Greener pastures

I saw in the news that a former client just closed their school. And though it’s been several years since we worked with them, I can’t help thinking it was all preventable…

During our tenure, we were generating about 120 inquiries a month from their website and paid search campaign. But management got dissatisfied and felt like they could do better, so we got fired and a new marketing vendor — let’s call them the fictitious Moxy Media — was brought in. Under Moxy’s stewardship they dropped down to 30 leads or so inquiries per month. Enrollments tanked and heads started to roll.

It would have been saveable, and we would have happily worked with them again, but the people we had relationships with were now gone.

I heard they’d tried a few other vendors, but couldn’t right the ship quick enough, and now they are out of business.

Another former client just reached out with a similar story:

They had moved on to greener pastures which had not worked out. Tried yet another vendor, which made things worse, and are now back with us, in a full on enrollment crisis and we are trying to salvage things.

There’s a lesson:

Services are not the same as products. They are not interchangeable — one company’s team and performance is not the same as another company’s team or performance. And change has consequences. Relationships and trust take time to form on both ends, and there are very meaningful differences in business practices between service providers.

For example, we have NEVER owned the Google Ads accounts of our clients. This is a red line, do not cross, flashing lights kind of deal for us. Yet it’s still common practice for marketing vendors to own their clients’ Google Ads accounts. They argue that their campaigns are proprietary, and thus they want to control the platform as some sort of IP protection.

Obviously it’s complete BS, and done simply to create dependency and leverage. Neither of which are good foundations for trusting, productive relationships.

Beware of greener pastures. Oh, and trust your friends at Enrollment Resources. ;)

Increased Spam Leads on Google Paid Search

What “Bad Leads” Look Like Lately on Paid Search & How to Protect Your Ad Spend

For online marketers, garbage “spam” leads pose a significant threat to your bottom line. Left unchecked, spam leads can inflate the cost of your paid search campaigns and dramatically compromise your conversion rate ROI.

Since summer of this year, the Paid Search Team at Enrollment Resources has observed a marked escalation in a variety of types of fake leads through Google Ads paid search campaigns. A top level support Google Manager has confirmed to our team that increased spam is a known issue.

In this post, we will outline:

  1. What the increase in spam & other “bad leads” look like
  2. How it may potentially affect your paid search marketing efforts
  3. What you can look for to mitigate the potential cost

For existing Enrollment Resources clients, we will also demonstrate what’s being done on your behalf to guard against bad leads.

What Increased “Bad Leads” Through Google Looks Like

When we talk about “bad leads” we mean something different than leads that are difficult to contact or real individuals who do not enter truthful information when they complete your contact form. There are two issues are play:

  1. Spam
  2. Search Partner Click Fraud

The spam leads we tend to see right now can typically be identified by the following:

  • Emails from other countries (evident by country web domain codes, for example .id)
  • Foreign language submissions
  • Mismatched city/state/zip fields in form submissions
  • Known “bad actor” spam email domains

Search Partner Click Fraud is when scam advertisers create low cost ads on networks like Facebook or TikTok and funnel those ad clicks to a Google Search Partner page. These scammers make money by pocketing the difference between the first ad and the Google search partner payout. These leads may be actual interested students, but they have come from a “false touch” ad. These false ads often advertise something the school doesn’t offer like a free course or education in a language the school doesn’t provide.

Where the Spam Leads Are Showing Up

Google Ads is a network composed of multiple places marketers can buy ad placements. The cornerstone is Google Search. These are ads that display not only on Google.com but also on Google’s Search Partners or partner sites that have a Google search feed.
In addition to Google Search, there is also the Google Discovery Network, which consists of Google’s own web properties such as YouTube, Gmail and the Discovery Feed on Android. We have specifically observed spam leads coming through these search partners and web properties.

We’ve reverse engineered that the majority of spam issues are coming from the Discovery campaign type, through YouTube as a network and from the “optimized targeting” option.

What Google is Doing

As mentioned above, reps within Google’s Advertiser Management Team have acknowledged the issue of increased spam across their network. The Enrollment Resources Paid Search team successfully lobbied for one time, good-faith credits to hard-hit accounts that we were able to prove have been hit with increased spam. To date we have retrieved over $50,000 in credit across multiple accounts.

