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5 Steps to Writing Irresistible PPC Ads for Student Recruitment

Date posted: December 9, 2015

PPC for student recruitment

Whether you’re looking to attract more students locally, or enhance your international recruitment, Pay-per-Click (PPC) advertising offers a highly efficient means of raising your profile online, and generating quality student inquiries.

But this is no secret – and a lot of academic institutions are already using Paid Search as part of their online marketing strategy. With everyone jostling for clicks on search engine results pages, how can you ensure your ad will get noticed?

Take a look at our 5 point checklist for writing compelling ad content that is sure to connect with and convert your most valuable target audiences.

1. Craft a Value Proposition that will Engage your Student Persona

Hubspot reminds us that “effective marketing requires both an attuned sense of the audience you’re attempting to reach, and a message capable of actually reaching them.”

So we can’t resist emphasizing the importance of mapping out your student personas before sitting down to write your ad. Are you promoting your institution or program to parents? Recent high school graduates? Prospective Master students? People looking to switch careers in midlife? International Millennials?

In order to stand out and earn clicks, your PPC ads must speak directly to your persona’s motivations and concerns. You must answer the question of WHY your prospects should select you over your competitors.

We suggest keeping your persona descriptions and a short list of key marketing messages directly in front of you while writing your PPC ads. Keep your eye on those guiding sentiments while you write to avoid meandering off course. After all, you’ve only got 95 characters to work with! Make every word connect.

Take a look at a couple of ads that came up when I searched for “MBA programs”.

These are definitely more on the generic side, and offer little in the way of a compelling or personalized value proposition:

PPC for student recruitment

Mercy’s ad seems a bit vague – it poses more questions than it does answers! And for UCW – focussing on their modern facilities could miss the mark in terms of connecting with prospective students’ actual motivations for pursuing this program.

Here are a couple more examples that feel a lot more personalized and value-based:

PPC for student recruitment

Yale targets their audience’s desire to hold onto their jobs while pursuing the MBA, while establishing brand prestige as a top-ranked program. They’re speaking directly to a slightly older persona who is considering going back to school to advance their career and “earn more” – but can’t commit to full time classes.

Tru speaks to their prospects’ management aspirations while targeting needs around flexibility and affordability. Their persona is also likely someone who is already in the workforce, and wants to maneuver upward without enrolling full time.

Bottom line: use your allotted characters to zero-in on how the value of your offer aligns with your persona’s needs and goals.

2. Provide Proof to Enhance Your School’s Credibility

We’ve all grown thoroughly numb to sales pitches that say “we’re #1” without backing it up.  Consumers need something more than an empty claim or promise to click on a PPC ad – and the same goes for PPC for student recruitment.

If your program or school has won awards or received a high ranking, consider showcasing your accomplishments in your ad. Here are a few other provable claims worth highlighting:

  • Any special accreditations
  • Excellent job placement rates following graduation
  • High rates of acceptance among your grads into prestigious schools (undergraduate or master programs)

Here are a couple of simple examples that use proof to build credibility:

PPC for student recruitment

3. Include a Value-added CTA to Hook More Prospective Students

Given that their sole purpose is to convince the viewer to take “next steps”, it’s amazing how many PPC ads (education-related ads included) neglect to include CTAs.

In fact, the very ad I pasted above (“Kids & Adult Art Classes) remembers to cite accreditations but forgets to include a CTA.

Here are a couple of examples of CTAs that go beyond the requisite “learn more” or “get info.” These ads create urgency by framing CTAs around enrollment:

PPC for student recruitment

And these create CTAs around special content offers:

PPC for student recruitment

Clicks are far more likely if your prospective student or parent can discern that the action will lead to something of value – whether that’s circumventing lengthy admissions processes, squeaking in just before an enrollment deadline,  or gaining free access to a valuable piece of content.

4. Scan Competing Schools’ Copy with Adword’s “Preview & Diagnosis” Tool

One sure-fire way to ensure your PPC ad copy stands out from the competition, is by using Adword’s Preview and Diagnosis tool to check out how other schools are phrasing ads for your priority keywords.

If no one else is highlighting excellent job placement rates, and you know this is of great importance to your persona, adding this element to your PPC ad could help you get clicks over your competitors.

Or, if your top competition is using similar CTAs as you, you could up your game in this department, and ensure your ads feature unique, value-added calls-to-action that will grab attention on the results page.

The Preview and Diagnosis tool is an ideal way to see how your ads stack up against the competition without affecting any of your impression or click data.

The tool allows you to type in your keywords, select a location, language, device, and domain:

PPC for student recruitment

5. A/B Test Your Ad Copy to Continuously Refine Your Content

Even after following all of the best practices for writing winning PPC ad content, it’s tricky to nail it every time. Regularly testing your ads will offer the data you need to continuously refine your phrasing, improve click through rates (CTRs), and maximize ROI on your education lead generation and student recruitment efforts.

Use A/B testing to determine which headlines, descriptions, and CTAs perform best for a particular ad group. This way, you’ll determine which keywords and messaging are most worthy of investment, and know exactly where to direct your PPC budget.

Kissmetrics offers the following words of wisdom on testing your PPC ads:

  • Only test one thing at a time so you can pinpoint exactly which variable is impacting your results
  • Test early and test often!
  • Base your decisions on the hard data you collect from testing – not your “gut” instincts
  • Run your tests until you get a few thousand impressions to ensure accurate results

And we couldn’t conclude a post on PPC ad content strategy without mentioning landing pages.

It’s crucial to craft a landing page that follows through on the promise of your ad, and effectively convinces prospective students to take you up on your offer (fill out a form for more information, schedule a campus tour, download your latest viewbook, program guide, etc.).

Compelling, persona-targeted PPC ads and landing pages go hand-in-hand. After all, this could be a parent or student’s first interaction with your school!

It’s worth the time to make it a great one.

Have any insights to share about recruiting students with personalized PPC ads? We’d love to hear them.

Learn more about generating student leads with PPC