Due to recent declines in University of Idaho student enrollment, the University Communications and Marketing team paired with Google to attract attention to UI with strategically placed Internet advertisements, said Senior Director of Marketing Chris Cooney.
“Google approached us last summer,” Cooney said. “They offered three months of free consulting, free strategic consulting as well as the buying of the placements and the ability to adjust the campaign as it ran for the three month duration.”
Known as the “Google Campaign,” the six-week endeavor took place from Sept.15 to Oct. 28. Cooney said the marketing campaign targeted seven Northwestern states and focused on placing display ads on Google’s website and a video ad on YouTube, as well as increasing the chance uidaho.edu would pop up in Google searches.
Cooney said Google’s partnership is appealing to universities, because of its capability to reach out to specific audiences by considering browsing history when placing advertisements.
“One of the things that Google can do is target very specifically as far as interests,” Cooney said. “So if someone’s interested in say, law, we can target a campaign specifically to those interested in law. Those who have maybe searched ‘law’ or ‘law school’ through Google, for example, could easily see a UI law advertisement with this technology.”
The campaign sought to generate traffic on UI’s website as a whole, instead of individually targeting different areas of study.
“The degree finder was the landing page for this campaign,” Cooney said. “So if someone was responding to this campaign and they clicked on one of the ads, where they would end up is degree finder, then they could search for their interests there.”
The campaign yielded 12,627 website visitors in the six-week period and 76 percent of them were first-time visitors to the UI website. Additionally, since the campaign launch in September, there has been a 438 percent increase in requests for information via the website.
“I would say that that’s a greater response than we were hoping for,” Cooney said.
The advertisements used in the campaign were “visually appealing and clearly showed expectations,” Cooney said.
The display ads used colorful images of students engaging in activities accompanied by the UI logo, a strong verb and a link reading “Find Your Degree.”
Director of Integrated Communications Stephany Bales said the YouTube video ads also yielded success. There were 200,685 views during the six-week campaign with the cost of 13 cents per view — UI was only charged if the 30-second ad was viewed in its entirety.
Cooney said one of the most noticeable benefits of the campaign was affordability. In a world where university marketing campaigns can cost several hundred thousand dollars, only $40,000 was spent on the advertising produced from the campaign, he said.
“That’s keeping in mind those are the placement costs for the Google ad words, the display and also the YouTube. We didn’t really pay for anything else,” Cooney said. “That is very affordable, and one of the things that we got along with this was the training from the Google team for our internal team. So, in the future if we choose to do something like this again, one of the things that is going to make it affordable is that our team now has gained that expertise, all of this can be done internally now.”
Cooney said the preliminary findings of the success of the Google Campaign would likely be indisputable when discussing future efforts in university outreach, particularly for more targeted campaigns.
“We’re continually working with the University Enrollment Management and we’ve been discussing the Google Campaign with them for some time,” Cooney said. “I think in the future, if we decide to, we can use a similar way of marketing to contribute to enrollment efforts.”
Amber Emery can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org