As a college, you want to attract talented and tenacious students to your university. But with so much competition in the marketplace, how do you cut through the noise caused by other educational institutions?

In a digital era, pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, also known as “paid ad,” is one of the most effective ways colleges can boost their digital marketing strategy, especially when it comes to targeting local students.  

So, how can you fully utilize PPC to help boost your college’s profile and enrollment? Here are four tips you need to know.  

#1 Set Clear and Measurable Goals With Your PPC Campaign 

A PPC campaign for a college isn’t cheap. 

Because it’s a competitive space, many of the most relevant words are expensive. Therefore, you shouldn’t invest money on a PPC campaign without a well-defined and thorough strategy—one that has clearly listed goals and KPIs.

A meandering campaign will provide little ROI since you’ll likely end up targeting the wrong words, audience, or location. You should instead direct ads towards your universities specific goals and needs, including: 

  • Driving undergrad enrollment 
  • Increasing grad enrollment
  • Increasing enrollment in a specific program 
  • Enlisting donations 
  • Growing your faculty 
  • Expanding into new markets or locations 

By clearly defining your goals, you can measure the cost-per-click (CPC) of a campaign. 

#2 Target Long-Tail Keywords  

Within the world of PPC, there’s fierce competition for singular words. Singular words or short phrases like “online university,” “college,” or “grad school” might cost a pretty penny. For instance, according to Google Ads, take a look at the following words: 

  • MBA – $14.52 to $35.78 CPC
  • Bachelor Degree – $6.97 to $20
  • Online colleges – $36.52 to $138.86
  • Online MBA – $31.89 to $72.50

One of the ideal ways you can lower your cost-per-click is by selecting long-tail keywords, which have less competition since fewer parties are bidding on them. Examples might include:

  • Accredited nursing schools in Ohio 
  • Should I go to college? 
  • Bachelor degree in San Diego
  • What’s the top online university?

#3 Geo-Target

Especially when it comes to online enrollment, more than 2/3rds of full-time students attend a school within 50 miles of their home. With geo-targeting, you can focus your PPC campaign on a specific location. 

While you may be tempted to just create a circle radius around your campus, it’s smarter to first research where the vast majority of your students are coming from and then target those regions. Or, if you have an international population that comes for your grad school program, you can focus on those areas as well. 

#4 Remarket

It may often take several times before a person actually clicks on an ad. And when it comes to universities, most people don’t make a snap decision. Instead, they deliberate for months on end before they finally commit to a college. 

Retargeting allows you to continually stay top of mind during the lengthy buyer’s journey. And your website’s cookies make it possible to tag potential candidates for remarketing. Common triggers include: 

  • Goes to a webpage
  • Clicks on a landing page
  • Watches a virtual tour video
  • Begins filling out an application form 

With this in place, the next time that person conducts a relevant search, your name will pop up again, reminding them that you’re a perfect fit. 

Semgeeks, Your Higher Education Digital Marketing Agency 

For universities, PPC can be a costly investment if you treat it haphazardly. However, if you plan ahead and follow strategies like those discussed above, you’ll optimize your marketing ROI. 

If you need assistance with your PPC campaign, you’re in the right place. As a PPC marketing company in NJ, we can customize your strategy to fit your institutions’ needs. 

Whatever your PPC goals may be, our team of experts know how to leverage consumer behavioral data, tracking metrics, and industry trends to build the best digital marketing campaign possible. 

You’re looking for the next influential scholars. We’ll help you find them. 


Google Ads. Keyword Planner “Degree”.

Inside Higher Ed. Online Is (Increasingly) Local.