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higher education paid advertising

With increasing online competition, many schools have found it more and more difficult to remain visible on search engines and social media. Relatively smaller institutions like language schools may feel this digital shift even more forcefully, given their niche market in the education industry.

However, a small amount of ad spend can make a huge difference when it comes to a language school’s online presence. With some thorough research, strategic targeting, and multilingual campaigning, language schools can generate more inquiries and applications from a wide range of prospects through paid ads. An effective online advertising strategy will not only generate a substantial ROI in terms of bookings, but will contribute to a more diverse student body at your language school.

Read on to learn how to develop a successful language school advertising campaign tailored to your prospective student base.


Could your school's ads more effectively reach prospects worldwide? Find out today!


Search Engine Advertising for Language Schools

Choosing to advertise on search engines allows your school the advantage of being able to reach prospects who are already looking for language courses.

Prospective language school students are likely to carry out due research before settling on a particular school or location, especially if they’re moving to a new place, and will likely turn to search engines in order to explore their options.

However, if your school doesn’t show up on the first page of their search results, chances are that prospects will miss it entirely. With search engine ads, you can ensure that your most prized prospective students are immediately exposed to your school online. Here are a few tips to help you get started.

Research Relevant Higher Education Keywords

Every successful search engine advertising campaign begins with thorough keyword research. The keywords you choose will dictate the cost-per-click (CPC) of your ads and influence which prospects you reach.

Example: Some common language school keywords – such as “study English” – are rather broad, while others, like “short English summer courses,” target prospects looking for a particular program. Your school’s budget, as well as its advertising goals, will dictate which keywords you bid on.

keywords for language schools

There are many different tools available to help you find which keywords best fit your school, but the best place to start is usually Google Ads Keyword Planner. This tool provides an exhaustive list of relevant keywords, together with their monthly search volumes, level of competition in ad auctions, and the average bids required for each one.

Example: After typing the keyword ‘study English in London’ into Keyword Planner, we are shown detailed data on its price and potential performance. The tool also suggests a host of other relevant keywords to bid on.

language school advertisements

Choose the Right Search Engines for Your Language School Ads

With 92% of the search engine market, Google is an obvious first choice for language schools looking to supercharge their online visibility.

In today’s marketing world, Google Ads is practically essential considering that the first page of Google captures at least 71% of search traffic clicks. While SEO will help your school reach that spot, there’s fierce competition, and Google Ads can help you stand out.

Example: Anyone looking to learn business French would be immediately exposed to CCE Concordia’s program when browsing different options.

google ads for language schools

If you want to diversify your language school advertising strategy, adding Bing Ads to the mix could also help you generate more inquiries and applications. While Bing has a smaller reach than Google, keywords are typically cheaper to bid on, meaning you can find some great ad deals on the platform.

Keep in mind, however, that Bing users are primarily located in the US and are typically older than those who use Google. Depending on your target audience demographics, Bing may or may not be appropriate for your school.

If China is one of your target markets, however, you may want to consider a Chinese search engine such as Baidu, since Google and Bing are banned in the country. With 80% of China’s search engine market share, Baidu is to China what Google is to the rest of the world.

Baidu advertisements aren’t all that different from ads on Google or Bing, as they offer similar search and display format options. The only formatting difference is the option to add photos, which isn’t possible on Google.

When it comes to setting up your campaign, however, there is a significant difference between the platforms. To advertise on Baidu Tuiguang, companies are required to either register their business with Baidu – which involves presenting a number of documents in Chinese, as well as paying a down payment and service fee – or to go through an approved Baidu agency.

While a Baidu ad campaign is more complicated and costly to set up, some language schools may see a significant return on investment considering the sheer number of students they will be able to reach.

Search Engine Targeting Options for Language Schools

While your keywords will be the biggest factor influencing who your campaigns reach, search engines offer various targeting options – such as age, gender, and location – which need to be considered carefully when creating the perfect language school ads.

Out of these demographics, location is likely the most important one for language schools to get right. With prospective students spread across the globe, language schools must target the most viable regions if they want to find success with search engine advertising.

Example: With Google Ads, you can target multiple locations – both broad regions and specific places – or narrow your ad exposure to a certain area.

geotargeting for language schools

Source: WordStream

Talk with your school’s admissions team and agents about which audiences matter most in terms of enrollment. These prospects could be local, could live in specific countries, be from certain linguistic regions – or perhaps a mix of these factors applies.

For instance, let’s say Spanish speakers make up a large number of your recent inquiries. You could look at targeting students from countries such as Argentina, Columbia, and Mexico with your ads. If you find this audience is not getting results, however, it may be too broad, and you might have better luck targeting major cities in these markets, like Bogota, Buenos Aires, and Mexico City.

While targeting is not the only factor to search engine ads, it’s important to get right if you want to maximize the ROI of your ad campaigns.

Social Media Advertising for Language Schools

While search engine ads grab prospects’ attention as they research schools, social media ads boast the benefit of offering various creative formats that help you showcase the attractiveness of your school, and allow for complex targeting options that help you reach the right students.

Choose the Right Social Media Channels for Language School Advertising

Not only is thinking about your target audience helpful when it comes time to set your targeting options, knowing who your prospects are will also help you choose the most relevant social media platforms to advertise on.

While many ad formats and targeting options overlap across multiple social media platforms, there are pros and cons to each, and language schools should carefully consider which ones best suit their advertising objectives.

paid advertising for language schools

For instance, let’s say you want to promote a Business English program on social media. Your first instinct would likely be to create an ad on Facebook, since it’s the most popular social media advertising platform – and the second largest online advertising platform after Google.

