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

By August 17, 2015 No Comments

Social Media Marketing (SMM) has become an indispensable resource for generating prospective students for higher education institutions; however, it isn’t the two-buck-per-acquisition solution it was when Facebook ads first rolled out. With social media marketing becoming increasingly competitive, how then does one make the case for ongoing (if not increased) investment? The answer is simple: Lower your cost-per-acquisition/cost-per-lead, optimize performance across the board, and let the numbers speak for themselves. Here’s one tried and true method for getting the most out of your social media marketing dollars: Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO).
CRO is a process that prioritizes initiatives that convert at a higher rate in order to lower costs, optimize your cost-per-goal completion, and maximize your overall return on investment for PPC social advertising. Using this strategy, one can easily distinguish the paid social efforts that are worth the investment from those that are not.
Before beginning your optimization efforts, please note that this guide assumes the following:

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

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

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

It’s that simple! Go ahead and repeat this process for all of your paid social channels and begin monitoring your results over the coming weeks for improvement. Over time you should see an aggregate rise in conversion rate coupled with a gradual decline in cost-per-acquisition. Budget saved as a result of this can likewise be reinvested into initiatives continuing to produce optimal results.
As a rule of thumb, I use conversion rate optimization whenever a channel’s cost-per-acquisition becomes elevated or when I’m testing a new set of segments (or A/B testing ad copy). Feel free to comment if you have any questions or would like to highlight other useful applications for CRO.
Andrew croppedA graduate of the University of California, Andrew is our analytics and paid search team lead. He is both Google Analytics and AdWords certified. With an ROI-focused and problem-solving approach, he researches, plans, and manages our clients’ PPC campaigns.

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