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FOR-PROFIT UNIVERSITIES INDUSTRY REPORT

July 9, 2010

UNIVERSITY OF PHOENIX

Prepared by


EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

W

e genuinely respect your online marketing efforts. We feel that you’re among the top of your game in the way that for-profit universities are marketed online.

We’re not writing this report to point out inefficiencies in campaign structures, SEO or strategy. We’re writing this because we want to ask: Are you confident that you’re doing everything you can to maximize student enrollment? Off-shore outsourcing in link building, SEO and PPC are among one of the largest problems impacting the bottom line of for-profit universities. Often, outsourcing is necessary to accommodate the sheer volume that in-house marketing teams can’t handle. Problems then arise because the vast number of third-party agencies aren’t transparent—and the quality of work is beyond sub par. So we ask, are you getting the quality results you need to maximize your student enrollment this year?

Maximize Your Enrollment Projections We are confident that our boutique online marketing agency will increase your student enrollment and online conversions this upcoming year. Call us and we’ll show you why. At the very least, answer this: “Can you improve your online marketing to maximize enrollment?”

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CONTENTS

For-Profit Universities 

3

• The Online Market at A Glance 

3

• Why We Chose You 

3

• Our Findings 

3

PPC Synopsis 

• The Least You Need to Know 

4 4

PPC Self-Examination 

5

• Search Network 

5

• Content Network 

5

SEO Synopsis 

• The Least You Need to Know 

The Components of Search Engine Ranking 

• SEO Site Profiles 

6 6 7 7

SEO Keyword Rankings 

8

• Our Suggestion 

8

SEO Self-Examination 

9

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FOR-PROFIT UNIVERSITIES THE ONLINE MARKET AT A GLANCE

T

his report highlights some of our key findings as we studied AdWords advertising and SEO positioning in the for-profit university industry with an eye to improve the already efficient efforts of the five universities examined and their affiliated websites.

Why We Chose You Of the many universities that have a strong online and "brickand-mortar" presence, we focused specifically on five universities we feel we can best serve and help alleviate some of the workload. All research was done with direct observation of advertising and current SEO positioning at the time this report was written. These facts were not derived via analysis of actual account structures, analytics, settings or initiatives.

Our Findings We’ve carefully looked at how University of Phoenix is marketed online. We’ve also carefully examined other universities, both for and non-profit, that have recently saturated the market, competing fiercely for every student to increase enrollment. For this report, we have specifically researched the following universities:

● ● ● ● ●

“There’s a lot of value an agency can

add, even when there’s an internal team. For example, agencies can see how an algorithm change affects many different companies and industries. Over time, the lessons learned from this broad collection of sites are invaluable.

– Dan Perry, SEO Director Turner Broadcasting

Phoenix.edu ChooseDeVry.com Kaplan.edu AIUOnline.edu ITT-Tech.edu

There's fierce competition in this market to capture students' attention, and given the level of sophistication and money at stake among all five, even the smallest chink in the armor gone unnoticed can mean tens of thousands of dollars.

That’s Where We Come In… The following report is not intended to point out PPC or SEO inefficiencies that, when fixed, will magically help bolster your bottom line. Instead, the focus of this report is on the overall strategic efforts of the five universities, and how our agency can help you meet and surpass your goals.

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PPC SYNOPSIS A

ccording to a 2008 report about Online Education in the United States by the Sloan Consortium, approximately 20% of all college students took at least one course online in the fall of 2007. Students enrolled in online classes increased 12% over the previous year, and online enrollment easily outpaced the 1.2% growth of overall higher education student population, according to Sloan.

Online education is extremely profitable, and for this reason, the competitive landscape is hotly contested. 20–25% of revenue for these competing for-profit universities is spent on sales and marketing. A significant portion of this 20–25% is spent online on display and AdWords advertising, as well as SEO. You may have adapted well given the immense growth, but can you be certain that the small details weren't overlooked?

