What You Need to Know About PPC Ad Copy

The goal of any pay-per-click ad is to convince the right student to step just a little closer to your institution. A request for more information. A school tour. An application.

But if your ads miss the mark, you might not only miss that future student; you could waste money on clicks that benefit neither you nor the student. That’s why ad copy is crucial. Especially since expanded text ads (ETAs) replaced legacy ads at the beginning of the year.


What changed:                                                               

Legacy Ads ETA Ads
Headline 1 Row/25 Characters 2 Rows/30 Characters
Description 2 Rows/35 Characters 1 Row/80 Characters
Displayed URL Display URL of 35 Characters Auto Display URL


Okay, so the ad formatting changed a bit, but does it really matter? Actually, it really, really could. Here’s why:

Headlines are critical: With less real estate at the get-go, you need to grab the attention of that potential student immediately. How are you going to do that? For starters, use keywords that are an exact match to what those future students might be searching. If your goal is to enroll a 17-year-old to a journalism program, you have a few options, but obvious among them will be “journalism programs” and “journalism degrees.”  Consider adding a call-to-action to your headline: Earn Your Journalism Degree or Journalism Program: Find Out More. And while 30 characters may sound crazy short, don’t feel the need to hit the mark. It’s not about more words; it’s about the right words.

[Tweet “Get as close as you can to the 80 character mark in your #AdWords description”]Provide useful info in your description. ETAs give you more than double the space to highlight why your program is a real answer to that searching student’s query. Include differentiators in your description. What sets your school and its programs apart? Why are your offerings the perfect fit to your target? Before you write a single word of ad copy, consider the person at the other end of the conversation. For example, if you offer an MBA, you’re likely targeting working professionals. What is important to them? What might stand in their way? And how can your program solve those problems and get them closer to an advanced degree. Btw, unlike headlines, you definitely want to hit the mark with length in your description. Give useful information without repetition and try to reach as close as you can to that 80 character limit.

Use extensions: Ad extensions highlight something extra. It might be a local address, an “online” feature, or an accelerated program that accepts credits from affiliate schools. Whatever that extra info is, it might—and I emphasize might—be pulled as a highlighted snippet by a search engine that would then add to your digital space. Callout and sitelink extensions allow you to draw attention to the features and benefits your programs offer. If Google or other search engines agree that the info you provide is worthwhile, you’ll be granted a bit of extra real estate—for free.


Digital pay-per-click ads are a great way to attract the digital natives who already fill your school and its programs. Want to learn more about them? At ESM Digital, we’ve been working in the .edu sector since the dawn of the internet. We know what worked then and how it’s all evolved to where we are now. Find out more. Contact us today.


~Linda Emma