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Branded Terms Drove Paid Search Clicks in 2015

March 15, 2016 Kathy Bryan

Although non-branded terms made up the majority of impressions in 2015, branded terms drove the bulk of the clicks due to their higher click-through rates (CTRs), according to our Paid Search Benchmarking for Higher Education report for 2015. Branded terms have lower costs per click (CPCs) than non-branded terms. As a result, despite generating 60% of all clicks, branded terms only made up 19% of all paid search spend. Branded terms also delivered more leads and enrollments than non-branded terms.

In an effort to maximize branded campaigns, paid search marketers are becoming more aggressive. Branded impressions increased significantly in the second half of 2015, compared to the second half of 2014, as a result.

Online Program Campaigns Cost More and Deliver Less

The average CPC for online program campaigns was 73.5% higher than the average CPC for campus-based campaigns in 2015. At the same time, the CTR was lower for the online program campaigns, resulting in a cost per inquiry (CPI) for form inquiries that was 265.6% higher than that for campus-based campaigns.

This clearly reflects the overall higher education marketplace. The online program space continues to be highly competitive, requiring more aggressive spending to deliver growing lead volume.

Mobile Devices Resulted in the Greatest Share of Leads, but Lead-to-Enroll Rates Fall Short

Although desktop computers generated the majority of impressions in 2015, mobile devices drove inquiry generation. Leads from mobile campaigns also averaged the lowest CPI — 14.4% lower than the CPI for desktop campaigns. However, they didn’t convert as well. For campus-based programs, the mobile lead-to-enroll rate for form leads was 10% compared to the 11% rate for desktop campaigns. And for online programs, it was only 8% compared to the 13% rate for desktop campaigns

More Branded, Campus-Based and Mobile Volume Expected in 2016

With search competition continuing to grow, marketers are doing what they can to generate more inquiries while controlling their media spend. As a result, we anticipate more aggressive practices to be implemented for branded campaigns, which drive lower cost leads. Pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns promoting campus-based programs typically have lower CPCs and CPIs than online-based programs, so we anticipate growth for campus-based campaigns as well. Lastly, despite the lagging lead-to-enroll rates, we foresee growth in mobile campaigns as mobile adoption continues across all marketing channels.

Click here to download the full Paid Search Benchmarking for Higher Education report for 2015.

About the Author

Kathy Bryan

Kathy Bryan is the Senior Vice President of Corporate Marketing and Communications at Digital Media Solutions (DMS), the fastest-growing independent digital performance marketing company. In this role, Kathy is responsible for all aspects of marketing and communications for DMS and its subsidiary brands. Since its inception, DMS has evolved into an award-winning, full-service performance marketing company demonstrating incredible year-over-year growth which has earned recognition on the Inc. 5000 list in 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018.

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