The Basics: Retargeting ads and lookalike audiences for higher education


Choosing one’s college is a major decision for high-schoolers and most chances are that they will take time and reflection to nurture their choice. Colleges are in competition in so many ways and finding a way to stand out is often the goal of every college marketing team.

Charter College increased in 6 days its leads by 71%

Let’s take the example of Charter college. Charter is a private college that had trouble engaging with students and teenagers. As a result, Charter college missed out on many potential students that might have shown interest in their program but didn’t register for more information. The retargeting and lookalike campaign goal of Charter college was to get prospective students to register for more information about their programs while maintaining a low cost per lead. 

Charter college ran a campaign from July 24 to July 30 in 2017 which showed amazing results. The college increased its leads by 71% and decreased their cost per lead by 43%. 

Here is the full case study. 

How did Charter College do it? 

Charter’s success is neither a miracle or an exception, they worked with simple tools and made the best of them.

Dynamic Retargeting

Charter college used retargeting and lookalike campaign ads.

Retargeting is a commonly used marketing tactic where an advertiser shows their ads multiple times to users who have already been to their website and/or to users that have already seen their ads. Facebook retargeting ads get x3 more engagement than regular Facebook Ads. Keep in mind that 95% of visitors won’t convert the first time they see an ad. Retargeting aims to fill this gap.

Charter college built its dynamic retargeting campaign with the goal of first turning their college into an option and then, to turn that option into the prospective students’ first choice. They also integrated video ad which is a great teaser and extremely efficient to promo college’s culture. 

Charter did not make the mistake of overusing dynamic ads either. A non-stop retargeting campaign can backfire. According to marketers experts, visitors seeing your ad 7-12 times during 30 days is ideal but crossing the line can highly jeopardize your campaign.

How much do you waste?

50% of all media budgets are wasted. Find out how much of your budget isn’t delivering the results you’re paying for.

Lookalike Audiences in the education industry

A lookalike audience is an algorithmically assembled group of social network members who resemble or share the interest and characteristics of a “source” group, usually referred to as the ‘lookalike seed’.

Usually, marketers use past customer lists to create lookalike audiences. With Charter college, this approach wouldn’t work because the resulting lookalike audience would be students who are already enrolled in college. With this in mind, Charter built a lookalike audience from a seed of users who left their information in an attempt to find other users who are currently searching for a college. The resulting audience performed wonderfully.


As a college or higher education institution, digital marketing is your best tool to communicate with a young audience and to connect with users likely to be interested in your programs. It’s important to understand and properly profile your audience, after which dynamic retargeting combined with lookalike audiences can deliver great results.  

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