Managing PPC Education Accounts During Back to School Season

By Jeff Baum | @jeffbaum71 | Associate Director of Services at Hanapin Marketing

We’re wrapping up “Back to School” series week at PPC Hero with Jersey Jeff’s post on back to school in the EDU industry. Even though we’re entering the final week of July, school will be starting back up soon. Our authors have been sharing tips and insights for running productive Back To School campaigns while also speaking to how account managers can most effectively discuss strategy with clients. Make sure you check out all posts:


4 Steps For Back To School Success

Project Your Ad Spend During Back To School Season

Back To School PPC: Get In The Bus Driver’s Seat


Summer is traditionally a slow season for many industries. As thoughts turn from work to sun, fun, and vacations, the business world tends to slow down in the months of July and August.


However, those who work in the education industry will tell you the opposite. Summer is one of the busiest seasons as prospective students finalize their school research and wrap up the process of choosing where they will spend the next few years.


Today I’m going to discuss how education based paid search advertisers can take advantage of the increased traffic during back to school season in order to drive as much conversion activity as possible.




Most paid search advertisers are conservative when it comes to keyword bidding. We spend a ton of time determining what our maximum CPC’s should be, and making sure not to pay a penny more than that.


Philosophically, this is my approach to bidding. However, during back to school season, I bend this rule quite a bit in order to take advantage of the spike in qualified traffic. I will even overbid on many occasions to capture top position, as I have seen click to lead rates up to 25% higher than the off-season. The screenshot below is a visual representation of typical click to lead percentages I have seen for education accounts I have managed throughout my career.




Another reason for pushing bids hard is to pave the way for a robust remarketing program. Bidding aggressively not only brings additional qualified traffic that’s ready to convert, it also builds up the remarketing list quicker.


On average, a prospect takes three months from the time they begin researching schools until the time they fill out a lead form. The reason for is prospects are not ready to speak with admissions representatives. Having highly targeted remarketing lists offers the chance to retarget these prospects at various points throughout the research cycle. With the fall just around the corner, now is the prime time to capture those prospects and convert them into leads!


Keyword Expansion


Although keyword expansion should be conducted on a regular basis, I recommend being even more aggressive with it during the summer months. When I undertake a keyword expansion project, I divide the expansion into 3 distinct areas:


  • Research: Start off by mining your SQR’s. My education accounts receive millions of queries per month, so this provides a rich opportunity to build out the keyword set based on current user behavior. Once this step is complete, use keyword tools to find new keywords that can expand marketplace exposure.


  • Unpausing Keywords: Throughout the year I pause keywords that either bring 0 direct or assisted conversions, along with keywords generating extremely high CPL’s. I find that keyword performance drops during the late fall and spring months. However, in the busy season, I usually see a pick up in performance, so bringing back previously paused keywords when the chance for conversion is greater increases the chance of gaining additional leads at the right cost.


  • Adding General Keywords: General keywords such as ‘nursing schools’ bring in a lot of traffic. While you may have to pay a higher price for clicks, the increased chance for conversion during back to school time is well worth it.


Ad Copy


Education is not generally thought of as ‘seasonal’. However, creating seasonal ad copy is another way to bring in more traffic. Below is an example of standard ad copy we run in an education account Hanapin manages, and how that copy can be adjusted to entice the prospect to act.


Example #1 Standard Copy


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Example #2: Urgency


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The seasonal ad creates urgency by saying ‘fall classes start soon, enroll today’. This style of copy implies the offer is time sensitive and the prospect will miss an opportunity if they don’t act right away. Pretty powerful stuff when a prospect is wrapping up their research and already in final decision making mode!


Google Display Network


One of quickest ways to take advantage of back to school traffic is to implement or ramp up your GDN campaigns. If you are not currently running any GDN campaigns, I suggest you set some up and launch them as soon as possible. There are two distinct advantages of GDN.


  • Massive Traffic Source: The pool of traffic is so large that if managed properly, the chance for additional leads grows significantly. Ignoring this source of traffic will put you behind the competition for sure!


  • Quick Data Feedback: Because the network is so large, the time it takes to collect meaningful data to create action plans is much shorter than search. This fits in perfectly with the time sensitive nature of a short back to school season.


We are currently conducting an 8-campus test for one of our top education clients. Not only are we seeing a ton of traffic, but also our lead flow is steadily picking up. As cost per lead reaches goal, we are expanding our test to additional locations and programs. There is a potential for display to be 2x the amount of spend as our search program. Taking advantage of the summer traffic increases the chance of success and solidifies the proof of concept that GDN is a powerful tool to drive lead volume.




If you haven’t been spending much time tending to your accounts recently, now is the time to start getting busy. Many schools are looking to fill classrooms in the early fall. Ramping up search activity now with some of the tips outlined above can provide admissions counselors with plenty of qualified leads. Failure to take advantage of this seasonal traffic increase means leaving loads of opportunity on the table!