Does Google know how prospective students conduct education research?
Google Think Insights, an incredible resource for random and not so random information, not to be confused with Google’s Think Quarterly, recently published a study on understanding the online patterns of prospective students researching higher education options, also called edusearchers. Conducted in Q3 of 2010 by Google and Compete, the report has some very interesting insights on how prospective students behave when they consider their college options. Here’s a brief overview. You can find the presentation deck here.
Unique visitors to education sites grew 40% year over year and that number is 33% for total education queries. Sixty percent of prospective students have little to no certainty as to which schools they will apply.
As prospective students conduct more research (both number of search queries and frequency of visits), conversion rate also increases. Edusearchers initiate the research process early on. Over 75% of conversions occur at least a month after the time of search referral. Education decision paths are scattered and non-linear. (As some adults would say “What else do you expect from kids with ADD?“)
The most popular resources used during the research process are school website (75%), search engines (58%), brochures (43%), family/friends (38%) and aggregators (34%). Among the websites that prospective students use for research, social networks (29%), YouTube (20%), entertainment sites (15%) and news sites (14%) are the most popular. Interestingly enough, among the top 15 influencers on a student’s opinion, social media is the only one with an overall negative influence. Among adults 18-34, one in six prospective students uses his/her cell phone more than 30% of the research time.
The frequency of repeat visits to a school site before conversion is high. Eighty-seven percent of converters visit the site at least twice before converting. Among these prospective students, 32% visit the site 10 or more times.
Finally, a school’s name and reputation are highly influential in making a higher education decision, at least for 71% of respondents. Also, 26% of education queries are branded, an 11% increase since last year.
What does this information mean for colleges?
Build brand equity and reputation. Empower advocacy among current students, alumni, faculty and staff. Develop a smart content strategy and build relevant and coherent (not necessarily consistent) experiences across media, platforms and devices: web, social, mobile, print.