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Paid Media

Rush University

Rush University logo


Leveraging Highly Targeted Paid Media Campaigns to Drive More Traffic and Applications

Rush University is a private health sciences institution based in the Illinois Medical District near Chicago’s Loop. With degree and certification offers spanning over 40 programs, Marcel Digital leveraged paid media channels to drive more registrations and applicants to specific programs while also lowering costs.

Decrease in cost per conversion
Increase in conversion rate

The Challenge

The paid media experts at Marcel Digital saw an opportunity when it came to driving more traffic and conversions to the Rush University website from paid search efforts. In 2018, we noticed that our cost per conversion (CPC) was rising compared to 2017, mainly due to the College of Nursing campaign seeing an uptick in competition.

Beyond the rise in competition, conversions (sign ups for program information) were moving in the wrong direction, decreasing year over year. We knew in 2019 that we would need to adjust, but we wanted to do so in a big way. Our goal? Increase conversions while lowering costs - lower than what we have seen in all previous years - all while working with the same budget.

The Analysis

We got to work analyzing the previous year's efforts and keyword data. We knew that we would have to start from the top-down, focusing on the keywords we were targeting, the ad copy we would use, the landing pages we would develop, and calls to action that would ultimately convince users to reach out for program information. We would also need to look at what channels we would leverage to assist in increasing conversions and lowering CPC.

We first found that our keyword selection was broad in our campaigns, leading to more clicks from unqualified users. Since our keywords weren't as targeted as they could be, this also meant the ad copy and landing pages we developed weren't as targeted as well, which would ultimately result in fewer sign-ups and conversions.

Beyond all of this, we also began researching different paid media outlets beyond paid search. As prospects for Rush University tend to spend time on social media, we also began researching different paid social ad opportunities, including Facebook and LinkedIn. These channels would be incorporated into our ongoing strategy.

The Solution

In 2019, we hit the ground running and completely revamped our entire paid media strategy. We deep dove Rush University's Google Ads, revamping their accounts and expanding their branded campaigns mid-year, launching a top program campaign that drove users to various colleges, including:

These new ads focused copy on the colleges themselves, leveraging data and benefit points to grab the user's attention and get them to click through.

With tighter-knit ad groups, refreshes in ad copy, and exploring different ad types (including responsive paid search ads), our results began to show more success. We also began leveraging and targeting different audiences on Facebook and LinkedIn to increase brand awareness of Rush University and it's programs. We also leveraged testing functionalities in social to continue to drive additional conversions at a low cost.

The Results

Without changing Rush's budget for search, we were able to accomplish an 80% decrease in cost per conversion from 2018 to 2019, a 468% increase in conversion rate, and a 49% lift in click-through rate. These are a testament to not only restructuring campaigns with highly targeted ad groups, more appealing ad copy, ad types, and landing page testing, as well as day-to-day optimizations (SQR and bid adjustments), but the foresight and rigorous research that went into the new strategy.

The College of Nursing cost of conversion particularly benefited from our strategy:

  • 2018 - $206.28
  • 2019 - $40.53

By leveraging the different audiences on Facebook and LinkedIn and conducting testing across targeting and ad copy, we were also able to increase the brand awareness of Rush University as well as drive additional conversions at a low cost. These tactics resulted in Marcel being able to drive 10,619 new users to the Rush University website and their colleges.

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