Thursday, March 21st at 3 pm EDT

Ten Tips to Decrease Your Lead Costs on Google

Chances are, you’ve landed on this page because of a Google search.

Chances are, you’ve landed on this page because of a Google search.

For many people, Google has become the search engine of choice to find everything from cat videos to dinner recommendations to career advice. The search engine confirmed to Search Engine Land back in 2016 that it handles trillions of search inquiries annually worldwide.

So, it’s no surprise that Google holds the largest share of total US digital ad spend at 37.2%. Statista reports that 85.4% of Google’s 2018 revenue came from advertising.

While players like Snapchat and Amazon are rapidly growing, Google is expected to maintain its dominant position in the digital ad space for the next few years. That means you need to learn how to optimize Google Ads in order to meet your college’s goals—such as increased engagements and enrollments.

Here are ten tips on how to create a successful ad campaign while reducing lead costs on Google.

1. Improve Your Quality Score
We’re starting off this list with a big one.

Quality Score is Google’s metric to determine where an ad ranks and how much it costs. This means a good Quality Score will save you money, since Google will charge you less to run your ad(s). Your Quality Score is reflective of your CTR (click through rate) and your conversion rate, so the more relevant and captivating your copy is, the higher you’ll score.

Let’s take a quick look at some industry averages:

· The average CTR for Education is 3.78%, which is higher than the average CTR across all industries at 3.17%.

· The average conversion rate for Education is 3.39%, which is .36% lower than the average conversion rate across all industries at 3.75%.

Because Google makes its money from clicks, a higher Quality Score will result in your ad being prioritized over competitors with lower scores. As a result, Google Ad’s Quality Score is great news for smaller institutions with more modest budgets. Campaigns for smaller schools with a higher score have the potential to outperform those of large, more heavily funded schools.

At this point, you’re probably wondering, “What’s a good score to aim for?”

Quality Score is measured on a one-to-ten scale. For every new keyword added to your campaign(s), Google assigns the default score of six. Since six is positioned as a “neutral” score, you can interpret that any score below a six is less than ideal.

On the other hand, pinpointing a “good” score proves a bit trickier. A good score is subjective to the keyword; it also varies from college to college. Generally speaking, higher education marketers should aim for a score between eight and ten. WordStream also recommends marketers aim for Quality Scores of at least three on competitor keywords.

Regularly monitoring your Quality Score(s) will give you a more personal benchmark for your school. Additionally, keeping track of your score will give you insight into the performance of your college’s current and future PPC (pay per click) campaigns.

2. Make Your Landing Page Relevant
Ad relevance is a major factor of your Quality Score. This means matching your landing page to your ad copy is an easy way to keep lead costs down.

You’ll want to make sure you’re bringing ad traffic to a relevant page on your site. Let’s say you’re advertising your college’s nursing program in Google Ads. What do you think makes more sense: directing traffic to your college’s homepage or to a page on your site that specifically talks about the nursing program? Which landing page do you think is more likely to lead to a conversion?

Results from a 2014 experiment conducted by Optimizely support the importance of aligning landing pages to ad copy. Here’s what Optimizely found:
· Visitors shown landing pages “symmetric” with ads converted to sales leads more frequently.
· The observed improvement in conversions was greater than 39%.

Optimizely goes on to claim that the experiment “[saved them] hundreds of thousands of dollars and led to tens of thousands of additional sales leads.”

Sounds like a pretty good deal, right?

3. Focus on Landing Page Experience
Unbounce’s 2019 Page Speed Report revealed that “nearly 70% of consumers admit that page speed impacts their willingness to buy from an online retailer.”

A frequently quoted study by the Aberdeen Group found that a mere one-second delay in load time resulted in 11% fewer page views and 7% fewer conversions.

The point here? A slow site will cost you a fortune.

Not only will a slow site result in fewer engagements and enrollments, but your visitors’ negative landing page experience will drastically affect your Quality Score. (It always comes back to CPC!)

Avoid this by optimizing your site’s speed on both desktop and mobile. Slow landing pages are often the result of complicated or broken scripts, excessive data, and/or too much content. Google recommends mobile landing pages have no more than a five-second load time on 3G. If you notice your site is taking too long to load, take corrective measures, like simplifying your code or removing high-resolution photos.

You can test your landing pages’ speed by using tools like GTmetrix and Google PageSpeed Insights.

4. Reduce Keyword Bids
Just because a keyword converts doesn’t mean it’s optimal. This is particularly true with competitive keywords. Remember, Google Ads is essentially an auction. Because you’re bidding against so many other colleges and programs for the same keyword, you can easily find yourself paying double your goal CPA. Needless to say, scaling back on how much you’re bidding on competitive keywords will help you reduce cost.

Don’t be afraid to play around with your bids—Google accounts for Quality Score as much as bids when showing ads. It’s very possible to reduce your CPA and still maintain a high place on a search page. You may also come to find that your ad doesn’t have to be in first place to lead to meaningful conversions.

5. Bid on Long-Tail Keywords
A long-tail keyword is a phrase consisting of three or more words. Long-tail keywords are used to target niche demographics, rather than a mass audience. This means there’s less competition, making it cheaper for your site to appear on a search result’s first page. Long-tail keywords typically have lower CPC averages and better Quality Scores.

