Google AdWords Cheat Sheet for the Education Industry

When it comes to paid search, the education industry is one of the most competitive markets.  With national and international players competing for top spots, the average cost-per click can exceed $100, and daily advertising spend exceeds most middle-class salaries.  Given the stratospheric costs, optimizing school ad copy has become more important than ever.  Below you will find some of the tips and tricks that work toward this goal.


With new higher-education providers popping up all over the nation, most potential students are looking for schools of the highest quality.  If you are an accredited university, it is incredibly important to relay this to potential students, especially if a user is searching for “accredited” terms.  This need can easily be met by having ad groups strictly dedicated to accredited keywords and ad copy.

Online Options

Users who are considering going to college/university for the first time, finishing a degree they have started elsewhere, or going back for graduate programs will consider online schooling at some point in their decision-making process.  If your school offers online courses. make sure featuring them is part of your strategy and that they are prevalent in your ads and keyword choices.

Affordable Education

One of the most common questions that students will ask themselves before deciding to go to school is “Can I afford it?”  Student loan debt is higher than ever before, and potential students are now savvy enough to shop around for their education instead of rushing into a decision.  Conveying the affordability of your school is a great way to attract prospects; making tuition rates, fees, and financial aid information easily  accessible will serve your audience well.


The call-to-action (CTA) and deadlines section could be a blog post of its own due to how important these items are for ad copy.  The user needs to be aware of what the next step should be, whether that is to enroll now, get more information, contact an adviser, etc.  Enrollment deadlines are also important when it comes to school ads.  I have seen mixed results when testing the CTA “Classes Will Be Starting Soon” vs. “Classes Will Start August 1st.” Run tests to see which works best for you.

Official Sites and Trademarks

Due to the high competition for students, your rivals would love nothing more than to steal your conversions, especially on branded traffic.  I have always found that using registered trademarks and the term “official site” in the ad copy helps improve credibility and increase your click-thru rate.


The main reason to go back to school, other than keeping your parents off your back, is to provide a better life for yourself and/or your family.  Appealing to users at this level can be very beneficial by reaffirming their intentions.

Display URL Specificity

The use of display URLs is often overlooked, but getting these right can increase the credibility and click-thru-rate of your ads.  The more relevant your ad is to the user’s search, the more likely it will bring qualified traffic to your site.

While this list is not meant to be all-encompassing, keeping these ideas in mind can enhance your initial or revised ad copy.  Even though ad copy is only one aspect to consider when managing a paid search campaign, it is one of the most important, and I hope that these tips helped.

To stay up-to-date on the latest education marketing tips and news, follow me on Twitter at @noahbrooks, and stay tuned to Fathom’s blog.


Check out Fathom’s 30-pg. Ultimate Guide to Marketing an Educational Institution with Social Media. It’s full of insightful interviews and illustrative case studies on using Twitter, Facebook and YouTube for marketing a school.

Social Media 101 for Schools

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