How much do you know about remarketing to college students?

If you don’t feel comfortable running a remarketing campaign, it’s helpful to take a step back to learn what remarketing is and why it works.

Many colleges and universities use remarketing to reach prospective students and improve lead generation efforts. Rather than reaching out to all potential students, remarketing helps schools cut to the chase and connect with students who are most likely to be qualified candidates.

Before we get started on how to best use remarketing to boost enrollment numbers, let’s discuss what remarketing is.

Remarketing…In a Nutshell

Remarketing involves advertising to a person who has already shown interest in your college or university. This can include anyone who has:

  • Visited your college website but did not convert

  • Searched for keywords related to your programs

  • Taken specific actions that make them relevant potential students

Remarketing also goes by the names retargeting, re-messaging and behavioral retargeting.

Types of Remarketing

The most common form of remarketing is site remarketing. Cookies are used to track students who have visited your website. As the student looks for college programs on other websites, they are shown ads from your school in the search results or display page.

Social remarketing is another option. It works by showing ads to people who have completed certain actions on social media, such as liking your Facebook page. Generally, social remarketing isn’t as targeted as site remarketing, but there are a lot of great tools that you can use at your disposal.

Start with Facebook Custom Audiences. This tool lets you reach prospects you already know using ads. You can even create a lookalike audience to reach potential students who are likely to be interested in your school based on things they share with existing students.

Targeted Ads are the Key to Success

No matter how you choose to remarket, the key is showing potential students highly relevant ads. You can do this by segmenting your audience into various groups (i.e., students who have visited your site but didn’t convert, students who are interested in your nursing program, etc.) and then showing them targeted ads.

The more specific you can be, the better. Students have different needs and interests, and showing them that you recognize their disparities is important.

For instance, transfer students are different than first-year students, and first-year students are different than adult students. The more you can speak to these groups in a personalized tone, the more they will feel positively toward your school.

Do Students Like Being Retargeted To?

You may be wondering how students feel about being remarketed to. While you value the role that marketing plays in the college search experience, you don’t want to be too pushy.

It is possible to be too aggressive or invasive if you don’t properly set up your remarketing campaign. The purpose of these campaigns is not to be “in your face” with your institution. Instead, it’s to remind students that you’re there.

One survey from Bizrate addressed this question by asking online buyers how they feel when shown an advertisement for a product or service they’ve recently looked at online.

Twenty-five percent of respondents said they didn’t mind because it reminded them of the product, while 60 percent said they felt neutral. Only 15 percent of people said retargeted ads bother them.

As long as you take the time to properly set up your campaign, expect remarketing to be a nice addition to your current marketing mix.

Now let’s discuss the benefits to remarketing and how they apply to your school.

Remarketing Benefits for Colleges and Universities

  • Lower Cost Per Clicks. Remarketing campaigns typically have a higher click through rate than standard advertising campaigns. The students you’re showing ads to are already familiar with your school and programs, so they’re more likely to click on your ads.

  • Higher Conversion Rates. The potential students you’re trying to reach are one step ahead of other students because they know of your school. This also means that they’re more likely to convert.

  • Highly Targeted Ads. When students visit your website for the first time, it makes sense to target them with highly specific ads. This way, they can discover information on the exact programs they’re looking for.

  • Added Brand Awareness. Remarketing is still a form of advertising, so you reap the benefits of brand awareness and credibility. This helps students form positive associations with your school.

Is Remarketing Right for Your College or University?

As stated before, remarketing is a nice addition to your current marketing mix. But you must remember that what you put into the campaign is what you get out of it, so you must be ready to apply yourself.

Specifically, do careful research and select the right platform for your school. Identify your campaign settings and define your target audience. Also decide how remarketing will fit into your overall marketing scheme.

Once you have your campaign set up, be sure to test, test, test. You won’t know what’s working unless you split test things like images, copy, landing pages, settings and more. Testing also ensures that your ad dollars are going to the right places.


Remarketing is an excellent way to reach more relevant potential students and boost qualified applicants. What’s important is that you take the time to set up your campaigns properly and define what their goals are and how they fit into your overall marketing strategy.

By doing this, your ads won’t bother most students as they research the various schools that fit their wants and needs. At the very least, you pick up some credibility and brand awareness, which can establish your institution as a leader in nursing programs, for example. Hopefully, though, you get a new qualified applicant and boost enrollment numbers.