Here is Why Paid Search Advertising is Important in Higher Education

Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes

In today’s competitive higher education landscape, everyone is looking for an edge. While traditional marketing mediums such as radio, billboards, and television commercials still have their place, the generations entering college (particularly Gen Y and Millenials) are increasingly relying on internet searches during their college research phase. In fact, as many as 67% of internet users use search engines as their first source of information for higher education institutions.

SEO Isn’t Always Enough

Practicing proven Search Engine Optimization (SEO) techniques are a great way to increase your ranking in a search engine’s organic results. But don’t assume that being on the front page ensures all qualified traffic will head your way. Depending on where you live, between 6 and 10 percent of search queries end up clicking on a paid advertisement. The best SEO team in the business will be unable to get those clicks unless you begin looking at paid sarch advertising options, namely Google AdWords and Bing Ads.


AdWords, Bing or Both – Where Do I Start?

You’ll want to build your initial advertising account on Google AdWords, primarily because Bing Ads has a convenient “Import from AdWords” feature, while AdWords will not do the same for Bing. And the benefit of using both Google and Bing? Coverage. You can choose to have ads running on Google, Bing, Yahoo, AOL, YouTube, Alexa, MySearch, Netscape, Ask, etc. Basically, your bases are covered on 99% of search traffic as long as you’re using both advertising platforms.

Time and Targeting

Earlier I assumed you were on the front page organically for all desired searches. That was a stretch, especially because higher education is chock-full of 900-pound universities with huge marketing budgets. So, unlike organic search rankings that can take months or years to progress to the first page of search engine results (especially for hyper-agressive keywords), paid results are placed at the top of search engines as soon as you begin paying for ad placement.

There are also ways to ensure you aren’t paying for unqualified clicks. Targeting and segmentation based on geography, age and gender all ensure you’re showing ads to prospective students in your target market.


Retargeting (often branded ‘remarketing’) is arguably the most important branch on the paid search advertising tree. Like paid search ads, advertisers typically pay per click, except with retageting you only show ads to prospective students that have already visited your site. You can even create segments based on whether the prospect performed a certain action or not, such as filling out a form.

Brand recognition with highly targetable messaging to an already knowledgeable audience can yield stellar results when done correctly. And, as mentioned, many students will visit your site while they’re still in the research phase. You’re essentially able to show them an ad every few days so your brand is constantly reminding them, “Hey, don’t forget about me while you’re exploring all of your options!”


While traditional marketing and SEO should be an important part of your marketing focus and budget, paid search is a medium that may help garner an edge over your competition. If you’d like to begin running ads on your own, I offer 8 specific strategies in a separate blog post that should help get you started.

If you’re interested in some assistance in building and optimizing your AdWords account, you can contact me directly at jimmy [at]

Beckfield College Case Study

Finally, if you’re interested in some of the successes Beckfield College experienced when working with InfoTrust, check out the case study below:


  • James Love

    Jimmy Love is currently the Industry Team Manager for the Healthcare & Fitness Industry Team at InfoTrust. Jimmy was a contributor to InfoTrust’s Crawl, Walk, Run Amazon best-selling book series, and a speaker at the New York City Durability Summit. Jimmy works with some of the largest healthcare and fitness organizations in the world, helping them advance their digital analytics maturity in a forward-thinking and strategic manner.

    When away from his desk, Jimmy enjoys attending Cincinnati Bearcats football and basketball games, and spending quality time with his beautiful wife and dogs.

    View all posts
Originally Published: September 3, 2014

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October 9, 2023
Originally published on September 3, 2014

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