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Higher Education Searches Rise on Google, Reveal Marketing Opportunity [Study]

Attention marketers: demand is high on mobile devices for higher education info, and online programs from traditional universities are highly sought after, according to new Google research that was revealed during the first Hangout on Air for Google’s education team.

The demand for education info in Google’s search engine shot up 4 percent, year over year (YOY). Brand-related terms that have the school’s name within the query were a key player in the growth:

Demand for Education Accelerated in Q2

What’s interesting to note, said Google’s Jennifer Howard, was brand searches on for-profit schools was flat YOY, while searches for traditional universities grew. Specifically, searches for traditional universities and their online programs are on the rise.

Howard said these types of queries show a shift in mindset that means students could be more interested in traditional universities with online programs versus the types of schools that historically have offered online education.

Also of interest was the 142 percent growth YOY in terms related to MOOCs (massive open online courses). Howard said that while there’s still a hefty debate about the validity of MOOCs, data shows students are considering it as they’re going through the research process.

Terms related to specific degrees saw an 8 percent YOY growth. Of these types of searches, MBAs consistently top the charts:

MBA still most in-demand degree type

Education Trends in Paid Search, Mobile, Local

So how these education queries affect the paid side of search in Q2? Even though demand was up, clicks were down 7 percent. This drove CPC of education-related terms up 12 percent.

Howard said marketers need to focus on relevancy. “We think there’s an opportunity to think about what messaging we are putting into the paid search ads … think about differentiation.”

Mobile is another area educational marketers should be mindful of. Mobile education queries were up 49 percent YoY according to Q2 data:


Geo-focused terms are also on the rise. “Terms that have a geolocater in them, and that are using that as a modifier have grown 11 percent year-over-year, while terms specifically indicating ‘online’ as a qualifier have declined 10 percent year-over-year,” Howard said.

Interest in geo-focused terms

“The hypothesis here is that students are more interested in potentially staying closer to home, are more interested in offerings where they have either a campus or they have some other way of interacting with the community or teachers or the classroom itself, versus some of the trends we’ve seen in the past regarding distance learning.”

Howard said educational institutes without a physical location should think about how to stress any community-related activities that surround its educational offering, whether it’s forums, student organizations, or something else.

Alternatively, if you do also have a campus, think about how you can maximize on this trend for geofocused educational searches.

You can watch the full Hangout here, including commentary from guests in the educational space:

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