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Eduvantis at Google Partner Summit 2017

Here are five trends at the forefront of digital marketing, fresh from this week’s Google Partner Summit in New York City. I had the opportunity to represent Eduvantis at The Summit – an invitation-only event for top advertisers on Google. It is the place to learn what is on the horizon in both digital marketing and Google products. This year, more than 1,000 people from 62 countries attended the event. The energy was incredible and the talks were some of the best I heard all year.

1. Consumers Expect a Lot More

“You are competing with the best experience a customer has ever had,” said Matt Del Re in a breakout session. This means consumers are comparing their experience on your school’s website and with your school’s brands, with the best brands in the world.

So, not only are you competing with other schools or programs, you are also competing with every digital experience a consumer has had. You are getting compared to every experience a consumer has on their phone, desktop, or tablet.

Consumers are also getting much more discerning, a lot less patient, and a lot more demanding. We live in a world where you can get pretty much anything delivered to your door the same day, or the next day. The bar is only getting higher.

Implications for Higher Ed:

  • If prospects have a bad experience on your website, they are 50% less likely to buy your product or take your desired action.
  • If your digital brand experience is worse than your competitors, they will win.

2. We Have Entered the Age of Assistance

Consumers are no longer interested in getting information, they are interested in being assisted. They want help filtering through the infinite amount of information online and they are increasingly looking to Google to help to not only sort through the clutter but also provide advice on how to do something.

It’s no secret that more and more people are using vocal search on their mobile devices and with assisted technology like Alexa and Google Home. However, the challenge with vocal searching is that searchers no longer have to go to your website or see your ad when they are looking for information. The device just speaks it back and does the sorting for you.

Technology has gotten a lot more helpful and is raising the expectations of consumers. They don’t just want information, they want personalized guidance and help.

Implications for Higher Ed:

  • How prospects are searching for your schools and programs will continue to evolve and most schools won’t be able to keep up. If your school can, it will gain a competitive advantage.
  • Higher Ed institutions will need to develop personalized prospect experiences, using tools like Google’s personalization layers. 89% of retailers reported that personalization increased their sales.

3. Attribution Is the Holy Grail

This year’s big topic was attribution – the ability to track consumer actions back to the original ad source, no matter what device a prospect is using. It previously wasn’t possible to track when someone started a search on a mobile device, then later continued on a desktop.

This is a challenge we see across almost all of our clients – they struggle with being able to show where applications actually come from. Thankfully, at Eduvantis, we have been working on our own attribution models to show the impact that Google Ads, Facebook Ads, and LinkedIn Ads have on prospect applications and enrollments. Google is planning to release more tools for agency partners as part of their commitment to solving the attribution limitations of their advertising.

Attribution will take a huge leap forward in the next year and we will be able to show the impact of Google Ads on multiple consumer actions across multiple devices down the funnel. It will also be easier to connect Google Adwords campaigns to brand lift in 2018.

Implications for Higher Ed:

  • Prospects are using so many different devices and engaging with your brand in so many ways, the schools who understand and can leverage this information can better customize experiences, targeting, messaging, and outreach.
  • The schools who can attribute enrollments to specific advertising campaigns and can use the data to better target prospects across all devices have a competitive advantage.

4. Speed Is Everything

In some industries, more people are searching on mobile devices than on desktops or tablets. In Higher Ed, about 35-40% of all searches are now on a mobile device and, correspondingly, we continue to see mobile traffic to our client websites growing, averaging now about 35% of all visitors. This will only continue to grow and, when searchers are looking for information on their mobile device, they care about speed above all else. Consumers are impatient and, if it takes too long for your website to load they will leave. Oh, Google will also charge you more money for your ad clicks because landing page speed impacts ad quality scores.

Implications for Higher Ed:

  • About 53% of prospects will leave your website if it takes longer than 3 seconds to load. (The average load speed in higher education is 6 seconds and for some schools much slower.)
  • For every second you cut off your landing page, you can increase your conversion rate by 27%. We are seeing this in our clients as well.
  • How fast your website pages load also impacts your organic Google Search rankings.

5. AI (Artificial Intelligence) and Machine Learning Are the Future

Whoah, there is a lot happening in the artificial intelligence space. Computers are getting a lot smarter and a lot faster. There are incredible examples of how machines are now learning from large amounts of data to better diagnose breast cancer, make better predictions for marketing experiments, and identify people who are more likely to buy your product.

Google is already using machine learning to help build more effective custom audience targeting tools for all of their ad products – Google Adwords, Display, and Video. As you use Google products, they learn about what you like, don’t like, and buy regularly, then they analyze how you’ve been searching, so they can help you have a better experience across all of your devices. This includes the ads that you see – they know that, if an ad isn’t super relevant to you and where you are in your life, you aren’t going to click. They have started to also roll out additional targeting options like “stage of life” and “in-market buyer” targeting. They can actually tell now when you are looking to buy something and you can target only buyers.

Implications for Higher Ed:

  • It’s getting easier, but more competitive, to target prospects who are looking for your programs, but the schools who are able to use and build better audiences will win.
  • At the forefront of AI and machine learning, companies are testing ways to completely automate the recruitment funnel, to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of how schools identify, capture, nurture, and convert prospects into students.

Conclusion

By 2020, Google predicts that each person will own 26 smart devices and spend up to 14 hours a day online. Prospects are now searching for schools 24 hours a day/365 days a year on their own time and they expect a lot from you. They want more than information, they want assistance, and they expect an amazing website and brand experience.

If your website is too slow, they will leave. If they can’t find what they want quickly, they will leave. If they can’t tell the difference between your school and the one down the street, they will leave. If your website isn’t easy to use, they will leave. The schools who create the best and most personal online and brand experiences will clearly have a competitive advantage.