What the Enrollment Resources Paid Search Team is Doing

We have worked with multiple teams at Google who have all assured us that our forms are peak performance for anti-spam measurements and that we’ve taken all the steps an agency can take in order to combat spam, including:

  • Enabled RE-CAPCHA system on all contact forms
  • Created a global “Blacklist” option for “bad” emails with a robust Web Application Firewall (WAF) to stop those leads from getting through to the database
  • Server Side Validation – This is a secondary check of leads validated at the browser level to ensure all required fields are completed with accurate information

To further cut down on search spam, Enrollment Resources Paid Search Account Managers have temporarily opted out of ads being served on Google partner sites. To reduce spam from the Discovery Network we have opted out of optimized targeting.

The challenge with any spam filtering is calibration. It’s crucial to find the sweet spot where you tighten the tap on faulty leads without making the restrictions so tight you accidentally discard valid leads. It is our approach to air on the side of caution, potentially allowing a small amount of spam leads to slip through rather than risk a missed connection with a hopeful prospective student in need.

What This Means for You & Your School

For current Enrollment Resources clients, the actions outlined above have been implemented on your account and your Paid Search Account Manager is monitoring the situation carefully in conjunction with the Advertiser Management Teams at Google.

Whether or not you are a current Enrollment Resources client, if you’re concerned about the safety and performance of your Google Ads account, feel free to schedule a time to speak with a knowledgeable Paid Search Account Manager. We’re happy to answer any questions you may have and will even take a look at your account to provide a neutral third party review of the health of your account.

Get Support & Safeguard Your Paid Search Account

If you’re a current Enrollment Resources client with any questions about your Paid Search, please contact your Account Manager directly.

If you’re not an Enrollment Resources client but have concerns about potential bad leads and would like to have a Paid Search expert do a complimentary audit of your account, click here to schedule your Paid Search Audit or contact [email protected].

Do You Need a New Website?

How to know when it’s time to replace or repair

I was recently involved in a small fender bender. Thankfully no one was injured, but there was some damage to my car. What to me seemed like a minor dent and busted light, to my mechanic was a reason to write off the car. I opted to have the car fixed, but this question of “repair or replace” is a common one these days, whether it’s a vehicle, furniture or appliance.

But what about your website?

A new website can seem enticing, especially if you feel like your marketing has plateaued and you want to jumpstart lead generation. There are certainly a lot of marketing companies that just so happen to sell websites to tell you you need to buy one. But how do you know when a “repair” will do, ie. update photos, clean up SEO elements, add testimonials and other best practice elements and when you’re better to start fresh?

If you’ve looked into assistance with marketing your school, you’ve likely been pitched on buying a new website. But is it necessary?

We recently shared a pair of articles with tips on how to evaluate your existing website, including:

If you know that your website hosting is up-to-date and functioning properly, page load times are good and you’re not having technical issues like dropping offline periodically, it’s possible you may be able to save yourself a significant amount of time and money with improvements to your existing website.

5 Elements to Improve Conversion Without Buying a New Website

5 Elements to Improve Conversion WITHOUT Buying a New Website

  1. Photos – Do the photos on your website resonate with your prospects? Do they see themselves reflected? Do you use all stock photos or do you have authentic shots of the school, staff and potentially even students? Your website may be a prospect’s first impression of your school. It is worth investing in high-quality professional photos of your facilities, staff and community in order to showcase your school in an authentic way.
  2. Clarity – Does your homepage clearly express the following:
    – Who you are?
    – What a prospect can DO on your site? Are there clear calls-to-action, i.e. “sign up for more information”?
    – WHY a prospect should engage with your school?
  3. Contact Forms – Do you have clear, compelling contact forms on all major pages of your website? A quality contact form can be an incredible way to boost website conversion. Some people don’t like the look of a contact form on every page or think it feels “too salesy.” While overall look is a consideration, the purpose of your site isn’t to be good looking. It’s about providing a simple way for prospective students to take action and move forward with their pursuit of career training with your help.
  4. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – SEO is a term that gets thrown around a lot, but it can often seem vague. Most simply, SEO is a set of practices designed to improve the appearance and positioning of your web page in organic search results. Some key metrics of SEO include the quality of internal links, i.e. links to pages within your website, and external links to pages on other sites. Other SEO elements include things like photo tags and captions, keywords and more.
  5. Compelling Copy – Does your website engage visitors? Is a reader drawn into your story and compelled to read on? When a prospect gets to a program page, is there enough information on that page to pique their interest and provide answers to some of their questions? Website copy can be easy to overlook in favor of design elements, but ultimately a prospective student considering a life decision like potentially going back to school is typically invested enough to spend some time reading copy that is relevant to them and their goals.

Have an Expert Review Your Website

If you’re curious about the performance of your website and how it measures up against today’s best practices for lead generation and conversion, Enrollment Resources can help. Schedule a free website audit with an EDU conversion expert.

Click Here to Request Your Website Audit