If at the start of 2020 we could have known that our lives would be dramatically changed, could we have been more prepared for the events that have taken place over the last few months? COVID-19 has taken over the lives of most of the world and while families work to develop some type of normalcy, so do businesses and organizations.
Distance learning searches saw record highs in March 2020
Distance learning searches saw a decline beginning in October 2020
Between September 2020 and October 2020, queries about virtual or distance learning saw a steady decline. As it was apparent some schools were remaining closed during the 2020 year or others were going back with new sanitation guidelines for cleaning classrooms, less people were wondering about the virutal learning topic. Below you can see the decrease in searches around the same keywords that saw a surge in March 2020.
So, what are users searching for as it relates to school? Vaccinations. College students and their parents are inquiring about vaccinations for university students. It would benefit all universities to add vaccine-based information to their websites. Below you can see the immediate increase in vaccine-related searches beginning in November 2020.
Interestingly, there was a drop in searches for “how to apply for college” in March 2020, April saw an increase in searches for the same keyword. April also saw increases for “virtual campus tour”, “college campus”, and “how to apply for college online”.
While most college prospects typically apply for school by February of senior year, there was a distinct rise in interest of college admissions in April 2020. Could this mean that these topics are recovering and might even see search volumes higher than before? If so, universities should be strategizing around these topics and keywords in order to improve their presence in the higher education category.
BrightEdge research shows there are four stages that industries are navigating through in response to the pandemic. They include rebounding, accelerating, recovering, and stabilizing.
Higher education is in the recovering stage, as admissions adapt to a new virtual landscape and transform the ways they connect with future students.
Though social distancing has altered the way universities can interact with prospects, leveraging digital marketing and SEO efforts while understanding the new user journey should be at the forefront of your strategy. User behavior is shifting towards digital experiences from prospective universities. A great example of this is the increased search trend for “virtual campus tour.”
Since future students are prohibited from physically exploring campuses, nearly all of the school search has moved online – including campus tours. This is a prime example of the shifting user journey in light of COVID-19. Schools that provide a familiar experience for students and their families to tour their campus and adapt to an online interaction will be at the forefront of this new approach.
Other digital experiences you could offer students can include the following:
- Optimized how-to videos and demos on how to fill out application forms, financial aid forms, or how to sign up for courses online
- Virtual hangouts with advisors or counselors
Using video to connect with users and generate traffic and views
Video content is resonating with consumers and you should do as much as possible to utilize the channel.
For example, Harvard Law School closed its doors to students and staff on March 10, 2020. Shortly after, Harvard saw a drastic spike in search volume for “Harvard online classes.” Why? Because the prestigious university began offering some of their courses online for free and to everyone. With a pricey tuition and a strong reputation, Harvard’s law courses were already enticing for top students. Offering them for free during the pandemic was a brilliant marketing move to expand their student body. Anyone interested in paying a nominal fee, can get certificates, assignments, tests, and even receive a final grade.
As universities and the world shift to online approaches to offline problems, it’s important to harness the power of SEO. Use your knowledge of SEO and the BrightEdge platform to drive successful results and attract students to your website and your school.