Why You Should Optimize Frequently (And How it Impacts ROI)

Posted: May 27, 2020

Joshua Dodson Vice President of Marketing & Innovation

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Estimated Reading Time: 6 minutes

Imagine KPIs that defy industry standards and expectations. For a campaign for online Ivy League adult learner programs, we delivered costs across channels at 80% below industry standards. For an online graduate health program, we reduced the cost per qualified lead by 95% in a notoriously expensive landscape. For a graduate business program, we increased enrollments by 67%. 

These are the kinds of results that happen when institutions invest in real-time, data-driven Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO). Spending time on CRO through close examination of your campaign data and your performance benchmarks can transform your campaign conversion rates. 

Optimizations are essentially a range of changes, both big and small, that can be applied based on data to improve overall performance of your digital marketing campaigns. The more often you explore and analyze data optimizations behind your campaigns, the more successful you’ll be in making the right optimizations at the right time to achieve peak performance. This kind of attention and optimization can’t just happen every quarter or even every month – campaign data needs to be checked daily and hands-on optimizations need to happen frequently when the data calls for it. 

At VisionPoint, we have a saying: “There is no such thing as a ‘set it and forget it’ approach.” If you’re truly trying to transform your KPIs and increase your ROI, then laying a strong campaign groundwork is just the start of your digital marketing journey. Responding in real time to the ever-changing landscape of higher ed marketing is where your campaigns’ success truly resides. 

Maybe your team is familiar with the word “optimization” when it comes to bettering the performance of your digital campaigns. If so, we have some helpful tips on how to think through a stronger CRO strategy. If the idea of “optimizing” your strategic marketing efforts is new to you, stick around – you’ll get a firsthand look at how optimizations can be the difference maker in your campaigns. 

Make Optimizations Part of Your Routine 

If you’re going to optimize frequently to increase the return on your media investments, you have to incorporate data analysis as part of your regular campaign rhythm. Finding a time during the week to examine the data in your channel dashboards and decipher the story it tells will indicate what optimizations need to be made. You might explore this data as you check on the pacing of your ad campaigns. You may find Monday morning is a good time to check results on the optimizations you made Friday. Data optimizations are definitely not a simple button push (more on that later). If you’re wondering about some of the best-practice tactics to try based on commonly poor-performing KPIs, check out our Digital Marketing Decision Matrix.

Start building the habit now of staying informed on your data and studying up on KPI benchmarks so your responses become more and more agile and nimble. 

Look for Opportunities, Not Just Obstacles

While we tend to look for negative trends in data to locate areas that most need improvement, looking for areas of your campaign that are working exceptionally well is equally rewarding. Train your teams to notice trends in your campaign performance that are positive. Are your ads performing more strongly on mobile versus desktop? Is a certain platform producing higher-than-normal conversion rates? Explore the trends you can capitalize on to turn good campaign performance into great campaign performance. By baking well-timed, data-driven optimizations into your digital marketing strategy, you start to build a proactive approach to get out ahead of your campaign performance, rather than waiting to react to a dip in the metrics. 

When challenges do arise, knowing your performance benchmarks, as well as industry standards regarding KPIs, makes all the difference in turning an obstacle into an opportunity for innovative optimizations. For example, the cost per acquisition for an MBA program’s leads are going to differ widely from that of a rural community college’s. If you’re marketing an MBA program, explore ways to add dollars back to your budget through creatively strategizing how to optimize other areas, like your geographic target or a more effective call-to-action. 

Get Creative with Optimizations

Analytics data is a great tool for providing insight into the weekly performance of your campaigns. However, it’s important to know when you have to look outside of the dashboards for the answers on your next step. Exploring data around industry benchmarks or a certain geographic area can prove to be even more fruitful in uncovering the context and story behind your campaign performance. 

Similarly, the tweaks and changes that need to be made in order to improve campaign performance aren’t exclusive to technical changes. While data analysis and digital optimizations often do point out the need to adjust bids, keyword choices or audience targets, often, a creative optimization changes the campaign performance just as much, if not more, drastically. Our team leverages A/B testing for this very reason, and we are constantly on the lookout for statistical significance in the performance between our ad versions. Encourage your digital marketers and creative team to collaborate on new ad creative, refresh headlines, update calls-to-action, perform A/B testing or experiment with font treatments – and then see how they impact your KPIs. 

Know When to Wait

By the same token, it is very possible to tweak campaigns too much, too soon or too often. Sometimes campaign performance is already hitting its peak and upsetting the balance could actually result in a downward trend in performance. Finding how to sit comfortably in the tension of optimizing and waiting can be equally important to your campaigns’ success. 

Another way to make sure you’re not over-optimizing a campaign is to understand the time the ad needs to be in-market to actually yield actionable insights and data. Acting upon data that’s only been given a few days to garner traffic and impressions means acting on unreliable data. Similarly, if you make too many changes at once, and performance improves, it’s almost impossible to identify which of these optimizations actually had a meaningful impact on your campaign results. Isolating variables, giving them time to perform and reviewing those changes in light of your performance benchmarks is a sure fire way to make sense of your next step. 

Look for the Story, Not Just the Solution

It would be nice if optimization strategies were quick plug-and-play tactics for solving problems with dipping click-through rates or rising costs per acquisitions. While there are certain best-practices you can follow – like leveraging our Digital Marketing Decision Matrix, applying Google Recommendations, or examining your metrics weekly – nothing beats the intelligence of a dedicated digital marketing partner who is spending time in the weeds of your campaign metrics day in and day out. 

Optimization strategies are actually born from the close eye and careful analysis of a digital marketer who is well-versed in industry trends and optimization tactics. A strong digital marketer understands their own benchmarks for success and applies a healthy measure of critical thinking to uncover the story the data metrics are telling about how to truly improve campaign performance. 

VisionPoint Marketing is a full-service marketing agency with nearly two decades of experience helping higher education institutions achieve their goals. If you have questions or want to start a conversation about how to understand your digital campaigns’ benchmarks – or how we can transform your digital marketing KPIs through our industry-leading optimizations and reporting – please visit our website or reach out to our team.