PPC Landing Pages: Essential How-To’s for Education Marketers

Date posted: April 24, 2015

PPC landing pages for education lead generation

What is Pay-per-Click? You might know it as paid search, Google Adwords or Bing Ads. PPC is a very efficient way for education marketers to boost the visibility of their institution or program in search engine results, and increase inquiries from prospective students.

There are several benefits to using PPC as part of your education lead generation strategy, including:

  • Fast and measurable results
  • Control of the budget and schedule
  • Targeting is tightly focused by keywords
  • You pay only for the clicks your ad receives
  • Get to Google Page 1 immediately

But maximizing the ROI of your PPC campaigns depends in large part on the effectiveness of your landing pages. In this post, we’ll break down the PPC landing page into its component parts and examine how key elements work together to support conversion. Whether your goal is to generate inquiries about a training course, degree program, K-12 school or language class, learning how to optimize your PPC landing page is essential for ensuring the success of your paid search initiatives.

The Role of the PPC Landing Page & Why Optimization Matters

Hubspot tells us that a landing page is defined by two characteristics:

1) It has a form.

2) The landing page is designed to engage the persona’s attention, respond to their need(s), and convert them into a new lead.

So, while it’s true that a prospective student (or parent) may indeed “land” on any one of your school’s website pages at any given time – not ALL of those pages meet the criteria of a bonafide landing page. A landing page has a specific goal – to capture a lead’s information. In the case of education marketing, that goal is to collect a valuable database of potential applicants who may then be nurtured toward enrollment. This is of course, an important part of your overall student recruitment strategy, and an objective that effective PPC landing pages accomplish very efficiently – if they’ve been optimized.

There are two main reasons to invest in optimization:

1) To Produce More PPC Leads
When your PPC landing pages are optimized to follow best practices, more of your clicks will lead to conversions.

2) To Get Better Quality Scores With Your PPC Ads
Strategically-crafted landing pages get better Adwords Quality Scores because they are more effectively aligned with the searcher’s intent (we’ll discuss content alignment in more detail later on in the post). Higher Quality Scores result in a higher PPC ad position and lower overall costs per lead.

Anatomy of an Effective PPC Landing Page

Now that we’ve established that optimizing PPC landing pages is essential for maximizing conversions and the overall ROI of your campaign, we’ll look at the elements your page should contain.

Essential PPC Landing Page Elements

PPC for higher ed landing page elements

Here is a fleshed-out example of this structure from a Herzing College PPC campaign. Their landing page contains all of the essential elements:

PPC for higher ed landing page design

Now let’s break down some of these individual page components to see how each one contributes to an engaging PPC landing page that converts visitors into new student leads.

Strong Headline and Student-Oriented Selling Proposition

Any effective marketing material seeks to engage the target audience with clarity and persuasion. When it comes to your PPC landing page, the title must grab the visitor’s attention and respond to their motivation for clicking on the ad. Then, you must follow-up with a “selling proposition” that entices your visitor to remain on the page and fill out the form. It’s an essential one-two punch.

Here’s a good example from Stenberg College. The title is clear and bold, and the selling proposition clearly emphasizes the short duration of the program – something most prospective career college students will find quite enticing:

PPC for higher ed landing page content

In this next example, Colorado State University pairs these two elements together, at the top of their PPC landing page. Their selling proposition clearly emphasizes convenient online study and the promise of broader career options after graduation – right on target for their student persona:

PPC for higher ed landing page content

Branded Landing Page Design & Convincing Copy

A strong headline and unique selling proposition alone will do a good job of capturing your visitor’s attention, but in order to move them toward filling out the form, your landing page must back-up those initial claims with:

  • A clean, attractive design that is trustworthy, professional and consistent with your brand
  • Concise, convincing copy that communicates the value of what you’re offering using examples, testimonials and when possible, statistics

This PPC landing page example from Stenberg College has it all – stats on graduate employment rates, a seal of accreditation, student testimonials, their “I Changed Me” slogan, and an overall clean layout:

