Higher Ed. Digital Advertising: An Evolving Environment

What do all these digital advertising terms mean for Admissions?


Understanding the complexities and options of digital marketing can be a daunting task. PS&L presents a glossary of digital advertising terms to help understand how these tools can support enrollment marketing.
digital advertisingWhat it does: Target a specific geographic area, as small as 100 meters. Digital ads are then served to any person that enters the defined area. The perimeter can be as narrow as a street address or as wide as a 10-mile radius. This allows you to target qualified students based on a physical location, a competitor’s location, or places where prospects are likely to be.  
How you can use it: Geo-fence local community or junior colleges to recruit transfer students.


What it does: Delivers ads to prospects within a specific location – down to the zip code level – based on their device’s registered IP address (not the geographic location of the IP device). Deliver ads to prospects residing within target geographic areas regardless of if they are physically within the area.
How you can use it: Promote your school’s honors program to zip codes matching historical enrollment data and demographic characteristics.


IP Prospecting
What it does: Matches a physical (street) address to IP addresses within that location and delivers digital ads to devices registered to that location.
How you can use it: Support a traditional direct mail search campaign with digital ads delivered to the same households, at the same time brochures are arriving in the mailbox.


Website Retargeting
What it does: Send digital ads to prospects that have visited your college website without inquiring. Website Retargeting is a great way to reach the 98% who visit a site and leave without further engagement. It keeps your college top of mind and provides an easy way for prospects to navigate back to your site. Any page on your website can utilize retargeting, for example: deliver biology digital ads to those prospects who visited the biology program detail page on your website.
How you can use it: Serve ads promoting “Apply Now” to those who have visited the admissions section on your website but have not applied.


Search Retargetingdigital advertising
What it does: Delivers digital ads based on a prospective student’s search history on Google, Bing, etc. If their search matches your predetermined keywords (colleges in Austin, STEM programs, etc.) your college’s digital ad will be delivered across an ad display network, containing thousands of popular websites. Search retargeting can be confined to a specific geographic area.
How you can use it: It provides an excellent opportunity to engage prospective students early in the college search process as they first begin to search for college and academic options.


Keyword Contextual Targeting
What it does: Serves ads via display networks based on the content prospective students are reading online. 
How you can use it: A prospective graduate student is reading an article about “How to Get Ahead in Business” and it contains content regarding the value of an MBA degree. Based on that MBA content, you can serve digital ads across thousands of websites to promote your graduate education programs to that same prospective student.


Facebook Newsfeed Ads
What it does: Leverages the power of Facebook. Place ads on prospective students’ Facebook Newsfeed, the main page that display’s users’ daily posts. The ads can be targeted to Facebook users based on their likes and interests as well as their search history and geographic location.
How you can use it: Target Master of Science in Nursing prospects by identifying nurses through their Facebook profile.


How do these very different strategies work together? What should priorities be? Implementing some of these tactics can be complicated, but you don’t have to go it alone. It is a good time to call in the experts.
With 31 years of experience, PS&L knows what it takes to develop successful traditional and digital media strategies. Visit for more information or contact our Manager of Business Development, Janet Sieff at [email protected], 412-904-3133.
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Amanda Porraspita,

Amanda Porraspita is a skilled market research analyst with a strong background in data analysis researching. At PS&L , Amanda compiles and presents data for academic research projects including feasibility studies, imaging and perception research, branding and positioning studies, and website assessment projects. Amanda also authors reports; including data analysis, creation of observations, and development of recommendations.