Helpful tools to find keywords include SEMrush and Google Keyword Planner. When using long-tail keywords, it’s important to find a balance between Quality Score, CPC, search volume, and conversion rate. You may find cheap, high-scoring long-tail keywords to bid on, but if they have a low search volume or fail to convert, they aren’t going to be much use to your campaign.

6. Implement Negative Keywords
Negative keywords give you more control over who’s seeing your ads. Use negative keywords to exclude specific terms from triggering your ad(s).

Let’s say you’re looking to increase enrollment for a local art college. You’re currently bidding on the keyword “fine art classes.” However, without using negative keywords, someone searching for “free fine art classes” may be shown your ad. Obviously, this person isn’t interested in converting, which means you just spent money running your ad for no reason.

Ideally, you’d want every visitor who clicks on your site to be willing to pay your college’s tuition fee. Adding “free” as a negative keyword will prevent your ad from appearing on those searches. Here are a couple more negative keywords you may want to consider:

· “Jobs.” Think about it: people searching “nursing college” and “nursing college jobs” are looking for two very different things.
· “Online.” This one depends on the format of your program. If your college doesn’t offer online classes, save money by adding this term to your negative keywords.

You should exclude keywords that have no relevance to your school or aren’t producing conversions. Don’t waste your money showing your ad to viewers who aren’t interested. Filtering negative keywords will help you create a cost-effective ad campaign.

After all, as the old saying goes, “quality over quantity.”

7. Use Target CPA Bidding
Institutions juggling multiple campaigns can benefit from Target CPA (cost per acquisition) bidding. Target CPA is a smart bidding strategy by Google Ads that optimizes bids through machine learning. Like the name implies, this automated bidding strategy allows colleges to get more meaningful conversions at a specific cost per acquisition and budget.

Target CPA is best for campaigns that are already converting. While it can help reduce lead costs by allowing you to set a target within your budget, setting a target too low can result in fewer total conversions. As a result, using Target CPA isn’t an ideal strategy for every college.

8. Schedule Ad Time & Location
Ask yourself: what time are people clicking your ad? What day of the week? When are you getting the fewest clicks? Where are your site visitors from? What state/town?

Take the time to study your ad traffic. Keeping tabs on your analytics will show you when and where your ad is underperforming—letting you optimize your budget.

Say you notice your ad does best between 6 and 9 p.m. EST and worst between 3 and 6 a.m. EST. To reduce cost, you should consider reducing or turning off ad spending from 3 to 6 a.m. You may also want to increase spending from 6 to 9 p.m., because it will lead to more conversions and a higher ROI.

Additionally, non-converting locations are another cause of wasted spending.

If you’re a small community college in Pennsylvania, you probably won’t benefit from showing your campaign to viewers in California. In fact, you may come to find it wasteful to show your ad to searches outside of Pennsylvania. On the other hand, if you’re a large college or an online program, you may find it beneficial to market your school to viewers across a varied geographical demographic. If that’s the case, take a look at what states are and aren’t leading to conversions and increase or decrease ad spend accordingly.

Again, quality over quantity.

9. Utilize Display Network Ads // Alt: Have Ad Variety
Google Ads has two networks: Display and Search. Ads shown on Google’s Search Network appear on the search results page and are solely text-based, whereas ads shown on Google’s Display Network can be multimedia and are shown on sites across the internet.

Every marketing campaign should utilize both Search and Display ads. Don’t limit your campaign by only advertising in one format. It’s important to have a mix of text and visuals.

A survey conducted by BrightLocal.com found that 60% of consumers are more likely to contact or consider a business that uses images. Social Media Examiner reported 32% of marketers believe images are the most important form of content for their businesses.

The takeaway? Adding images to your ad copy can make people more receptive to your campaign.

In addition to visuals, be sure to also create ads for different ad groups. Display ad targeting allows you to target people based on their demographics and interests. As a result, you can create campaigns centered around specific programs and majors relating to ad group interests. This will make them more compelling and, thus, more likely to convert. Optimizing both Display and Search Network ads will also help keep CPC and CPA as low as possible.

10. Retarget
According to the Baymard Institute, 69.89% is the average documented online shopping cart abandonment rate. Criteo reports that only 4% of site visitors end up making a purchase.

There are various reasons why potential students fail to convert. For starters, people may not be ready to enroll in a program. Maybe they want to “window shop” some more. Or maybe they don’t even know what they want to study yet.

Regardless of the reason, your job is to convince the 96% of potential students that didn’t convert the first time around. Rather than spending money to attract new traffic to your site, retargeting allows you to “remarket” your college to people who have already viewed or clicked your ad. Essentially, you’re going to be showing them the same ad a few more times.

Retargeting ensures prospective students won’t forget about your college when they ARE ready to enroll. By remarketing your ad, you’ll make it easier for people to find their way back to your site. Since these visitors will already be “warm” to your college, your chances to make a meaningful conversion increase.

More Students Can Help You Decrease Lead Costs

The internet is a big place. Don’t get lost in it.

At the end of the day, creating ads that convert are all about understanding your audience and their behaviors. Rather than blindly running your campaign, keep lead costs low and optimize your ad budget by following these ten tips.

Reach out to our support team to learn how More Students can help you increase enrollment while decreasing your lead costs.

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