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PPC Strategies With a Limited Budget

Student learning about PPC strategies and marketing strategies for schools.

PPC Strategies: Go Wide, or Go Deep?

Pay-Per-Click (PPC) is without exception, the single fastest way to get directly in front of prospective parents who are looking for your school. However, it’s not without limitations and risks.

One of the biggest issues I see with poorly run PPC campaigns is under-budgeting. Sure, sometimes an overzealous marketer over bids past the point of diminishing returns, but face it, you…and everyone you know is trying to scrape by with less.

Assuming that budget is an issue (and it’s always an issue) you need to bid smart. You need to pony up with enough budget, and you’ve got to have realistic exceptions. With Googles latest move of removing the entire right side of the paid search listings (the sidebar) you need to bid enough to show up in the top 4 search results. Otherwise you get banished to the dungeon…the bottom of the search page where advertisements go to die.

So how do you parlay a finite budget into a profitable PPC campaign? Here’s a hint -you have to compromise. Yep, sorry to break it to you but you have two choices: go wide…or go deep.

It’s all about the eye balls

Pay-Per-Click is just what it sounds like. You pay every time someone clicks on your search ad on Google, and goes to your website. Understand that PPC is a competitive, real time market bid system. You are actually competing with other schools for that precious real estate on the Google search results page.

The more keywords you are bidding on, or the larger the geographic area (more competitors), the larger the budget that you need to be competitive. You’re going to get a finite amount of clicks before eventually depleting your budget.

Trying to bid on too many keywords across too big of an area dilutes your ability to compete consistently for each of those keywords. You either have to cut down on the keywords, or cut down on the area. In other words, go wide, or go deep…

Suppose you are a boarding school that also has a private day school for grades PK-12. You're located in Southern California, but you accept students from all over the country. You have several major categories (ad-groups) that you want to promote:

  • Boarding school
  • Private day school
  • Lower school
  • Upper school

Those categories add up to a lot of keywords spread across a lot of area. It would take a fortune to compete against all the other schools throughout all of Southern California and the boarding schools across the country. If you have a sufficient budget you could dominate the market, but that would be quite an investment. 

2 Strategies when you have a finite budget:

Suppose you identified your growth markets with the highest margins in the local area as private day high school and nationally as the boarding high school. Unfortunately you don’t have enough budget to bid on all those keywords for both markets. What do you do?

Scenario #1: Go Wide:

Perhaps you made the decision that you need expand your market and grow your boarding school nationally. You might opt to “go wide” by focusing your budget on just boarding high school and put the private day high school on hold for now (or just advertise locally). Because you are not diluting your budget across all those “Private Day School" keywords, you now have enough budget to bid higher and get top placement for the “Boarding School” keywords.

This strategy allows you to expand geographically while promoting your chosen high-margin growth market. You can then roll some ROI into promoting your next product(s) in this expanded area.

Scenario #2: Go Deep:

Suppose you’re committed to growing both the private day and boarding school and it's more important than geo-expansion. Then you might opt to run a balanced campaign that promotes both private day and boarding schools…but in a more localized, concentrated geographic area.

This strategy allows you to market both schools in a smaller, local area. You can then roll some ROI into expanding your geographic reach.

The key to parlaying a modest budget into an effective advertising campaign is to be strategic, patient, and to not bite off more than you can chew.

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