By Michelle Coull

An effective Clearing Campaign should be the priority of any university’s student recruitment strategy.

We’ve previously discussed the 6 key elements to any effective campaign: it should be empowering, simple, timely, targeted, personal and unique.

Having run numerous Clearing Campaigns over the years, it is something we take seriously, but also feel a degree of excitement about as well.

Being a Google Premier Partner working in the education space, and with a number of social media specialists under our roof, we look forward to the opportunity to put into practice all the new developments and tools released.

But let us give you an example of how our Digital Marketing specialists achieved results for one of our clients – a London-based university.

We activated a cross-channel marketing campaign, with multiple touch points across platforms such as Google and Snapchat.

Here’s how, and why, we did it.


Google is the UK market leader, generating 86% of all searches, and from our experience Google AdWords remains the most reliable advertising platform for driving quality leads.

Prospective students use Google search as a key touchpoint (often the final one) in their decision-making process. In the UK, 80% of users aged 18-25 use search engines on their smartphones every week. Search engines are also the main online source for making decisions.

In the education sector alone, Google has noted

  • 2% growth in searches from 2016-17
  • 28% increase in clicks (people are starting to trust ads more and more)
  • mobile queries and clicks continue to grow year-on-year – increasing by 77% from 2016-17

We used Google Search as a non-interruptive form of advertising to those looking online, taking into account the high volume of clearing related searches, such as "ucas clearing", "university clearing", as well as course-specific keywords such as "midwifery clearing 2017" and "accounting course clearing".

Google Display was activated due to the potential reach, of more than two million websites, and it’s a useful tool for generating brand awareness. Its targeting capabilities allow us to limit location and demographics, as well as focus on users with particular interests. As display advertising only costs money when somebody clicks, it is the best way to reach a large quantity of users for a very low cost. We also have the ability to test different images, brand messages and ad formats – for maximum impact.

Remarketing is a crucial part of digital strategy, as it is another way of reaching users, who have previously visited the university’s website. For our client, we implemented three tiers of remarketing audiences with different  bid adjustments to nurture the lead, funneling them to convert:

  • All Users & Similar to All Users
  • Clearing audience
  • Course specific audiences

By segmenting remarketing data, we were able to personalise our clients’ messages to prevent banner blindness, tailor ads to our audiences’ specific interests, and ultimately drive those users to engage, click through and convert.


Snapchat is one of the fastest growing social media platforms with over 150 million daily users, 36% of which are millennials. It is the perfect platform to target prospective undergraduate students.

Snapchat is continuing to expand its advertising offering, allowing universities to get even more creative with Clearing Campaigns.

Previously geo-filters were the perfect tool to promote a brand message as Snapchatters would share filters with friends. But with recent enhancements, Snap Ads allows universities to not only increase brand exposure but also convert the end user by driving them back to their website.

Snap Ads can be tailored to Snapchatters based on their interests and location, allowing us to target the undergraduate audience. This new format is proven to encourage double the engagement compared to other advertising platforms.

The results

Our Search campaign had a 168% increase in conversions and a 62% decrease in cost per conversion, when compared to the previous year. 

Display advertising increased the university’s reach by 322.46%, gaining over 14.5 million impressions compared to the previous year.

Within the general search campaigns, ads shown to remarketing audiences achieved a higher click-through rate than ads shown to new audiences – 7.1% compared to 6.7%.

The conversion rate (CVR) was also higher at 2.6% compared to 1.9%. These results highlight the importance of segmenting your audience to deliver potential students tailored messages to drive conversion.

The Snapchat video ad was launched on August 16 and ran for three weeks, receiving 995,400 impressions and 6,200 Swipe Ups.

When comparing the video to the Snapchat geofilter campaign, it was clear that not only did the video reach more of the undergraduate target audience (over 101%) but resulted in higher engagement rates.

The Snap video ad engagement metric, Swipe Up, allows universities to drive the user to an in app form or to their website - thus allowing clients to measure success and understand their Return on Investment.

These are just elements of a campaign we put together, for one client.

Our top tip? Start early.

The earlier we get started, the more time we have to examine your marketing data and audience to help you understand what works, while making improvements to reach the relevant student community.

We can also advise on how your staff should prepare for the crucial Clearing window, by setting up phones and social channels to respond to enquiries.


To speak to our Clearing experts about this, or any other aspect of student marketing, call us now on 0800 612 9890.