Desktops, Mobiles and Tablets – How Students Search Online is Changing

by Jessica Ramesh Liberty Marketing

The number of searches carried out by students on a mobile device has increased by 20 per cent year-on-year. The number carried out on desktop has decreased by six per cent. Ben Magee, Senior SEO Account Co-ordinator at Liberty Marketing, says that those in the education sector need to take note of this trend

Data released by Google shows a one per cent increase in the number of searches for universities, colleges and post-secondary education in the UK in quarter two of 2014, compared to the same period last year. Significantly, how students are searching (ie what they use to search) is changing.

The global search engine reports that there has been a year-on-year increase of 20 per cent in the number of searches using mobile phones, 14 per cent increase in the use of tablets and six per cent decrease in desktop searches.

Universities, colleges and post-secondary education providers in the UK are being advised to take note of these trends and change their digital marketing plans accordingly.

Gareth Morgan, Managing Director of Liberty Marketing, a top tier Google Partner agency, explains the significance of this data to higher and further education establishments.

He says, “The education sector is a fast-changing market that does, due to the demographic of principle target markets, have an increasing reliance on the internet, especially those seeking to attract overseas students. The Google data showed that, among worldwide searches for UK universities, 40 per cent are from outside the UK. The biggest international regions for searching for UK universities are Asia Pacific and western Europe.”

SEO and pay-per-click are the two most popular and effective digital marketing tactics used to promote websites on search engines. The educational institutions should be aware that the search strategies for both need to include specific tactics for desktop and mobile (including the use of both mobile phones and tablets).

“User behaviour is often different when searching using mobile,” explains Gareth.

“Mobile search terms are shorter due to the size of the screen, smaller keypads increase the use of abbreviations and cause more typos: these factors can make mobile searches significantly cheaper than desktop searches. People also search on mobile devices at different times to those on desktop—the majority of mobile searches are made in the morning and evening. Cost-per-click and cost-per-acquisition rates are generally less expensive and regularly achieve better results.”

Paid-for search is only one half of the mobile search landscape. The educational institutions should also include organic SEO.

Gareth Morgan comments, “The speed at which your pages load, the structure of URLs and reduced keyword content are just three important mobile ranking factors. It’s also important to point out that Google has specific mobile bots that trawl the internet, monitoring and evaluating mobile websites.”

The majority of industry experts are in agreement that it’s not a case of whether mobile search will overtake desktop, but when.