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Search Trend SEO in International Education Digital Marketing

From ICEF Monitor:

Search trends playing an increasing role in international education marketing’.  Google continues to produce fascinating research on education-related search, and the growing body of data and analysis in the area is yielding important insights for education marketers.

The first thing to note is that education-related search volumes have continued to increase year on year… … Non-branded search still key

Brand-related search queries – that is, searches for specific institutions or schools – were down marginally….  …..These findings extend an important observation we first noted in 2012: that 9 in 10 prospective students don’t know which school they want to attend at the onset of the search process and they reflect this non-brand orientation in their search behaviour.

Google categorises non-branded education search as follows:

  • Programme searches – pertain to specific fields of study;
  • Degree queries – factor in specific credentials (e.g., Bachelor, Master’s);
  • General queries – reflect very broadly structured search requests.


….Google argues that the continued importance of non-branded education search – and the modest decline in brand-based queries – means that educators need new strategies to drive interest and awareness around their brand terms.

Interestingly, internal tracking at Google also indicates that “geo terms” – search keywords that include a geographic modifier (e.g., “bachelor degrees in computing science in London”) – performed strongly with respect to click-through conversions.

Be specific

This picks up one of the key takeaways from this quarter’s Education Search Analysis report: the importance of specificity in search marketing for education. Whether with respect to search engine optimisation (SEO) strategies or in terms of paid search advertising, Google strongly recommends that education marketers target their efforts to promoting particular programmes in specific locations.

Google reports that education search queries are becoming longer and more detailed, and so reflect a more specific indication of the prospective student’s interests. The data suggests that search marketing efforts that anticipate, track, and respond to that user behaviour will generate better results. “Being more specific about what you offer and capturing them earlier in the cycle is really important,” notes one Google analyst….’


Excellent article, as it suggests, SEO search engine optimization has become paramount in international education marketing, being organic and produces specific results for specific searches, thus more credible or authentic for candidates searching (and they will not be stalked by related ads using Google cookies).

Whilst digital marketing is conducted via email promotions and digital advert campaigns i.e. ‘outbound’, organic SEO or ‘inbound’ is the main game or empirical field for international marketing.  Ideally international admissions, regional managers or recruitment officers, in country partners and students are all linked up and open to cooperate on SEO strategies.  However, very difficult to achieve with conventional organisational structures that centralize web based marketing, view it as a technical task and sometimes exclude from international managers’ job descriptions.


SEO Organic Search                               vs           Paid Google Ads

Bottom up (and side ways)                        vs            Top down

Highly targetted                                            vs            Generic

Marketing                                                         vs            Sales promotion

Lower but specific traffic                           vs            Higher general traffic

Custom course search                                vs            Promoting or pushing school

Economic                                                        vs            More expensive

Qualitative data                                            vs            Quantitative data

Organic                                                            vs            Artificial

Cumulative                                                    vs            ‘One- off’ event


The good news is that SEO, like those employed in analytics at Google, Yahoo etc., requires those with humanities education e.g. anthropology, sociology and linguistics, not hard technical skills.

For more information and resources about SEO and digital marketing for international education click through.

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