The Least You Need to Know While Competitors in this industry are all doing a lot of things right, there are some key areas that we feel need attention:

● ● ● ● ●

Diligently Split Test Ads Properly Utilize Google Betas Closely Monitor Your Affiliates Constantly Deliver the Most Relevant Ad Thoroughly Research Developing Trends

There is evidence in this industry that there are affiliates authorized by multiple universities to generate qualified leads. The benefit of affiliates is their ability to drive qualified traffic and leads to a website. Recently though, Google has taken steps to curtail the affiliates they felt were not creating a positive user experience. If you have affiliates, it is important to constantly monitor their actions and ensure that they are properly representing your brand.

Are you positive your ads are regularly split tested? Sometimes ad testing requires coming up with a different message. Other times it means thinking through punctuation and spacing from a usability perspective. By inefficiently testing ads, you are leaving money on the table.

Google Beta technologies are being under utilized by many for-profit universities. An example search tool is Ad Site Links. This allows advertisers to place additional, related links underneath their ad, helping to increase CTR and improve Quality Score. This is just one instance where using all the tools in the toolbox can make a significant difference.

Staying on top of what keywords are being searched for can help you get the jump on your competitors. For instance, the search phrase online university accredited has increased 110% since 2009 alone. While the majority of competitors have created ad copy to reflect this jump in interest, many have not.

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PPC SELF-EXAMINATION W

e can't personally look into your pay-per-click account. To a keen eye, your PPC account is well optimized; to a surgical eye, there is some room to capitalize. Ask yourself these preliminary questions.

Search Network ○ Is the majority of your spend in the broad and phrase match type?

□ YES

□ NO

○ Do you have a small number of ad groups with keywords clumped together, with generic ad copy and general landing pages?

□ YES

□ NO

○ Do you have your highest traffic terms mixed in ad groups with other terms?

□ YES

□ NO

○ Are there no negative keywords in the account?

□ YES □ YES

   

□ NO □ NO

○ Are you taking advantage of geographic opportunities within your account?

□ YES

□ NO

○ Are you focusing on all the critical keyword campaigns that will cut out the affiliate middle-men and yield you the bottom dollar?

□ YES

□ NO

□ YES □ YES

   

□ NO □ NO

○ Are your content ad groups just duplicated from your search groups?

□ YES

□ NO

○ Are there no negative site placements within the account?

□ YES

□ NO

○ Do you have one ad per ad group? If split testing, do you split test on a profit per impression basis?

Content Network ○ Do you have both content and search within one campaign? ○ Are you currently exploring content network opportunities for ad placement?

If you answered "YES" to any of these simple questions, we could help you maximize your online conversions and student enrollment. 6


SEO SYNOPSIS S

EO is imperative for for-profit universities. All of the universities examined actively send traffic to their websites via paid search and display advertising, but there is a great likelihood that significant portions of their internet marketing budget is being spent on SEO. The reason why SEO is so heavily invested in is because Of the sheer ROI attained by ranking in the top positions in the SERPs. We’ve noticed, however, that though most for-profit universities are performing at a very high level, there is still room to capitalize on lucrative opportunities.

In other industries, such as roofing or carpet cleaning, the difference between being the 1st or 9th result in Google could mean a difference of 10–20 jobs a day. In the for-profit university world, the difference between being the first and the ninth result in Google for the keyword online degree accounting can mean a loss or gain of tens of thousands of dollars a day.

IPROSPECT STUDY

2008

2006

2004

2002

Click Results on 1ST Page

68%

62%

60%

48%

Click Results on 3 Page

8%

10%

13%

19%

RD

Figure 4. It is crucial for all of the competitors in the for-profit universities segment to place on the first page of search results for their target keywords. Each year, more and more clicks are staying on the first page as search engines deliver higher quality results. High search rankings are crucial when trying to gain more traffic.

