Ultra-clickable Ads for Private Schools

Updated: May 3

by Trevor Waddington, Principal, Truth Tree

clickable private school ad

You may have read a time or two my line that goes something like this: Parents don’t cross their fingers, go to Facebook and hope they see an ad for a private school.


They go to Google and search “private school” or some iteration of the phrase.

Oh, so quick tip: while we like to call ourselves independent schools, parents search for private schools more than 4 to 1.

Once they hit Search, the action above the fold will look different for everyone who reads this blog. Your age, parental status, location, month/day/time, searching habit, and more will be factored in nanoseconds to show you your personalized results.

Like many of our school partners who compete with other schools for Google Ad space, it’s crucial to make their ads stand out.

The funny thing is, everyone involved may feel that the ad copy is awesome only to have it turn out to be a dud.

As we hone our craft more and more, those duds happen less and less. So with over 40 school partners, we felt it was high time to take an intense deep dive to find out what ad copy performs the best.

To get things started, we looked at one metric: click-through rate (CTR), which measures how often people click your ad after it's shown to them, which can help you understand the effectiveness of your ad.

We looked at 56 of our clients’ top-performing Extended Text Ads. These ads consist of three headlines, two descriptions, multiple sitelinks, sitelink extensions, callouts, and more. We looked at all aspects of the campaigns, including the bid strategy, call to action, user intent, and more. So the best performing ads from a CTR standpoint tended to be ones with the strongest CTA.

With that, here’s what we found:

  • 4% of the ads led with the school’s name

  • 17 of the top 20 overall ads

  • Started with:

  • Your

  • Top

  • [Name of town/city/region]

  • Discover

  • Or ended with:

  • ?

  • 30% of the ads did not even mention the schools’ name (though in 88% of those ads, the description stated the school’s name).

  • 50% of the ads had a quote as headline #1 and/or a quote in description #1

  • 73% of ads were hero-centric

  • Ads did not start with, ‘At [school name], we….’

  • Ads started with#08A039

  • Your child…

  • Are you…

  • You…

  • 80% of the ads that do not have the location in the school’s name had location identifiers in the headlines or at the beginning of description #1.

  • 91% of the ads had the age/grade range served, and gender served (if applicable).

  • 100% of the ads are awesome! (okay, maybe that one is subjective).

So what does this data say to our team and me?

1. Don’t lead with your school’s name - Unless you are the top school in your market, no one cares about your name. They care about what you can do for their child. While calling your school “Top” or “Best” is frowned upon in some associations and can subjectively odious, you cannot argue with its growth in search queries.

Yes, in some cases, our headline for a school is Top Private School Near You. But what works well is “Best School Around” - Parent. Quotes are awesome. The quote marks make the ad stand out. Plus, it’s a happy teaser when they see the description has the full quote. 😉

2. Make your ads hero-centric - We all love a hero. Think about it, though. When you think about a great movie or book, do you say, ‘Wow, I wish Tom from two houses down was the hero in this story!’ No, you say, ‘Wow, I wish I could be the hero of this story.’

3. Location, Location, Location - When we partner with a school, one of the first pieces to the engagement is reviewing their market share. Part of this exercise includes searching for “private school in [the town/city/region] the school is located in.

Since we have Truth Tree team members in different parts of the country (and world), running this search will produce different results. Living in Maryland, when I go through this exercise, I see a lot of local independent schools’ ads. No problem IF you include your location in one of the headlines. People coming to your site and even inquiring because they think you are in Chicago, for example, when you’re actually in Bethesda, Maryland, is wasting both your time and theirs. The other more lengthy way to avoid this problem is to a negative keyword for all the other states and cities in the country (or the world if you’re a boarding school). Not fun!

We hope you can take advantage of our data analysis from over 40 of our school partners. And if you are interested in Truth Tree’s world-class digital marketing exclusively for independent schools and summer camps, drop us a message at info@truthtreeconsulting.com.