At first, Thruline only managed some of the University of the Cumberlands’ graduate programs, which often led to inflated cost per inquiry (CPI) as Thruline and the other agency were often bidding against each other for the school’s branded terms. The university decided to move all paid advertising to Thruline to improve return on investment in pay per click (PPC), search engine optimization (SEO), social media and lead nurturing.
About the Partner
Based in Williamsburg, Kentucky, the University of the Cumberlands is a nonprofit, faith-based university with more than 3,000 online graduate students. With two on-ground campuses and an online presence, the school is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) and offers bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees.
The Strategy and Execution
Our overarching strategy was to focus on the website first to better capitalize on site traffic by delivering the maximum volume of inquiries with the lowest possible CPI. We started by optimizing the .edu site to allow prospective students to more easily find information, improving visit-to-inquiry conversion rates.
In addition to conversion, we focused on producing engaging content to familiarize visitors with the University of the Cumberlands brand. Optimization of content was a combination of many efforts:
• Testing and updating the forms
• Adding a search function
• Redesigning landing pages
• Evaluating imagery across the site
We increased the volume of paid search inquires through rigourous testing that resulted in a better user experience for prospective students and a 40.6 percent increase in form conversion rate.
We created and implemented Facebook lead ads and noticed increased performance with the addition of the content card. Now this is the channel with the lowest CPI as we adjust bids based on Google demographic data.
The University of the Cumberlands saw a 31 percent increase in overall inquiry volume YOY, and it’s continuing to incline more steeply.
• Traffic to the .edu site increased 43% YOY
• Inquiries increased 54% YOY
• Branded and nonbranded click-through rates are well above industry standard
• Traffic to the landing page increased by 98% YOY
• Inquiries increased 106% YOY
• CPI decreased 39% YOY
• We increased our spend by 21% YOY, but continue to see inquiry counts more than double with our CPI decreasing by almost 40%
• Test, test, test. Do not only test what you think will work; really think about your demographic. Allow your marketing partner the flexibility and autonomy to test all elements of your sites. You might be surprised at what the tests reveal.
• Use your demographics data to tailor your advertising, not only messaging and vehicle but also bid adjustments for the best use of your dollars.
• Users like simplicity. If you have a cumbersome site, either by choice or web design limitations, find ways to make the site more user friendly. The more easily someone can find the information, the more likely they are to convert.
• Don’t forget about social channels. Make sure you are utilizing their abilities to amplify content, create a community to help with current student retention and provide outsiders a glimpse into how the school interacts with its community. Most of all, be active! If you are going to have social channels, interact at all levels, from posts and responses to helping a prospective student learn how to inquire about a program.