University of Phoenix Leads Online Education Advertisers in Paid Search

Driven by for-profit schools, education is a robust category in paid search advertising, accounting for an average of $1.2 billion per year on U.S. Google from 2014 through 2016, according to AdGooroo data.

Of this total, nearly one quarter of total spend (24%) came from the online education subcategory, through which students take courses from their computer exclusively rather than attend class in person at a brick-and-mortar school.

To assess paid search leadership in the online education subcategory, AdGooroo studied U.S. Google Desktop Text Ad Activity on 978 of the top non-branded online education-related keywords from August 2016-January 2017, a key period that includes the two most active months for new student enrollment, August and January. Top keywords during the period studied include the terms ‘online college’, ‘master of business administration’, ‘bachelor’s degree’ and ‘colleges’.

Online Education Top Advertisers 

Apollo Group’s University of Phoenix led all advertisers on the online education keyword group, far outspending the competition with a total of $27 million spent during the six-month period, according to AdGooroo data. Capella University was the next largest advertiser with $13.8 million in spend, followed closely by DeVry University ($13.5 million). Southern New Hampshire University ($11.7 million) and Bridgepoint Education’s Ashford University ($11 million) rounded out the top five.

In addition to Southern New Hampshire University, there were 4 other traditional non-profit universities in the top 20 ranking, including Liberty University ($4.1 million), Keiser University ($3.1 million), Arizona State University ($3.1 million) and Penn State ($2.8 million). Two online lead aggregators also made the ranking: ($3.9 million) and ($3.7 million). The remaining 13 of the top 20 online education advertisers were for-profit schools.

The top 20 advertisers paid an average of $15.88 per click to attract prospective students during the 6-month period. paid the most per click, an average of $24.52, while Education Management Corporations’ American InterContinental University paid the least, an average of $7.43 per click.

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