5 Things to Know About YouTube Advertising for Higher Education

Education Marketing
April 9, 2021
Adrian Padron

YouTube advertising is a powerful channel for an A+ integrated higher education marketing strategy. 2 in 3 prospective college students use YouTube to learn skills, discover new things, and find relevant information.

In this article we listed the top five tactics higher ed marketers must know when advertising their college or university programs on YouTube. These are the steps you need for campaigns voted as “most likely to succeed” in their class. 

5 Must-Know YouTube Ads Tactics to Reach Prospective Students

1. Use YouTube SEO and paid YouTube advertising 

What can you do to drive organic traffic to your YouTube channel, where you host your campus’s video content? Many colleges have a YouTube channel with valuable content for students about their campuses, courses, and culture. Since 3 in 4 prospective students go to YouTube while evaluating schools, you’ll need to use organic tactics to help them find your YouTube channel. Implement these best practices to improve your YouTube SEO:

  • Do keyword research on Google
  • Look at other relevant videos similar to yours
  • Optimize your titles, descriptions, tags, and thumbnails
  • Optimize your video transcripts 

Above steps will help you build a strong foundation for YouTube SEO. If you are unsure how to conduct a thorough keyword research or activate optimization techniques, book a free consultation with us. Our strategy team can help you get on the right path. 

2. Use emotional appeals for video ads but share informative channel content

When creating your video ads, focus on generating an emotional response from viewers. Your video ads are 15-30 seconds long in general, so you won’t be able to share tons of information. Thus, you’ll want to capture the viewer’s attention using videos that make them feel inspired or motivated to learn more about your college

First, decide on your ad’s goal. What do you want the target audience to do after seeing your video? Then, determine the emotion that inspires that action. For example, suppose I want prospects to fill out a lead form in my TrueView for Action campaign to learn more about enrolling in my university’s computer science program. In that case, my video ad might include a young person receiving an award from NASA for the programming skills they learned at my university. 

On your school’s YouTube channel, your video content should be informative and compelling to retain your viewer’s attention as long as possible. It will be easy to identify which types of videos your audience like most. Popular and well-performing videos will have higher click-through rates, more views, and extended view times. 

3. Map out the student enrollment journey

With a beautiful video ad and quality ad copy, you’ll be collecting clicks, views, and lead forms in no time. But have you considered what happens after capturing a new lead? How will you nurture the lead and guide them towards enrolling next semester? Map out a student enrollment journey for each campaign, including all that happens before and after seeing your video ad. 

Journey mapping is an exercise to get you thinking “big picture” and reducing your lead generation and nurturing process gaps. Here is an example of a student’s journey to enrollment to help you map out crucial checkpoints:

  • Zoey recently became an RN! She’s hoping to find a flexible RN-to-BSN program that advances her career. 
  • After searching for RN-to-BSN programs on Google, Zoey visits your school’s website (Awareness) but leaves and continues exploring options.
  • Zoey goes to TopBSNColleges.com and sees a display advertisement (Retargeting) for your school. The ad is relevant to her, and she recalls your school’s website from earlier. She adds your school to her mental list of possibilities (Consideration).
  • Zoey uses YouTube every day and decides to look up “tips for new nurses” on YouTube. Thanks to your SEO strategy (Intent), one of your videos shows up in the results, but she chooses to watch a video created by her favorite personality. 
  • While watching the video, she sees your TrueView for Action ad and fills out the lead form (Action) with her First Name, Last Name, Email Address, and Program of Interest. 
  • Zoey’s lead form goes to your database, and an enrollment specialist emails her within a couple of hours to set up an appointment (Lead Nurturing). 
  • Zoey learns more about your program, tuition, and benefits during her appointment and decides to enroll in your upcoming semester (Success!).

In this example, we used a TrueView for Action ad, which allows you to embed a lead form within your advertisement. Depending on your campaign format, you might need a landing page linked to your ad. Andrew Wombles, an Associate Director of Media at Mason Interactive, suggests using short, concise forms on landing pages. Ideally, limit your lead generation form to 3-5 questions and input fields that only capture the information you need to follow-up with a potential student. 

“With Youtube being the 2nd largest search engine in the world, this platform is a great way to reach users across multiple devices and is an amazing platform to leverage upper-funnel branding and efficient remarketing campaigns to drive leads.” 

Andrew Wombles, Associate Director of Media and Higher Education marketing expert at Mason Interactive
Enrollment funnel comes in handy when mapping out the student journey.

4. Choose the right YouTube solution for your objectives

YouTube provides full-funnel solutions for your marketing objectives. But, associating the right solution with your campaign makes it a real lead magnet. What goals and objectives can you achieve on YouTube? The three marketing objectives for a YouTube campaign are to 1) maximize reach and awareness, 2) build consideration and interest, and 3) drive online action and sales. 

Once you’ve selected the marketing goal you want to achieve using YouTube, you’ll be able to decide what advertising solution matches your objectives. Here’s a quick visual to help you:

Marketing ObjectiveYouTube Solution
Maximize reach & awarenessMasthead
TrueView for reach
Bumper ads
YT Select: Nonskip ads 15/20
Build consideration & interestTrueView discovery
TrueView in-stream
Drive online action & salesTrueView for Action (for website actions and lead generation)
Standard Display ads

YouTube Solutions Overview

YouTube Masthead: A digital billboard placed on YouTube’s homepage for about 24 hours.

TrueView for Reach: Skippable, in-stream (video plays while someone is watching content) video ads with an open time-limit.

Bumper ads: non-skippable ads no more than 6 seconds long shown at the beginning or end of a video. These work best for mobile device users and in coordination with TrueView ads. 

YouTube Select (non-skip ads 15/20 sec): non-skippable ads no more than 15-20 seconds long show at the beginning of a video in which messaging and relevancy are extremely important. 

TrueView Discovery: Clickable thumbnail ads and text which run on YouTube search results, watch pages, and mobile apps which lead users to your channel or video ad.

TrueView In-stream: Video ads that are skippable after 5-seconds that may be delivered on YouTube or across the Google Display Network.

TrueView for Action: Video ads with powerful action-driving capabilities, including CTA buttons, headlines, banners, site links, and lead forms.

Standard Display ads: 300 x 250 display ads which appear everywhere in YouTube.

5. Measure your campaigns in the right way

Every college should know how to measure the impact of their YouTube ad campaigns. Why? Because if you use the wrong performance indicators, you won’t have the best understanding of your data to drive future decisions. When measuring campaign performance, make sure you consider the right metrics for your campaign objectives and solutions. Here is an extension of my previous visual to guide you:

Marketing ObjectiveYouTube SolutionMeasurements
Maximize reach & awarenessMasthead
TrueView for reach
Bumper ads
YT Select: Nonskip ads 15/20
Reach/Unique Reach
Awareness lift*
Ad recall lift*
Brand Interest* 
* N/A for Masthead
Build consideration & interestTrueView discovery
TrueView in-stream
Website visits
Consideration lift*
Purchase Intent lift*
*N/A for TrueView Discovery
Drive online action & salesTrueView for Action (for website actions and lead generation)
Standard Display ads
Website conversions
Micro conversions
View-through conversions

Working with a YouTube Advertising agency for Higher Education Marketing

Mason Interactive is a performance marketing agency for higher education providing digital strategies across multiple channels, including YouTube. If you are looking to partner with an agency to maximize reach, build interest, or drive online leads for your school, schedule your free analysis consultation with our team of strategists to get started.