9 Tips for Back-to-School College Geotargeting

Google-geo-targetingMost colleges are wrapping up their spring semester, but it’s never too early to start planning your marketing strategy for the fall semester and the Back to School boom. Targeting college students can be a unique challenge just due to the semi-transitional nature of that time in anyone’s life. Sometimes you live on campus. Other times you’re commuting or living in your own apartment. Heck, some people are still in their family home for a portion of their college career to save some dough. They’re a bit all over the place. So what are some ways you can get in front of those college audiences given that they’re not all in one clear, concise area?

Here are some suggestions on drilling down your college audience to bring some traffic to your college-targeting clients:

  1. Basic Geography – Examine the geographic area that the campus is in as well as the area around the campus. Is there a big city nearby? Is it in the middle of nowhere? Where’s the closest major airport? This can be a tedious practice, but it will be worth it so that you can understand the area to your best ability (especially if you’ve never been there).
  2. Locals know best – If possible, go straight to the source & talk to locals. Where do students typically live? Are there a lot of off-campus housing options? What do students do in their free time? Where do they hang out? Is this more of a “suitcase campus” where students head home on the weekends? If you don’t know where to start, ask yourself what questions you would ask if you were going to attend this school.
  3. Learn the lingo – What slang terms are students using when they’re searching for something in this area? These terms could be special to the area or just general college lingo. Try perusing Twitter if you don’t know where to start. If you’ve been running a campaign in this area previously, consider consulting some old search query reports to see trends, as well.
  4. Where’s Waldo? – Make sure the geographic settings include the campus! Sometimes campuses fall outside of the Nielsen DMA in AdWords or are in another part of town that’s not included in a default setting. It’s very important to make sure you’re including the physical campus, of course. On the reverse side of this, it’s also very important to make sure that you’re targeting the areas that students live in, as well. This will ensure that you’re able to capture the audience at school, at home and considering that many college students work near their campus, most likely at work, too.
  5. Outlying Areas – Check around to see if there are outlying research facilities or other buildings not included with the main campus. Students commonly work or study at some of these outlying facilities so they can be a great place to target as well. (I went to college at a Big Ten school and didn’t realize how many additional areas my university had for subjects like aviation, astronomy and agriculture.)
  6. The Universities Setting – In the Advanced Search portion of the AdWords interface, lies the Location Groups tab, which will allow you to select the Places of Interest > Universities drop down. Although this seems like an obvious tip, take it a step further and have this be a second, more granular geotargeted area within a larger campaign. This will allow you to set different bid modifiers for the campus itself than you are for the city/surrounding areas. Screen Shot 2015-05-06 at 9.48.48 AM
  7. Search Away – Hop online and see what pops up when you search for student housing, shopping and restaurants in that area.
  8. Other Online Advertising – If you haven’t ventured out to other types of paid online advertising before now, this might be a great time. Targeting soon-to-be or recent college grads? Depending on what you’re selling, LinkedIn and Facebook can be great channels to utilize. Looking to target current art students? Might want to check out Twitter.
  9. Quality over Quantity – We all know that some clients want loads of Click traffic, but we also know that if those Clicks aren’t coming from a qualified audience, it won’t matter.

What other suggestions do you have for geographically targeting? We’d love to hear your ideas in the comments!