St. Joseph’s College

An innovative paid media & SEO program for higher ed

St. Joseph’s College, a top private liberal arts school in New York State with campuses in Long Island and Brooklyn, as well as online courses, came to Happy Cog for a complete marketing management program across multiple channels (paid search, paid social, display, and native ads), as well as organic SEO and analytics consulting. Their goal was to drive applications and enrollment for college classes and improve brand awareness both locally and regionally for its online programs.

Ask

Improve Efficiency, Generate Leads

As the coronavirus crisis impacts university enrollment targets, St. Joseph’s College was looking to develop an innovative and flexible paid media and SEO program to meet the evolving needs of the competitive market. The college needed to generate leads and applications for their online programs locally and regionally, while ultimately driving increased enrollments for both of its campuses. Partnering with Happy Cog, St. Joseph’s College set out to improve efficiency of its existing paid media programs, while developing a methodology for tracking ROI from paid media efforts which they were unable to do before.

Strategy

Thinking Beyond Search

In order to drive brand awareness, we needed to think beyond just search. While effective, it had been getting more expensive due to increased competition in this space. This insight enabled us to focus our paid search efforts on the keywords that were truly driving the most value. Our focused keyword research for St. Joseph’s programs gave us the ability to understand both how users are searching for them (to make keyword recommendations in copy) and to understand what programs are in-demand/most searched for within their geographic area. We then blended these learnings and insights in order to “double down” on the right keywords and phrases that were driving the most conversions. In addition, we needed to ensure that our analytics implementation could properly measure conversion activity and, ultimately, tie back to enrollments.

Process

Paid Search and SEO Revamped

We worked to completely reimplement Google Analytics via Google Tag Manager. In doing so, we set up cross-domain tracking to measure conversions on third-party applications, while building an attribution model to divide up credit between channels to better ascertain which channels were introducers, influencers and closers. Over 250 granular campaigns with hundreds of thousands of keyword phrases in Google Ads and Bing Ads were created, broken out by location/campus with an extremely tight keyword-to-ad breakout in order to increase quality score and drive down cost-per-clicks. This innovative approach led us to setting up a full funnel remarketing strategy across paid social, RTB display, and connected TV channels. 

For all digital campaigns, we implemented real-time bid and budget management algorithms to allocate budgets and set bids every 30 minutes, letting us take advantage of intraday changes in the landscape. Call tracking was integrated into the website to tie phone call activity back to digital campaigns to have a better handle on ROI. We also set up a special system to pass unique student identifiers from Slate CRM back into paid media conversion tracking, so that we could directly tie back enrollments (offline) to digital activity (online).

Results

Exceeding Enrollment Goals

Since adopting our paid search and SEO strategy, St. Joseph’s College was able to establish a true baseline to measure impact. This was crucial, as they were unable to properly track any key metrics prior to our work.

In year two and with ongoing optimizations, St. Joseph’s College saw a 12% increase in paid media clicks, with a 7% drop in average cost-per-click. They improved their conversion rate significantly by 33%, while seeing a 49% increase in overall conversions with a 22% drop in cost-per-action. As a result, St. Joseph’s College surpassed its enrollment goals for all three of its programs.