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22 Search Engine Statistics Your School Needs to Know
Connor Gleason

Online search continues to be one of the most important ingredients for a successful digital presence. While this past year saw new trends in search engine optimization, a handful of surprises in organic search, and a few shifts in digital marketing, nailing your approach to search engine marketing and optimization may sometimes feel like a moving target—it is hard to predict the future after all…
Fortunately, we can look to the past to make smarter, data-backed decisions and guide our strategy this year. Here are 22 search engine statistics you need to know about your school’s search performance:

1. Over 80 percent of online searches begin with an unbranded term. 

Rather than prospective families finding your school through a branded search, like "St. Paul's School in Maryland," they're finding your site through searches like "best all-boys school in Maryland" or "private schools near me," or “virtual school open house.” These searches are more competitive and have a much higher volume.  

In this example, which showcases keyword volume on mobile in November, you can see there’s a 143% increase in an unbranded search term like “private schools near me,” as compared to a more specific, branded term.


This underlines the importance of optimizing your school’s website for search and using Pay-Per-Click (PPC) ads to ensure visibility in the searches that matter most for your school. (Source: MomentFeed)

2. Over 90 percent of online experiences begin with a search engine.

When people go online to find a new school, they start with a search. About 93 percent of those searches begin within a popular search engine like Google, Yahoo!, or Bing. Prospective families may have an idea of what they want in a school, but they need a search engine to help get them started.

Similar to “word of mouth” marketing, what they see about your school within the results can have a tremendous impact on their opinions. Parents doing some preliminary research rarely access your school site directly by typing in a direct URL, so make sure your site is ranking for what they’re looking for. (Source: WebFX)

3. The average person conducts three to four searches each day.

We’re hungry for information and we’re so quick to pick up our phones to find the answers. Families aren’t waiting to be contacted, they are seeking information when they want it. Is your school optimized to appear in those searches? (Source: Hubspot)

4. Fifty percent of all organic search queries include four or more words.

Online search is becoming more and more “human,” so it’s not too surprising that more people prefer natural long-tail keywords, which refer to phrases comprised of three or more words that focus on specific intent.

Consider using this nugget of information to guide some of your keyword strategies. The higher you can rank for “best STEM program in Pennsylvania,” or answer the question to “what are the benefits of a private school education?” the more likely you’ll beat out the competition than you would by trying to rank for the broad keyword “best school.” (Source: Safai Digital)

5. Fourteen percent of searches are in the form of a question.  

Most Common types of question keywords bar graph

For those of us who use Siri as our own personal assistant (and best friend?), it might come as a surprise that this number isn’t higher. It might also be surprising that “how” questions top that list of inquisitive searches on Google. Can your school’s site start to frame its content to anticipate this percentage of questions, such as, “how can I afford a private school education?” or “how do I apply for (your school)?” (Source: Neil Patel)

6. Google is now 33 percent more likely to rewrite title tags.

In cases where the titles on the search engine results page and title tag differ, this study showed that Google pulled the SERP title from the H1 tag about 50 percent of the time. But for nearly a decade, Google has used other sources beyond title elements when the system determines the title doesn’t represent a page as well as it could, or if there is no title. According to Google, Google Search uses the following sources to automatically generate title links:

  • Content in <title> elements
  • Main visual title or headline shown on a page
  • Heading elements, such as <h1> elements
  • Other content that's large and prominent through the use of style treatments
  • Other text contained on the page
  • Anchor text on the page
  • Text within links that point to the page

While Google relies on the metadata and content from your site, this drives home the importance of structuring your headings in a cascading format (starting with H1, then H2, H3, etc….) and making sure that your H1 contains accurate and relevant keywords that represent the content on your page. (Source: AHREFs)


7. Google owns about 70 percent of searches

If Google is your go-to search engine for search, you’re not alone. The search engine dominates the industry, owning more than 70 percent of searches. This stat wasn’t too much of a surprise for folks here at Finalsite, considering more than 80 percent of our traffic is from Google. (Source: Search Engine Journal)

8. Google takes into account 200+ factors before delivering the best results to users. 

In just a matter of milliseconds, those factors include your domain age, website usability, page speed, grammar and spelling errors, content relevancy, and publishing frequency to name just a few. That’s a lot to keep track of! While you don’t need a checklist miles long, make sure your site is responsive, written well, and uses the best on-page SEO strategies to reach users. (Source: BackLinko)

9. It’s estimated that Google processes approximately 63,000 search queries every second.

That equates to about 5.6 billion searches per day and approximately 2 trillion global searches per year, with the average person conducting between three to four searches each day. Once again, this supports the idea that people aren’t waiting to be found, they are searching for what they need. (Source: Hubspot)

10. In 2021, early August saw the most search volume for “private schools near me,” according to Google Trends.

Interest over time graph

Does this stat sound right to you and your school’s web traffic? Can you use this data to better align your marketing strategy to the ebb and flow of the calendar year?

11. Only 0.83 percent of clicks happen on page 2 of Google search results.

If your site isn’t showing up on page 1 of Google’s results, you have less than a 1 percent chance of receiving an organic click. This stat supports the overwhelming value of getting to page 1 of Google for the search terms that are going to make a tangible difference to your school’s bottom line. While it is still possible to rack up a considerable number of impressions on page two, your chances of getting a click are slim. (Source: Safari Digital)

12. Nearly a third of all mobile searches are related to location. 

In fact, searches containing keywords like "open," "now," and "nearby" attached to non-branded categories have grown 200 percent over recent years. (Source: Think with Google)

Geographic location can make all the difference in the world. Can you adjust your strategy to account for the third of folks looking for resources near them? Make sure your school’s business hours, location, and address are listed on major search engines and platforms, like Google, Bing, Yahoo, and Yelp, and that they are easily accessible on your site. Not only will this assist in being found by local families, but you’ll appear to folks from outside your immediate area who are considering a relocation or who are willing to go the extra distance to attend your school because you’re that awesome. (Source: Think with Google)

13. Twenty-seven percent of the population is using voice search on mobile. 

If you’ve uttered the phrase, “Hey, Siri...” you may be one of the smartphone users relying on a hands-free search experience. To add to that, 44 percent of smartphone users who use voice search do so at least once a week. (Source: Think with Google)

To cater to this stat, make sure your school is listed on Google, and consider what searches could be phrased as questions. Voice search is conversational, so use natural language and write your content in a way your users can relate to.

