Best Practices for Retargeting in Higher Education

4 min read

Julia Sachs

Studies show that students tend to favor—meaning they both apply and enroll—universities that reach out to them to show an interest in their educational future. Making a good first impression will help students looking at schools decide where to apply and eventually enroll. 

Students want to attend a university that feels right for them. An effective way for higher education establishments to make a big impression without expanding their advertising efforts is to start retargeting in higher education content and on social media. By retargeting, universities can implement a typical digital marketing strategy to improve their reach to future students, alumni associations, and other departments within their schools. 

What Is Retargeting?

The concept of retargeting is simple, and some of the most widely used services make it easy for you to implement retargeting advertisements quickly. Retargeting works by adding a cookie (sometimes called a pixel) to your website. When users visit your website and are logged into either Facebook or Google, those websites log that the user visited the site and store the information as user data. 

You can then use that information to determine who you want to see your ads later on when paying for ads on those platforms. On both Facebook and Google, you can instruct the platform to serve ads to people that have visited your website before, only as long as you have the right cookies installed on your site. This tool is helpful to keep your university fresh in a student’s mind, as the ads will serve as a reminder of what they were looking at on your website. 

Companies and brands often turn to retargeting to remind consumers to make a purchase on their website. While higher education institutions are not selling a direct-to-consumer product, retargeting does allow universities to learn more about the students that are looking at their websites, enabling them to cater their ads and messaging directly to their needs in real-time. 

Reasons to use Retargeting in Higher Education Advertising

Meet your students where they are: Millennial and Generation Z consumers have long been considered two of the most challenging age demographics to advertise to. They often consume media online and don’t use traditional mediums that advertisers have long favored until just a few years ago. Where traditional print, television, and radio advertisements could reach massive audiences quickly and easily, newer advertising methods such as social media or online advertising require a more nuanced approach. 

That being said, advertising to younger audiences—which higher education institutions are likely doing to reach prospective students—means that expanding your efforts to places where those demographics already are will help you tremendously. For an age group that primarily hangs out online—even more so amid the COVID-19 pandemic—online and social media advertising should be your primary advertising method in today’s digital age. 

Increase conversions

Retargeting is a great way to increase conversions on your digital advertisements. Your ads will primarily reach the demographic of students already looking at your school and possibly strongly considering it. The likelihood that someone who has been to your website will want to click on your ads and learn more about the programs and campus life you have to offer is higher among those already familiar with your institution. 

Increase brand awareness

Yes, universities are brands too. A great way to help familiarize students with your university and the programs you offer is to retarget those that have looked at your site already. Facebook and Google give valuable insight into the demographics you’ll be able to reach, and you can use your website data to determine which pages on your website get the most traffic. Put together, this will give you the tools you need to create well-targeted ads catered to those who want to learn more about your brand. 

How to set up retargeting campaigns:

Setting up these campaigns is easy when you have the right tools. Work with your website developer to install a cookie or pixel into your website to allow services like Google and Facebook to track user data. Users will have to opt in to this service when they access your website, but many will choose to do so. 

Once you’ve installed the cookie, go to Facebook and Google to set up ad campaigns on each website. Within the user information, you can select to have your ads sent to anyone that has visited your website in the recent past. This will make sure that even if your ad preferences are not set to someone’s exact demographic, they’ll get the ads you put out because they’ve visited your site. You can use this to your advantage by educating users on what your school offers through your ads. 

You can even further customize these ads to target people that visited specific pages on your website. For example, if someone visited just your application information page, you can create ads that send them to a blog post on creating a successful college application or more information about your school in general. Some experts also suggest retargeting your social media or YouTube channels to build a pipeline from your social media to your school. This will enhance the educational aspect of your content without making users feel as if they’re being advertised to. 

Retargeting is a powerful tool that Universities can and should use to educate prospective students on what they offer. As educational institutions, taking an academic approach to retargeted content will help students learn more about your school while helping them prepare for this new chapter of their lives. 

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