The Least You Need to Know The most important SEO information that websites in the for-profit university industry need to be aware of are:

Online Marketing Tactics Used by US* CMOs, by Budget Size

● The majority of competitors in the for-profit university industry have either built out mini-sites or have outsourced this to a third party ● Each university’s internet marketing department appears to be actively engaging in link building ● The majority of the five universities examined in this report rank very well for the high traffic, "research" keywords ● All five of the universities are doing an excellent job at effectively using both Twitter and Facebook to support their PPC and SEO efforts

Note: *respondents were primarily based in the US Source: Forbes, "2009 Ad Effectiveness Survey," June 1, 2009

Figure 5. Forbes asked CMOs in 2009 what specific online strategies were used to acquire new customers. SEO was the clear winner, being the strategy of choice over email marketing, search advertising and behavioral targeting. The main reason: SEO costs less over time than billboard ads, radio, TV and even paid search, and delivers results over the long haul.

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THE COMPONENTS OF SEARCH ENGINE RANKING A

ll of the universities examined in this report know the value of SEO. A significant portion of the alternative advertising budget is likely being spent on it and there are either in-house or third-party agencies working extensively. However, the main questions are:

Can link building and SEO be done better?

Are there more conversions to be had?

At first glance, it may appear that all five of the universities we have looked at and compared are doing quite well with SEO. Nevertheless, when looking at multiple ranking factors, things do not appear as they seem.

The answer is—YES.

PRIMARY SEO METRICS COMPARED

Google PageRank

Pages w/ Duplicate Title Tags

.GOV Page Links

Domains Linking to Site

Number of Internal Links

AIUOnline.edu

6

12

2

550

2,075

DeVry.edu

7

8

89

2,419

6,679

ITT-Tech.edu

6

8

170

1,337

1,472

Kaplan.com

7

14

29

2,630

1,008

Phoenix.edu

7

8

223

4,913

9,091

Figure 6. It is clear that all five of the universities examined are doing many things well. All five have a PageRank over 6, numerous back links and more importantly, links from government websites. When looking closer at the numbers though, there are clearly some immediate changes to be made. These include continually seeking .GOV links and changing the pages that have duplicate title tags.

SEO Site Profiles Here are some specific things we noticed when looking at each of the five universities and their SEO profile: Phoenix.edu — this site reports over 37,000 total links to the homepage and is optimized well for key terms like online accounting degree and education degree online.

ITT-Tech.edu — a concerted link building effort paired with excellent content creation has helped push ITT-Tech to the top of the search engines for such terms as tech schools and technical degrees.

Kaplan.com — there are a few minor issues concerning quality back links and technical site issues. However, Kaplan ranks very well for the highly sought after keywords prep courses and cpa review course.

AIUOnline.edu — while American InterContinental University may not be as well known as the other four colleges examined, their SEO profile is nothing to scoff at. They have top positions for the keywords online degree program and computer forensic degree.

DeVry.edu — it seems that DeVry focuses all SEO efforts on DeVry.edu and not ChooseDeVry.com. All the hard work has paid off with first positioning in Google for the ultra competitive keyword computer degree.

DISCLAIMER: All SEO research and positioning analysis was done using publicly available resources and tools. We had no access to site analytics, initiatives or strategy.

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SEO KEYWORD RANKINGS T

he five websites specifically targeted in this report rank very well for numerous, high-traffic keywords. For example, both ITT-Tech and DeVry rank first in Google for the keywords tech programs and computer degree. These are just two examples out of many where the five websites examined have strong SEO profiles across the board.

keywords examined. Only Kaplan appears in the top ten results for any of the keywords; they appear fifth in Google for the keyword college criminal justice online. Not only do all five of the universities rank outside of the top ten results in Google, but the majority of the primary SEO websites of these universities fall outside of the top 100 results for these keywords.

A first position ranking for a particular, high-traffic keyword should not be any website’s end goal. It is important to maximize rankings for the other, lowervolume keywords that may actually result in more qualified leads. The table below shows specific examples of the five websites’ Google search engine rankings for industry-specific keywords that may be low in traffic, but are high in terms of "purchasing intent."

Not appearing on the first page of Google is a huge setback. Not appearing in the top 100 results for the keyword nursing degrees online is a critical problem.

