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How Poor Site Search Affects the Student Experience

A student's experience of a university doesn't begin on campus, it begins online and starts with a long list of comparisons to help them choose the university that is right for them. And while advertising, course offerings and reputation may be enough to get them to your website, how do you convince them that your institution is the right one for them?

The US Department of Education lists more than 4,000 degree-granting higher education institutions making it one of the most competitive industries in the country. This means that students have a significant array of undergraduate degree options available to them.

According to research by Google, 97% of students begin their research into their higher education options online and while most start with a specific course in mind, only 36% are sure of the university they'll choose.

Given that it's a highly competitive market, there is a significant cost to not offering an optimized search and content experience.

88.5% of end-users engage with content on the first page of results.

This shows how important it is to be able to produce highly relevant search results. Users demand a high-quality search experience and if they don't get it, they'll not only leave your site - 68% of them will not return if the information presented isn't relevant to them, or the links they click on don't lead to the information they're looking for.

Given the major growth trends we're seeing in site search being prioritized by users over navigation, delivering highly relevant search results needs to be a priority.

Great site search doesn't just answer questions, it also harnesses the power of data and analytics to tailor results to each user and to surface content from the university's assisting channels, including social media.

In an interview with Google’s Director of Education, ICEF highlighted the long, drawn-out nature of the average university search.

“77% of education seekers will first visit a school’s website at least two weeks – and often two months – before taking action."

"Education is a highly involved decision and one that requires many different touchpoints along the way. Asking prospects to fill out a lead form too soon might result in short-term success for a marketer, but in the end, both the student and the school will lose."

"The key is to engage potential students in the right mindsets, on the right channels, and to enable them to experience all the great things your school has to offer.”

By analyzing the way prospective students are searching for content on your website you can gain insight to help you deliver the right content at the right time. In fact the best website search tools don’t just enable you to analyze user behavior but use machine learning and advanced algorithms, to surface the most relevant information to a user as they are interacting with your content. This ensures a more personalized experience to help prospective students make better decisions about their future.

Ensure that your prospective students get what they want, when they want it, with added relevant content that supports them in making one of the most important decisions of their lives.

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