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Recruiting Intelligence

Education Trends

Chart 1 - Source: Think with Google - Education Trends Through the Eyes of Consumers, 4/2012

"To google" has become a verb in the English language for good reasons. Search is constantly present in our lives as we navigate the web from our devices. Google accounts for more than 80+ percent of searches in the US and the majority of searches worldwide with the big exception of China, where local search engines dominate. As a result of this reach, Google has incredibly rich data on all of our behavior. Marketers use Google’s advertising search tools to implement more effective paid search advertising campaigns.

This week and next, Intead Insights will highlight two free Google services, giving you a glimpse of some important macro search trends. We will provide concrete examples of how you can find useful information for your own work through these services.

This week we are looking at Google’s free research area, called ThinkwithGoogle.com covering many industries including education. Our charts are selected from a study called "Education Trends through the Eyes of Consumers."

Chart 1 (above) summarizes the general search behavior for university-related information. The research evaluates online and offline information sources. Five of the eight most used search methods involve digital channels.

The school website (75%) and search engines (70%) are used most frequently as sources of information. Family and friends as influencers ranks third at 64%.

Google's study had a number of valuable recommendations. In general, the take-away is this: don't just drop users on your homepage and make them find their own way. Use their search terms and other user attributes to bring them directly to the information they are seeking. Google analytics is a free tool to analyze your site's visitor activity, the paths they take and the actions (conversions) that result. You can modify your site and landing pages based on these insights if you take the time to look at the data. In our experience, not enough of our colleagues are putting their time and resources into this valuable activity. Marketing works best when it is honed over time based on experience. At this point in the recruitment process, the science of marketing is far more important than the creative art.

Google's study shared the following details:

  • Don’t force every learner down the same path as they enter your website from search.
  • Tailor ad & landing page messaging to match the mindset.
  • Use analytics to track visitor activity from the first contact to enrollment. In other words, understand how early engagement leads to ultimate conversion.
  • Create an engaging brand experience across all devices.

If you have a moment, we recommend you look at Google's Education Trends report (use link above). It has additional statistics that can guide your marketing team as they modify your website each year.

Chart 1 - Source: Think with Google - Education Trends Through the Eyes of Consumers, 4/2012

Chart 2 highlights searches from mobile devices and searches for videos on YouTube. The report points out that mobile searches are increasing dramatically due to the higher penetration of smart phones, and that users are increasingly using handsets for university brand searches. The clear message for universities: make sure that your website is mobile-ready and delivers an effective user experience on a handset or tablet.

Secondly, paying attention to searches on YouTube, the second most popular search engine after Google in terms of volume, is critical as well. Within searches focused on academia, brand searches for universities account for two thirds of the volume, while program specific searches account for almost one-third. There are a few take-aways for recruitment professionals we feel are important here:

  • Be present with video on YouTube.
  • Keep your content updated and fresh.
  • Vary your content to respond to brand searches as well as program-specific searches.

The Google research suggests video can be powerful in shaping perceptions. We couldn’t agree more. The use of video can be further expanded, coordinated and leveraged in domestic and international student recruitment efforts. We also recommend video be offered in local language (see our recent insight on why local language marketing helps build valuable influencers in local markets).

Next week, we’ll introduce you to a Google tool you can use yourself to get insights about your institution and your competitors.

Topics: Insights