As shown in the table below, none of the five competitors appear to have achieved ideal positioning for the five

“thisUniversity of Phoenix, a big player in industry, did not appear one time in

the first three pages of results for all five of the keywords.

Accredited Online Accounting Degree

College Criminal Justice Online

Associates Degree Online

Nursing Degrees Online

Bachelors Programs Online

Not in Top 100

41

Not in Top 100

Not in Top 100

16

73

Not in Top 100

83

Not in Top 100

29

ITT-Tech.edu

Not in Top 100

60

41

Not in Top 100

Not in Top 100

Kaplan.com

Not in Top 100

5

Not in Top 100

Not in Top 100

Not in Top 100

Phoenix.edu

31

55

85

57

62

SEO GOOGLE RANKINGS

AIUOnline.com DeVry.edu

Figure 7. All five of the websites examined rank poorly for certain, long tail keywords. The above chart shows that even though all five for-profit universities examined do an excellent job with SEO, money-making opportunities are being left on the table. Optimizing for the keywords above may yield less traffic, but is more likely to result in conversions.

Our Suggestion  It is beneficial for you to focus on optimizing for both general keywords that bring in large amounts of traffic as well as more specific keywords that may indicate that visitors are more likely to request program information, and then enroll. Therefore, all of the five websites should continue to focus on optimizing for all the high-traffic, as well as the lower-traffic, but profitable, keywords.

Bottom Line All five websites are ranking poorly for these long tail and profitable keywords. This spells major opportunity for those savvy enough to start taking advantage of these types of online marketing power plays.

Missed Opportunity Looking at your existing AdWords campaigns can aid your SEO efforts. By determining what keywords convert well, you can then target those keywords in your SEO strategy. For instance, physical therapy online degree is a highly competitive keyword in PPC. When looking at the organic rankings, however; it is clear that the websites that rank well are not universities themselves, but affiliates. By targeting these profitable keywords, for-profit universities can cut out the middle man.

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SEO SELF-EXAMINATION T

 here are some basic and more advanced techniques that every online university examined in this report should incorporate. Answer these questions to see if your website meets these SEO efforts.

○ Are high value keywords used throughout your pages?

□ YES

□ NO

○ Are your high value keywords emphasized on your pages?

□ YES

□ NO

○ Do you regularly check on all backlinks to your site to ensure they lead to the proper path?

□ YES

□ NO

○ Have you properly incorporated header tags throughout your pages?

□ YES

□ NO

○ Do you regularly scan for and repair all broken links on your website?

□ YES

□ NO

○ Is Google Analytics tracking set up on every page of your website?

□ YES

□ NO

○ Do you have a Google Webmaster Tools account set up for your website to monitor any problems search engines may have in crawling your website?

□ YES

□ NO

○ Are you regularly adding new, keyword-focused content onto your website?

□ YES

□ NO

○ Do you handle link building in-house?

□ YES

□ NO

If you answered "YES" to any of these simple questions, we could help you maximize your online conversions and student enrollment. 10


OUR SHAMELESS SELF-PROMOTION CALL US FOR A FREE CONSULTATION

W

e genuinely respect your online marketing efforts—you’re at the top of your game; however, we are confident that our boutique online marketing services will heighten your enrollment conversions to new levels (beyond quarterly projections).

At Rocket Clicks, we believe that iron sharpens iron—which is why we partner with industry leaders and cutting-edge online enterprises. The projected online competition for this upcoming year in for-profit universities is predicted to be monumental compared to recent years. With these amounting pressures, as you know—there’s no room for error. Outsourced link building and account management can be detrimental to your bottom line without complete transparency from the third-party agency. This is a problem that many for-profit universities struggle with, as outsourcing is a necessity to handle the sheer volume of an online marketing enrollment push. So we ask you, can you improve your online marketing to maximize student enrollment? I think you'll find the answer is YES.

Call us today, and we can explain to you in-depth how we can add the extra niche expertise to maximize your conversions and upcoming enrollment. Call Peter Ryan for more information at (262) 437–2331.

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Industry Report: University of Phoenix