On Tuesday, June 12, Google announced that it is beginning to roll-out Google College Search. As a software partner to many higher education institutions, it’s valuable to take a closer look at the inevitable benefits, and consequences, of a new roll-out.

What is Google College Search?

If Google College Search looks familiar, it may be because it’s using a lot of the same functionality as Google’s Knowledge Graph feature, compiling data from several sources. Google College Search seeks to make the college research and decision-making process easier for 4-year colleges offering bachelor’s degrees. At this point, it is only rolling-out for branded queries, so searching “4-year degrees near me” won’t generate a Google College Search result but searching “University of Minnesota” will generate a result.

What sources does Google use for College Search?

At this point, Google has collected data from both the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard and Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). This data is provided through questionnaires for Title IV federal student aid programs, and tax information from the U.S. Treasury. It also is pulling data overviews from Wikipedia.

This is helpful for students who are overwhelmed with all the information presented to them, as they’re provided the same data points from the same data sources, for all colleges that they’re interested in. This can also be great for institutions to see how they stack up against other colleges in a quick and easy-to-understand format.

Cost Data

Some institutions may worry at how the cost data is represented within Google College Search, given that for many students, especially those in their first-year, scholarships and grants significantly offset the initial price. Using IPEDS data, Google College Search can provide the average cost before and after financial aid, and provide a means for students to calculate their cost directly on the institution website. Additionally, students can start their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) straight from the College Search result.

Other Data Points

Beyond cost data, Google College Search focuses on majors, graduation and employment outcomes, socioeconomic data, and college rankings, again pulling from the data sources listed above. Rankings are pulled straight from publications that focus on the best colleges for a specific region or demographic.

The Challenge

While there are many benefits to Google College Search, especially for improving the experience for prospective students during their research process, it can also hinder an institution’s ability to connect with these prospective students. Instead of filling out a form on a website to receive a college brochure, students can now filter our colleges without ever connecting with a member of the Admissions staff. This will likely result in an initial decrease in web traffic and new requests for information. Thus, it’s important to keep your data accurate and up-to-date, and find additional ways to connect with students, such as through social media.

How can you optimize your College Search listing?

At this stage, data has yet to be pulled from an institution website, but there’s no guarantee that Google won’t eventually go that route. In the meanwhile, it’s important to ensure that your data is accurate for the College Scorecard and IPEDS, and that you have updated information on your school’s Wikipedia article.

How can you optimize your website for College Search?

After confirming accurate data, we would encourage you to review your website that all admission and financial aid pages are accessible to search and provide a seamless and quick loading process. This will ensure that if Google begins to source its information directly from institutions, your website is able to provide the requested information quickly.

About Schema

To better equip your website for future consideration in a Google College Search listing, and to enhance your website overall, we would encourage higher education web teams to investigate structured data (schema) markup for their websites, if they haven’t already. A great resource is the schema.org recommendations for a College or University.

Some markup suggestions include:

What if your college or university is not currently affected?

If you’ve searched for your institution’s name and see nothing out of the ordinary, despite being a traditional 4-year college or university, don’t worry. This feature is still rolling out to different locations and institutions.

Do you have a question about how your website performs for search engines? We work with hundreds of colleges and universities and would be happy to walk you through an audit of your website. Request a demo to learn more.

Request a Demo