Advertising online… Review of NextTag higher education marketing campaign

Getting online this morning through Comcast, I couldn’t help but notice a prominent right hand column ad offering “Online degrees in as Few as 2 Years.” The temptation to add another example to my expanding collection of “post-click marketing” efforts was too much to resist. And so off I went to arrive at the first landing page of a long series of pages designed to “Help us match you with schools…”

10 Pages to Your 5 Recommended Online Schools

NextTag is an online comparision shopping location and I landed in the “degrees” category. Here are my notes for the journey that followed for the first page to page 10 (including a skip to review the privacy policy pages). You can take the same trip by following the link above.

  • Page 1: Pick from 11 academic program areas that cover just about all things possible including “vocational.” I went for “Health/Human Services.” Easy page to understand
  • Page 2: Tell them my age. Never sure why age is asked and this one was espcially curious: one selection for “25 and over” and 4 categories for age slices lower than that. This is an example of something asked for the benefit of the advertiser and not the visitor.
  • Page 3: Pretty standard question about education already achieved, starting with GED. I told them I had a bachelor’s degree.
  • Page 4: Now they want to know when I graduated from high school or finished my GED. What’s the point of this? Already asked about my age and previous education achieved, so this isn’t going to help anyone re time away from education if I went past high school.
  • Page 5: Asking if I’m a U.S. citizen is OK. Does it really require a page of its own?
  • Page 6: A page for military service. This is a pretty standard question on ads like this, but the execution here was new: 26 choices, including “none.” Is this level of detail necessary to determine if a person will qualify for service-related financial assistance?
  • Page 7: Sombody realized the page count was getting high and decided to ask 3 things on one page: zip code; possible interest in a “nearby campus-based” program; email address. I left the campus program response in the “maybe” default answer.
  • Page 8: Asking for address information, daytime and evening phone numbers, and an estimate of time to enrolling. Phone numbers were required before moving to the next page, a serious effort to pre-qualify anyone responding to the ad. The “start” date began with “less than 1 month” and ended with “more than 6 months.” That’s a good step to sort people for immediate phone contact. I checked one of the two middle options.
  • Page 9: The schools for me arrive on this page: Ashford University, University of the Rockies, American Intercontinental University, Kaplan University, Argosy University. For each, I’m asked to pick a specific degree program from a drop-down menu. Most included only master’s level programs that were in some way health or human services related. The exception was for Kaplan University, where my choices included 12 bachelor’s level programs. In case I was interested in a second bachelor’s degree?
  • Privacy Policy Diversion: at this point, before hitting the final “submit” button, visitors can elect to read throught the long and legal privacy policy statement. Suffice it to say that if you continue, expect to receive a variety of future contacts. You’ve just agreed to a host of offers based on the information provided.
  • Page 10: A final “Thank You” page that relists the 5 schools that will “shortly” contact me. And in case I’m interested, invitations to explore “other popular services” appear here: mortgage rates and credit score services.

That’s it! Done. It didn’t take as long to complete the 10 pages as it did to write about them.

Phoenix and Capella Didn’t Rate

Inexplicable result: University of Phoenix and Capella University are listed on the first page as one of 12 “leading schools” participating in the ad. Wonder why neither was among the 5 schools that were returned to a person interested in an online master’s degree in health/human services? How did NexTag decide what was most likely right for me? 

Particular puzzlements:

  • The intense interest in age slices for people less than 24 years old.
  • The extraordinarily detailed military service page.

Overall impression: This could be fine-tuned for easier completion and therefore likely higher completion rate. I’d certainly be tracking the path of those who start the journey to see how many people stopped at various pages. On the other hand, maybe the completion rate is high enough and the “puzzlement” information valuable enough not to do this.

Next stage activity: The first two emails arrived almost instantly after completing the process, from Kaplan and American Intercontinental. At least 2 others have come along since. Differences between the two are obvious. This story of “post-click marketing” will continue next week.

That’s all for now.



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