Student Applications Increase 119% for this University



Seer’s client in the Education Vertical offers the same undergraduate and graduate degrees, professors, and coursework as their on-campus university counterpart, to busy professionals who lack the time to take part in the traditional on-campus experience. All key academic components of the online university are held to the same rigorous standards as the on-campus institution, including admissions, curricula, accreditation and exams. The Online University’s proprietary eLearning platform allows students to interact with faculty, learning materials, and resources in a way that matches all the benefits of a traditional classroom setting.

The Brief

The University was a relatively early adopter of Pay per Click (PPC) search engine marketing. At first, the organization managed their PPC campaigns in-house. Over time, however, the online education space became much more competitive, and they eventually decided it needed help from an outside firm that specialized in Paid Search.

The organization previously retained Seer to lead its organic Search Engine Optimization (SEO) campaigns. Due to the success of that initiative and the high level of personal attention they received throughout the process they approached Seer to help take their Paid Search campaigns to a higher level, while freeing up their internal personnel to work on other areas of the business.

Seer conducted an in-depth study of both the Online University and the online education vertical as a whole. The team found that over the course of the Online University’s existence, not only had more learning institutions begun to offer their curricula via the web, but these schools had increasingly started using PPC marketing. Seer concluded that in this environment it would be necessary to enact a novel approach to Paid Search marketing to continue to cost effectively drive leads.

Another key piece of data that Seer uncovered was that the University was far more recognizable and a household name with a strong reputation, near the campus location. However, prospects from the regions located farther away were only somewhat, and in some instance not at all, familiar with the school.

Based on this understanding, Seer built a number of different PPC campaigns centered primarily on geography. The strategies were broken down by geographies:

  • Within close proximity to the campus location: Seer created ads that included the brand name, so as to maximize the benefit of the brand identity in these areas.
  • Farther removed from the campus location: Seer emphasized the school’s awards and accreditations in the copy instead of highlighting the institution’s name.

Through extensive testing, Seer continually refined its knowledge of which words drove qualified potential applicants to click through and fill out applications. At the same time, because of the increased likelihood of residents that resided closest to the University campus to apply to the online program, Seer strategically bid more for competitive search terms in those areas. In more distant regions where the school was less well known and conversion rates were lower, Seer bid less. Consequently, Seer drove broad visibility in high converting regions, while maintaining a cost effective CPA in the lower converting regions.


Seer’s approach allowed the client to not just meet but exceed their PPC goals. There was a profound growth in application starts under Seer’s management. Not only was Seer able to drive an increase of the program’s conversions by 119% over the course of four years, but the Seer team also maintained a CPA well below their Client’s goal. In other words, the organization could comfortably retain per lead profitability at the price they were paying for each of those leads.

In addition to increasing lucrative enrollments, the Online University has also been able to repurpose its in-house resources to drive profitability and development outside the PPC sphere. As a testament to the campaign’s success, the client has consistently allocated additional marketing budget to Paid Search, allowing Seer  to develop, test, and enact a wide range of additional new approaches.