The 2023 US Search Awards shortlisted digital marketing agency Search Influence for the category “Best Use of Search.”
On behalf of our entire team, we’re thrilled to be recognized alongside other industry experts for our work with the Tulane School of Professional Advancement (SoPA).
A Partnership Reaches New Heights
Since 2017, Search Influence has partnered with New Orleans-based university Tulane SoPA to improve its search engine visibility and drive qualified inquiries to their programs.
Throughout our partnership, we’ve helped drive enrollment across the board with a suite of digital marketing strategies, including:
- Search engine optimization
- Paid digital ads
- Email marketing
As one of our longest-tenured clients, we’ve had six years to see the university expand their reach, attract more prospects, and increase applications for everything from their bachelor’s degrees to their master’s programs and graduate certificates.
The partnership’s latest success is the 2022-2023 Google paid search campaign promoting graduate programs.
A Results-Driven Digital Marketing Campaign
In 2022, Tulane SoPA came to us with a new goal: increase enrollment for their master’s degrees.
After completing external research, our team identified an underleveraged opportunity. To reach prospective students, we’d first need to highlight the university’s graduate certificates. This untapped strategic move was inspired by data from a trusted industry association, UPCEA, that outlined the importance of communicating graduate certificate options to potential master’s students.
UPCEA’s data showed that the demand for online certificates had increased. Stackable credentials are better connected to the workforce, and students want applicable on-the-job skills quicker than ever before.
To truly win their attention and application, our strategy needed to meet what the modern-day learner is looking for.
Tulane SoPA offers stackable credentials through graduate certificates with 4-course, low-commitment online sessions. Credits earned in each certificate can be applied towards a master’s degree.
Our goal was to increase conversions for these graduate certificates, as they directly fuel the pipeline for master’s degree enrollment in the long term. We dedicated budget to capture “certificate” searchers, in addition to demonstrating the ease of certificates as a means to earn a master’s.
We moved forward with a Google paid search campaign, with the target of delivering 270 conversions from certificate-relevant keywords between July 2022 and January 2023.
This was based on a conservative estimated conversion rate of 4.5%.
In our approach, we promoted each of the following graduate certificates:
- Graduate Certificate in Sports Medicine
- Graduate Certificates in Cybersecurity
- Cyber Tech Fundamentals
- Cyber Defense
- Cyber Leadership
- Graduate Certificate in IT Management
- Data Science & Cloud
- Technology Architecture
- IT Strategic Planning
We targeted non-traditional learners — ones who already have a bachelor’s degree, are typically employed full-time, and are looking to advance their careers or enter a new field.
Equipped with Tulane SoPA’s demographic information, we found that the student population skewed younger each year, most often between the ages of 25-30 and 35-40.
This meant that reaching the ideal prospective student would need to begin with digital advertising, specifically search.
And, the creative would need to be tailored to this new young adult learner.
The creative of any ad, specifically the messaging, drives its performance.
To improve the ads’ click-through rates, our creative emphasized Tulane SoPA’s distinct qualities and their core audience’s main interests. In addition to demonstrating the snackable, stackable nature of the graduate certificates, we also included key messaging such as:
- “Engaging online coursework rooted in real-world scenarios”
- “Award-winning programs”
- “Faculty who practice what they teach”
- “Trusted professional education for industry leaders by industry leaders”
We also updated the corresponding master’s degree landing pages to garner further interest. Our optimizations included emphasizing the graduate certificates by name and topic, as well as making them more approachable for working adults looking to obtain their master’s.
By using the specific names of the certificates in our ads and bidding on keywords with a clear intent to pursue a certificate rather than a master’s degree, we were able to narrow our focus to a more niche and qualified target audience.
This level of attention, coupled with such a targeted strategy, led to results that exceeded all expectations set at the start of the campaign.
- Primary result: The strategy delivered 303 total conversions, compared to our goal of 270.
- Additional wins: In January 2023, graduate certificate inquiries increased to 111 from 30 at the time of January 2022. One month later, in February 2023, Summer term enrollment for graduate certificates continued to grow to 160 total inquiries, with 81% of those considered qualified applicants. In addition, Google Paid Search “certificate” keywords had a higher conversion rate at 7.99%, compared to 3.57% for all keywords.
This strategy is part of a paid search campaign that consistently beats industry benchmarks for cost per inquiry. (The CPI was $128 during this time period, compared to industry benchmarks of $200-$300).
Even with such a well-performing campaign, our team advocated to add budget to pursue a graduate-specific strategy.
The end result was incredibly rewarding. We walked away having successfully carried an industry insight into keyword targeting, which in turn drove conversions from the target audience.
“After working closely with SoPA for 6+ years, it’s an honor to be recognized for our efforts to drive down the cost per inquiry,” said Alison Zeringue, Director of Account Management at Search Influence. “We test various micro- and macro-level adjustments, and love to celebrate when the results beat our goal. This new campaign initiative was critical to meet the needs of what students are looking for today.”
Our Experience in Higher Education Digital Marketing
Higher education digital marketing is one of the many cornerstones of our work at Search Influence.
As a Platinum Partner of UPCEA, the leading association for professional, continuing, and online (PCO) education, we’ve helped higher ed institutions across the nation optimize their SEO and paid search strategies.
From our 2023 Higher Ed SEO Research Study to our live webinars discussing industry insights, we aim to support colleges and universities wherever they are in their path to a comprehensive digital marketing strategy.
Search Influence: Optimizing Potential for Almost 20 Years
Armored with strong company values, our team takes pride in helping all higher education institutions that we work with optimize their potential, finding our own success in their success.
“At Search Influence, we’ve worked in higher education for over 10 years. Our partnership with Tulane SoPA is especially gratifying since they’re not just a client, they’re our neighbor, and, for many of our team, our alma mater,” said Angie Scott, Search Influence COO. “As an agency, they’re a great client. They are great collaborators, they know the importance of marketing, and they’re not afraid to try new things. We look forward to a continuing — hopefully award-winning — collaboration for years to come.“