Learn about what’s happening with 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].

Are You Missing Out on Mobile Leads?

The Simple Test to Evaluate Your Site's Mobile Design

Do you know what percentage of your monthly website traffic is mobile? If you have access to the backend analytics of your site that metric should be pretty clear. Even if you don’t have access or aren’t sure the exact percentage off the top of your head, it’s a safe bet that the majority of your website traffic these days is users on mobile devices.

On average, around 70% of traffic to career school websites is mobile. That number often trends even higher for trades schools. That means if your site is not set up to accommodate a mobile user, you could miss connecting with a ton of otherwise interested prospects.

Most modern websites are “mobile responsive,” which means the design automatically adapts to accommodate user’s on mobile devices. But just because a website is mobile responsive, doesn’t necessarily mean it is well set up to serve the needs of mobile users or that it is automatically easy for these visitors to engage with your website.

Quick 3-Question Test of Your Site’s Mobile Usability

Step one: Bring up your school’s website on your smartphone or mobile device
Step Two: Navigate around your site via your phone/device

Ask yourself the following 3 questions:

  1. Does the site load quickly?
  2. Is it easy to navigate?
  3. Is it clear how to get in touch with your school?

If you answered “No” to any of these questions, your site is likely not well optimized for mobile. The good news is, this represents a huge potential opportunity.

What to do: If you find your current website is not optimized for mobile, it’s time to speak to your web developer or seek outside assistance. Mobile traffic is too big an opportunity to pass up.

If you answered “yes” to all 3 questions, that’s great news! That means your site is likely well optimized for mobile traffic so you don’t need to invest in a costly upgrade in order to accommodate prospects who visit your site from their mobile devices.

So my site is optimized for mobile, does that mean I’ll get more leads?

Taking the time to make sure your website functions well for mobile users is a bit like clearing your front walk before you invite people over for dinner. It ensures a visitor is able to access your place, but it doesn’t set the table for them.

Optimizing your website for mobile will help to reduce bounce i.e. the individuals who reach your website but immediately leave because they find it inaccessible or there’s some aspect that causes enough friction to abandon the effort. The challenge then is to turn those website visitors into quality leads. That’s where elements like compelling copy, images that resonate with the prospect and engaging calls-to-action, i.e. the things that motivate the prospect to reach out and connect with your school, come into play.

Want to see if you’re leaving leads on the table on your website? Schedule a free, one-on-one personalized website conversion audit with an Enrollment Resources Conversion Expert. Get a report with action items you can implement right away to boost conversion on your site.

Click here to request your free website conversion audit

35% of Prospect Student’s Can’t Do This ONE Thing

EDU Research Reveals Surprising Barrier to Enrollment

Dream Big.” “Reach for the Stars.” “If you believe it, you can achieve it.” These types of sayings feel omnipresent in career counseling offices, right up there with the frazzled kitten precariously dangled from a tree branch whose soft face and dark saucer eyes implore onlookers with the caption “hang in there.”

Kitten hangs from tree branch

Where did every guidance counselor get this poster?

Most people hear these platitudes about goal setting their whole lives, but far fewer are given the tools to follow through. What does it actually look like, in a practical sense, to pursue your goals? 

Enrollment Resources recently published findings from extensive EDU market research that included data from over 250,000 prospective career education students across North America and a surprising finding stood out:

When asked about goals for the future, 35.62% of prospective students surveyed selected the response “I want a better life for sure, I just have trouble imagining the details.”

How Thoughtful Admissions Practices Can Help Prospects Clarify Goals & Remove a Hidden Barrier to Enrollment

The application of practical goal setting is something many people are never taught. Those of us in EDU, especially those at private career colleges, are in a unique position to help prospective students break down the practical steps that can help them build a brighter future. A student may inquire about a particular program or know that they need some sort of professional skills in order to get ahead, but it’s not uncommon for them to struggle to imagine details beyond that. That’s where you come in.

Below are three steps to keep in mind when you help prospective students to imagine their potential future. 

#1. Break it Down: Practical, Achievable Steps
The gap from initial inquiry to new career can seem gargantuan when you don’t know the steps. It would be like trying to drive from L.A. to NYC without a road map, just two distant points with no clues of how to get from one to the other. If you had infinite time and resources that mapless road trip might be fun, but that’s not the case for our prospective students. As an Admissions professional, you can fill in that road map.

Much smaller than the gap between where a student is when they inquire and where they want to ultimately end up in their career is the gap between speaking with you and speaking with Financial Aid or other staff. That’s a manageable first step. What’s the next step in your enrollment process? And the step after that?

When you break down the enrollment, school and employment pursuit process into simple steps, you help prospective students gain an accessible road map to their future.

#2. Get Clarity: The Power of Specificity
Specifics take “pie in the sky” dreams and ground them in reality. It’s the difference between “I want a new car” and “I want a gently used 2012 Mazda3.” “I want to get married” and “I want to marry my best friend’s husband Todd.” Perhaps more relevant to our situation, it’s the difference between “I’d like to help people” and “I want to work as a patient care aide at the long-term care facility near my house.”

Thoughtful questions like “what motivated you to reach out today?” and “what makes you interested in this field?” not only help you get to know the prospect you’re speaking with, they help you to understand the prospect’s drive. This forms the foundation for the portrait of the prospect’s future you’re helping to build.

