Google Ads: Quick Guide to Getting Started With Ads for Promoting Higher Education

Updated: November 4, 2023
by Jack Stan

When you've got ChatGPT at your fingertips, looking things up on Google might seem like yesterday's news, right? Big companies dominate Google's first page. They're all giving uniform, tepid advice anyway. Why search for repetitive information? ChatGPT offers faster, diverse insights.

But don't write off Google just yet. Google sites are most-visited web platforms and, according to Statista, 275 million users in the United States alone in 2023. So it only makes sense if you add Google Ads to your higher marketing strategy. You don't want to miss out, do you?

Google Ads: Quick Guide to Getting Started With Ads for Promoting Higher Education

The Secret Sauce of Google Ads

So I'm stating the obvious here. Google Ads stay relevant because they've got something that's hard to beat: intent. When someone types in a search, they've got a mission, and Google Ads is there to meet them halfway.

  • Intent Matters: Ads appear when someone is actively seeking out information or a product, which is prime time for making a connection.
  • Customization: The level of detail you can get into with customization means you can tailor your message like a pro.

Keeping Up with the Times

Sure, trends come and go, but Google Ads seems to have this chameleon-like ability to adapt, right? The platform has rolled with the punches, constantly updating its features to stay relevant. They've got machine learning helping to optimize where and when your ads show up, making sure they're in the right place at the right time.

  • Adaptable Features: From responsive search ads to automated bidding strategies, Google stays fresh.
  • Machine Learning: Google’s AI helps predict ad performance and enhances targeting precision, which is pretty neat, don't you think?

Metrics That Speak Volumes

When you're putting money into ads, you want to know what's happening with every penny, and Google Ads gives you the lowdown. You get to see real-time data about who's clicking, how much you're spending, and what's ringing the register. This info is gold for tweaking your campaigns and getting more bang for your buck.

  • Real-Time Analytics: See how your ads are doing the moment they go live.
  • Conversion Tracking: Find out which ads are converting browsers into buyers.

Local and Global Reach

Whether you're a mom-and-pop shop or a big brand, Google Ads scales to your needs. Local businesses can target the guy down the street, and global brands can reach across oceans, all with a few clicks. You can be as local or as global as you want, which is pretty handy for any business, right?

  • Geo-Targeting: Pinpoint your ads to specific locations.
  • Global Campaigns: Expand your reach to new countries with ease.

Google’s Got the Goods

People trust Google to give them what they’re searching for, and that includes the ads. If Google serves up an ad, there's a level of trust there that's been built up over decades. It's like a seal of approval or a friendly nod that says, "Hey, this might be what you're looking for."

  • Trust Factor: Ads benefit from Google's established reputation.
  • Quality Scores: Google rewards well-crafted ads that people find useful.

Beyond the Click

Google Ads isn't just about the immediate click; it's about the afterglow. When someone sees your ad and visits your site, even if they don't buy right then, you've planted a seed. With features like remarketing, you can gently remind them about that seed, nudging them back to bloom into a customer. It's about the long game, isn't it?

  • Remarketing: Keep your brand in mind even after the initial visit.
  • Brand Awareness: Increase recognition so when they're ready to buy, they think of you first.

Google Ads has been in the game long enough to know what works. It's a blend of right-place-right-time with a dash of Google trust and a sprinkle of adaptability that keeps it on top. And that’s something a lot of us are looking to tap into, isn't it?

Higher Education

Higher Education

How Do Google Ads work?

Before your ad can show up, you’ve got to give Google the lowdown on what you're offering. This is where you’ll pick the right keywords—the words or phrases that line up with what folks might be searching for. You know, the kind of stuff someone punches into the search bar when they're hunting for something.

  • Keywords: Choose words or phrases relevant to your business.
  • Ad Copy: Write your ad. This is what people will see, so make it count.

The Auction

Now, here's where it gets interesting. Each time someone searches, Google does this lightning-fast auction. It's not just about who has the deepest pockets, though. Google looks at a few things to decide which ads to show:

  • Bid Amount: This is how much you're willing to pay for a click.
  • Quality Score: A combo of how relevant your ad is, your click-through rate, and the user experience on your landing page.
  • Ad Rank: The result of your bid and quality score which determines your ad's position.

Paying the Piper

You might think you pay through the nose for this, but you only fork over your cash when someone actually clicks on your ad. It’s called pay-per-click (PPC), and it's pretty neat because you're only paying for results. You set your budget, so you've got control over what you spend. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

  • Pay-Per-Click (PPC): You pay when someone clicks, simple as that.
  • Budgeting: Decide how much you want to spend daily or monthly.

