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Google Ads Can Help Schools Find New Students. Here's Why

Google Ads can help schools find new students. Here’s how.

For a lot of people, advertising on Google seems like a no-brainer, but many people may wonder how effective it really is. In this blog, we’ll show you that Google Ads really are effective. It’s a very powerful tool to help your school reach new students.

If you don’t already believe that Google advertising is can help, consider this: Google users account for 77% of all search engine usage. That’s more than 1 billion people!

It’s also important to remember that most people will never look at the second page of their Google results. Many won’t even scroll to the bottom of the first page. This is why Google Ads are so effective, it puts your business right in people’s eye-line at the top of their search results.

How should private schools set up Google Ads?

Google Ads come in two types: search ads and display ads. You’re probably familiar with both types as they are anyone who uses Google search will have seen both kinds.

Search ads are the paid search results that appear right at the top of the results list. Usually, one or two ads appear here, but for competitive industries this section can be as much as half the results page. Search ads can be distinguished from “organic” results by the presence of the word “ad” in a green box next to the URL.

Display ads allow a lot more creative freedom. These are the ads that appear on websites, and typically come as a banner on the side of the webpage, or across the top or bottom of a page. They provide an opportunity to draw people in using both graphics and text.


Google advertising uses a payment model called pay-per-click (PPC). This means that you’re only charged when someone clicks on the ad. The amount you are charged each time someone clicks is called the cost-per-click. The cost is determined by the following equation:

Next Highest Ad Rank / Quality Score + $0.01 = CPC*

As you can see, this means that the higher your quality score, the lower your cost will be. This is because Google has its own financial incentive to provide users with good quality content.

Navigating the Google Ads algorithm

The word algorithm has started to enter common language much more in recent years as people become aware of the ways in which their content is delivered to them.

In terms of Google Ads, the algorithm used to determine the rank of your ad is actually very simple. This rank then determines who sees your ad, and how effective it will be. We’ll discuss the algorithm itself in a bit, but first let’s talk about how Google uses it.

In the moments between you hitting the search button and Google providing your results, a huge amount happens. In that split second, Google takes an inventory of all the ad accounts that contain the keywords or phrases used in the search.

For example, perhaps your private school is trying to rank for the keywords “Best high school for college acceptance.” When someone searches “What schools in my area have the best college acceptance rates?” your advertising account will be included in Google’s inventory.

In order to tell Google what keywords and phrases to rank your website against, you bid a monetary amount that you would be willing to pay if someone clicked on your ad, hence the name pay-per-click.

This process works a bit like an auction, with the winner determined by two factors:

  • The maximum bid you have set for your keyword
  • The quality score of your advertisement

The second point here we’ve already touched on. Google is here to make money, and the best way to do that is to be the search engine with the biggest user base. The main reason that Google has such a massive market share is because it has a reputation for providing the most relevant results.

Therefore, it is more likely to show your ad, and your content, if it’s of good quality and relevant to its users. Therefore, you should take special care to remember this when creating your ads.

The quality score of your advertisement is itself determined by two factors:

  • Past performance of your ad, ad group, and your account in general
  • The relevance of your chosen keyword, ad (title, URL, and description), and landing page to the search and to each other

Don’t worry if you’re not familiar with the terms “ad group” and “landing page.”

An ad group is a group of keywords that you are trying to rank your ad for, and your landing page is the webpage that your ad sends people to when they click on it. Both the ad itself and the landing page should be relevant to each other, use the same keywords, and be well-made and fast-loading.

All these factors add up to a single equation that determines the rank of your ad:

CPC Bid x Quality Score = Ad Rank

For display ads, the process is slightly different. Instead of bidding on keywords, you bid on ad groups. There is also the option to bid on impressions rather than clicks. Impression in this context just refers to when your ad is displayed to someone on a webpage, every time it is “seen.”

For this reason, it’s called “cost-per-impression” or “CPM” bidding.

Can Google Ads really help private schools?

Yes, they can!

However, there are factors which mean that this can never be a guarantee.

One of the most significant of these factors is competition. This varies by area and high competition will mean your ads have a lower chance of winning the “auction” we talked about earlier. Competition also varies by industry. For example, the legal industry in Anchorage, Alaska (where we are based), has seen costs-per-click as high as $50!

This is obviously not going to be the case for all industries, but it does mean that Google advertising could be a poor choice as without high profit-margins you could make a loss overall. This is especially true when you consider that not all clicks convert to new clients/income.

We can determine the level of competition in an industry using industry benchmarks.

Source: WordStream (8/27/2019)

As you can see, education (in grey) has a relatively low cost-per-click compared to other industries, indicating a lower level of competition. Obviously, this isn’t taking location into account, but as a general category you will be competing with fewer schools.

This doesn’t mean that what we said about quality can be disregarded however! You should still aim to create quality ads to ensure you are ranking highly.

Our Google Ads specialists at Beacon Media + Marketing are regularly able to achieve below-average cost-per-click for our clients, saving them lots of money.

How do we do it?

  • For every service we want to advertise, we use a budget of at least $300 per month, usually more. This translates to our minimum recommended cost-per-click budget on each keyword in 1-3 ad groups.
  • We always find some way to find a niche for the services we are advertising, using nuanced keywords. We do this so that we can use keywords that are low competition but capture the internet users who search for them. For example, we market for a holistic dentist in Anchorage. When we create her Google Ads, we do not target “family dentistry,” but rather, “holistic dentistry,” because there is lower competition around this keyword, which makes the market easier to capture. We have seen incredible results for this client.
  • Our team makes it a priority to create quality, relevant ads and landing pages. There are few things better for boosting the success of your Google advertising campaign than this. Write clear, concise, compelling ads that point people to the pages that they would expect with the right keywords.

We hope this post will be helpful for you getting started with your own Google advertising!

If you want to learn more about digital marketing, you can read more of our blogs, here. Alternatively, if you’re interested in working with us, you can schedule a free consultation.

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