case study

overcoming an application deficit

combatting competitor conquesting while engaging prospective students

Heading into deposit season, a Michigan-based university was facing an application deficit. At the same time, they were facing heavy competitor conquesting of their brand name and application-driving keywords from universities looking to poach potential applicants. Our partners asked us to support a concerted effort to increase the number of applications so their admissions team could nurture these prospective students to deposit and ultimately enroll. 

The strategy we recommended was two-fold: 

  • Encourage high-value audiences to apply with a multi-channel campaign spanning paid search, display, and paid social media. We targeted: 
    • Abandoned applications: Individuals who started applications but did not complete them.
    • Prospective transfers: Potential students and parents in targeted transfer counties and in proximity to community colleges. 
    • Prospective applicants: Parents and prospective students in target counties in-market for education. 
  • Combat competitor conquesting to protect the university’s brand name and capture related impression volume through focused paid search efforts. 


Over a three-month period, we drove an incremental 1,179 applications to close the year-over-year gap. Efforts to drive transfer applications were especially strong; our campaigns provided a 17% lift to submitted transfer applications compared to the previous year. 

Furthermore, impression share for branded paid search and application terms increased from 59% to 92% at the height of the campaign, effectively protecting the brand from competitor conquesting campaigns and ensuring our cross-channel efforts yielded the greatest return possible.