Despite an overall decline in college enrollment in Wisconsin, the UW System’s share of enrollment in Wisconsin has increased since 2010, from 48.6 percent to 50.8 percent in 2018.
This means that private institutions must do all they can to attract prospective students from a smaller pool, which includes a strategic focus on digital advertising.
Reflecting national trends, the cost for Wisconsin colleges and universities to acquire adult-learner prospects through paid digital advertising has grown significantly in recent years.
Increased competition among nontraditional offerings and a heightened demand for digital marketing are pushing the price of digital advertising higher and higher.
Looking just at search engine marketing, which can account for much of your paid digital ad budget, there are a couple of key factors driving up costs:
- The price of certain keyword groups has doubled between 2018 and 2019, including institution-branded keywords.
- Large institutions with even larger advertising budgets are willing to bid more for certain keywords, making it challenging for smaller colleges and universities (with smaller budgets) to obtain the same ROI.
While your institution will need to incorporate a healthy mix of other tactics like blogging, social media, email and search engine optimization (SEO) to optimize your digital marketing investment, paid ads will continue to make up a large portion of your spend.
The takeaway: don’t expect to yield the same results with the same year-over-year digital marketing budget.
The solution? Be prepared to invest more than you’re accustomed to. Equally important, make sure your marketing team/agency is paying attention to the bottom-line metrics that really matter. For example, don’t just focus on impressions, website traffic, lead volume and cost per lead. Continuously fine-tune your mix of marketing tactics to achieve the lowest cost-per-app and cost-per-enrollment figures. Smart marketers look at the entire, end to end, picture.
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