Are Bid Tools Pulling Their Weight in Higher Education?

Are Bid Tools Pulling Their Weight in Higher Education?

Search

Advertisers in higher education spend a lot of money on paid search, and they want the best possible bid tools to drive leads and keep costs in check. But are advertisers in higher education getting their money’s worth with bid tools?

Branded keywords typically drive the most volume, and they’re usually pretty easy to manage. Put another way, staying in Position One in search results doesn’t take a lot of technology horsepower to accomplish. Now, if you are an advertiser in higher education, you typically buy a lot of degree-related keywords — both branded and non-branded, and both long- and short-tail. Naturally, you want to be able to set up some rules and let your bid tool do the work. Your bid tool is smarter than you — so you should turn it on and be amazed by the results, right?

Wrong.

Here’s the problem with bid management tools in the higher education space for a lot of advertisers: lack of volume (clicks and leads) on non-branded keywords, or even branded keywords combined with a degree type. Higher education isn’t retail, where the sheer volume and complexity of an account makes it a perfect fit for a bid management tool.

We find that up to 85 percent of your keywords don’t generate enough click volume in a week or in a month to justify adjusting your bids for non-branded keywords. Yes, you can set up click or lead thresholds and parameters to dictate when the bid management tool should adjust the bid. You can establish position rules as well. But the point is this: if the bid management tool doesn’t have enough click volume to make sound decisions, is it worth the monthly fee?

Furthermore, you know how expensive some of these cost per clicks are. If you advertise for an MBA program you know what I mean! What you don’t need is a bid tool moving you out of a Top Four position just because you didn’t get enough volume in a particular week.

So for higher education advertisers, bid tools may be ineffective because there isn’t enough volume in those keywords for bid tools to to use their algorithms to adjust bids. (The exception occurs with branded keywords and a handful of tried-and-true program/degree keywords.)

Is this the case for all .Edu advertisers? No. But my advice to higher education advertisers is to look carefully at what you’re spending on bid management tools and what you’re getting from them – especially when you get outside of top performers.

So what should you use to manage your keyword bidding? Search engines have come a long way with their (free) bidding capabilities, and my recommendation to several clients has been to start with the free bidding capabilities available from search engines such as Google and evaluate their performance after three months. We’ve used that approach and combined some scripts that we’ve created to eliminate not only cost, but also many of the headaches associated with plugging low-volume keywords into bid tools that need high volume to work well.

Meanwhile, feel free to contact me (mark@keywordfirst.com) to share your insights.

Lead image source: Dave Meier (https://stocksnap.io/author/480)

How to Improve Paid Search Targeting in Higher Education

How to Improve Paid Search Targeting in Higher Education

Search

Institutes in higher education need to manage paid search campaigns carefully just like organizations in any other industry, and targeting is critical to doing so. But what’s the best way for higher education organizations to target by time of day for paid search? Based on KeywordFirst’s experience in this sector, we find that making small adjustments can lead to big improvements in paid search campaigns for higher education.

We’ve managed more than 250 degree programs from more than 50 universities and colleges over the last several years; so we have a lot of data to draw upon as we help higher education organizations improve paid search. We also analyze our data to examine search behavior. Recently, we wondered, do people searching for MBAs differ in behavior from those searching for an MLS or an MSW degree, or any master’s degree programs for that matter? If so, how can we leverage that data so that our higher education clients constantly achieve the most optimal position in search results at the right time when searches occur?

When we examined the search behaviors of students seeking different higher education degrees, we observed the following:

  • We see distinct changes in search behavior depending on time of day. There emerges from our research an understanding of the peak and off-peak hours for search.
  • People seeking different degrees are all searching at the same of day. The peak and off-peak search hours are very similar for people seeking MBAs, MLS, and all other categories of master’s degrees.

The findings make intuitive sense. There are only so many hours in a day, and our body clocks are, for the most part, fairly similar regardless of what degree we want to pursue.

Based on our findings, we offer the following advice to institutes of higher education:

  • Implement hourly bid rules in order to improve lead volume and efficiencies. Constructing the right hourly bid rules can improve lead volume by up to 10 percent.
  • Your dayparting strategy may look similar regardless of degree. Seekers of MLS degrees, for example, will be similar for those seeking MBAs because both audiences are searching at the same time of day.

How higher education advertisers manage their bids and budgets through a dayparting strategy depends on a number of factors. Schools with restricted budgets may enter an auction exclusively during certain hours, making them more competitive. Other schools may just increase bids simply because they know those are the best hours and there are more advertisers in the auction.

We recommend that higher education organizations look at their average positions by hour and see what happens when modifiers aren’t used. Then, experiment with modifiers by the hour to maintain their optimal position. Since there are just a few hours of the day when the big volume is coming in, it’s important to get it right, which is why it’s important to make finite adjustments. And we can help higher education advertisers do so. Our models predict the optimal position in search results for your keyword bids. We know where to set the cost per click in the bid. And we understand the optimal bid modifiers for each keyword associated with searches for various degrees in higher education. As a result, we have helped our clients achieve greater lead volume at lower cost per lead levels.

Balancing volume with cost has always been a challenge in higher education lead generation. Understanding how to manipulate your bids during a given day can really help with both volume and efficiency. Feel free to contact me (mark@keywordfirst.com) if you want to validate your assumptions against our data.

Image credit: Sidharth Bhatia (https://unsplash.com/@sidharthbhatia)

KeywordFirst Named a Top PPC Agency – 2016

KeywordFirst Named a Top PPC Agency – 2016

Uncategorized

I wanted to share some great news we just learned this week!

Clutch Announces the Top Pay Per Click Agencies of 2016

Oct 11, 2016

The research recognizes 15 outstanding firms with proven records of client satisfaction.