Targeting the Right Crowd

Google Ads lets you get pretty darn specific about who sees your ads. You can target by location, the type of device being used, and even the time of day. Plus, with demographic targeting, you can aim your ads at specific age groups, genders, and even interests. It’s like having a billboard in the virtual world that only your kind of customers can see, right?

  • Demographic Targeting: Aim for specific age groups, genders, etc.
  • Location and Device Targeting: Choose where and on what devices your ad appears.

Making Adjustments

The beauty of Google Ads is its flexibility. You can tweak your ads, keywords, and bids based on what’s working. This isn't set-it-and-forget-it; it's more like a garden where you're constantly pruning and adjusting. You get loads of data and insights, so you can see what's resonating with folks and what's not.

  • Testing: Try different versions of your ads to see what performs better.
  • Analytics: Use Google's tools to see how your ads are doing and adjust on the fly.

Google Ads works by being a bridge between your business and the people out there on the web looking for what you offer. It’s all about connecting the dots—or in this case, the clicks. And when it works, it's a little bit like finding the perfect match online, don't you think?

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How much should you spend on Google Ads?

Start by looking at what you can afford to spend without putting your finances in a chokehold. Obviously, a huge corporation and a small start-up will have very different numbers in mind.

  • Affordability: Only spend what you can afford to lose, especially at the start.
  • Business Size: Larger businesses might allocate more, while smaller ones should start with what they're comfortable with.

Your Profit Margins

You've got to know your numbers. If you’re selling a product for $100 and it costs you $70, you’ve got $30 to play with. But don’t forget, not every click leads to a sale. If one in every ten clicks leads to a sale, you’ll want to spend less than $3 per click to stay profitable, right?

  • Cost of Goods: Know what it costs to offer your product or service.
  • Conversion Rates: Understand how often clicks turn into sales.

The Market Competition

What’s the going rate for a click in your industry? Some niches might see clicks for a few cents, while others can soar up to several dollars. It's like bidding at an auction where everyone wants the star item – that antique vase or vintage guitar. You bid higher if your market's competitive.

  • Niche Costs: Costs per click can vary wildly depending on the niche.
  • Competitive Bidding: Be prepared to spend more in a competitive market.

Goals and Growth

Set Your Ad Budget

What are you aiming to achieve? Quick sales, or are you playing the long game building brand awareness? Your goals should guide your budget. And think about growth too. You might start with a conservative budget, but as you see returns, you can scale up, kind of like leveling up in a video game.

  • Sales vs. Awareness: Decide if you want immediate conversions or broader brand visibility.
  • Scaling: Increase your budget as you start seeing a return on investment.

The Learning Curve

When you first start with Google Ads, consider that you’re paying for data as much as sales. It’s a learning phase where you’ll fine-tune your strategy based on what the data tells you. So maybe you won't get it perfect right out of the gate, but that’s just part of the process, isn't it?

  • Initial Learning: Early on, your budget is as much about learning as it is about earning.
  • Data Collection: Use the initial period to gather data on what works best.

Return on Investment (ROI)


This is the big one. Your spend should be tied to your return. If you spend $1,000 and bring in $1,200, that’s a 20% return – not too shabby. But if your ROI is looking more like break-even or worse, a loss, it's time to pivot your strategy, don’t you think?

  • ROI Calculation: Always measure the profitability of your campaigns.
  • Adjustments: Be ready to tweak your ads based on ROI insights.

So, how much should you be spending on Google Ads? It’s about balancing what you can afford, understanding your profit margins, gauging the competition, and aligning with your business goals. And always, always keep an eye on that ROI – after all, you want to make sure you’re making more than you’re spending, right?

Steps You Should Take to Run Effective Google Ads for Promoting Higher Education

Get Specific with Your Targeting

Higher education isn't a one-size-fits-all kind of deal, right? You’ve got undergrads, grads, PhD candidates, and then some. Using Google Ads, you can get super specific about who sees your ads. Let's say you're promoting an MBA program. You'll want to target those who've shown interest in business leadership roles or have searched for management courses before.

  • Demographic Targeting: Hit the age group that’s most likely to enroll.
  • Interest-Based Targeting: Focus on users interested in education, career advancement, or specific academic fields.

Craft Your Message Wisely

Once you've got your audience pinned down, you need to speak their language. For instance, if you're targeting professionals for an executive MBA program, talk about career advancement and networking opportunities. Highlighting the unique selling points of your institution or courses will make your ads stand out.

  • Unique Selling Points: What makes your institution or program special? Maybe it's your cutting-edge research facilities or your award-winning faculty.
  • Benefits Over Features: Instead of listing course details, focus on what students will gain—like career advancement or skills development.

Get The Timing Right

Think about when your potential students are likely to apply. There are peak seasons in higher education – typically around the new year and then again in late spring. So if you’re prepping ads for a summer intake, you’d want to ramp up your campaigns a few months prior, giving students plenty of time to ponder and decide.

