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Case Study: How One Degree Program Increased Their Lead-Flow by 902%

By March 14, 2014 No Comments

Over the past few years working in higher education marketing, one thing’s become clear: too many universities are throwing insane amounts of money into marketing initiatives and getting absolutely nothing for it.  Lack of knowledge, lack of resources, and lack of oversight are to blame, especially in the private, non-profit sector.  The individuals in charge of managing such a large marketing budget are almost always understaffed, and simply don’t have the knowledge to successfully implement a marketing strategy that is effective and efficient.
We’ve run into this scenario more often than not, and having the opportunity to help these schools increase lead flow and decrease costs is a major reason why we find our jobs so fulfilling.
Case in point: we began working with a private, non-profit university last year based out of California that was in this exact situation.  As we began to go through the initial stages of engagement, we quickly realized that across one degree program they were spending tens of thousands of dollars per month and only generating 50 or so leads per month, if they were lucky.
The individual in charge of this massive marketing budget had no support staff, and his knowledge of internet marketing was very limited.  Needless to say he needed some help.
What I really want to stress in this post is how painless it was to quickly turn this program into a lead generating machine.  It did require a great amount of work and maneuvering to facilitate our strategy, but overall the bulk of our strategy is not that complicated.  In fact, there was nothing cutting-edge about what we were trying to do.  In reality most of what we implemented should have already been in place, but you’d be surprised to see how many colleges and universities are totally missing the boat and have no clue about these basic digital marketing practices.
Keeping in mind that this is the abbreviated version, I’ll quickly walk you through our strategy:
Landing Page Creation/Optimization

  • Complete redesign (no external links)
  • Utilized conversion formula: C = 4M + 3V + 2(I-f) – 2A
  • Sent all paid traffic to targeted landing pages
  • Conducted regular A/B testing to refine conversion metrics


  • Conducted extensive keyword research, created keyword map for existing website
  • Optimized each existing page for highest relevancy/volume keywords
  • Audited entire subdomain for crawl errors and other spider issues
  • Implemented internal linking best practices

Paid search

  • Complete rebuild of Google Adwords campaign
  • Complete rebuild of Bing Ad campaign
  • Launched LinkedIn ads and sponsored updates
  • Individual ads for each specialization, focusing on target segments
  • Assisted university in the creation of content for sponsored updates (whitepapers, eBooks)
  • Launched Facebook campaign

While the campaign rebuilds and implementation of new marketing channels accounted for a huge increase in traffic and thus leads, I truly believe the landing pages were the difference.  The results prove that with a well thought out and designed landing page, you can almost instantly increase the number of leads you’re generating.  With the help of Marketing Sherpa’s conversion formula (which we live by), the new landing pages were outperforming their old paid search pages by 383%!  Robert has a mini-series covering the conversion formula in-depth if you’d like more info – you can check part one out here and part two here.
In the two months after launching the landing pages, and implementing SEO and paid search best practices, here were the results compared to the same period prior in the months before the new strategy implementation:
Visits: 9,224 (up 269%)
New Visits: 7,718 (up 309%)
Leads: 413 (up 902%)
Blended Conversion Rate to Lead: 8.45% (up 383%)
Paid Ad Impressions: 14,102,354
Organic Conversion Rate: 7.28%
Total Visits:
Aggregate Lead Flow:
Organic Traffic:
Organic Leads:

While these drastic results aren’t typical for all clients, they do effectively illustrate the importance of sticking to the basics when it comes to marketing strategy and implementation (and focusing on conversion!).  And no, this wasn’t a major national brand, nor was it a top-ranked program.  These results are possible for just about anyone when implemented correctly.
By simply implementing best practices and focusing on efficiency, we were able to help inject the lead volume they had desperately needed and saved them tens of thousands of dollars in the process.  Are you facing a similar situation?  If so we’d love to help you do the same – contact us here!

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