Skip to main content

You run your business. We’ll help you find your customers. LEARN MORE & SIGN UP >

Making the grade

  Article , Education , Success stories

Keypath aces search advertising with Bing Ads

Searching for a better education

Adam Lewis photo

Adam Lewis, senior digital media buyer, Keypath Education

“I feel like I’m moving the needle every day,” explains Lindsay Martin, an account manager for the company. “I’ll go out and see a campus, and then bring that breath of fresh air back to our team to see how we take marketing all the way from a prospective student seeing an ad to pushing their inquiry into admissions, to helping them apply and then enroll.”

Martin and director of digital media Sarah Russell work on behalf of Azusa Pacific University, a private Christian college in southern California. At the other end of the spectrum is Adam Lewis, a senior digital media buyer for Keypath who works on the Beauty Schools Directory (BSD) account, helping prospective students find the ideal beauty or cosmetology school. In-between are more than 4,000 higher education institutions, united by Keypath’s mission to meld the student experience with the future of the education industry.

“BSD is a web property that the company has owned for quite some time,” Lewis says of the service that has helped over 2 million aspiring students navigate a roster of more than 1,000 beauty schools. “But what’s interesting here is that I think the lessons learned apply to any industry. It doesn't really matter that this is beauty and cosmetology. The things I do in this account are no different than what I would do in any other [pay-per-click] PPC account for any other vertical.”

Through questions and answers, queries and results, trial and error, Keypath is reaching students worldwide — and learning a few things about how to create a successful SEM strategy.

I feel like I’m moving the needle every day.

— Lindsay Martin, account manager, Keypath Education

Preferred tools

Just as any self-respecting student may show up to class with a laptop, writing utensil and notepad, the people at Keypath are thankful for the tools and features that Bing Ads provides.

“We see pretty good performance from ad extensions overall, with Azusa and other clients,” says Martin. “Bing Ads Editor has really been helpful to do things offline. The recent updates to it we've seen have been productive for all our team members here on the digital media team.”

Lewis points to one recent Bing Ads Editor innovation that has made his life easier. “I was really happy when they rolled out device segmentation in the main grid; I found that really helpful,” he explains. “It's extremely important to be able to look at your data by device. Now, it's a lot easier to check your mobile performance on the fly.”

The case of the missing keywords

In 2016, Russell and the account team noticed a drop in brand performance on the Azusa Pacific University account. Observing that the 118-year-old, nationally ranked college was suddenly confronted with spikes in cost per lead (CPL) and cost per click (CPC) while monthly brand performance was dwindling, it was suspected that the culprit might be poor keyword coverage.

“We reached out to our Bing Ads representative to dig into the data and see what we were missing,” Russell explains. “We identified a lack of broad match modified keyword coverage, and were able to help overall brand performance by increasing coverage there.”

Collaborating on the best strategy to drive an increase in brand performance — while keeping CPLs and CPCs low — Russell and the Bing Ads team determined that the brand terms driving high CPCs were mostly broad ones. Continuing to question the established methods, an effort was made to tinker and test.

“It’s so important to keep a pulse on our keyword mix and which match types make the most sense,” adds Russell. “We added broad match modifiers to our brand terms as a best practice in order to drive the most relevant traffic. Our Bing Ads team helped us implement this within our campaigns really easily.” 

By adding broad match modifiers to the existing brand terms, Azusa was able to capture more relevant traffic and lower CPL and CPC. The Keypath team saw an upward trend in results in less than two weeks, giving them confidence that they were indeed on the right path.

Top-tier test

Rather than one particular university, Lewis concentrates on hundreds via BSD. But much like his Keypath colleagues, he recently found himself questioning established methods.

“The biggest challenge is driving volume at a CPL level that's acceptable for us,” he explains. When Lewis collaborated with the Bing Ads team on a solution that would test mobile bid adjustments, it was important that they could do so in a controlled manner while measuring the impact not only on CPL, but also KPIs like spend and lead volume. Driven by the discovery that the platform they use for mobile bidding on other search engines didn’t handle Bing, Lewis designed something undergraduates typically dread: a test.

