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Google Says It's Time for Higher Ed to Say Farewell to Disruptive Ads - Or Else Pay the Price

Posted By Zach Busekrus on 6/24/15 12:20 PM

Read Time: 3 Minutes


You know what’s fascinating to me?

Even though you are more likely to complete Navy SEAL training than click a banner ad, more likely to get into MIT than click a banner ad, and more likely to survive a plane crash than click a banner ad, enrollment marketers still LOVE — and spend tens of thousands of dollars every year on — banner ads!

I’m not exactly sure how they did it, but somehow, someone somewhere convinced your marketing and communications team that banner ads, tile ads, and other forms of disruptive paid ads would generate more applicants for your institution.

Let’s be honest: we were all oversold on the importance of paid ads. We were told that “ad impressions” were highly valuable, built brand awareness, and were the best way to get new prospects to our websites.

But here’s the reality: you ignore paid ads, I ignore paid ads, and most importantly, your prospects ignore paid ads—think about it: when was the last time you clicked on a paid ad while reading a blog post or news article?!

Now enter Google’s latest update to their Panda algorithms — known as the Quality Update — which is officially changing the game when it comes to the value of disruptive digital ads.

What does this mean for you?

People Hate Disruptive Ads, So Google Hates Disruptive Ads 

Remember how that Joe Schmo recommended you spend 50k in digital ads to promote your graduate school programs? Well, as it turns out, excessive and disruptive ads (things like pop-ups, tiles ads, banner ads, and so on) annoy visitors. And because they annoy visitors, they now really annoy Google.

This means that the website you placed the banner ad on promoting your education program will now be “pushed down” in priority on Google’s totem pole making it even hard for users to land on the website, let alone have the opportunity to even consider clicking on your ad… or contemplate becoming a Navy SEAL.

Takeaway #1: Unless done in a very intentional and strategic way, placing paid ads on various websites to promote your institution’s programs is a waste of your marketing budget.

People Crave Quality Content

Google recently confirmed a new update to its algorithm called the “Quality Update.” In essence, this update is Google’s latest effort to provide its searchers with content that is highly relevant, helpful, and educational. Google has decided to reward sites — by increasing their SEO rankings — that are focused on improving the user experience by regularly publishing quality and original content.

Takeaway #2: Google does decide how to rank your site based on how optimized, relevant, and shareable your website content is. (Hint: My Organic Search big brother can beat up your PPC honor student any day!)

People Want to Find Information Easily

We’ve all been frustrated at Google at one point in time — or if you’re at all like me, at many points in time — when we can’t find the information we want in a timely fashion. Google wants its users to be able to find quality answers to their questions as fast as possible. Sites that aren’t content optimized, are full of broken links, and are 404-error-prolific will now suffer when it comes to SEO.

Google’s bots want to see your site transform into a user-friendly content resource that is mobile optimized, easy to navigate, and proficiently answers searchers’ questions and solves their problems.

Takeaway #3: Your institution’s website needs to be intentionally mapped out, provide relevant and variable content to awebsite visitor, and become known as a creative thought leader if you want Google to favor you.

If you take a step back from all of this, you’d have to agree that it makes sense, right? I mean, if you hate banner ads, long for content that is actually good, and get frustrated by difficult-to-navigate sites, why would your prospective students be any different?

I’d like to suggest that the real reason we spend so much money on paid ads, SEO bump-ups, and PPC is because we either feel like there is no other choice — everyone’s doing it, so therefore we have to — or because we don’t know the benefit of content marketing because we aren’t actually measuring it properly.

Wherever you might fall on the aforementioned spectrum, the reality is that as technology continues to rapidly and drastically change the way the information world works, the way in which we market to prospects must adapt to that change.

It’s time for enrollment managers to augment their student recruitment tactics with an inbound marketing strategy. Right now Google is the big kid on the block, and as challenging as it might be at times, you’ve got to play by the big kid’s rules if you want to stay in the game.

If Google says it’s time to divorce ourselves from generic paid advertisements and get together with content marketing instead, I’d say it’s time to make an appointment with the judge — or in this case, your marketing and communications director.

Interested in learning more about how to augment your recruitment strategy with Inbound Marketing? Download some of our free resources!

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Topics: Higher Education, Higher Ed Marketing, Enrollment Marketing

About the Higher Ed Marketer

This blog is dedicated to sharing best practices, trends and case studies for the marketing of higher education. Our content is developed out of our partnerships with both undergraduate and graduate enrollment management professionals, as well as those who specialize in higher ed marketing and communications designed for student recruitment.

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