In 2017, it's pretty standard for prospective students and families to find information about schools on search engines. As a matter of fact, 93% of all online experiences begin in a search engine. So, knowing the specific keywords and phrases prospective families use to search for schools is extremely important, as Bancroft School, a Pre-K–12 independent day school in Worcester, MA, discovered.
For the past few years, Bancroft's Marketing and Admissions departments had seen the need to make the transition from traditional print advertising to digital. Their journey to digital ad success started with the basics — just some keyword research and simple paid search ads — but has since evolved into an inspiring digital marketing strategy that continues to yield some impressive results.
Julie O'Malley, Director of Marketing & Communications, and Stephanie Des Chenes, Admission Assistant, recently shared with us how their collaborative efforts made a positive change for both departments' strategies and goals.
1) The ROI of Paid Search Ads
PPC ads are great for schools that want to see a quick return on investment. When done well, they can increase qualified website traffic and conversions.
Bancroft realized it was time to start making the shift to digital marketing back in 2015. "We wanted to step up the online, inbound aspects of our advertising, but didn't have the in-house expertise or time to start from scratch on brand new digital marketing campaigns — specifically Pay-Per-Click (PPC) ads," said Julie. "After working with Finalsite for several years for our website needs, we had developed a trust. We knew Finalsite has great support and expertise. So we wanted Finalsite to launch the PPC process for us."
One of their biggest struggles was one many independent schools have faced: asking the school administrators for the dollars to cover an ad budget for a PPC campaign , when the decision makers are more familiar with traditional media and print marketing. So, they knew they needed to approach their meeting with a strategy. "We knew early on it was going to make sense to transition from print to electronic," said Stephanie. "When it came time to pitch the idea to our team, we emphasized how we wanted to be part of the change and be one of the first schools to utilize PPC campaigns and digital marketing – something not all schools had started doing yet."
The timing of this acquisition couldn't have been any more perfect, as their first PPC campaign rolled out in the beginning of the fall that year in time for the peak of admissions season in October. Since then, it's become evident that Bancroft has done a great job staying above competition.
Specifically, they are doing much better than their peer schools in regards to click-through rate (CTR) and quality score, which influences how much a school will pay for an ad. The better the quality score, the higher the CTR and the lower cost-per-click (CPC). Google wants to show the most relevant ads to users to ensure they'll have a positive user experience. Quality score is influenced by the CPC your school is willing to pay, your ad copy, and the landing page for the ad.
As both departments start to strategize for the next academic year, they hope to put the majority of their marketing emphasis on the digital side. Even though it seemed like a big investment up front, they quickly realized they used to spend the same ad dollars on print ads, but had no way to track ROI. The benefit of moving to digital marketing through PPC campaigns and social media ads is having the ability to track real-time results, website traffic, and overall conversion.
Based on the success of this during the 2015-2016 academic year, they grew their ad campaign even larger for the current academic year with the use of social media ads.
Social Media Services
2) Using Social Ads to Reach New Heights
Bancroft School's social media game is already on point, with over 1,500 likes on Facebook, 495 followers on Twitter, and 225 followers on Instagram. How did Bancroft make it better? By introducing social media ads to their digital marketing strategy!
Their social media ads have also noted some major highlights, including:
- 481 sessions from social media ads created by Finalsite
- 174 conversions from social media advertising
- 50 people viewed the admissions process page
- 81 people visited more than 3 pages
- 39 people spent more than 5 minutes on the site
- 45% of all users coming from social media ads were new to the site
- Site engagement exponentially grew in February when compared to January
- The school gained 14 page likes from the ads we ran in Feb! (up from 4 in January)
- The school reached over 18,700 people with Facebook ads and made over 3,200 impressions using Twitter advertising
Many schools can choose to handle PPC and Social Ads themselves, but Bancroft School has seen the advantage of handing the reins to Finalsite . As Stephanie explained, "We turned to Finalsite to manage the process for us. The objectives that Finalsite made for us with the PPC and Social Ad campaigns are continuously met, and we see they are very responsive, patient with our learning curve, and super helpful with communication and monthly reports. They have been great to work with!"
Is your school looking to improve its SEO and PPC strategies and improve your marketing and admission goals? Let us know.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Stephanie brings a fresh new marketing perspective with her background in social media, communications, and radio broadcasting. She is a co-producer for the FinalsiteFM podcast network and is passionate about helping schools stay ahead of their marketing goals by tracking new trends and developments. She is also a practicing singer/songwriter and loves to expand her creativity in DIY projects.