Ready for your best enrollment year yet?

The Education Industry Guide to Tackling the Growing PPC Competition

Table of Contents

The Problem

We often hear from our clients as well as guests on our education podcast that one of their main challenges is the growing competition in Pay Per Click.

Bigger advertising budgets are also shifting into digital advertising and utilized to a higher extent in the education industry. Education companies are seeing more people bidding in their digital auctions. This results in an increase in CPCs, which then increases CPL. Sometimes, bids can get as expensive as $20 or more. Can you imagine paying 2 meals for 1 person to click and visit your website? You wouldn’t do that, but details like this often go ignored. We’ve even seen plenty of companies pay far above that for a single click. Increases in competition reduce CTR as well. And on average, users click more ads before a conversion simply because they can choose from a bigger pool of advertisers.

So what can we do about it?

We’ll give you our top tips and PPC hacks so you can have an edge on the competition. Mainly, we’re dealing with increasing our quality score in order to get our CTR back up and improve the CPCs as well as controlling our bids and not overpaying for keywords.

Increasing Quality Score

From a PPC perspective, a high Quality Score is the primary factor that can directly set you apart from the competition. It is the tool Google uses to determine the price you should be paying for bids. A high Quality Score of 6 and above gives a discount relative to the competition and low score of 4 or lower gives a penalty to your CPCs relative to the competition.

There are several components that go into determining your quality score and we’ll talk about how to influence your “Ad Copy Relevance” metric with our PPC hack – Custom Headline 1s!

Custom Headline 1s

The goal of having custom headline 1s is to increase the “Ad Copy Relevance” component of your quality score. By having our headline 1s as close to the keyword as possible, we increase ad relevancy as well as the likelihood of the user clicking on our ad, as opposed to a competitor. Remember that CTR is also a component of quality score so we will essentially get a double benefit from this strategy. Below, we can see some examples from the financial education sector:

[stock market strategy]

[stock market strategy]

[stock market strategy]

Product Specific Ad Copy

For similar reasons as custom headline 1s, your ad copy should be specific for every program or course that you offer. Having ad copy that markets more closely to what the user is searching for will increase ad relevancy, increase quality score and lower your CPCs!

Technical Analysis
Excel for Finance
Investing for Beginners

How to Avoid Overpaying for CPCs

It is incredibly easy to overpay for CPCs. Google has high interest in encouraging advertisers to spend more on a per click basis, so they design their product with this goal in mind. We must not only outsmart our competitors but outsmart Google themselves as they try to make us continuously increase our spend.

The Do’s & Don’ts of Bidding


  • Have a bid cap in mind that you will never go over, no matter what the platform is telling you. Your bid cap should depend on how much each keyword is worth at most for you.
  • Try to see what’s the absolute lowest you can possibly pay for a keyword for it to show up and raise bids slowly from there.
  • Tier your bidding based on match type and device. Exact match is the most valuable so as you go broader, reduce your bids. Desktop is usually the most profitable for most businesses, so it deserves the highest bids.


  • Always take the suggested first page bid.
  • Set your campaigns to maximize conversions.
  • Employ automated bidding strategies without training them manually first.
  • Set positive bid adjustments over 50%
  • Bid high on Broad match because it brings low-quality queries and low-quality leads.

The Results

If you follow the steps in this guide, you can certainly achieve results similar to what you see above. For this client, we lowered their average CPC from $12 to $5 on average and we eliminated excessively high CPCs such as $63 by being careful to never go above $20 for a single click.

Finding Cheaper Keyword Niches

Another thing to lookout for is traffic which is underpriced. Usually this is because it is not directly related to the programs that you offer but people who are searching this content can still be potentially interested in going to school.


  • Scholarship keywords are an excellent example of cheap traffic which can still matriculate students.
  • Scholarship related keywords are up to 10x cheaper than degree or program related keywords.
  • You can expect leads from scholarship traffic to be of much lower quality and have a lower CVR but if you can get leads at 1/7th or even 1/10th the cost of your regular leads it is worth looking into.

Standard Traffic

Scholarships Traffic

Comprehensive Geo Strategy

Utilizing geo locations more granularly can lead to very good results. This is especially true for schools and other education institutions which have a physical element to their business.

Focusing on the students closes to you

  • If you’re a school or university with physical classrooms you must pay attention to the potential students who are closest to your location.
  • The closer someone is to your campus, the higher the chance they will convert from lead to starting classes.
  • One way to do this is to breakout campaigns by geo radius around you and spend the most money on the campaigns which are targeting your surroundings.
  • As you go further away, you want to pay less per lead.
  • That way you’ll focus on the areas where you want to be most competitive relative to other advertisers.
Table of Contents
Get education digital marketing content straight to your inbox
Related Articles
Latest Podcasts

Subscribe to the Grow Enrollments Podcast