SEO or PPC: Is One Better for your Student Enrollment Needs?

As student enrollment continues to decline, you need to think more strategically than ever before to remain competitive. You can’t just send out fancy brochures and conduct campus tours to attract your future students. You need to go where your students live: online.

Do you spend time and budget on pay-per-click advertising to place ads in front of your target market or do opt for search engine optimization so your future students find you organically? The truth is that choosing one or the other just won’t cut it anymore. You need the benefits of both. Here’s what they each offer:


Domain and Page Authority: It’s unlikely that your domain ranks at 100 like Apple, Facebook and Twitter, or has page authority like theirs in the upper 90s, but do you even know where you stand? A well-structured SEO strategy will help boost your domain and page authority and beat out your competitors in the eyes of search engines.

Website Traffic: That boost in status can also significantly increase your website traffic. The higher you rank when a prospective student searches, the more likely they’ll click through to your pages –and even return. SEO also uses keyword rich language in content and optimized tagging that is more likely to be searched for and found, creating additional traffic.

Site Usability: Did you know that when you try to build content that satisfies Google and other search engines, you also wind up creating content that people like? That’s because Google’s algorithm is based on people! Think intuitively and make your site as user-friendly as possible and your future students—and Google—will reward you.

Affordability: SEO is one of the most cost effective tools you can use to target, attract and enroll new students. Instead of relying on outbound marketing such as email campaigns and cold-calling, SEO is an inbound strategy that works. It doesn’t require accelerating bids or a heavy investment of resources and SEO leads have a near 15 percent close rate, compared to a 1.7 percent close rate for outbound leads.


High Interest Prospects: Because a user needs to take an action—click—you have proof that they’re actually interested in your school and its programs. With sound structure, effective targeting and hands-on bid control, PPC marketing ensures you higher quality leads that are more likely to convert.

Effective Targeting: PPC lets you hone in on your target audience on a granular level. In addition to choosing keyword targets, you can advertise at the exact time of day your future students are most likely to be online. You can target their device, location, and whether or not they’ve already visited your site. You can even target them based on “lookalike” audiences that resemble those students you’ve already found.

Budget Control: With PPC, you decide just how much you want to spend. You select keyword bids and set spending caps. Choose a daily spend and then adjust anytime to meet your needs and stay within your overall budget. With the right hands-on approach, you can optimize results and even decrease the price of ad clicks. For example, an effective ad that leads to a great landing page and gives users what they came for tells search engines that the content was relevant; and you’ll be rewarded with a lower cost-per-click.

Immediate Results: Unlike an organic strategy that requires the buildup of an audience and a site’s content, PPC results are pretty immediate. You can build a PPC campaign, set targets and goals, and see results in just days –if you’ve done everything correctly.

Data Trove: The research you do for PPC is a gift to your other marketing efforts and so are its results. For example, you can share the keywords, target audience and behaviors, and the results you’re seeing with your content strategists, enabling them to build more relevant content.

Together is Better:

SEO and effective content development can increase your website’s organic traffic and your conversions. PPC can hyper focus your advertising dollars and bring immediate results. But both components work best when they’re part of an integrated marketing approach that breaks down silos and allows your school and its marketing team to achieve the student enrollments you deserve.

Contact the HigherEd Geeks at Effective Student Marketing and we’ll show you how to get started on both strategies right now.

~Linda Emma