PPC Case Study: Educational Institution

Executive Summary

Columbia College Chicago Online (CCCO) was the online education branch of a Columbia Chicago College. CCCO provided online courses in a range of subjects: from AR/VR programming to creative writing. As of April 2020, CCCO featured 22 separate courses and six certificate programs. With a few exceptions, each course was a separate entity, which required its own target audience, unique approach to assets, copy and keyword strategies.


Before working with CFD, Columbia College Chicago Online only had rudimentary analytics and attribution systems in place. Ad activities weren’t tracked, and numbers were very approximate, such as how many leads and enrollments were a result of ads, or the ROAS.

How Careful Feet Digital Helped

Tracking And Analytics

To get the most out of our advertising activities, Careful Feet Digital implemented a robust tracking system. Any system we were going to implement had to have minimal impact on the way the CCCO sales team worked with their leads, so we could not implement a traditional CRM. To complicate our task even further, we approach each ad platform differently, while the courses featured flexible pricing.

To address the issues, we decided to proceed with a classic testing approach on the ad, ad set, campaign and landing page level. This was done separately for each platform we advertised on — Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google Ads. We also implemented baseline Google Analytics goals.

Columbia College of Chicago landing page for ASL

Once established, this simple analytics system allowed us to see the performance of each course. From there, we were able to calculate our target numbers and adjust budgets between courses as needed. As a result, the number of registrations per budget has steadily grown.

Goal completion growth since starting with our new client, for which we created a robust strategy.

For lead generation, we tested multiple channels — Facebook Ads, Twitter Ads, LinkedIn Ads, and Google Ads. After a period of testing, we’ve only found Facebook Ads and Google Ads performance to be satisfactory, so we continued with these platforms, discarding others altogether.

Facebook Ads

On Facebook, we proceeded with Conversion ads. Moving away from Lead Gen ads and driving traffic to the actual landing pages increased the quality of leads. The ad/landing page combo did a better job of selling the course than just an ad. Additionally, it introduced a certain element of friction in the process, which tends to qualify leads.

Testing is an important part of our strategy. Thus, we run various tests regularly.  On the ad set level, we tested placements and audiences (lookalikes vs. interests vs. demographics), trying to find combinations that perform well for every separate course. On the ad level, we tested different copy and assets. For the assets, it was different images vs each other as well as shorter video clips—5 to 30 seconds. As for the copy, we tested not only different lengths and types, but we also tried different benefits and appeals, looking for what resonates the best with our target audiences.

Performance of campaigns for ASL courses—one we started as a part of a new strategy in August 2019 and one that was running before.  We’re still experimenting with copy and visuals trying to raise CTR. CPA is already very good and gathered leads  convert well.

Google Ads

On Google we prioritized Search ads. While being the most expensive option, they align well with buyers’ intent and provide good conversion rates. Our focus was on getting a list of well-converting keywords for each campaign while filtering low-intent queries. Generally, we began with modified broad match keywords to research the potential of each keyword. Gradually we shifted from BMM to phrase and exact match keywords, as they have the highest conversion potential.

To cut down less relevant queries, we maintained lists of negative keywords. Each campaign had its own list, but we also used general lists for all campaigns.

Managing and optimizing an account is an ongoing process. We were constantly monitoring accounts for changes and looking for new ways to increase click and conversion rates while also simultaneously decreasing their price.

Here, we can see campaigns for the “Blockchain for Business” course on Google ads.  Conversion rates weren’t what we wanted from it yet — we were working with CCCO on improving the landing page. However, since CFD took over, the CTR increased twofold, while the CPC by 56%.