May 28, 2020

Three Key Takeaways from Google’s Latest Education Insights Report

As a higher education marketing agency, our focus is on upcoming digital trends in student acquisition, especially during the age of COVID-19. Every day, behaviors and tactics are changing and schools’ digital marketing strategies need to adapt in order to achieve enrollment, yield, and retention goals.

That’s why Google’s global higher education insights report, Future of the Classroom, is so valuable. The report provides an inside look at what the world’s largest search engine is seeing in terms of prospective higher education students’ behaviors and trends. The global insight report itself is private. It’s available only to higher education marketing companies, like Statwax, who have direct relationships with Google for higher ed marketing. But the quarterly report provides shareable insights into the way schools should adjust their digital marketing plans to keep up with prospective students’ online behaviors. Here are three key takeaways from Google’s higher education insights report that can influence your college’s enrollment marketing strategy.

The impact of COVID-19 isn’t fully visible, yet

Even as many colleges look to re-open campuses this fall, the impact of COVID-19 is still being felt in the digital marketing space. 

According to Google’s analysis, higher ed queries were steadily on the rise this year until the coronavirus took the world by storm. January saw a slight increase in higher education search queries year-over-year. February saw even better growth, signaling strong momentum for 2020. It wasn’t until mid-March when things took a turn downward. The end of March resulted in a year-over-year decline for most higher education queries. But with the report only covering Q1, the true year-over-year loss in search volume can’t be seen just yet.

Google Higher Ed Insights general edu searches graph

This data doesn’t mean paid search strategies are set to fail. Although overall higher education searches decreased, there are numerous other search behaviors taking place at more complex levels. Recently, Statwax has seen surges in online-based education searches as well as unique opportunities to engage users who are flocking to search engines to find new career paths and training among a brutal job market.

Expand search strategies into “general” keywords

Right now, general search queries are the secret to sustaining volume from your paid search strategies. Once the coronavirus affected higher education searches, the general education searches were the only search group that remained steady year-over-year. Search volume involving specific college degrees and programs as well as searches for branded school names plummeted.

Google higher education insights report program and degrees year over year growth graph

So, why is there continued growth in general search behaviors? We recently looked into the same trends and found a lot of uncertainty. However, continued interest in higher education was the driving force. Prospective higher education students aren’t going to search engines to research specific programs or degrees. Why? Because they don’t know what a school might be able to offer post coronavirus, and when. Prospects aren’t sure if online learning is here to stay or even what test scores are needed to apply.

In an effort to find basic information about the future of higher education, more potential students are turning to general info searches. You can capitalize on this trend by making sure your paid search marketing strategies are designed to take advantage of this traffic. It may not be as high-converting, but it will act as a high-intent funnel filler. 

Certificate programs are all the rage

After breaking down both the growth and overall volume of searches based on a program type, there was no contest for the most in-demand category. Certificate program search queries had more year-over-year growth than any other program type. They also show the highest search volume by a wide margin.

Google higher education insights report bubble graph of ldegree program growth

COVID-19 is likely to boost this education trend further. Millions of people are out of work and looking for new training. Accelerated online courses, certifications, and certificate programs will appealing options. In addition, in-demand programs like computer coding and IT are moving away from traditional universities to more affordable options. Certificate-focused bootcamps and community colleges are two places where people can now find these educational opportunities. Their availability and affordability make it clear why certificate programs have never been more popular.

If your school has certificate offerings, now is the time to split those into standalone paid search marketing campaigns. Knowing many are turning to certificates as a quicker, more affordable alternative to traditional degrees, make sure your ad messaging calls out course length and cost.

Looking for more insights into how online search behaviors are changing the digital marketing landscape for higher education? Talk to our enrollment marketing experts today.

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