“We have to generate CPLs that are well under $20 to be profitable,” Lewis says of the test, which compared a two-month pre-period to a two-month post-period. “Since it was pretty much a fresh slate at that point, we wanted to make a test out of it and say, hey, before we weren't really modifying these bids, now we want to modify them in a way that's controllable and we want to monitor the results.”

Using a tiered approach based on mobile average position, Lewis boosted the ad group level mobile bid adjustments in the BSD’s top-spending campaign.

“We wanted to do it in a way that was somewhat uniform across different things, so we weren't just setting manual adjustments based on random factors,” he explains. “We wanted to do something that was pretty scalable across the entire account.” They created percentage tiers based on the average position. “Anything above a certain position we did at one percentage. Anything between this position and that position we would do at a different percentage,” Lewis says. “That allowed us to roll it out across the entire campaign, in a uniform manner that we could easily monitor and adjust.”

We didn't necessarily want to double CPL and get double the volume, because that wouldn't be acceptable for us. But when you're in a situation where you can get 80% more volume from 10% more cost, that makes a lot of sense.

— Adam Lewis, senior digital media buyer, Keypath Education

Speaking for themselves

Keypath Education Datatable

Keypath Education Datatable

As the smoke cleared, both sets of Keypath experimenters were pleased with what they found. Russell and Martin, looking to neutralize the spikes in CPL and CPC that decreased Azusa Pacific’s brand performance, implemented broad match modified terms and saw a 51% decrease in CPCs. They also discovered:

  • An 83% decrease in CPL month over month.
  • A 9% increase in overall brand conversions from the previous month for the same time frame.
  • 29% lower brand CPCs than Google AdWords.
  • A stunning 188% increase in brand conversion rates with Bing Ads compared to the previous month.

“We were probably most excited about the conversion rate,” Russell says of the results. “Our clients rely on us to deliver really high-quality leads at a strong CPL, so being able to convert brand traffic so much better was a huge win.”

Meanwhile, Adam Lewis was getting his own answers, thanks to the questions he had been asking about what would happen if BSD increased its mobile bid adjustments in Bing Ads. “Things were backing out to a CPL that made a lot of sense for us, given our goals,” he says with pride.

The results of the BSD test include:

  • A 75.6% increase in mobile leads.
  • 75.6% more mobile revenue.
  • Only a 10.85% increase in CPL, well within BSD’s performance goals.

“We got a really efficient return there,” beams Lewis. “Our CPL went up by around 10%, but we got 70% or 80% more volume, which is exactly what we were looking for. We didn't necessarily want to double CPL and get double the volume, because that wouldn't be acceptable for us. But when you're in a situation where you can get 80% more volume from 10% more cost, that makes a lot of sense.”

Answering the questions

As technology experts, student-research purveyors and strategy consultants, Keypath takes pride in doing meaningful work every day, on behalf of higher education institutions and tens of thousands of people looking to further their education. They don’t claim to have all the answers — but they are experts at knowing when it’s time to start asking questions.

We take so much pride in specializing in education clients. It’s very rewarding to be able to make a difference in the lives of students who want to go back to school,” Russell says. “Our clients share enrollment reports with us on a regular basis, so we can track how our campaign optimizations actually translate to students who get the opportunity to enroll in classes. That’s one of my favorite parts!”

Lewis adds that with these recent tests, Keypath and Bing Ads have every reason to continue working together toward their shared goals — and educating each other in the process. “I think Bing Ads is as well-positioned as it could be at the moment,” he says. “I've always really appreciated the volume I get by using Bing Ads, because it's been so affordable and well within goal, while the performance has typically been pretty positive. So as long as the quality stays up and the costs stay similar, we’ll be in a good place.”

See a summary

View or save the inforgraphic to see how Keypath Education added broad match modifiers, resulting in a 188% increase in brand conversions.

  Download the infographic