Paid Search Grows Membership in the Face of Online Negativity

The online reputation of NSHSS continually turned up negative results, so Captivate created a paid search campaign that helped transform its perception, significantly increasing the student organization’s memberships.

Key Objectives

Improve Brand Perception & Overall Online Reputation

Mitigate Impact from Negative Organic Search Results

Highlight Membership Benefits

Increase New Member Joins

The Project Background

The National Society of High School Scholars is an organization focused on providing scholarships, college funding support, and other opportunities (internships, networking, etc.) to high-achieving students.

However, because it has a similar name to the National Honor Society (NHS) — another prominent student honors organization — NSHSS has faced reputation challenges and has been casted as a scam, even though the organization brings great value to its membership base for those who take advantage of all it has to offer.

NSHSS came to Captivate to help shift the narrative and to have their side of the story at the forefront. After studying the situation, our team knew that a multi-channel strategy that included paid social, SEO content, and a reputation PPC campaign could offer a change in perception, providing the ability to get the most brand accurate content in front of people searching for information related to NSHSS.

Captivate Project Background

The Project Challenge

The reputation challenges presented two main obstacles. The first was that the generation of students pursued by NSHSS is one that basically lives online. That means when they learn about something, their immediate instinct is to search online for information. That’s not ideal if the results that turn up are negative.

The second was also reputation oriented. In certain ways, online content can feed itself, with negativity potentially breeding more negativity. If nothing is done to combat this and negative search results are continually clicked on, the hole goes deeper and deeper and can become much more challenging to overcome.

Captivate’s team knew that a more positive and accurate narrative needed to be created. By utilizing an innovative PPC strategy, our team could get the correct type of results in front of searchers, providing greater context of NSHSS and an accurate portrayal of service they provide their members.

Key Issues

Numerous Negative Organic Results About NSHSS Brand

Constantly Fluctuating SERP During Summer Campaigns

Connected with Negative Terms "Scam" & "Legitimate"

Brand Confusion with NHS

The ROI Focused Solution

During the summers of 2018, 2019, and 2020 — in tandem with a physical mail drop and paid social media campaign — Captivate focused on formulating a reputation-oriented Google Ads strategy that not only highlighted the numerous benefits of NSHSS membership, but also taking negative naysayer search terms like “Scam” head-on.

We structured the Google Ads PPC campaigns so investing budgets to get the most efficient cost per click. This strategy ensured that users searching for NSHSS would be served the most engaging content possible — at the best price.

Beyond targeting potential students, we also built campaigns focused on serving parents and educators of the honor students who received an invitation to join the Society. Through this, we were able to take a multi-pronged attack driven by paid search. This methodology proved successful, helping funnel both parents and students to dedicated landing pages.

This is a great example of how focused PPC advertising can get the right content in front of the right eyes, driving growth and success — in spite of online negativity.

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The Results

During our engagement, Captivate dialed-in our reputation-based Paid Search strategy for NSHSS, improving on Cost Per Acquisition and ROAS year after year.



New Member Joins

Ads accounted for nearly 3,800 new members in Summer 2020.



New Member Joins

Ads accounted for nearly 1,600 new members in Summer 2019.



New Member Joins

Ads accounted for nearly 2,000 new members in Summer 2019.



Return On Ad Spend

PPC campaigns delivered over $9 ROAS in Summer 2020.



Return On Ad Spend

PPC campaigns delivered over $6 ROAS in Summer 2019.



Return On Ad Spend

PPC campaigns delivered nearly $5 ROAS in Summer 2018.

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