Going International

Mark Covert

PPC Strategist

Using PPC for International Student Recruitment

Higher institutions have always had to face unique challenges, and today that challenge is acquiring a solid base of qualified leads out of a shrinking number of prospects. With the rising costs of college and economy hardships, college enrolment is down. In fact, college enrollment for the spring semester fell nearly 2% from a year ago, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

With enrollment down, colleges and universities have begun looking for new opportunities to expand their reach and grow their numbers. Rather than focusing entirely on local students, more are reaching out to international students that have the necessary qualifications and financial resources to benefit their school.

Thankfully, there is no better time to connect with international students than now. As little as 10 years ago, your higher institution would have found it very difficult to reach out to international students through an effective marketing campaign, but today, this has changed dramatically. Not only has there been a sharp rise in student mobility but also higher institutions can reach qualified prospects through online channels such as social media, search engines and PPC.

Let’s take a closer look at the PPC model and how it can be used for international student recruitment.

Why PPC Works

The pay-per-click model doesn’t always have the best reputation, so it’s important to understand what you can do to make it successful for your brand.

The PPC model is cost-friendly because you can set your budget and not go over. Basically, you bid on keywords that are most relevant to your ad, and when someone clicks on it and expresses interest, you pay for it. Even if people don’t click on your ad, they are still seeing it and getting familiar with your brand. This means that with one simple PPC campaign, you can generate millions of impressions and increased brand awareness.

Since international students are less exposed to traditional marketing practices, they are even more dependent on the search engines to learn about colleges and universities. This market is much more likely to do searches online rather than seek out particular schools because they heard an ad on the radio or were sent a postcard for an open house.

Bottom line: PPC advertising is a great way to reach international students and gain the most qualified prospects for your higher institution.

Below are a few tips for effectively using PPC for student recruitment.

Geo-Targeting Capabilities

PPC offers geo-targeting capabilities that allow your college or university to deliver highly targeted messages to specific groups of students. This means that you can target your international audience based on their location, language and keywords. By targeting these specific leads, you are connecting with students who are most likely to convert.

Keyword Testing

It’s important that you compare the effectiveness of various keywords and messaging. By using the right keywords in your content, you ensure that your brand is being seen by the right audience. You probably already have a good list of keywords that your local audience has responded to, but do your research when it comes to your international audience. It’s likely that the keywords will be different due to unique cultural and language factors.

Search Engines

In the US, Google dominates Internet searches. But in other countries, there are other local search engines that are more popular than Google. For instance, in Russia people tend to use Yandex; in China it’s Baidu. You can learn more about which search engine are most popular in other countries with this handy guide. In the meantime, be mindful that the rules may change from one search engine to the next. Just because your PPC strategy works for Google doesn’t mean it will for another search engine.

Mobile PPC

Online usage is spreading like wildfire throughout the Middle East, Africa and Asia. The majority of these users are mobile only. In order to reach this audience, you must have a strong mobile PPC strategy in place. Probably the most convenient way to target diverse regions is with Google. Using its enhanced ad campaigns, you can strengthen your mobile PPC strategy with images, drop-down menus, links to your social accounts and local maps.

Landing Pages

Landing pages should be used to strengthen your PPC strategy. Just be sure that the content on the landing page matches the ad copy. If a prospect clicks on an ad and wants to learn more about your program, they should be directed to a landing page with optimized content and a clear call to action that tells them what you want them to do next, such as subscribe to your blog or join your email list.

A/B Testing

It’s a good thing that PPC campaigns can be easily tested so that you know what’s working - and what to toss out the window. PPC marketing is a continuous work in progress, so you should be testing your campaigns throughout to ensure you are using the right keywords and messaging. A/B testing with Google Analytics is the best way to do this, and you can easily experiment with different times, days of the week and months of the year to see which brings you the most ROI.

With so many benefits to PPC, it’s amazing that so many colleges and universities underutilize it in their international marketing efforts. Perhaps it’s because many are unfamiliar with the model, particularly when it comes to expanding it overseas. 

About the Author: Mark Covert

Mark has joined the SEM Geeks team as a PPC Strategist in early 2015. Mark graduated from East Stroudsburg University with a Bachelor’s of Science in Sports Management and a minor in Business. Mark started out early on in his career from freelancing web design, which ultimately evolved into marketing clients websites to create a great user experience and the best possible results for both parties. Prior to joining the Geeks, he has worked for DNA marketing, managing several large Fortune 500 paid search clients, while continuing to refine his skills and knowledge within the industry.

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