Having the right account structure and optimizing your campaigns accordingly is extremely important. However, the key is not to optimize everything, but to optimize the right things. This article will talk about what KPIs we should be looking at when making strategic decisions and allocating budgets. In order to do that, we must first have proper tracking in place, which you can learn more about in two previous articles we’ve published:
- The Education Industry Guide to Granular PPC Lead Tracking
- The Education Industry to Google Ads & Microsoft Conversion Set Up
We’ll call Alpha KPIs the things that any education institution can’t do without: students who pay for tuition and classes. At the end of the day, “school starts” or “enrollments” are your most important KPIs. Sometimes, institutions forget to optimize towards them directly because they’re only focusing on lower level KPIs. In order to properly optimize towards these KPIs, it is important that you have granular level tracking installed such as keyword tracking. You can find out more about how to do this here. The problem with optimizing for these KPIs is that it takes a very long time for the data to materialize and the sample size is very small relative to the overall lead pool. It is not uncommon for a lead to take up to 2 years or longer to matriculate. On average, only about 33% of school starts come from leads that are less than one year old. This is why it only makes sense to do a deep dive into this KPI on a quarterly or even yearly basis.
Top Priority KPIs
Here, we have the KPIs that you should be looking at on your monthly and quarterly reports. These KPIs offer a glimpse of which leads have a relatively high likelihood to convert into students. We’re talking about funnel steps such as:
- Submitted Applications
If you are only optimizing based on your CPL and don’t have a goal for cost per submitted application, we advise that you do the math on this and base your campaign efficiency goal on this metric. This is, of course, something else we have extensive experience in helping with.
Mid Priority KPIs
Here we have KPIs that should be looked at on a daily basis and in weekly reports. They’re relatively quick to turn around and the sample size is big enough to analyze on a small time frame.
- Started Applications
- Back-End Leads
Leads that you’ve actually recorded in your CRM are the bread and butter of most schools’ marketing initiatives. They’re good to optimize towards regularly. It is advised to have more than 1 CPL goal rather than a holistic goal for the whole account. This is because different categories of leads convert at different rates, so they should be worth different amounts of money to you. You can read more about this segmentation by CPL and lead quality here.
Low Priority KPIs
These KPIs should only be looked at by your marketing team or digital marketing agencies that you’re working with. They serve the purpose of day-to-day optimizations inside the ad platforms but should not be looked at with superiors on reporting calls.
- Impression Share (mostly for branded)
Conversions are the main KPI to optimize towards but they often don’t reflect the CRM data 1-to-1, which is why they shouldn’t be used for reports. Impression share is most important to account for when optimizing branded traffic. You want to make sure that you’re not losing out on too much of it but it is also not necessary to max it out since that can lead to wasteful spending. CPC is the primary tool good managers use to achieve real results. After all, it is the first thing that happens in the funnel: The user clicks your ad. It is also very important that you get a good deal on the cost of that click. Overpaying for clicks is an easy way to waste marketing spend.
What NOT to Optimize
Finally, we’ll mention a few KPIs that probably don’t deserve your attention but some schools disagree. These KPIs simply do not have a direct correlation to your Alpha KPI – school starts.
- Ad Position
These KPIs should be looked at as byproducts of your actual digital marketing strategy. However, it’s worth noting that at a very large scale, they could act as a last level of optimization or be used for awareness campaigns if you have leftover budget. But unless you’re NYU or something of that size, these KPIs probably shouldn’t matter to you when it comes to pure performance marketing.
It’s important to keep your eyes on the prize that brings you business and then go down the list of priorities to find leads that can potentially bring you even more. But you can’t only focus on the leads with the highest likelihood of achieving school starts because in the education industry, these leads are few and far between compared to the entire lead pool. Furthermore, the leads that ultimately matriculate take a long time to “cook.” Hence, you must continue going down the list of priorities and optimize the lower level leads as well.
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