Google is one of the biggest traffic sources for nearly all websites, especially those hosted by colleges. Each year, a new crop of high school students uses the search engine to begin the hunt for the perfect college. The first page of search results is the most coveted real estate on the web — and an important place for your school, too — according to Higher Education Marketing:
Google AdWords gives your college the ability to choose the keywords you want your site to rank for, displaying ads on the first search engine results page. Google AdWords campaigns are an increasingly important weapon in education marketing, as they provide total control over your advertising budget and message.
The competition for higher education keywords is fierce, and ranking on the first page of search results is worth the effort. But is it worth the cost?
The question at hand does not have a clear answer. Every budget is different. Every website is different. So if you want to increase your web traffic with Google AdWords, follow these tips to get the most clicks for your cash:
- Stick with long-tail keywords. Long-tail keywords are phrases that people search for. One example: “Which college in Montana has the best computer science program?” Short-tail keywords, such as “computer science” or “college application,” will generate more volume but are typically less qualified. Google AdWords gives you the opportunity to rank for both keyword types, but short-tail keywords will almost always be more expensive.
- Use negative keywords. You can use negative keywords to filter out keywords that bring unqualified traffic to your website. For example, if you want the keyword phrase “engineering program in California” but find that you are getting visitors who are searching “engineering jobs in California”, you can filter out the word “job”. If you aren’t careful, you will end up paying for for clicks from job searchers and not students.
- Assign the right staff member. Make sure there is a dedicated and knowledgeable person managing your AdWords account, which should be checked on a daily basis. AdWords accounts that go unmonitored for weeks or months are guaranteed to spend money on unqualified traffic. If you don’t have someone on staff, it’s worth paying a reputable firm to run your campaign.
- Rinse and repeat. Test keywords to determine which ones bring you the best traffic. Get rid of bad keywords, identify negative keywords and keep an eye out for new ones that could be beneficial.
- Build dedicated landing pages. Don’t send every visitor to your home page. Build a dedicated landing page that offers a quick overview of your school and an opportunity to get more information by following you on Twitter, chatting with a representative or signing up for an e-mail newsletter.
- Support it with organic content. Paid search is not a replacement for organic search. Your school’s website should be updated frequently and provide helpful resources for any visitor. Most people will click organic search results, not paid ads, so be sure to cover all your bases.
Paid search is a great investment if done properly. Read more about Google AdWords here.