3 Things The Pandemic Has Changed In Higher Education PPC

At Granular, we are fortunate enough to work with colleges and universities across the nation. We work with both public and private institutions targeting both traditional and non-traditional students. As such, we’ve been able to gain a lot of insight into higher ed trends during the coronavirus pandemic.

Here are 3 insights we’ve pulled from higher education Google Ads accounts from March through June.

#1: Testing responsive ads where you haven’t yet.

Early returns on responsive search ads (RSAs) weren’t great. But responsive search ads have improved significantly since then.

Ad Type CTR
Expanded text ad 2.68%
Responsive search ad 3.73%

There is an even larger gap between Responsive Display Ads (RDAs) and image ads.

Ad Types CTR CPC
Image ad 0.19% $1.63
Responsive display ad 0.86% $3.61

For the same time period in 2019, image ads had a 0.4% CTR and responsive display ads had a 0.5% CTR. The CPC for image ads was $1.54 and the CPC for responsive display was $3.61.  The gap has widened considerably between these two display ad formats.

#2: Checking your bidding strategies YOY performance

Automated Bidding Strategy CPC YOY% Difference
Enhanced CPC 17.29%
Maximize Conversions 24.32%
Target CPA -4.91%

This is because Maximize Conversions works on user-level, not a keyword-level. That means that Maximize Conversions will often bid lower if the machine learning feels that an irrelevant user is searching for a keyword in your campaign.From March through June, Target CPA CPC has actually dropped for higher ed accounts while Enhanced CPC and Maximize Conversions average CPC have had double-digit % increases.

#3: Diversifying  your marketing

Lost traffic in Google search ads can be mitigated by putting money into Google Display, YouTube, Microsoft Ads or any other marketing platform. There are some marketing platforms that may be a better fit for you depending on your program or degree.

For example, Microsoft Ads can be a good fit to find graduate or non-traditional students because Microsoft Ads users are generally older. Google Search ads are still one of the most efficient ways to spend marketing dollars, but prospective students can be found anywhere online.

For one higher ed client, we did not increase budget from 2019, but we still had the goal to grow overall leads year over year. We launched both Facebook lead gen ads and spent $4k more in Bing ads year over year. The money for both of these initiatives came from Google Search and Display. The Facebook lead gen ads immediately matched historic cost per conversion for the overall account and Bing improved in year over year cost per conversion. This made up for a small drop in Google cost/conversion from March through June.

If you push your higher ed account into other marketing platforms, you’ll have more levers of control for allocating budget. This will protect you from any fluctuations in performance with your account caused by the pandemic.