PPC for higher ed landing page content

The page carries enough persuasive weight for the visitor to feel confident in relinquishing their contact information. It’s important to thoroughly communication your program and institution’s value when asking prospective students to hand over personal data. The ideal PPC landing page is meaty, but still easy to read, interact with, and digest.  Which lead us to our next point…

User-friendly Form & Enticing Call-to-Action

Best practices for education PPC landing pages recommend a short, easy to fill-out form. But don’t skimp on your form’s Call-to-Action. Less is not more when it comes to crafting a compelling CTA.

Rather than simply commanding visitors to ‘submit’ their information, or ‘go’, a strong CTA communicates value and reminds the user what they have to gain by following through. Here is a closer look at that Stenberg College example:

PPC for higher ed landing page CTA

The CTA invites the visitor to “Request Career Information”, reminding them what they will receive by filling out the form, and adding value to the process. In the next PPC landing page example from Berklee Online, the form is sandwiched between two value-added CTAs. The first reminds visitors that their sign-up earns them a free catalog, and the second urges them to ‘Get Started’ on their new study program:

PPC for higher ed landing page CTA

PPC Content Alignment

The importance of PPC content extends beyond the landing page. When advertising for a particular program or study area, institutions must take care to align their keywords with their ads and with their landing page title. Here’s a good example from a Trebas Institute PPC campaign:

PPC for higher ed scent trail

Why is alignment important?  Without it, you risk loss of scent. You fail to deliver on your ad’s promise, your prospective student gets confused, and quickly navigates away from your landing page. Here is an example of a poorly aligned PPC campaign from a vocational training center:

PPC for higher ed content alignment

The keyword does not match the ad, while the PPC landing page is simply the homepage of the institution’s website. There is no title or headline to capture visitors’ attention and direct them toward the study area they had originally searched for – healthcare training. Crucially, there is also no form.

In order to maximize the effectiveness of your school’s PPC campaigns, the keyword must be in the ad and featured prominently in the landing page title.

Why it’s Worth the Time to A/B Test Your PPC Landing Pages

According to Hubspot, education marketers can gain up to a 40 percent increase in leads when they A/B test their landing pages. With numbers like that, it definitely seems worthwhile to test your pages, early and often.

In order to avoid confusion, it’s best practice to run one test at a time, examining how important page elements impact conversion. Experts like Hubspot suggest starting big and creating two entirely different landing pages – and then using A/B testing to determine the winner. However, because small details on the page can also be incredibly influential in terms of conversion, it is also useful to test changes to individual elements. In this next example from CATS Academy (a boarding school in Boston), the CTA and the form are being tested to determine how these small changes impact PPC campaign results:

PPC for higher ed a/b testing

Google Analytics will help you compare the performance of your two pages (in this case we’re tracking a button change).  Education marketers can track conversions and conversion rates between the two versions and determine the probability of one page outperforming the other. In the example below, Analytics predicts a 99.38 percent probability that the variation page with the button change will outperform the original landing page design.

a/b testing for PPC landing pages

This really takes the guess work (and wasted time) out of designing winning PPC landing pages. The more you test, the more valuable insight your institution will gain about how to anticipate the needs and preferences of its unique personas.

Don’t Forget About Mobile PPC!

We must include mobile in our PPC landing page how-to. More and more students are evaluating schools and programs using mobile devices, so it makes sense to run a mobile PPC campaign – as long as your landing pages are responsive!

And one of the biggest selling points of using mobile PPC, is the phone call ad extension:

Mobile PPC for higher education

Most schools find it challenging to reach prospective students by phone – but having those personalized interactions is an extremely important element of conversion. Mobile PPC puts the phone call front and center, right in the ad itself. It’s just one more way to streamline the inquiry process for your potential applicants, and enhance your visibility in a competitive marketplace. And that’s what PPC marketing for higher education is all about!

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