Google's 2013 Q2 education search report highlighted major trend shifts. Here's how you can adapt.

How Google’s Education Search Report Will Impact Your Content Management Strategy

Wed Oct 9, 2013

Google’s most recent quarterly report on education search trends revealed some significant changes in the edu search landscape. These changes have serious implications for higher education marketers and SEO, as well web content management. Here are the most important takeaways for your content strategy.

Branded and Local Search Is Up

Branded searches saw a 4% increase year over year and location-related searches shot up 11%. Colleges with some existing name recognition have an edge, but that’s nothing new. For regional schools, optimizing for location-based searches will be crucial to placing well in results.

Mobile Search Poised to Dominate In the Future

Making college websites more responsive and mobile friendly is clearly no longer a nice-to-have but absolutely a must-have. Mobile searches grew by a staggering 49%, indicating a strong preference by prospects to have content available wherever they are and whenever they want it. By next year, and possibly as soon as next quarter, mobile searches will lead in this category.

The Competition Is Fierce, and the Audience Is Seeking Value

Clicks on ads dropped 7%, driving the cost per click up 12%, signaling both greater competition for keywords and a savvier search audience looking increasingly to organic results over paid advertising. Business degree searches continue to lead the pack, but there was a significant 15% decline in searches for arts and design programs, with growth in searches for bachelor’s degrees (up 14%), certificate programs, and short-term career-specific programs such as cosmetology and automotive technology. Master’s queries rose 10% and liberal arts rose 4%.

MOOCs Are Making Themselves Known

Although searches for online courses dropped overall by 10%, specific searches for massive open online courses is on the rise with 142% growth year over year, and nearing the quantity of degree-specific searches. These courses are often free and offered by leading academic institutions, drawing students interested in flexibility, coursework, and prestige.

How Content Management Can Address These Trends

Your website should be a major enrollment driver, and needs to be optimized for discoverability according to the needs of your audience.

Value is clearly top-of-mind for prospective students. They are interested in the flexibility of online courses, but concerned about the credibility of the degree-granting institution. They are outcomes-oriented with a focus on “practical” career paths as well as certificate programs that shorten the time between learning and earning. As engaging searchers through paid advertising gets more difficult, colleges will need to invest a lot of time in optimizing their sites with content that demonstrates the value of their programs, relevance to career preparation, as well as credibility and third-party recognition in the form of college rankings.

Engage your campus CMS users in creating content that clearly highlights the return on investment in your institution, become an authoritative voice that guides prospects through their search process, and ensure the content reaches them on mobile devices through responsive design.

Karo Kilfeather, content marketing manager at Percussion Software
Karo Kilfeather
Content Marketing Manager | Percussion Software

Karo was born in Poland, and learned to speak English by watching "Saved by the Bell" reruns during her first summer in the U.S., which has left her unable to go through life without occasionally breaking the fourth wall. As Percussion's content marketing manager, she oversees and creates content that drives website traffic, engages followers, and helps fill the marketing and sales funnel. She writes about content management, content marketing, SEO, social media and web design, and how to make it all less complicated.

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