June 25, 2019

The Importance of “Near Me” In Higher Ed PPC

The way prospective students make higher ed decisions is constantly evolving, especially when it comes to how they search for a school or program. The biggest driver of that change comes from the device potential students use. Across all industries, search queries on mobile now dominate those on desktop in terms of volume. And a large number of mobile queries are now focused on local searches.

This trend is nothing new to verticals such as shopping or tourism. Curious consumers have long been searching for stores and deals nearby, and local restaurant reviews all from their phone. Schools looking to get noticed by the next generation of prospects are already behind enrollment opportunities if they haven’t adapted for this change, starting with local search permutations in paid search keyword build-outs. No single local phrase is as important to these targeting efforts as “near me.”

According to recent studies, 82% of users who shop or do research on their mobile phones use “near me” in searches.

Again, it’s easy to see how this may be the case for things like retail. But the trend is just as prevalent in higher education. Remember, 73% of students attend a school in their home state. Prospects looking for the right program or fit are more increasingly focused on finding it near them, and are saying just as much in their search queries.

By building out your current keywords to also include “near me,” creating new long-tail keywords, you can target a more specific type of prospect making a more specific query. This can help lower bid costs compared to the broader searches that are already being targeted. More importantly, it can help ads tap into that fact that the majority of students stay close to home, making your marketing budget go further to drive enrollment. Here are just a few places to get started in reaching local “near me” prospect searchers:

  • Updated messaging – highlight location or the ease of access for the campus or local student body.
  • Location extensions – link your school’s campus information to Google for increased visibility.
  • Landing pages – make sure you’re driving prospects to information that reflects their interest in the area they’re searching to encourage inquiries.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, because the increase in “near me” searches is growing that quickly.

To truly understand the growth and importance being placed on “near me” search queries, Statwax evaluated its largest higher ed paid search accounts.

We found that “near me” queries increased by 99% year-over-year, whether they were already being targeted or just triggering broader keywords. These “near me” queries produced nearly 5% of all paid search clicks in these higher ed accounts, at nearly triple the click-through-rate of non “near me” queries.

It’s one thing to see search volume increase so quickly. But for engagement to nearly triple simply by calling out local factors and playing into the local aspect is strong evidence that more targeting needs to be done around the “near me” movement.

If you haven’t adjusted your higher ed PPC strategy for “near me” searches, you’re already missing opportunities to create a more relevant experience for prospective students, and in turn, to drive them toward enrollment at lower costs.

Want to take advantage of the huge increase in location searches for your school, but don’t know where to start? Get in touch with our data scientists, we’d love to help.

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