14. Organic search drives more than 50 percent of all website traffic. 

Digital advertising and PPC ads are great for quick boosts in clicks and bumps in traffic, but optimizing your site’s content for organic search not only saves your school money, but it’s most sustainable and successful in the long run. With more than half of web traffic finding you organically, making sure your content is searchable and discoverable is a must for your long-term digital strategy. (Source: Web FX)

15. Mobile saw 85.8 percent more impressions than search results on desktop in 2021.

With more and more folks using mobile devices to search for and engage with your school website, prioritizing your site for a friendly mobile experience is a must. How your site’s content, structure, and navigation perform on a mobile device needs to be a major component of your school’s digital-first strategy. (Source: SEO Clarity)

16. Google Chrome was the most used mobile web browser in 2021.

Considering over 60 percent of users are scrolling, tapping, and swiping with Chrome, it's important to spend a little extra time to verify your site is looking fabulous on this browser. FYI: Apple’s Safari was the runner-up with a market share of about 24 percent. (Source: Statista)

17. The number of Google Page 1 results you can scroll through on mobile devices is now INFINITE.

Say "see-ya" to the “see more” button while scrolling on Google…The world’s largest search engine has begun to roll out an update that lets people continuously scroll results—seemingly forever. That choice was driven by the increasing number of people who apparently wanted additional information and browsed up to four pages of search results. 

Making sure your school is found at the top of page 1 search results on mobile is now even more critical. Be the first to give your searchers what they’re seeking, or risk drowning in a bottomless sea of search results. (Source: Google)

18. People are 52 percent less likely to engage with a company that has a bad mobile site. 

Nothing can end a search faster than a poor online experience. Long load times, complex navigation, text that’s illegible, or CTAs that are too tiny — they all can impact how a user engages with your school’s site. While mobile usage continues to rise year after year, having a mobile-friendly experience is that much more important — you don’t want to lose prospective families because of a bad mobile site. (Source: WebFX)

Look at your site’s analytics and explore the behavior of your mobile users. Are they spending less time on your site? Are they exiting after viewing only a page or two? How are visitors engaging with your content? Seeing how your site is represented on a mobile device can shed light on how successful (or not) your site is on a smartphone.

If you’d like a little extra help to determine if your site is as responsive as it should be, request a free website report card today!

19. In 2021, the education industry had a below-average conversion rate in both search and display conversion rates.

More bad news? One study suggests the education sector experienced a 2.82 percent search conversion rate and a 0.22 percent display conversion rate on mobile, which is the lowest conversion rate of any industry sampled. This stat refers to how paid ads are performing on mobile devices — specifically, the average number of conversions per interaction with your ads on Google’s search and display network. (Source: Wordstream)

With pricey keywords, long sales cycles, and data that can be overwhelming for many teams, marketing your school can be a challenge, especially when you’ve got little time or no budget. Luckily, there are always strategies to get more conversions and improve your chances of success.

We also have a team of digital marketing wizards standing to work with your school’s budget and assist you with your strategy! Learn more about our digital marketing service and how we can help your school here.

20. In 2021, May and December were the months with the lowest click-through rates, while July through September had the highest click-through rates. 

While families might be distracted toward the end of the school year or busy with the holiday season, it seems like the summer months might be the best time of year to execute your ad strategy and see a boost in CTR in 2022.  (Source: SEO Clarity)

21. The education industry’s average mobile click-through rate for search ads is 4.45 percent. 

It may come as no surprise that schools face an uphill battle compared to other sectors when it comes to search ads. You may need to prepare to cast a wider net, rethink your ad content, or prepare to shell out a lot more money to make your search and display ads worth the investment.

This underscores the importance of optimizing your website for search and using Pay-Per-Click (PPC) ads to ensure visibility in the searches that matter for your school. Making sure you have a solid strategy in place before you dive into the competitive landscape of digital marketing can save you a lot of headaches—and money.  Not sure where to begin? We can help! (Source: Wordstream)

22. It’s estimated that a #1 organic position in Google can result in a click-through rate (CTR) of 34.2 percent.

It goes to show that being number 1 on Google’s SERP can instill trust and value. That could be the difference between someone clicking on your site or someone scrolling by. (Source: Sistrix)

By contrast, sponsored search results account for 65 percent of clicks on keywords, compared to organic results. (Source: Wordstream)

Key Takeaways

What does the future hold? Google can’t even answer that question, but as we begin a new year of search, the past has proven that if you want your school to be found online, you’ll need to meet the rising expectations of mobile users. For long-term success, create a strategy based on a positive browsing experience, as well as a strong combination of organic SEO and PPC ads to rank for relevant keywords.

Not sure where to start with digital advertising? Finalsite is here to help! Click here to get started.

Connor Gleason Headshot


Connor has spent the last decade within the field of marketing and communications, working with independent schools and colleges throughout New England. As Finalsite’s Web and Marketing Manager, Connor plans and executes marketing strategies and digital content across the web. A former photojournalist, he has a passion for digital media, story-telling, coffee, and creating content that connects.

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