Advertising in Education: Strategies to Reach the Right Students for Your Institution

02.08.2022 Sara Brasfield5 min

Today’s aspiring high school, college and vocational students have more options than ever before—and this increasing student choice is creating a more competitive playing field for institutions looking to increase enrollment.

The reasons for these emerging enrollment challenges can be complex. For some students, the ongoing pandemic has convinced them to delay their educational pursuits in favor of other experiences, including entering the workforce. In other cases, the increased availability of online and hybrid learning options—along with increasing enrollment at for-profit institutions over the past 15 years—have pulled some students in new directions and thinned out the crowd of students seeking specific educational experiences.

As a result, educational institutions are spending more and more on advertising and marketing campaigns. Research shows that the average postsecondary institution spends an average of $429 to $623 dollars, per enrolled student per year, on advertising and marketing.

Those costs may reach even higher in the coming years, when a 15 percent decline in total college student enrollment is expected to take place starting around the year 2025.

Advertising is a necessity for educational institutions of every shape and size. As the market competition stiffens, your ability to reach and convert your desired student population will have an even greater impact on the long-term viability and success of your organization.

If you’re ready to recommit yourself to creating ad campaigns that deliver ROI, here are some strategies you may want to consider.

Cut The Search Query Line With Paid Search Campaigns

The majority of customer journeys start with a search query. This is true for educational journeys, too—especially when prospective students aren’t sure where they want to go, or what their options even might be.

Paid search marketing can help you reach prospective students in several different ways. One obvious strategy is to target keywords related to specific majors or professional paths your institution offers. Your location can also be helpful if your institution typically attracts a large number of local students, including commuters.

You can also steer traffic away from your closest competitors by advertising around keyword searches that specifically mention those institutions. This places your search ad above the organic search results for that institution, leveraging interest in that organization into referral traffic for your school.

Leverage Social Media to Meet Prospective Students Where They’re At

Social media advertising has long been used to reach prospective students—especially given the demographic and other targeting information these social networks offer.

While Facebook was, and remains, an effective tool for reaching prospective students, your institution should also conduct research into where your target audience spends the bulk of their social media time. Although Facebook maintains the largest active user base of any social network, smaller platforms like Instagram, Snap, and TikTok are known to be even more popular among younger audiences.

Advertising through these platforms could also be more cost-effective for your institution, stretching your ad dollars while improving ad engagement.

Use Geofenced Ads to Target Students at Specific Schools

Protect and expand your share of students coming from institutions that typically serve as “feeder schools” for your organization. Colleges and vocational institutions, for example, may benefit from targeting display and other ads to high school campuses where they’ve had success recruiting in the past.

This approach can also be used to increase enrollments coming from schools and student groups that have historically been underrepresented at your institution. Because the ads are geofenced to only reach device users on those campuses, it ensures your ads aren’t being wasted on individuals who don’t fit your desired student profile.

Make Sure Brand Safety Measures are Being Taken

As your organization plans out its advertising strategy, it’s important to keep brand safety in mind. Educational institutions face a greater expectation to ensure their ads and institution name aren’t associated with organizations, websites, or movements that don’t align with their core values.

Effective brand safety measures can help ensure your ads aren’t accidentally placed next to inappropriate content that could offend or alienate prospective students or their parents. Make sure you understand the brand safety features and safeguards offered through whatever advertising platforms you use.

From maximizing ad reach and ROI to ensuring brand safety for your institution, a digital advertising partner can help you design cost-effective campaigns that reach your target audience and fill your enrollment roster with high-quality student applicants.

Cox Media can help you create a winning campaign that strengthens your institution’s enrollment numbers both now and in the future. Contact us today to learn more.

About the Author

Sara Brasfield

Sara is the Content Marketing Manager for Cox Media’s corporate team in Atlanta, with a passion for writing and delivering relevant insights for advertisers. With more than seven years of experience in B2B marketing, Sara aims to help Cox Media’s current and future clients connect with their customers find new and unique ways to grow their business. Outside of the (now virtual!) office, Sara loves spending time running, reading and supporting her favorite teams (Go Braves & Gamecocks!).

View All of Sara Brasfield's Blog Posts

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