If you decide to go this route, you’ll easily be able to advertise your program on Instagram, too. Since Facebook owns Instagram, campaigns on both platforms are run through Facebook’s Ad Manager. You can even create a single campaign that includes ads served to both sites. Your school may also want to throw LinkedIn Ads into the mix. As the online hub for career-driven professionals, you may find many career-driven prospects that would be a great fit for your course.

Target the Right Student Prospects

One of the best perks of social media advertising is the highly detailed targeting options each platform offers.

While it may be difficult to target the right students at first, with some digital marketing tips in your toolkit, you can ensure your social media ads are seen by the most qualified prospects.

To target your Facebook ads, for example, first consider the demographics – such as age, gender, and language – of the audience you wish to reach. If you want to promote a language program for mature students, for example, make sure to narrow the age range when setting up your ad.

Location is another crucial part of any good social media campaign, just as it is for search engine ads. On Facebook, you can target broad locations such as cities, countries, and continents, and by postal code or the radius of a specific address. What’s more, you can target people who permanently live in a certain region, people who are visiting it, or people who were there recently.

Example: Language schools can target people who used to live in certain countries in order to reach newcomers to your location who may need to improve their language skills. For example, if you know a large number of Brazilians live and work in your city or region, you can use the ‘Lived in Brazil’ Behaviour targeting field.

language school paid advertising strategy

With Facebook Ads, you can also target people with certain interests. If many of your prospective language students are travel-minded, for example, you may want to target those interested in ‘travel,’ ‘food,’ or even ‘sun tanning’ if your school’s location boasts that perk!

Language schools should also think about whether their prospects have people in their lives who are likely to influence their education decisions, such as parents or employers. If you want to promote an ESL summer camp for kids, for instance, you will most likely want to target parents instead of the prospects themselves.

Example: With Facebook Ads, not only can you target parents with ads about your summer camp, but you can specifically target those with kids who fall into the right age range.

language school paid ad targeting

Each social media channel offers its own unique targeting system, and you’ll find different options on LinkedIn, Twitter and others that may make them superior or inferior options for your needs. Once you’ve mastered working with one platform, however, you should have a good sense of how to create a successful language school ad campaign on others.

Create Successful Social Media Ads

You can create social media ads in all shapes and sizes. From videos to stories to photos, there are numerous ways to present and promote your school.

The ability to choose from a number of different formats is particularly beneficial to language schools. If you’re targeting prospects that may not be well-versed in your own language, for instance, you can rely on visuals to help communicate your message.

The ability to add images to your ads also helps language schools recruit those who not only want to learn a new language, but experience a new culture. With pictures, your school can showcase its travel perks, which is a big selling point for many language school prospects.

Example: This Language Systems International ad on Facebook strategically shows off a beautiful Los Angeles beach, showcasing the school as a travel destination as much as an education institution.

language school ad

When it comes to social media advertising, there are numerous angles that language schools can use to showcase their location to interested prospects.

Creating Multilingual Ad Campaigns for Language Schools

Since language school prospects have varying degrees of English proficiency, schools should strongly consider creating ads in their languages. That way, when prospects search for language schools online in their native language, they’ll be immediately exposed to your school. Moreover, when they see your school’s ad appear on social media, they’ll have a better understanding of what you have to offer.

If your school decides to launch a multilingual advertising campaign, you’ll have to tailor each step of the paid advertising process to your target linguistic demographic. This involves researching keywords in different languages, deciding which regions to target, and creating advertisements that clearly present key information in the languages of your choosing.

Example: Written in French, this Facebook ad for Camp Pilgrim effectively attracts French-speaking students to attend the school’s summer English language camp.

language school advertising

But once someone clicks on your ad, where are they directed? Your prospects will be confused if they suddenly land on an English web page after clicking on an ad in their native language. Creating landing pages in other languages is an essential – but often overlooked – part of multilingual marketing campaigns. If a prospect can understand the information presented to them on a web page, they’re more likely to fill out the inquiry form on it.

Example: The above ad for Camp Pilgrim links directly to this landing page, which is also in French.

language school advertisement

Once a prospect has filled out the inquiry form on your landing page, you no longer have to advertise to them – but now you’ve got the entire lead nurturing process ahead of you. Following up with leads in their own language makes the admissions process a whole lot easier for those who aren’t yet fluent in English. Your efforts to accommodate their linguistic needs won’t go unnoticed – the more comfortable they feel with your school, the greater chance they will apply.

Monitoring your Language School Advertising Campaigns

Creating an ad suitable for your school’s prospective audience is only half the battle when it comes to effective education advertising. To maximize your results, you must consistently analyze and optimize your paid advertising strategy. Most platforms offer helpful monitoring tools to enable you to measure your performance.

For example: Facebook offers a wealth of performance data for advertisers to use when evaluating their campaigns. You can analyze the impressions, link clicks, and leads your ad generates, as well as your CPC and link click through rate.

digital marketing for language schools

On Google Ads, you can also monitor your campaign progress, as well as your keyword performance. For cost-effective paid advertising, don’t waste money on keywords that aren’t successfully bringing users to your website.

These metrics will help you determine which ads are worth repeating, which need reworking, and which you should abandon entirely, based on your paid advertising goals.

Remarket Your Language School Ads

Regardless of how your language school ad campaign is performing, remarketing can help you achieve even greater results. In fact, remarketing is one of the most effective ways to convert interested leads into applicants. According to a recent study, website visitors who are retargeted with display ads are 70% more likely to convert.

This advertising tactic works by tagging a person who looks at your website. As they browse the internet, ads from your school will appear, drawing that prospect back to your website to submit an inquiry or application. Since these campaigns only target those who’ve already demonstrated an interest in your school, you’re likely to see a substantial ROI on your remarketing efforts.

Whether your school opts for a multi-channel advertising campaign, or simply wants to boost some social media posts, make sure your school is equipped to monitor your ads over time in order to receive the best possible results.


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