WASHINGTON, October 11, 2016 — Clutch released its annual report on leading Pay Per Click (PPC) agencies. The publication evaluates PPC agencies from the US, Canada, and England, taking into consideration their level of focus on PPC advertising and client feedback about their work.

The top PPC companies for 2016 are: JumpFly, Straight North, CPC Strategy, Page Zero Media, KeywordFirst, eMarketing Concepts, TopSpot Internet Marketing, 180Fusion, Directive Consulting, Promodo, Be Found Online, Anvil Media, ClosedOpp, OptFirst Internet Marketing, and Big Oak Studios.

“Pay per click advertising is a highly effective marketing tool, but it also can be very expensive and time-consuming if done haphazardly,” said Sean Huang, a business analyst at Clutch. “The firms highlighted in our research have demonstrated both their expertise in PPC and their commitment to clients’ success, ensuring that buyers do not fall victim to wasting resources.”

These companies were selected based on quantitative and qualitative factors. Clutch analysts interviewed the companies’ past clients to learn how the firms approach challenges, develop strategies, and execute customized reports. The research process also includes evaluating the companies’ market presence, level of experience in the PPC industry, public recognition, and technical certifications.

Clutch’s research in search engine optimization (SEO), PPC, and search engine marketing (SEM) is ongoing, and we encourage interested companies to apply to get listed and be included in future coverage.

About ClutchA B2B ratings and reviews firm in the heart of Washington, DC, Clutch connects you with the agencies and software solutions that can help you enhance your business and meet your goals. Our methodology maps agencies and software solutions based on consumer reviews, the type of services offered, and quality of work.

Nuts & Bolts: Four Strategies for Winning Top Spots in Google AdWords

Nuts & Bolts: Four Strategies for Winning Top Spots in Google AdWords

Nuts & Bolts Quality Score

When Google announced changes to its search engine results page (SERP) earlier this year, marketers immediately began re-evaluating their digital advertising programs. Like highly trained athletes who were suddenly competing with a new set of rules, marketers wondered if they could learn and adjust to the new playing field fast enough.

The net effect of Google’s changes is there is now 30% less advertising opportunity on the SERP. As we said in a previous post, in any contest, who remembers the competitor who finished outside the top spots?

In this “Nuts & Bolts” post, we explain Google’s recent changes and how they affect your campaigns, then we look at four strategies you can use to capture a coveted top position or use other options to bolster your ad’s visibility.

View the slides below from our workshop. For a more in-depth discussion, read the MarketingProfs article “How to Win a Spot on the PPC Podium in the Olympics of Search,” and the posts in our blog series about Google AdWords.

SPOTLIGHT: Unraveling Your Marketing Mix Mysteries

Spotlights

MarketingProfs logo

 

 

Sherlock Holmes possessed an inimitable ability to quickly scan a crime scene rapidly, see beyond the obvious and, through his famous deductive reasoning, discover the truth of what had transpired.

What if you had Holmes-like capabilities to crack the mysteries of your search advertising performance? Analytics can help.

As I describe in an article on MarketingProfs, “Five Ways Google Analytics Turns You Into the Sherlock of Paid Search,” basic analytics like those you get with Google AdWords show you how effective your digital marketing efforts are in driving traffic to your website or landing pages.

That’s elementary. Using a dedicated analytics application, you can uncover the behaviors of visitors once they reach your site, providing you with valuable clues about how well your paid search campaigns are working. In other words, you discover the campaigns that turn browsers into buyers.

Read “Five Ways Google Analytics Turns You Into the Sherlock of Paid Search” to learn more.

Donning a checked cap, curved pipe in hand, is optional.

SPOTLIGHT: Marketers, Learn How to Hit a Mobile Target

SPOTLIGHT: Marketers, Learn How to Hit a Mobile Target

Spotlights

CommPRO LogoMany action movies entertain us with thrilling chase scenes. We dodge and weave along with the heroes and villains as they leap from a galloping horse to a speeding vehicle – or from vehicle to horse. We marvel at their prowess in hitting that moving target.

As marketers, we need to acquire or develop a similar ability to hit a moving target while operating at high speed. In our case, that “movement” comes not from stallions and V8 Mustangs, but from mobile devices.

Now that the volume of searches conducted on mobile devices has overtaken those on the desktop, marketers must understand the driving factors such as video consumption, the customer experience and content presentation. What’s more, marketers need to know how to apply analytics to improve their ability to reach their target audiences while they’re on the move.

These are the points I covered in an article on CommPRO, Before Shooting for Video Marketing Success, Learn to Hit a Moving (i.e., Mobile) Target.” Unbuckle your seatbelt and jump over there to learn more.

SPOTLIGHT: Think before Leaping

Spotlights Video

Chief Marketer logoRight now, in some industries, paid-video search campaigns are hotter than the spark trail of a soaring Roman candle. Several factors are driving digital marketers to explore paid video – from the increase in competitiveness and cost of traditional paid search to the huge growth in mobile viewing.

There’s no question that savvy marketers can capitalize on the opportunity to capture new and larger audiences with video marketing campaigns.

But are they right for you and your business?

In an article on Chief Marketer, “Think Before You Leap Into Paid Video Search,” I suggested three ways you might proceed with paid video:

  • Wait for the right time for you and your customers
  • Proceed slowly and cautiously, at a pace that avoids major gaffes
  • Run campaigns as quickly as possible; the Internet moves so fast any mistakes will be behind you quickly

Without knowing more about your organization’s goals, I can’t advise you on which strategy is best for you right now. However, I can – and do – offer guidance on how you can evaluate which approach to take. Check out the article on Chief Marketer and leave a comment below with your thoughts on the value of paid video search.