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Google and the College Search

How your institution can take advantage of Google's new college search tool

June 26, 2018
 
 

Recently, Google released a new tool to help college-bound high schoolers find clear, consistent and critical admissions information about the schools they’re considering, including demographics, tuition costs and post-graduation salaries. 

The tool draws data from two credible sources—the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS)—but it’s also clear that schools themselves can positively impact what shows up in this area.

The Primacy team has evaluated the new tool and has identified a few things you can do today to take advantage of this new opportunity:

Ensure that your institution’s information is accurate. While the tool seems built with a mobile-first mindset, the desktop version so far provides more ability to influence the content. In the screenshot below, note the “Learn more” link (not included on the mobile version), which gives instructions on how to report incorrect information about your school. (See #1)

 

Get verified to start sharing your own content. Both the mobile and desktop versions include a “Do you manage this online presence?” link. (See #2) Clicking on it will bring you to a page that shows you how to get your institution’s presence verified on Google. This, in turn, gives you the ability to post content right on Google in the new school search knowledge graph. Google has long made it clear that rich, timely, engaging content has a significant positive impact on organizations’ organic search results, so it’s worth investing time in getting verified and creating content for this channel.

Make sure the “Website” link goes to the URL you want. Organizations have long been able to decide where this CTA goes using their Google My Business tool, but many don’t take the time to choose the destination URL that best meets their business needs. Doing so now will be even more critical than it was last week. (See #3) 

Try to own each organic category in the knowledge card. On the mobile version there’s a scrolling bar with Overview, Admissions, Cost, Majors, Outcomes, Students, Rankings, Notable Alumni and Similar Colleges. When a user selects any of these cards it automatically updates the organic search results under the knowledge card, so it will be critical for colleges and universities to have strong content in these categories to ensure their content ranks higher than other content from other sites like collegesimply.com or niche.com

Optimize your content. Given the importance of this top-level content, colleges and universities should audit and optimize the metadata-related top-ranked organic search results to ensure they are accurate and convey the message your institution wants to send. You should also review the content of the pages themselves and look for opportunities for improvement. For example, Google is showing SAT scores at part of the admissions information, so it would be helpful to also have that type of information on the website.

It’s clear that this is a work in progress for Google, so it will be important for colleges and universities to keep an eye on this part of the search experience and continually look for opportunities to improve the quality of the information that appears there—while of course ensuring that your website is doing everything it can to attract users and keep them engaged. 

Matt Cyr is vice president of strategic practices and the higher education practice lead at Primacy, a digital agency with offices in Boston, New York, Farmington, CT, and West Palm Beach, FL.

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