Posts Tagged ‘predictions’
2012 ended this week, and while many people are making resolutions for the new year ahead, we thought we would take a moment and look back at the last year. The CUnet blog was a popular spot this year, with our readership growing by over 95 percent since December 2011, and while we think all of our blog posts are pretty great (shameless self promotion… check!), there were a few topics that seemed to be of particular interest to our readers. So, we’ve run the numbers and sliced the data to compile the top five most popular topics on the CUnet blog for 2012. Without further ado, here’s how it all shook out:
Search Engine Optimization
In one of our very first posts of 2012, (SEO in 2012: The Top 11 Things You Need to Know), we predicted some big changes to SEO, with the biggest change being that mobile surfing could overtake desktop surfing in the near future. And as the year progressed, we definitely saw things move in that direction. For the first time in years, desktop web search declined, according to the Macquarie Group in September, and the increase in mobile search seems to be the biggest reason for this decline. Our SEO post also included hot topics such as more localization to search inquiries, search engines become smarter at determining your intent when making a query (we saw Google actually update their algorithms late in 2012), and an increase in rich snippets (which help with your search rankings).
Mobile campaigns became a big part of CUnet’s marketing offerings for its clients in 2012, and they are proving to be a highly successful marketing channel. As we noted in our mobile case study results post, inquiries from our mobile campaigns have resulted in a cost-per-enrollment (CPE) of up to 30 percent lower than those from other inquiry generation channels. Early in the year we posted our 2012 mobile marketing trends where we predicted that 50 percent of all cell phone users in the U.S. would own a smart phone (in March 2012, that statistic was confirmed), and that sales of tablets would increase as competition grew and prices decreased. With more and more people accessing the Internet on mobile devices rather than their PCs, it soon became clear that building mobile-friendly sites would offer a better user experience for our clients’ potential students. However, as we noted in the post Decloaking the Google WAP Mobile Universe many mobile users still own feature phones, so not all of a school’s mobile marketing efforts should be targeted to smart phone users. Targeting both smart phone users and feature phone users is important in making sure you are making the most of your mobile campaigns.
You may still be groaning over Facebook’s transition to Timeline, but we hope CUnet’s Social Media Strategist Jeff Berg’s handy guides – Five Things You Must Know About The New Facebook Brand Timelines and OH NOES! A Step-By-Step Guide to Getting Your Page Ready for Facebook’s Timelines! – helped ease you into the new profile layouts. But Jeff’s expertise doesn’t end with making your Facebook pages look pretty. In the post Measuring Success in Social Media Campaigns, he also provides valuable insight into how you can (and why you should) track the ROI and overall success of your social media campaigns.
A recent article revealed that the University of Phoenix was the top spender on Google AdWords over the last quarter, spending nearly $200,000 a day. With five billion daily ad impressions on Google worldwide, it’s no surprise that the university and other top players are investing large sums of money to advertise on this growing network. Advertising through Google AdWords allows businesses to reach a targeted audience at the time they are seeking information, to generate quality inquiries at an effective ROI.
Almost a year ago, we published some of our paid search predictions for 2012, which included the prediction that schools would be increasing their paid search budgets in 2012 due to concerns surrounding compliance with affiliate inquiry generation and the need for more transparency. We have definitely seen that happen over the past few months across multiple paid search clients, and expect that trend to continue into 2013.
Our recent Benchmarking Report further supports this trend of increased investments in digital marketing, with paid search being one of those core channels. We found that just 44% of our clients’ inquiries were generated by third party affiliates, which was down 33% from last year. The recent concerns over inquiry quality, regulatory compliance, and increasing costs per enrollment, have led more and more clients to cut spending on third-party inquiry sources and instead shift that budget to channels like pay-per-click (PPC).
Transparency, compliance, and quality issues aside, it seems that there is one powerful reason why schools are spending more money in PPC advertising: it works!
We have seen the investment in PPC pay off firsthand for some of our own clients. Earlier this year, we examined how one particular client was gradually increasing PPC spend, and grew their inquiry volume as a result. Months later, those inquiries are continuing to convert to starts, at comparable start rates, which keeps their total cost-per-start within goal. This client plans to continue to increase spend throughout the fourth quarter and into next year.
Similarly, another core client has also been gradually shifting more budget to PPC throughout recent months in efforts to improve the quality of their inquiry flow, which should in turn improve their cost-per-start. PPC spending for this client in Q3 2012 has grown 12% from Q3 2011. During 2013 budget planning meetings, this client conveyed that they would like to continue to shift more budget to PPC wherever possible. They understand that shifting this budget out of affiliate networks will cut down on the quantity of inquiries generated, but are hopeful that the improvement in quality will ensure their enrollment goals are still met, at more efficient costs.
With players like University of Phoenix dominating the market, schools will be forced to continue to increase keyword bids and spending if they want to attempt to compete in this game. Those who do invest in PPC should continue to see the payoff in quality inquiry volume that converts very well to enrollments and starts.
Pay-per-click (PPC), or paid search, plays an important – and in many cases growing – role in the recruitment marketer’s toolkit. As we look ahead, we’ve identified five key PPC trends that we expect to emerge in 2012. What do you think?
1) Larger portion of marketing budgets allocated to Paid Search
In light of the heightened regulations surrounding the higher education space and the need for more transparency, schools will be moving further away from third party inquiry generation and allocating a larger percentage of their marketing budgets to paid search initiatives. Concerns regarding compliance with affiliate lead generation, coupled with the inability to track the full effectiveness of more traditional methods of print, radio and TV, will result in a shifting focus to paid search. Through paid search, every dollar spent can be tracked for the most effective ROI, all while managing consistent, compliant messaging.
