- General Best Practices
What good is an awesome website if the right people never see it? An increasing number of our schools are making sure they never have to answer that question by putting time and budget into digital ads in various media like search, social, and display.
At Finalsite, those of us on the Consulting Services team think about this a lot, because we get to do this work for many schools who don’t have the time to handle it themselves. Here are three simple things we’ve learned about being effective in running digital ads for schools.
1. Social is Easy, but Search is Smarter
Many of our schools report that their first foray into digital advertising was boosting posts on Facebook. It's inexpensive, it's easy, and is possible to see and understand results without taking up a lot of time you don't have. But things have changed a lot since boosting posts was your main option for advertising on Facebook.
If you're going to make the most of social ads, you're going to have to spend quite a bit more time and money. Because of that, it's important to look around at the other options you have to make sure that you're spending that time and money in the most effective place.
Most of the time there's a great deal more value in capturing the attention of someone who just typed “private schools in [your city]” into Google than there is in capturing someone who was thumbing through Facebook in a recreational state of mind. For that reason, we recommend that a school’s digital ad work starts in search and then expands into other media like social and display.
2. Bidding on Your Brand Usually Doesn’t Make Sense
Have you ever googled the actual name of a school and seen that the top result is actually a Google search ad from the school? This is a pretty common occurrence, and except in unique situations, it's a huge waste of the school’s ad dollars. Why? Because the vast majority of people seeing (and clicking on) those ads are current parents and students who just need information about today’s lunch or the location of the away basketball game.
You’d like to think that they skip over that ad and click on the (free) result in the #1 organic spot, but many don’t.
The exceptions? That’s a blog post for another day.
3. Don’t Kill the Conversation
So let’s say you’re up and running with some awesome search ads that get in front of lots of families who need a school like yours. Let’s also say that you’ve got great ad copy that fits into that small space some info to get people excited about hearing your story. You’ve done a great job of writing several versions to test what kind of messages resonate with your audience.
Let’s say Ad A focuses on your “rigorous academics” and Ad B is all about “students and teachers living together in the dorm”. When we see schools running campaigns that show up for the right searches and have really nice copy, the biggest mistake we see is in what happens next.
The user sees the ad, decides that it has the potential to meet the need that brought them to Google, and clicks. Where do you land someone who was compelled to click on an ad that touts your strong academics or your nurturing residential life? The website’s home page is usually the wrong answer - why lose all this momentum by plopping the user in a place that forces them to make choices in an unfamiliar environment?
If you’re talking about a particular facet of your programs in an ad, there’s a good chance your site has a page dedicated to that (and if not, well, that’s another blog post, too, I guess…). THAT’S where you want to drop this ad clicker: on a page that we already know from their ad experience tells a story that resonates with his or her individual priorities. So always strive to keep the conversation moving forward and stop dropping ad clickers on your home page.
I know you’ve got stuff to do, so those are three things I have to say about leveraging the digital realities of 2019 to maximize your reach to the families who need you the most. May your funnel always be full!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Red leads our team of experts who have your back when it comes to organic online searches and ads. With a long history in independent schools — as an alum, former teacher, dorm parent, coach, and now a current parent — his passion for helping you is rooted deep in his own experiences. Alongside his degree in engineering and a master's in school leadership, it's easy to see why clients say Red "gets them" when they discuss marketing strategy!