PPC Case Study: Lead Generation for Columbia College Chicago Online


Columbia College Chicago Online (CCCO) is the online education branch of a Columbia College Chicago, CCCO provides online courses in a range of subjects from AR/VR programming to creative writing. As of April 2020, there are 22 separate courses and six certificate programs. With a few exceptions, each course is a separate entity, which requires its own target audience, unique approach to assets, copy, keyword strategies.


Before working with CFD, Columbia College Chicago Online had only rudimentary analytics and attribution systems in place. Ad activities weren’t tracked and numbers, such as how many leads and enrollments were a result of ads, or the ROAS, were very approximate.


Tracking and Analytics

To get the most out of our advertising activities, Careful Feet Digital implemented a robust tracking system. Any system we were going to implement had to have minimal impact on they way the CCCO sales team worked with their leads, so we could not implement a traditional CRM. To complicate our task even further, we approach each ad platform differently, and courses feature flexible pricing.
To address this we decided to proceed with a classic testing approach, on the ad, ad set, campaign and landing page level.This was done separately for each platform we advertised on—Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google Ads. We also implemented baseline Google Analytics goals.

Columbia College of Chicago landing page for ASL

Once established, this simple analytics system allowed us to see the performance of each course. From there we were able to calculate our target numbers and adjust budgets between courses as needed. As a result, the number of registrations per budget has steadily grown since then.

Goal completion growth since starting with our new client, for which we created a robust strategy.

For lead generation we tested multiple channels—Facebook Ads, Twitter Ads, LinkedIn Ads, and Google Ads. After a period of testing we’ve found only Facebook Ads and Google Ads performance to be satisfactory, so we continued with these platforms, discarding others altogether.

Facebook Ads

On Facebook we proceeded with Conversion ads. Moving away from Lead Gen ads and driving traffic to the actual landing pages increased quality of leads. The ad/landing page combo does a better job of selling the course than just an ad. Additionally, it introduces a certain element of friction in the process, which tends to qualify leads.

Testing is an important part of our strategy, and we run various tests regularly.  On the ad set level we tested placements and audiences (lookalikes vs. interests vs. demographics), trying to find combinations that perform well for every separate course. On the ad level, we tested different copy and assets. For the assets, it was different images vs each other as well as shorter video clips—5 to 30 seconds. As for the copy we tested not only different length and types, we also tried different benefits and appeals, looking for what resonates the best with our target audiences.

Performance of campaigns for ASL courses—one we started as a part of a new strategy in August 2019 and one that was running before.  We’re still experimenting with copy and visuals trying to raise CTR. CPA is already very good and gathered leads  convert well.

Google Ads

On Google we prioritized Search ads. While being the most expensive option, they align well with buyers’ intent and provide good conversion rates. Our focus was getting a list of well-converting keywords for each campaign, while filtering low-intent queries. Generally, we began with modified broad match keywords to research potential of each keyword. Gradually we shifted from BMM to phrase and exact match keywords, as they have the highest conversion potential.

To cut down less relevant queries we maintained lists of negative keywords. Each campaign had its own list, but we also used general lists we used for all campaigns.

Managing and optimizing an account is an ongoing process. We’re constantly monitoring accounts for changes, looking for new ways to increase click and conversion rates, while simultaneously decreasing their price.

Campaigns for Blockchain for Business course on Google ads.  Conversion rates aren’t what we want from it yet — we’re working with CCCO on improving landing page for it. However, since CFD took over, we increased CTR  twofold  and decreased CPC by 56%.