Google Ads For Schools

google ads for schools

If you’re in the school marketing world, you’ve no doubt heard of Google Ads. You might have even had hands-on experience running them for your school. There’s no getting around the fact that Google Ads is pretty much been the MAIN place to advertise private schools (and any business for that matter) for the last 15 years. Why? Because it works. In this post, we’ll cover what you need to know about Google Ads in order to run a successful search, display, and YouTube advertising campaign. 

google ads for schools

Ads for Private Schools

Google Search Ads

Google search ads are probably the ads that come to mind when considering advertising your school on Google. This placement puts your website in the paid search positions when people are searching on Google. Depending on how well optimized your campaign is, and other factors, your ad position will vary from the first position on the first page to positions on the second, third, and fourth page (so on and so fourth).

google ads for schools

Our job as a Google Ads agency, and the job of anyone running this campaign, is to get your ad as high in the search results as possible when people type in the keywords that lead to new student registrations. 

Search ads are often the best place to start for any school because users are actively looking for a solution to their problem. Essentially, you just have to show up. From there, it’s up to your website to do its job of turning that visitor into a prospect. 

Exactly HOW to set up these campaigns is beyond the scope of this post. There are tons of articles on other websites that will walk you through how to do it. We’ll link to a few of them below. For now, just know that search ads are a great starting point for advertising your school. 


Google Ads Budget for Private Schools

google ads for schools

Google ads works on an auction system. This means every keyword has a different cost depending on what other advertisers are will to “bid” for their ads to show up. Generally, the lower the amount of searches per month and the lower the amount of advertisers bidding on that keyword, the cheaper it will be and the easier it will be to show up in the number one position. 

In general, a budget of $500/month (at least) is what we would recommend for running search ads. Depending on the amount of searches per month and the amount of advertisers already targeting the keywords that you want to show up for, your budget will need to be adjusted.

If you’re starting out with a small budget you’ll be best served by trying to become the big fish in the little pond. That means targeting the keywords with low competition and low search volume first. Once you are turning a profit from those, reinvest into the higher competition and higher search volume keywords.

Google Ads Tips for Private Schools

Here are a few of our tips for getting the most out of your campaign. 

  • Send traffic to a relevant landing page NOT to the homepage
  • Make your ads as specific as possible. If you can include the keyword you’re targeting in the ad, that’s ideal
  • Only put 10 – 15 keywords into an ad group
  • Use as many variations as you can in the responsive search ads then remove the lower performing ones after you get some data back
  • Commit to this for 3 – 6 months. It will take time for the campaigns to run like a well-oiled machine
  • Make sure your tracking is set up and working. 
  • Use eCPC bidding to start, then test other bidding strategies down the road
  • Split test some variation within your campaigns (bidding strategies, landing pages, keyword match types, to name a few)

Google Display Ads for Private Schools

Display ads are graphic image ads that appear on third party websites as your targeted audience is browsing around the web. Because of the intent behind these ads, they are much cheaper compared to Google search placements. Wordstream has a great article about the costs of advertising on each platform for each industry. 

As opposed to search ads where people are actively looking for your private school, display ads are shown to people who are inactively or indirectly looking for your school. This placement is similar to social media advertising in that people on the platform are there for a reason other than looking to find a private school. 

Still, display ads can be a powerful tool to get in front of an audience before they are ready to decide on a school. This placement can be used to position your school as a point of interest early on in their research phase. Thankfully, Google has a few ways to get in front of an audience interested in private education. Our favorite options are listed below. 

  • Demographic targeting that fits your target audience – income and age
  • Topic – education, early childhood education, and parenting
  • In Market – primary and secondary schools, education, preparation and tutoring, early childhood education
  • App categories – parenting, parenting and family magazines 

In the past, we would have recommended using multiple static image graphic ads in the campaign. But as of late Google’s responsive display ads have been performing well. This ad type allows you to input multiple headlines, descriptions, and images for Google to mix and match to create ads that they feel will perform best for each specific user. The benefit of this ad type is it requires no design experience, has a quick setup time, and can run multiple split tests at once. The downside is you get less control of what gets shown & less clear data. Still, we feel that it’s a good option to go with. 