2) Rising search volume for associate degrees
Search volume for queries related to associate degrees rose substantially throughout 2011 and is expected to continue to rise into 2012, resulting in higher cost-per-click rates and more competition on related keywords. Associate degrees have become more popular over the past few years as people looked to go back to school after being laid off from work. Associate degrees are usually less expensive and can be completed more quickly than bachelor’s degrees, allowing the student to get back on the job market sooner than other programs. Schools that offer associate degrees will be able to capitalize on the increased traffic potential, but competitive bids will be necessary to obtain top positions.
3) Expansion to Third Tier Networks
With tightened budgets and more competition in the main engines of Google and Bing, more advertisers will look to third tier networks in 2012 to supplement inquiry volume at lower CPCs. Though the options for geo targeting and robust reporting are more limited with these networks, they have provided many schools with quality inquiries that can convert into enrollments and starts. Competition for online programs will only continue to grow, resulting in CPCs exceeding the $20 range for top position in Google on core phrases such as “online colleges.” Schools that cannot afford to remain competitive for expensive key phrases will be forced to turn to these third tier networks to expand their reach.
4) Growth of Mobile Paid Search
As the mobile phone market continues to grow and more people own them, the ability for a school to advertise via mobile phones will become even more important. According to comScore, 234M Americans now own mobile devices, 90M of which are smartphones. More and more potential students are relying on their mobile phones for researching and planning, making it more crucial to run mobile paid search campaigns and to drive traffic to a mobile optimized landing page. Most paid search campaigns target just desktop and tablet users, leaving the entire mobile market untapped. Schools that have not yet expanded their paid search campaigns to mobile should definitely look to do so in 2012.
5) Thorough Brand Monitoring
The increased focus on paid search moving into 2012 will require brand monitoring on search engines to be even stricter. Most search engines place no restrictions on the use of brand-related keywords, allowing competitors and affiliates to bid on other brand terms, driving up the CPC for those valuable keywords. In one example, after detecting and cleaning up brand violations, a school saw an 87% decrease in average CPCs on their brand terms. Although search engines may have established procedures for filing complaints, they don’t proactively monitor brand usage, leaving the responsibility of actually monitoring for inappropriate bidding and improper use of brand terms in ad copy up to the brand itself. Schools must take an active role in protecting their brand through policing for brand violations, and then enforcing a reach out policy to handle detected violations. The use of brand monitoring tools will grow in 2012 as more schools take a more proactive approach to protecting their brand across the paid search landscape.
2011 was a year of very dramatic change in the world of SEO, with the most notable change coming from Google’s Panda updates, which significantly changed how the search engine processes and ranks web pages. Since Google typically sends most sites in the US about 80 percent of their search traffic, this algorithm change had a pretty dramatic impact.
While most of the dust has settled on that update, we expect more changes to come that will significantly affect SEO strategies. So, what exactly is it we expect to see in 2012?
1. Mobile surfing will overtake desktop surfing.
Mobile usage continues to grow at an astounding rate, and tablets are definitely contributing to the growth. Whether it be a mobile site (built in html 5) or a mobile app, having a mobile strategy will become critical to our success as marketers. That said, mobile SEO is really not very different from traditional SEO (See Seven Mobile SEO Myths Exposed).
2. Voice Search will change search behavior.
With the release of SIRI voice, search will finally take off. Searchers want answers, not a bunch of results they have to navigate through. Since SIRI gets its answers from multiple sources, making sure you are present in each of those sources can ensure that SIRI recommends your site. A small study by The Arora Report followed 40 iPhone users and their Siri vs. Google usage. All 40 users saw no need to use Google ever again. 27 of them hadn’t used Google since they got their iPhone, and the other 13 only used it twice. Of course this was not a comprehensive study, but it is pretty suggestive of where things are going. (more…)
At the beginning of every year, alleged precognitives from around the world gather to spout their own flavor of predictions, from potential meteor impacts to new fashions. While our office psychics are a little light on apocalyptic or Lindsey Lohan-related assertions this year, we have dimmed the lights, rubbed our crystal balls and focused really hard on our Lipton Tea bags to bring you seven seismic predictions for the coming year.
In all seriousness, though (we only have one crystal ball and we use Outlook meeting requests to book it), at CUnet, we’re in a unique position to make some startling predictions about what the higher education marketing space will experience in 2012. Not only do we work closely with the majority of schools in the for-profit sector, either providing inquiries, managing inquiries through agency services and technology, or providing marketing tools and services, we also have over one-quarter of all higher education inquiries running through our systems each month, approximately one million inquiries from over 250 schools. Drawing from our working relationships as well as the trends we see in inquiries, we’ve identified seven big trends ranging from program diversification to the expanding reach of not-for-profits into the proprietary education space that we expect to see over the coming year:
1. COMPLIANCE: Schools will shift their compliance focus from planning to execution.
With most of the fear and uncertainty around the Department of Education’s regulatory changes behind us, schools are now actively moving into “enforcement” mode. While many of the larger schools were early adopters of compliance-focused solutions (implementing in 2011), there remains a large number of schools that are still reacting to the changes and evaluating how to effectively respond. With compliance guidelines largely in place, these schools will now be eager to start implementing more “complete” solutions to enforce these guidelines and ensure audit trails are in place early in the year. In response to the increase in schools implementing compliance solutions, we can also expect to see a rise in the number of vendors entering the compliance solution market as the recognize the increasing importance that schools are placing on the people, processes and technology that are required to create comprehensive compliance response.