professionals, which can be repurposed and pitched to the media. Often times it may seem like online programs do not have as much fodder compared to other campus-based programs; however, with online programs, it is quite the opposite. With an audience and program completely online, “pitchable” content is virtually everywhere. From online resources, to videos and research studies, the possibilities are endless. The content you create depends on your creativity and insight.

2. Find a Way to Stay Creative

Creativity is king. Often times Circa Interactive would work with a program that specialized in a topic which didn’t initially appear media friendly, and it would be difficult to gain traction with the media without creativity and innovation. As a higher education marketer, it’s important to dig deep into the programs through analyzing their syllabi, research concentrations, and faculty members in order to create publishable and relevant content that is brand specific. During this process, newer, more unique ideas surfaced. With that, we were able to provide journalists and media gatekeepers with fresh ideas.

1. It’s All About the Links

One of the main differences between a typical PR department and an SEO firm is that SEO professionals focus on attaining backlinks to their main landing page. This is another area where traditional PR and SEO are coming together. PR could have a much more digital focus if they took lessons from SEO professionals. I’m fascinated to watch how these two industries continue to converge.

Overall, throughout my time at Circa Interactive, I have learned invaluable lessons on SEO and public relations best practices. The specific nuances and insights I have gleaned here will still be relevant and beneficial to me regardless of the field or emphasis I am in moving forward.

Sarah Song is a senior at Biola University, majoring in Public Relations, and she hopes to attain either an internship or job at a PR firm or department.
She loves to use her creativity and passion for technology to help companies effectively and personally connect with their audiences. She is currently the brand and social media intern at BCBGMAXAZRIAGROUP.

5 Must-Follow Higher Education Social Media Accounts

As our team at Circa Interactive create social media calendars and content ideas for our higher education clients, we’ve come across countless other universities who are exceeding the mark with their campaigns. Over the course of the next few months, I will highlight some of the best examples of content created by higher education marketers. Below I’ve chosen a few exceptional posts (in no particular order) that exemplify what higher education marketers should strive to achieve. It’s essential for universities to remain creative and timely in order to remain visible and engage with current and prospective students, creating a virtual and interactive university experience.

1. Syracuse–Twitter

Syracuse does an excellent job of putting a personalized touch on their Twitter account in a creative and playful way, as you can see below with their image of the campus designed to resemble a puzzle piece. What their posts prove is that a simple message can be transformed and brought to life through customization and ingenuity. They also often use the hashtag #OrangeNation to foster a sense of community and school pride.

 
One of my favorite parts of Syracuse’s Twitter is their @WorkingOrange account, which regularly features alumni who live tweet their workday and answer questions at the same time. This is a clever way to celebrate the successes of their alumni and a great way to connect them to current students who will soon be in their position.

 

2. Harvard–Facebook

I love the way that Harvard uses time-lapse videos to showcase their campus and student body. This video in particular was a welcome back video that shows the bustling campus life, while hinting at their storied history.  

 
Harvard is constantly using the the power of video to bring the university experience and their brand to life. The clip below shows a day in the life of a first-year student at Harvard. It’s a short and sweet video that humanizes the Harvard Facebook page even more by allowing the viewer a glimpse into the rudimentary parts of a Harvard student life that can appear extraordinary to prospective students.

 

3. MIT–Twitter

It’s no surprise that MIT’s world-renowned research programs play a large role in their social media strategy. By utilizing research from faculty, they’re not only expanding and showcasing their thought leadership, but they’re also helping to promote and push the professors’ valuable research into the community. The key is that they use eye-catching graphics to accompany studies that can appeal to a large audience, as shown below.

 

4. Stanford–Instagram

The Instagram photo below shows the beautiful Stanford campus while encouraging other students to submit photos that they’ve taken themselves. Stanford’s strategy is focusing on something that all higher education marketers should consider while creating content: How can I find a way to engage with my audience? By incorporating photos taking by students, their Instagram feed becomes a community-generated database of striking imagery that keeps their audience involved.

 
I gravitate toward the photo below because it’s not only visually appealing and attention grabbing, but it tells a story and promotes the fascinating research of a Stanford faculty member at the same time. This highlights that when it comes to higher education marketing content, it’s important to focus on storytelling. 


 

5. University of Wisconsin–Facebook

This video by University of Wisconsin-Madison is a unique and light-hearted way to promote alumni donations through their “fill-the-hill” campaign, where a pink flamingo lawn ornament represents each alumni gift that was made. While schools often run the risk of coming off as irritating when trying to repeatedly collect donations, UW-Madison figured out a way to accomplish their goals in a non-intrusive manner through the power of video, while incorporating a long standing school tradition. 

 
And finally the video below shows people how students at UW-Madison are involved in the community, rather than just telling them. This creates a much more sharable story than plain text would.

 
Caroline Khalili is a PR and marketing specialist at Circa Interactive, and she is an expert in developing content for higher education marketing campaigns. A 2011 graduate of the University of Oregon, Caroline now calls San Diego home.

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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