YouTube Ads for Private Schools

ads for private schools

YouTube is undoubtedly a powerful placement for private schools to advertise. Not only is this a great place to reach prospective families, but it is also a unique way to increase student retention. We’ll expand further on each of those strategies below but first,  I’m going to let you in on a little secret. 

There is not much deviation in marketing strategies across different platforms. In other words, a working marketing strategy takes those working principles and distributes them across all of the channels that make sense. So, you don’t need to have different messages for your search ads, display, social media, YouTube, geofencing, radio, print, etc. See, all of these platforms and the available placements within them are just tools for distributing your message. A winning message in print media is probably a winning message on all of these platforms (just tuned to match the best practices for that platform). 

Now that I let that cat out of the bag, and hopefully eased some of the “how the heck am I going to come up with all of these different ads” tensions that have been building up in your body since the start of this post, let’s talk about YouTube ads for enrollment.

YouTube Ads for Private School Student Enrollment

Video is the most engaging form of content currently available to the everyday user. So, it’s likely the best place to deeply connect with your target audience. But how do you use YouTube to get in front of these people and what do you show them when you do? 

YouTube has a few really specific ways to target your audience. Our favorites are;

  • Keyword targeting (for example “is private school right for me”)
  • Specific video targeting 
  • YouTube channel targeting 
  • Audience targeting – see the audiences outlined in the display campaign section 

But what does this audience need to hear to become interested in MY school? I’m glad you asked. 

Prospects that have never heard about your school before need the most amount of education before they’re ready to make a decision. So, that’s your goal with your marketing. Here are some ideas to get you started;

  • Give them all of the reasons why your school is the right school for them.  
  • Name the benefits do students get from attending your school
  • Share how your school has improved the lives of your students and graduates
  • Talk about the accreditations, special recognition, or awards that your school has 
  • List all of the proof that you have that your school is as good as you say it is
  • Make content that positions your school as thought leaders

This type of content will move people from researching schools to being interested in YOUR school. 

ads for private schools

YouTube Ads for Private School Student Retention

Student retention is usually a topic of conversation when it’s already too late and parents are refusing to renew next year’s tuition. In our opinion, student retention programs should be running at all times. Here’s why. 

Students and parents are going to form an opinion of your school whether you like it or not. By effectively communicating the message that you want them to know, you can guide their opinions. See, just one bad interaction or mishandled situation can tarnish your school in the mind of your families. Now I don’t know about you but I don’t know one school (or company) that has a perfect track record for customer satisfaction. Every single teacher and employee has to be 100% fair and accommodating 100% of the time. It’s just unrealistic. By simply leaving it up to parents to decide how satisfied they are with their experience is not enough. If your school is not doing a good enough job of sharing your message you’re leaving too much up to chance. 

Using YouTube ads targeted to your current families to share your message is an effective way to ensure that they hear what you want them to hear. No, we’re not talking about manipulation or brainwashing here. We’re talking about reassuring your families that you are who you say you are and you stand by what you say that you stand by. It’s about continuing to build and maintain a level of trust. 

What’s more, is that YouTube ads are cheap. It’s not unusual for us to see video ad views for less than $0.01 each! Imagine boosting your student retention rate for only a few bucks. It can happen when you use YouTube ads effectively. 

To learn more strategies, check out our guide for private school retention

Let’s Recap

Google ads are stop number one on your school’s advertising journey. 99% of the time search ads are going to be the best place for you to start finding new prospective families. From there, you can expand into using Google Display ads and YouTube ads to target people higher up the funnel. The content that you show that audience should be helpful, valuable, and prove that your school is the right school for them or how your school can benefit them. Bonus points if you use YouTube to boost your student retention. 

We won’t lie, effectively running these types of campaigns on Google is easier said than done. If you don’t have the time to devote yourself to learning these platforms and their nuances then you would be best served to hire a pro. We hope you would give us the opportunity to be that pro. If you’re interested in what that would look like you can reach us here. We guarantee that we can improve your results within a reasonable amount of time, or we’ll give you your money back. Schedule your free consultation and or quote from our pros. 

Until next time, 


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