Are You Doing Remarketing For Your College All Wrong?

woman looking at digital ads on her smartphone

Especially for continuing education and online programs, sequential remarketing can be a game-changer to increase applications and enrollments. But if you’re doing it incorrectly, you will waste resources and overspend marketing dollars. And you could also alienate the very students you hope to attract. Are you doing digital remarketing well—or all wrong?


Sequential remarketing

Sequential remarketing occurs when you tag a visitor who comes to your website or landing page with a browser-based piece of code or “cookie.” You can then follow that potential student as they travel across the internet with branded messaging to keep their interest and remind them of all you have to offer. What’s more, you can—and should—tailor the ads you serve them based on actions they take, and where they are in the enrollment funnel.


Common mistakes colleges make

A cookie can be priceless. Or nothing but worthless crumbs. If you use cookies to bombard users with ads and information they just don’t care about, they’ll remember your school’s brand for all the wrong reasons. They will inevitably avoid your institution and its programs.

Another error schools frequently make is to send similar messaging, over and over and over again. Even if you alter the images and change up the text a bit, if the ad has the same messaging or looks too similar to a last effort, it will be ignored. And soon it will become virtually invisible to the user.


How to remarket right:

Pay attention to the page(s) the user visits. If the only page a user hit was your homepage, you may be limited in your remarketing endeavors. On the other hand, if they went from the homepage to a program-specific page, you’re golden. Take advantage of their path along the way. Did they want to know about admission requirements, financial aid, campus life? What do they care about and how can you create ads that match their needs?

Create a campaign timeline that is in for the long haul. You’re not selling shoes so your cookie campaign period needs to be much longer than a month or two. The Google Display Network allows you to extend your cookie period up to 540 days. This long lifecycle is especially impressive for higher ed where students can talk all 540 days to come to a decision about where they’ll attend. Depending on where your prospect is in the enrollment funnel, you may want to take advantage of the full allowable length. And remember, good remarketing is a marathon, not a sprint, so don’t expect to break through the tape in the first minutes of the race. Also, be sure to use a frequency cap so potential students do not get shown multiple ads a day.

Target effectively

Just because someone clicked on your site doesn’t mean they are likely to apply and enroll. Hone your targeting based on such considerations as demographics and geographic location. If you know that 85 percent of your on-campus students are in-state enrollees, consider limiting your spend and ad targeting accordingly.

It’s also important to pay attention to the actions those prospective students take. Did they come to your site looking for an online program? Serve ads about what you offer online. Did they click on an ad about financial aid? When they drop on your landing page explaining FAFSA, make sure to note where they may be in their decision-making process and adjust the ads you feed them accordingly. Segment your audience by their needs, not yours.

Use sequential stage remarketing

Placing the right message in front of the right audience at the right time is what sequential remarketing is all about. Plan campaigns out so you know what ads you’ll serve in the first days, weeks, and months after a user’s initial click on your site or ad. Be certain to vary the content as they travel about the internet and through the enrollment funnel.

If you’d like to learn about marketing and remarketing for higher education, ask the experts at ESM Digital. We have been helping institutions of higher education meet and exceed their enrollment goals for more than a decade. Learn more now.

~Linda Emma