+1 (978) 744-8828 Email Us  

Recruiting Intelligence

International students are searching. Will you pop up?

How does your school do when international students start typing queries into a search engine?

In December 2012, more than 175 billion online searches were conducted worldwide. That's 65,000 searches per second, of which 65 percent were handled by market leader Google. According to recent comScore data, the U.S. search giant handled an overwhelming 115 billion searches in December, distancing its strongest competitor from China, Baidu, by more than 100 billion searches. With 2.8 percent of searches, Microsoft's Bing ranked fifth behind Russian competitor Yandex.

When it comes to the number of searchers (not just searches), Google’s market dominance is just as impressive. In December, 77 percent of the 1.52 billion search engine users worldwide conducted a Google search at least once. That’s 1.17 billion Google users, as opposed to 293 million users of Baidu and 292 million users of Yahoo’s search. Bing was used by 267 million people in December, clearly distancing Yandex in terms of reach.

Research shows that search engines are a critical part of international student and parent access to university information during the selection and application process. From our work with many universities, here are our top six recommendations on how to improve your international search engine results:

  1. Your university brand name requires a consistent translation into the local language. Otherwise, users will receive different search results. Be sure all local language content, social media and other online sources of information you control use the same translation for your school. You might be surprised to learn how many different spellings of your school name there are in China.
  2. Searches in local language deliver different search results than searches in English. Deliver your targeted content in a way that will be found during local language searches. Example: if you produce a targeted landing page or other content to attract international students to your business, finance or IT program, post a local language version in addition to English.
  3. Local language pages on your site have higher credibility with search engines and hence higher visibility for local language searches. Your own information may not be displayed as highly on search engines if other organizations, such as local recruiting agents, publish local language pages with your brand.
  4. The main Asian recruiting markets of China, Korea and even Vietnam have dominant search engines other than Google. Create webpages responding to these search engines and optimized for them. As Chart 1 and 2 below show, Google rules, but a presence on Baidu and other local search engines (e.g., Daum in Korean, Yandex in Russia) is critical if you are targeting specific local markets.
  5. Landing pages for individual countries (local language and English) on your website can help you direct prospective users to the appropriate information and can improve your search ranking. A purely English website with deep and rich information comes across as overwhelming (too much information) for non-native speakers. International students and parents are easily frustrated. Heck, even we get frustrated trying to navigate the English version of many higher education websites. Creating local language content welcomes prospective international students and differentiates your school from competitors.
  6. Monitor and update your information on multi-language Wikipedia sites or the local equivalent (e.g., Baidu Baike). These services have great visibility and high rankings on international search engines.

Bottom line: Your website is one of your strongest marketing tools for recruiting international students. Done right, your website will become the foundation for all of your other online and offline marketing efforts around the world as your social media posts, international tours, print collateral, etc., refer international students to the online content that speaks directly to them and their interests. Let the ESL tests confirm language proficiency. Clearly define your brand and your differentiators on your website. And make that site findable, welcoming and easily understood.

Graph 1

Source: Statista

Graph 2

Source: Statista
Topics: Insights