  • Seasonal Campaigns: Increase your ad spend during application peaks.
  • Early Bird Specials: Offer incentives for early applications to capture interest.

The Keywords!

Keywords in the world of Google Ads are like the secret sauce to your grandma's best recipe – they make everything better. For higher education, think about what potential students might be searching for: "best engineering colleges", "MBA programs near me", "online psychology degree", and so on. These terms should be your bread and butter.

  • Research Extensively: Look for what potential students are searching for. Tools like Google's Keyword Planner can be a big help, right?
  • Long-Tail Keywords: Sometimes it's the more specific phrases that get you the best results, like "part-time MBA programs for working adults".

Once you list down the keywords, use Google Keyword Planner to examine their search volume.

Design Landing Pages that Convert

Your ad got the click? Great! But the landing page needs to seal the deal. Make sure it's relevant to the ad and provides all the necessary information a potential student would want. Easy navigation and clear call-to-action (CTA) buttons are your best pals here.

  • Relevance: If your ad is about your business school, the landing page should be all about that – not the general undergrad admissions page.
  • Clear CTAs: "Apply Now", "Download Brochure", or "Talk to an Advisor" should be easy to find and click.

Use Remarketing to Your Advantage

Sometimes, people need a gentle reminder. Remarketing lets you show ads to people who have visited your site but didn't apply. Maybe they got busy, maybe they're still deciding. A little nudge with an ad can go a long way.

  • Strategic Reminders: Pop up in their search or social media feed to keep your institution at the top of their mind.
  • Custom Audiences: Tailor your remarketing lists for specific programs or events they showed interest in.

Your remarketing strategy may boost your return on investment (ROI).

See the power of lead magnet funnel

Don't Use Vague Messaging

When you're pushing out ads for higher education, the last thing you want is to be unclear about what you're offering. Imagine an ad that just says "Get an advanced degree, apply now!" but doesn't tell you anything about the degree. What field is it in? Who's it for? It's like telling someone to get on a bus without telling them where it's going.

  • Be Specific: If it's a Master's in Computer Science, say so.
  • Highlight the Program: Talk about what makes this specific program a catch – maybe it's a partnership with big tech companies, right?

Don't Forget About Mobile Users

Ever tried to fill out an application on a phone and just gave up because it was too frustrating? If your landing pages and forms aren't optimized for mobile, you're basically turning away potential applicants. Students are always on their phones, so make it easy for them.

  • Mobile Optimization: Ensure your website and forms are easy to navigate on a smartphone.
  • Fast Loading Times: Nobody's going to wait around for a slow site to load.

Avoid Ignoring Data

Running an ad campaign without looking at the data is like trying to hit a bullseye with a blindfold on. You might luck out, but it's not a good strategy. Data tells you what's working and what's not – like if that snazzy video ad is actually bringing in applications or just eating up your budget.

  • Track Everything: From click-through rates to conversions, keep tabs on it all.
  • Make Informed Decisions: Use your data to make changes, not guesses.

Don't Set It and Forget It

Monitor your Google Ad Campaign

Setting up an ad campaign and then just letting it run indefinitely is a surefire way to waste money. The market changes, competition shifts, and what worked yesterday might not work tomorrow. Regular check-ins and updates to your ads can keep them performing well.

  • Regular Reviews: Schedule weekly or bi-weekly check-ins with your campaigns.
  • Adaptation: Be ready to tweak or overhaul underperforming ads.

Avoid Being Inconsistent

If your ads say one thing and your landing page says another, you're going to confuse potential students. Consistency is key. Make sure that the message, design, and overall feel remain the same from the ad to the landing page.

  • Unified Message: Keep your branding and messaging consistent across all platforms.
  • Seamless Experience: The transition from ad to landing page should feel like a natural next step, not a leap of faith.

Don't Disregard Negative Keywords

Negative keywords can be a lifesaver. They prevent your ads from showing up in irrelevant searches. Without them, you might get clicks from people looking for "free" education when you're offering a full-tuition program.

  • Utilize Negative Keywords: Keep your ads away from searches that won't convert.
  • Refine Over Time: Keep adding to your list of negative keywords as you learn more about how people are finding (or not finding) your ads.

Promoting higher education requires a careful blend of precision, adaptability, and constant attention. Avoid these pitfalls, and you're much more likely to attract the right students – the ones who are eager to learn and ready to take on the challenge of higher education. Makes sense, doesn't it?

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About the author 

Jack Stan

Online Marketing Career Consultant. Network marketing and web developing since 2009, helping people quit daytime job and earn enough money and freedom. Keen swimmer, horse-rider, cake-baker, a little bit of OCD.

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