Academic Ads Bring Industry-Leading Results

Ads were launched on Google and Facebook to attract new applicants to graduate sustainability degree programs.

My Role

I designed, developed, strategized, and implemented the ads, analytics, and website improvements to make this project happen.

Ad Design & Setup

I created HTML5 and text ads for Google, as well as image ads for Facebook, and targeted strategic marketing and remarketing audiences.

Lead Collection

I created a landing page for each degree program with content written to sell and a form to collect interested leads.

Lead Cultivation

I developed a process for lead outreach and tracking via Zoho CRM with targeted messaging to encourage application  throughout the customer journey.

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Animated, static, and text ads were created focusing on buzzwords I had learned through surveys were of high interest to those looking to study sustainability. Search ads were targeted toward keywords using a range of similar terms. Audiences were narrowed to specific countries we had had the most success recruiting from. In addition, display ads were targeted to visitors of “similar sites”, which were landing pages to comparative degree programs I had identified. On Facebook, we created similar audiences from a list of past students and applicants, narrowed by age, location, and education level. The goal was to get the best results possible within the limits of our low budget.


Remarketing ads were targeted to those who had engaged in some way, such as likes and comments on Facebook, completion of our conversion form, or spending more than 1.5 minutes on our landing pages. In addition, we sent emails to collected leads through our CRM answering common questions and extending offers to encourage leads to apply.


In addition to the results above, we saw a 95 percent increase in visits to our website, a surge of visits that put our small degree programs’ landing pages into the top five most-visited pages on the university website and skyrocketed search rankings for our three degree programs to pages 1, 3, and 4 in Google. Our Facebook page also saw an 81 percent increase in followers during the run of these ads, and new social media content capitalized on this growth to also increase our engagement and conversion. Where the education industry standards were a $0.47 CPC and 0.50% conversion rate, we saw a CPC of $0.16 and conversion rate of 3.82%.

Our conversions, which were tracked when the website form was filled out by prospects requesting more information about a program, were not the end of the story, of course, and this was where we discovered room for improvement. While we were seeing a great deal of interest in our programs, we weren’t seeing the increase in applications we expected. I traced the customer journey down the line and discovered that our handling of prospect questions (essentially customer service) was neither thorough nor timely, leaving cultivated leads without answers to important questions. This led me to completely revamp our process for handling these inquiries, establishing a system for categorizing and prioritizing and bringing three different departments together to work in collaboration, ultimately leading to a large rise in lead-to-application conversions.

How It Proves My Value

I think this project best showcases my ability to strategize, and to pivot that strategy as necessary while looking at the big picture. With a very low budget and a long customer journey (6-12 months), it was important to be highly targeted in our audience selection and extremely thorough in our remarketing as prospects made their decision. In addition, I looked not only at our lead conversions but at the bigger picture of applications and matriculations; and when those numbers weren’t where they should be, I looked outside the purview of marketing to discover why and fix the problem.