Google search volume for academic programs and institutions of higher learning in the United States is up for each of the first five months of 2017, and was up five percent for May, according to an analysis by Gray Associates, a higher education strategy consulting firm.
“A Google search is often a student’s first step in deciding what to study and where to enroll,” noted Gray CEO Robert Atkins. “Search volume is an early indicator of future enrollment trends since searches typically precede students making inquiries about programs and/or institutions.”
Gray tracks search volume on 5,000 keywords for the 200 largest academic programs and for 70 higher education brands. The analysis was presented at its July 20 webinar on the most recent student and employer demand trends for higher education. Other findings were:
- The top 25 keywords associated with Medical Assistant and MBA generated the most program searches in May 2017, approximately 200,000 for each of these programs.
- Keywords associated with Health Care Administration were the most expensive in May, with a weighted average cost per click around $23.
- The University of California – Los Angeles was the most searched brand among the 70 higher education brands that Gray tracks. UCLA appeared in more than 13.5 million Google keyword searches, more than twice for the second most-searched brand, Harvard University.
While 2017 search volume is running ahead of 2016 levels, inquiry volume, which measures specific requests for information about a program is down overall, but more important, is significantly different for online and on-ground programs. June inquiry volume ran 21 percent ahead of 2016 for online programs, while it was down 10 percent for on-campus programs.
“Search is really the front end of the funnel. Inquiries are a little further down the funnel. We have people who at this point have filled out their name, phone number and email and told people what academic program(s) they’re interested in and whether they want that program on-ground or online,” Mr. Atkins pointed out. He added that he “wouldn’t be too concerned about the decline” because colleges and universities appear to be focusing on fewer, better quality inquiries.
Conversion rates, i.e. students who are actively engaged in applying to an institution, are improving. For March 2017, the most recent “mature” month, conversions were running two percent ahead of 2016. The gains came from conversions for online programs, which were 91 percent higher year-over-year. On-campus program conversion rates were 14 percent lower for March. Gray counts conversions by the month an inquiry was received. It can take as long as six months for the conversion rate to fully mature because prospective students are taking longer to make decisions.
Download the full report here: https://info.grayassociates.com/grayreports-july-2017-student-and-employer-demand-trends-webcast-download
About Gray Associates
Gray Associates, Inc. is a strategy consulting firm focused on higher education. We help clients develop fact-based institutional and marketing strategies to maximize outcomes for students, the school and its constituencies. Gray uses proprietary analytical techniques and an industry-leading database combing information on inquiry volumes, demographics, competition, and employment to help faculty and school leadership develop institutional strategies, select programs, pick locations and prepare curricula.
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