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Google’s Education team recently hosted a Google Hangout that provided their 2013 Q3 report on the state of Google search and pay-per-click marketing dynamics for the higher education marketplace. Along with Google staffers, the Hangout included guests, Brad Frank, VP Marketing, Collegis Education and John Burmingham, Chief Marketing Officer, Devry University. The video run-time on the hangout is almost 38 minutes, including questions.

Google Q3 pic1

Jeniffer Howard, Industry Director for Higher Education hosted Google’s Q3 Higher Education Search Analysis Report Hangout 

Click on the Hangout video above for full replay of the report. All the screen captures below are from the Hangout report.

I’ve provided report highlights and a few of the more interesting slides in the following recap. My comments are in italic:

  • Total search query volume increased by 3% on all education terms, (not including MOOC related terms) 
    Google Q3 pic2
  • Search on “traditional” schools grew by 7%
    Google Q3 pic3
    Significant search growth was seen for branded terms related to “traditional schools” (in this context traditional mean not-for-profits). This category also including search term modifiers related to “online” courses and programs .

  • Search terms including “geographic” modifiers increased by 10%
    Google Q3 pic4
    It was suggested by Google that the growth of search terms with geographic modifiers seems to indicate that students are more interested in programs near home. Interestingly enough overall search queries including the term “online” decreased by 3% but Degree and Program searches with “online” modifiers increased by 7%.These are difficult figures to really get an insightful handle on given how they are rolled up but it does make sense that eventually, local would dominate a searcher’s intent, with more search term precision used to describe online degrees and programs. 
  • Nursing saw the fastest growth in program related search queries at 15%
    Google Q3 pic6
    It was also mentioned that overall, health care has the overall highest search query volume of all areas, growing by 4% over Q2. Education was notable with a 20% year over year growth.Also mentioned in the Hangout discussion was that higher ed related mobile search queries increased by 45% year over year for Q3 2013. The details were not reported but my guess is that mobile was probably somewhere around 10% last year, meaning mobile is now approximately 15%. If I am right , this 5 percentage points of growth could account for most of the 3% overall increase in higher education related search so be sure to consider mobile search as a high priority emerging channel when making your PPC plans for the coming year.


  • MBA remains the most searched degree area, with 2% growth, with bachelors as the fastest growing degree search area with 12 % growth

  • Pay-Per-Click is getting more competitive and more expensive
    Google Q3 pic8Brad Thomas from Collegis made a really important point on this topic in the discussion. As “traditional” schools enter the PPC market they really need to carefully position themselves along the lines of their brand’s differentiating characteristics. An undifferentiated general approach, using general keywords, is only going to drive up competition at the general level, increasing overall costs for all institutions, without providing any additional value to the searcher.
  • Cost per lead is increasing, but in Q3 2013 was modestly buffered by increasing conversion rates
    Google Q3 pic9It was speculated in the Hangout  that conversion rates might be increasing as a result of the growing experience with PPC by traditional schools, who are getting better at aligning the scent trail across keywords, ad copy and landing pages. Given a reduction in overall clicks, it is also seen as possible that individual prospects could be converting on more separate occasions than previous, ( last year’s average was 4 times per individual) but that information was not available in this report .

I’d recommend you take the time and review the full video if you can spare the 38 minutes. This report will provide higher education marketers with helpful insights into the overall search market and will definitely help you if you are a “traditional” school charting new territory into the world of pay-per-click marketing.

I would love to find out what our readers are finding particularly interesting or surprising in Google’s report. Let us know what you think!