#3: Explain Potential Challenges
Have you ever hit the gym hard on January 1st only to fall off your “New Year New You” exercise regime weeks later? (No. Me Either :P). Often when we get off track from long-term goals it’s due to a failure to address potential challenges that may arise. Sometimes even just the fear of getting off track is enough to derail us.

As humans, we are motivated not only by achievement but by the anticipation of achievement. When you address potential obstacles, and help prospective students to visualize the ways they have within their means to overcome those difficulties, you go a long way to illustrating the way in which successful graduation and the pursuit of a rewarding career is within the prospects’ abilities to accomplish; this can provide incredible motivation.

TIP: Remember to Meet Prospects Where They Are
As an Admissions professional, it’s vital to remember what it was like to NOT know all the ins and outs of your school and things like education financing. Work from a place of empathy and remember that many prospects will be learning about career education for the first time.

In this role, you are uniquely qualified to provide clarity for prospective students about your school and their future. When you utilize goal-setting techniques you can help students to practically envision the steps along the way to their desired future and remove a sizable barrier to potential enrollment.

Want to see more from this in-depth research? Access the Hidden Motivations of Prospective Students report here.

Gregg Meiklejohn Retires; Shane Sparks to Serve as President & CEO 

VICTORIA, British Columbia –  Enrollment Resources Inc. announced today that Gregg Meiklejohn has retired from his role as CEO.

Gregg Meiklejohn co-founded Enrollment Resources with Shane Sparks in 2003. 

Over the past 19 years, the company has emerged as a leading marketing innovator in the Career Education sector.

“Gregg’s knowledge of marketing and the post-secondary education sector has helped guide our growing business. We will miss his leadership and insights. It’s been a terrific journey these past 19 years and we all wish him and his family the best in his retirement,” said Sparks.

Shane Sparks takes over as President & CEO, and sole owner.

“I am very excited about 2022,” says Sparks. “We have a number of new features in Virtual Adviser we will be releasing starting in January and plan to focus more on proprietary research in the coming year. Our goal remains to help schools grow enrollment in the most cost-effective way possible.” 

In January, the company will also be releasing new research on the motivations of prospective students culled from over 500,000 survey results.

“Our focus is on uncovering insights that make a meaningful difference to student recruitment,” says Sparks. “We can’t wait to share what we’ve discovered.”

How A/B Testing Failures Reveal Bigger Opportunities

Failing Forward: Unlock Hidden Insights

As marketers we are always pushing to grow, break new ground, and stay ahead of our competition. We may test a new advertising approach, a different angle on a value proposition, build channel partnerships, or realign our marketing for performance and growth.

An area perhaps less explored is when bright ideas fail to live up to expectations. Testing is a science but mostly it’s trial and error where breakthroughs come by being curious around the why-of-things, especially when results flop.

Understanding your prospects at their level and being able to communicate to their needs and aspirations is the foundation of all great breakthroughs

In a recent landing page test for Google Ads, we started to notice some common trends for expensive to market programs that had commonality among competition. Most schools were running these programs, Google search advertising was expensive and cost per leads were higher than we wanted for our clients. We were having some breakthrough success across other program landing page tests, improving conversion rates by 30% on average, so we adopted a similar approach to what we’ve called our “problem programs.” Think teenage angst.

Pages were built with a new design, rewritten, and expectations were high. To our surprise and disappointment, the tests dropped performance and increased cost per lead so we stopped the test to protect ROI.

You can go two ways with a situation like this:

  1. Determine that the control is the better version and carry on to a new test
  2. Question why performance went in the opposite direction we wanted

In many ways, conversion rate optimization analysts will forgo the failure and move on to something new. The tendency is to seek the win, which is great, but often that win or insight can be hidden in the failure.

We tend to lean in on curiosity.

Since Virtual Advisor encapsulates the stories behind a prospects’ journey, we started to dig into the data we had on those programs. We also questioned if the program value proposition wasn’t aligned with where the prospect was in their journey.

Were they already invested in the career? Were they just starting their research? Why are they inquiring now? To help answer these questions, we decided to use our form technology to trigger a seamless survey on a second step form. We then combined that data with Virtual Advisor’s quantitative and qualitative data on these programs and started to uncover some blind spots in our copywriting.

In most instances, our prospects had been thinking about the career for some time, in many cases years. The pandemic has been an interesting catalyst for many folks looking to explore a different path in their lives. The knowledge that the career path is not new to them and they have done their research prompted us to reframe how we spoke to them in our copy.

We’re currently on iteration #3 for this test and will likely have results in the new year but the point is not necessarily about the end result in this case. It got our wheels turning around leveraging our form technology and aligning Virtual Advisor user data to improve your school’s conversion rates in other ways we hadn’t thought of before exploring why our tests had failed.

Understanding your prospects at their level and being able to communicate to their needs and aspirations is the foundation of all great breakthroughs.

Any insights you can attain to further your understanding and have more meaningful conversations, online and offline, is a recipe for great things. Combine that with seamless technology to foster a supportive user experience, it begins to get really interesting.

This will be one of the sessions at our 3rd Enrollment Builder Best-Practice Virtual Conference – we would love to see you there!