University recruitment has experienced rapid change in recent years; from the uncapping of clearing places by UCAS in 2014, to the way media is consumed online and in-hand and critically by a generation whose attitude to life is driven by life experiences over material possessions.

This combination of factors has led to a dramatic shift in student recruitment, with the role of digital, social media and effective audience strategies becoming the defining factors in an ever-competitive Higher Education landscape.

This shift in attitudes by a generation, marks a significant step change and there is an opportunity for those universities who plan to capitalise on the ‘swing’ audience that can be found in the clearing pool.

Clearing the way to University recruitment

Long gone are the days when clearing was seen as the last chance saloon. Where a wonky school notice board didn’t quite deliver the results that were hoped for. And the emotional scramble to a telephone delivered your next life move.

Now, University recruits fit the profile of a demanding consumer and ‘clearing’ now offers the option of choice.

In 2016, 9% of all students in the UK enrolled for a University place via clearing and search queries rose steadily 6 weeks prior to clearing, marking the start of the pre-clearing phase. This is only anticipated to grow in 2018 (Google, 2017).

Mobile first

According to AdWords University Strategy (Google, 2017), this audience reaches for their mobiles first, with 7% more clearing search volume on mobile Year on Year.

Moreover, in 2017 mobile was set to exceed 50% of all clearing search queries vs. 2016, demonstrating how critical it is to have a mobile compatible website and a mobile optimised campaign strategy.

Source: Colleges, Universities and Post-Secondary Education, (Google, 2017)

Data provided by Google shows clearing search volumes peak on results day with 50% of all clearing search volume happening before 10am.

We can also track search behaviour through the day, as students begin their search on mobile and shift to desktop later in the morning. This insight provides an opportunity to optimise for mobile and take advantage of the early morning search traffic.

Search an untapped opportunity

Paid search is hugely under-used by UK universities, accounting for just 2% of all search traffic to university sites, compared with 13% for the travel industry, and 18% for eCommerce.

With demanding consumer attitudes and digitally native behaviours, university applicants expect to receive relevant, timely, and personalised information.

By taking a smart approach to digital media, universities can be in the right place, with the right message to the right audience which can only open the floodgates to the clearing pool opportunity.

To read more about current opportunities for universities in paid search, you can download our University Web Traffic Report 2017/18 here >>>