Students want to attend a school, college, or university that feels right for them. They want to join a school that can shape their future. However, with so many choices out there, it is difficult to convince potential students that your higher education institute is the best option for them.

Marketing in the higher ed industry is tough as there is immense competition. After all, the market worth of the higher ed industry is around $568.2bn. 

Everyone wants a slice of the pie.

This is why established universities and colleges spend tens of thousands of dollars on online marketing. This makes it extremely tough for educational institutions with small marketing budgets to compete with the giants. That being said, there is a digital marketing strategy that can allow higher education establishments to make a big impact without spending extravagantly on marketing.

The strategy we’re talking about is called “retargeting”.

Implementing retargeting in higher education can allow universities to improve their reach to new students, increase enrollment numbers and strengthen alumni relationships.

In this guide, we’ll dive deep into retargeting. We’ll discuss what it is, how it works, what channels are best for retargeting, and how it can benefit universities.

So, without any delay, let’s get started…

What is Retargeting?

The concept of retargeting is simple – remind a visitor multiple times about your products and services that they showed interest in. In the higher education industry, retargeting is used to keep your higher education institution fresh in the minds of prospective students. Retargeting ads serve as reminders for your website visitors. These ads remind your visitors what they were looking for on your website.

Schools, colleges, and universities use retargeting to remind students to register and enroll in their schools. Retargeting helps universities to learn more about their students. It allows them to understand their website visitors and adjust their ads to directly meet their needs in real time. 

How Higher Education Institutions can Use Retargeting to Increase Enrollments?

Higher education institutions can essentially use 4 types of retargeting to increase their enrollment numbers. 

1. Using display ads for retargeting

This is the most common way of retargeting students. This type of retargeting works by showing display ads to prospective students as they browse different websites online (not your website). 

When displaying ads, your obvious choice would be to work on your school’s branding. However, when there are literally hundreds of schools in the higher education industry, why would anyone click on your ad?

In order to really get more impressions, clicks, and conversions, your marketing team can run display ads about:

  • Open house event ads: Create ads to remind students about your open house events. Mention the date and location of your event to make it easier for your audience to find you.
  • Programs and degree ads: Target prospecting students who browsed your degrees and programs by serving them personalized ads about your school’s degree programs.
  • Testimonials ads: Target prospecting students by creating ads that include reviews and testimonials from your current students and alumni related to the programs they searched on your website. 

2. Using social channels for retargeting

As we mentioned earlier, social media is where students live. There is no better channel than social media to reconnect or re-engage with potential students than constantly stay fresh in their minds as they browse through Twitter, Facebook, or any other social media platform. 

Here are a few Facebook retargeting tactics that higher education institutions use:

  • Promote your open house event: Nothing builds more trust than inviting students and their parents to your school. Create personalized ads targeting prospecting students to attend your school’s open-house events
  • Enrollment reminders: Create ads to remind students to finish the enrollment process. Mention the last date of application submission.

3. Retargeting based on what people search

Another way educational institutions in the higher education industry run retargeting campaigns is through “Search retargeting”. It basically involves targeting students based on the searches they performed on search engines like Google, Bing, or Yahoo. This strategy is great if you want your university to appear on top whenever prospects search for potential schools to join.

4. Using email for retargeting

You may have been able to convince prospects to give you their emails, but what now?

Well, you now need to leverage your email list to convince your prospects to register or enroll in your school. Email retargeting targets email subscribers rather than website visitors. Established universities and even individual course creators use email marketing to promote their online courses

With email retargeting, you can use personalized ads to convince prospective students to take the next step. For example, you can run an email campaign for your institute that educates your audience about how they can register and the last date to apply. By doing so, higher education institutions can greatly increase their enrollment numbers. 

Best Channels for Retargeting for Higher Education

If you’re just starting with remarketing for the first time, you’ll have a tough time deciding which retargeting platforms are best for you. To make it easier, we’ve listed the top 3 retargeting platforms that every higher education institution should be using in 2022.

1. Google Ads

Google Ads is one of the most powerful and widely used retargeting platforms. 

Schools, colleges, and universities can use the “audience manager” tool inside of Google Ads to create custom audiences by using data from Google Analytics, YouTube, Google Play, and other sources.

The reason why Google Ads is the ideal choice for higher education marketing is that it has a massive reach. Google controls around 40% of the PPC advertising market. The advertising real estate that it offers to marketers is unparalleled.

It allows marketers to not only display their ads on the SERPs but also on Youtube, apps, and on third-party websites that have a partnership with the Google display network. As a result, Google Ads ensures that you find the right students for your school with your retargeting ads.

