How Cardinal helped an Online University increase
their lead volume 39% month over month

Here are a few results of our treatment plan:

30% decrease in CPA for nursing campaigns
and 74% decrease for biblical studies campaigns

39% month-over-month increase in leads
for all social media campaigns

7% month-over-month increase in submissions across Google Search Ads and Microsoft Ads despite spending 27% less across these platforms

Drive 63% of total leads through high performing campaign creative and ongoing testing

Company Overview

A well-known university in Colorado that offers more than 100 degree programs for traditional and adult students through undergraduate and graduate paths. More than 8,000 students attend the university on the main campus, in regional centers throughout Colorado, and online. The university’s adult graduate studies school—the focus of Cardinal’s digital marketing programs—offers more than 80 undergraduate, graduate, and certificate program options, nearly all of which are available 100% online.

Problem

This university and Cardinal started their digital marketing partnership in January 2020. The primary objective of the partnership has been twofold:

1. Maximize brand visibility
2. Convert prospects in the consideration & evaluation phase of the sales funnel

To maximize visibility, the university relies on Cardinal to proactively generate awareness of both the university’s online brand, as well as the 10-20 individual programs, degrees, and certificates offered by the university at any given time. The initial goal of this engagement is to refresh marketing creative and account structure in order to drive more efficient lead generation.

The ultimate goal, however, will be to leverage media insights and optimizations, strong ad creative, and landing page optimization to convert leads to program “starts.” This is how Cardinal’s success will be measured: students that actually attend the courses they registered for and how effectively Cardinal can attract those students digitally.

The Solutions

the Solutions

Audit, restructure, relaunch

At the outset, Cardinal audited all digital marketing channels to a) advise on media investment allocations b) support special initiatives based on historical account data and, c) sunset old campaigns/creative and launch new ones.

Cardinal quickly identified the need to reconstruct account structure and make ad copy revisions at the program level. From there, the two teams agree on the need to implement a call tracking solution, develop new static and video assets for both online and target adult graduate programs, audit existing landing page structures and propose opportunities for enhancement, and acquire client data for audience modeling purposes. All of these responsibilities Cardinal executed and continues to manage on an ongoing basis.

Social Media

Social media strategy centered heavily around Facebook Ad campaigns. The top performing ad, which encouraged personal and professional growth, received 30% of QCFs for June. Cardinal also helped the university launch featured summer scholarship contest ad creative.

Social Media Marketing
The Scholarship Program

The scholarship campaign

Launched on Facebook, the summer scholarship campaign accounted for 19% of lead submissions in June, an extremely successful program. Cost per acquisition for this program was $18, far lower than the overall average $136, marking the programs strong targeting and efficiency. The scholarship ads were targeted toward audiences interested in Bethel Music, Christian music, and KLOVE.

The static ad with yellow text overlay (pictured below) accounted for 87% of the KLOVE campaign’s lead submissions.

Paid Search

Alongside new display ads and social media campaigns, Cardinal helped the university relaunch their pay per click (PPC) strategy. This included Google Search Ads and Microsoft Ads (Bing) for both branded and non-branded keywords driven by keyword-level optimizations, shifting budget for more efficient return on ad spend (ROAS), and the incorporation of in-market audiences. Given the success of the scholarship campaign, Cardinal also decided to target the branded scholarship keyword as part of its evergreen campaigns.

Paid Search
Display Advertising

Display Advertising

After auditing existing campaigns and sunsetting inefficient or low-performing display ads, the Cardinal team made comprehensive ad copy and creative revisions at the program level. This included the development of new static and video assets for display ads supporting online and target graduate programs, as well as conversion rate optimization (CRO) for campaign landing pages.

Testing and optimization of campaign creative

Alongside testing blue and yellow contrasting colors for image text, we also tested succinct messaging across image and video assets. We also tested the promotion of evergreen pages, such as financial aid and other scholarship opportunities.

The top performing ads included “Female Brunette Smile,” “Bowtie Integrate Faith,” and “Bowtie Integrate Faith.” Combined, these three ads were responsible for 63% of total leads for this campaign.

Testing Optimization

Outcomes

On both Google and Facebook, education-based campaigns proved to be the most efficient overall.
Month-over-month, CPAs fell 30% for nursing campaigns, 74% for biblical studies campaigns, and 30% across more general campaigns.

In terms of social media campaigns, Cardinal was able to drive a 39% month-over-month increase in leads, a 19% decrease in CPA, and a 6% increase in click through rate (CTR). The summer scholarship contest campaign accounted for 19% of lead submissions in June. And distribution of spend between channels was nearly perfect in driving maximum conversion volume: Facebook campaigns, for example, received 62% of media investment and drove 62% of lead submissions.

Paid search and display ads were similarly efficient. June saw a 7% month-over-month increase in lead submissions across Google Search Ads and Microsoft Ads (Bing), despite spending 27% less across these platforms. Across the board, display advertising campaigns were 66% more efficient month-over-month, with a heavy focus on remarketing.

decrease in cost per lead

increase in lead volume

less spent across digital media

more leads

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