Written by Caroline Cox on Jan 24, 2022

An effective school PPC campaign helps you engage prospects through strategic remarketing, location targeting, brand awareness, and more.

Here you’ll find:

  • How school pay-per-click (PPC) audiences are unique
  • Why considering different generations is key
  • How the pandemic has affected paid search strategies for schools
  • Tips for your school’s PPC campaign

With millions of K-12 students attending in-person, virtual, and hybrid schools in the U.S., the competition for enrollment can be fierce. 

Perhaps now more than ever, online promotion is key to attracting your school’s target audience and converting them quickly.

Amid changing regulations and safety measures, it’s still crucial for kids to have access to the good education they deserve. And part of that involves connecting families with the right school for their needs. 

With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at important aspects of PPC marketing for elementary, middle, and high schools.

PPC for schools tips

For best results, PPC campaigns for schools should be aimed at top-of-the-funnel searchers who are still in the browsing stage. (Image via Unsplash)

Defining a tricky target audience

One of the toughest parts of running a search engine marketing (SEM) campaign for schools is defining clear target audience segments.

That’s because you want to design ads for people who technically won’t be taking advantage of your services. Unlike PPC campaigns for higher education, PPC audience tactics for lower-level schools involve marketing to adult parents.

While the target audience for K-12 schools is mostly parents, rising or current high-schoolers may also be searching for options. These two target audience segments can be drastically different, which may involve creating separate campaigns to reach each one.

Additionally, it’s a good idea to consider parents who have a child in your school already and may be contemplating enrolling another one.

Once you create different ads and landing pages for each target audience segment, you can then make a plan to conduct A/B testing to see which elements resonate most with each one.

Pro tip: For best results, PPC campaigns for schools should be aimed at top-of-the-funnel searchers who are still in the browsing stage. As people progress down the funnel, they tend to visit websites directly.

PPC marketing for different generations

Another tricky part about your target audience is that it consists of parents who come from different generations. Paid marketing efforts for millennials and Gen X, for example, can differ substantially.

Catering to millennial parents

When it comes to PPC for schools, millennials are less susceptible to traditional marketing tactics and tend to do a lot of research across different channels.

When they need to learn something new, most millennials prefer YouTube videos to textual content. Additionally, they’re avid Instagram users. That’s why it’s worth experimenting with paid social marketing on Instagram and YouTube. You could even look into partnering with popular, high-quality accounts and channels where millennial parents can get information about your school.

Marketing to Gen X parents

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Generation X spends less time on social media than millennials and Gen Z. While they also appreciate video marketing, their key social media platform is Facebook. 

Along with Google, many Gen X parents turn to Facebook to find information about schools. To target them, consider designing Google and Facebook Ads campaigns.  

Pro tip: SEO is just as important as paid search for schools. Make sure your plan includes a solid SEO strategy with elements like social media, blog posts, and email marketing.

Taking the pandemic into account

It seems safe to say that any parent with school-aged children (not to mention teachers and staff members) has had their routine upended by the pandemic. 

Seeing their child’s education experience in a closer, more direct manner has caused some parents to rethink what they look for in a school. 

Some things parents may be looking for in their child’s school moving forward include questions like:

  • Do they offer remote learning options?
  • How are they supporting teachers and staff amid changing guidelines?
  • How are they ensuring children are still getting the best instruction possible?
  • Are they implementing testing and vaccination requirements?
  • Do they follow CDC recommendations?

Implementing remarketing

Depending on how soon they start researching, a parent’s buying journey can take months or even years. That’s why remarketing can be such a game-changer. 

By taking advantage of remarketing options, you can stay top of mind and make sure not to lose prospects after they leave your website.

As we’ve laid out before, remarketing involves placing your ads in front of potential clients after they interact with your school online. These ads can follow prospects across platforms to keep reminding them about your school’s benefits.

Besides bringing back potential clients, remarketing ads work well for existing parents and students by increasing brand awareness.

school paid search

While PPC campaigns for schools have a high conversion potential, they require a multifaceted approach. (Image via Unsplash)

Tips for effective PPC for schools

Here are a few tips to keep in mind when designing your school’s PPC campaign.

Avoid bidding on branded terms 

While bidding on branded terms works well for many businesses, it can be a budget-eater for schools. Many existing parents and students use Google to find and visit the school website to see everything from schedules and updates to your events calendar.

These people will be clicking your ads simply to get to the website. The result: A serious waste of your PPC ad budget.

Focus on the high-potential audience segments

Since your target audience is complex, it’s wise to pick your battles when it comes to designing paid search ads. If you have a tight marketing budget, catering to all segments can be tough to execute. 

To achieve the highest marketing ROI, focus on the segment with the highest potential to convert. Not sure who that is? If you don’t have a ton of demographic info when it comes to your ideal client persona, now’s a great time to start gathering that data.

Want to learn more about PPC marketing for your school? We’d love to help.

Don’t ignore negative keywords

Negative keywords allow you to save money on your PPC campaign by not showing your ad to those searching for certain disqualifying words or phrases. 

For example, if your school doesn’t offer remote learning options, you can specify that keywords related to remote studies shouldn’t trigger your ads. Otherwise, you won’t just waste campaign money, but you could also increase your website’s bounce rate. 

Be thoughtful about geo-targeting

While proximity to home is an obvious factor for parents when choosing a school, many won’t object to traveling a few extra miles to give their child the best opportunity possible. Because of this, you don’t want to limit your paid search ads too narrowly when it comes to location. 

Start by analyzing your previous enrollment data to identify your best-performing areas.  From there, you can conduct A/B testing with different regions to see which one brings the most visitors.

Pro tip: You can explore negative location keywords to cut costs.

The takeaway

While PPC campaigns for schools have a high conversion potential, they require a multifaceted approach. A thoughtful marketing strategy is key to keeping your campaign budget low while achieving top-notch results with such a diverse audience.

By sorting out priorities, understanding your audience, and doing sufficient A/B testing, you can create a highly efficient PPC campaign to improve your school’s enrollment marketing ROI.

This article has been updated and was originally published in January 2021.

Caroline Cox

Caroline Cox

Caroline is HawkSEM's content marketing manager. She uses her more than 10 years of professional writing and editing experience to create SEO-friendly articles, educational thought leadership pieces, and savvy social media content to help market leaders create successful digital marketing strategies. She's a fan of seltzer water, print magazines, and huskies.

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