Search Retargeting: Getting Your Message to the Most Likely Prospects

Imagine a prospective student thinking about schools. First, they browse a few websites for colleges nearby, just glancing at the programs. Then they are off to do something else. Real life. Whether this prospect is a high school senior or a working parent, they might ponder enrolling in school, but their lives are full of other activities in the real world and online. Now imagine this same prospect, looking up the weather the following day, and seeing an ad for your school. Hmm…interesting. Then a few days later, while shopping for shoes online, they see a different ad for your school. This is search retargeting, one of the most effective ways to focus your online advertising on targeting the most likely prospects.

How does retargeting work for higher education?

The concept of retargeting is simple enough. Your website places a piece of information, a “cookie,” on the prospect’s computer when they look at your website. Later, your advertisement is delivered to the individual when they are looking at other information on the web. The ad reminds the prospect about your school and gives them an opportunity to revisit your website. Research has found that 26 percent of retargeted prospects will return to your website. Plus, retargeted ads make prospects 3x more likely to click on your ad.

You can retarget based on a specific action taken on your website, which can help you to send the right ad to the website visitor. For example, someone looking at your nursing program is unlikely to be interested in an ad touting your cybersecurity certificate programs. Relevant and personalized ads will have the best results with less chance of confusing or annoying your prospects. You can be very specific or less so, but the idea is to use the relevant data from what your site visitor showed interest in to send them more information that will be appealing and useful.


The Importance of Retargeting in Higher Education

Retargeting is one of the easiest ways to capitalize on the interest of your web visitors. The old rule of seven, which posits that a person needs to see a product seven times before the message sinks in, still applies. With online advertising, you can easily get your message out to a prospect more times than that, but overdoing it is not necessarily the best strategy. You want to gently make a good impression on prospects rather than bombarding them with messages about your school.

Students have many choices when they think about higher education right now. There are multiple colleges within driving distance for most students, but online higher education is becoming more popular. With the internet, people considering enrolling in college courses or degree programs can look endlessly, find advice on many sites, and easily be distracted by all sorts of content. The range of alternatives makes it more critical for colleges to hone in on the people who have expressed some interest in their institutions. Remaining visible in the web searches of prospective students with targeted advertising will hopefully bring them back to visit the site repeatedly and begin to engage with your institution.

The many channels of marketing you have in play will help to make your retargeting the most effective it can be. Prospective students who receive messages about your school in multiple formats will have many ways to engage with your institution. In addition, if those prospects have already expressed interest in your school by going on your website, the likelihood that your other marketing efforts will pay off goes up exponentially. After all, they are already researching your school.


Retargeting with an Offer

A July 2021 study found ad retargeting that included an offer or discount was the most likely to get a response from consumers. This idea can apply to higher education marketing too. For instance, colleges can consider offering a free admissions consultation, waiving application fees, or advertising discounts on course tuition. While it’s hard to run a “sale” on higher education as you might for a consumer goods purchase, there are creative ways to “offer” what students may need most. Perhaps it is a free webinar on accessing financial aid or a promotion about an upcoming event. The idea here is to offer something above and beyond the information that the prospect got when they visited your website. Whether it is a link to a particular program, a video message from the dean, or some other extra, it is a way of adding to the student’s interest in your institution. Making retargeting an “offer” gives a framework to think about this interaction as the beginning of a conversation with a prospect.


Retargeting Is Budget-Friendly

There are so many ways to spend your marketing budget. From old-fashioned mailers and other print assets to email and social media advertising, there is no shortage of channels that you can choose. When you add retargeting to your strategies, you focus more of your budget on the most interested prospects, conserving your resources rather than bombarding the internet with advertisements that may not hit a likely target. You can use many good strategies to make digital advertising work for you, and retargeting is a basic one that integrates well with your other efforts.


Find out how easy and effective it can be to use retargeting in your higher education marketing. If you would like to discuss your marketing strategy, please get in touch with us for analysis and plans specific to your institution.


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If you’d like to learn more about how we can help you adapt to the evolving education marketing landscape and ramp up your efforts, please contact us today.

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