2. Criteo

Another great retargeting and PPC solution for higher education institutions is Criteo. This platform claims to deliver 13 times the return on investment through its advanced retargeting solutions. 

Criteo uses powerful machine learning to automatically optimize ad creatives with the right offer to target the audiences at the right time – improving your conversion rates significantly.

Criteo comes packed with extensive dynamic retargeting features that any digital marketer will find useful. One of Criteo’s best features is video ads. Criteo can smartly create personalized video ads to attract students from diverse backgrounds. Using machine learning, Criteo can generate personalized ads based on what prospecting students searched for or showed interest in. 

3. Facebook Ads

Facebook’s share of the PPC advertising market makes it an awesome retargeting platform for higher education institutions. The platform has around 2.5 billion active users, making it one of the most visited websites on the web. With such a wide reach, no wonder why so many higher-ed marketers use this platform for retargeting. 

Facebook Ads make retargeting easy. As we talked about earlier, marketers just need to install a tracking pixel on their websites and set up events. After that, Facebook can track which user is interacting with which page on your university website. 

Facebook can then run dynamic retargeting ads to target only those students who previously visited your website or interacted with your university’s Facebook page.

How Does Retargeting Work and What is the Benefit of Using Retargeting for University?

As mentioned earlier, retargeting is basically a marketing strategy to show your ads to people who previously visited your website but didn’t perform any action. For example, you can show your university ads to students who visited your website but didn’t inquire about your programs or register.

Retargeting works by installing a small piece of code called a pixel on your website. After placing the JavaScript code on your university or higher education website, a browser cookie gets injected into the student’s device who visits your website.

Once the cookie is deployed inside of the user’s web browser, it can help marketers track when the visitor leaves your website. Essentially, the pixel code signals retargeting platforms such as Facebook to start showing your ads to such visitors. 

Even though retargeting sounds invasive, it really isn’t. In fact, every time we go online, we’re bound to see ads related to products or services that we searched for earlier. It is essentially how targeted marketing works. 

The benefits of retargeting for higher ed institutions

1. Save marketing dollars by only showing your ads to students who expressed interest in your school

Traditionally, when marketing in the higher education industry, marketers would spend tens of thousands of dollars to advertise your school to the right students. Doing so can include lead generation in higher education. However, it can also inadvertently generate irrelevant leads. With the rise of digital marketing techniques such as SEO and social media advertising, higher education institutions can now target specific audiences more effectively and at a lower cost. This can result in higher leads and a better return on investment.

Retargeting allows higher education institutions to reach only those students who have already shown interest in your school. It’ll help you market your school to students who are likely to convert.

2. Nurture student leads until they turn into conversions

When choosing a university, students do an extensive amount of research. They would typically visit multiple university websites before shortlisting a school of their choice. Considering that your school isn’t the only option for prospecting students, they may not enroll in your school on their first visit to your website. That’s why it’s essential to build an effective enrollment funnel that can effectively guide prospective students through each stage of the enrollment process

This is nurturing leads through retargeting is crucial.

Retargeting allows universities to stay in constant touch with prospecting students – providing relevant information to help students make up their minds. 

For example, if a student visits your site and leaves, you can run retargeting ads to show them your school’s programs. This strategy can get a student to visit your website again. If they fill out your registration form on their second visit, you can display ads highlighting how new students can apply for your school’s programs. You’ll need to run different ads targeting every stage of the student’s enrollment journey.

3. Strengthen brand awareness

By showing ads over and over again to students who previously visited your site, you can strengthen your brand recognition by reminding previous website visitors about your school’s programs. Showing your ads multiple times to prospecting students will eventually get you more leads.

That being said, it is important to not show your ads too many times. You’ll need to keep track of how many times you display your ads to an individual student. If you overdo it, it can negatively impact your remarketing efforts.


Retargeting is a powerful and cost-effective marketing strategy that schools, colleges, and universities can use to educate and enroll prospective students in their programs. 

Higher education marketing trends are constantly shifting among many other aspects to ensure a higher education institution’s retargeting and growth in all areas.

Retargeting in higher education can help students learn more about your school and ultimately make up their minds.

Gone are the days when marketers would lose leads. With retargeting, higher ed marketers can use custom audiences to engage and entice students who were either faintly curious about your higher education institution or were considering enrolling in your programs.

Think Orion assisted many educational institutes in retargeting strategies to increase enrollment. With vast experience in education industry, Think Orion as an edtech ads agency increases the lead generation process of education technology providers.