The Q1 2024 benchmarking report for UK online learning providers has just been published. Learn how the top 11 UK online learning providers perform across the digital space.
The Q1 2024 benchmarking report for UK online learning providers has just been published. It covers the largest 11 national online learning providers, including Open Study College, Oxbridge, Online Learning College, ICS Learn, Learndirect, Udemy, FutureLearn, Stonebridge College, NCC, Avado, and LearnPac - it highlights year-on-year digital performance, plus winner and loser comparisons in 20+ online performance metrics.
The research gives an inside track on who is winning the biggest share of voice online, and quantifies the gaps, risks and missed opportunities for other online learning providers to win brand exposure locally, drive online enquiries, and win course sign ups. The report highlights quick wins that will improve enquiries from your online strategy and identifies the barriers that may be reducing your site’s ability to optimise digital performance.
To see a preview and contents page of the Q1 report, click here. To get a copy of the full report and the key take-aways, please complete the enquiry form or schedule a call.
Q1 2024 Winners LEaderboard
For a glance into just 6 of the metrics we evaluated these top 11 online learning providers on, check out our quick-look table below;
Continue reading for further detail on this quarter's top and poorest-performing online learning providers, or request a copy of the report for the full review.
What The Industry Research Report Covers
The 70+ pages of research benchmarks each brand based on 50+ metrics and indicators of successful digital strategy, including organic visibility, domain authority, paid media ads, conversion performance, technical performance, site speed, universal search, content, social ads, accessibility, and mobile performance.
Driving Optimal ROAS from Paid Media Channels
Some of the leading players in the space are high spenders on paid media channels such as Google, Bing & Facebook - but have a poor or sub-optimal conversion improvement strategy. Without an optimised, sophisticated conversion strategy that maximises the conversion rate, the return on investment is unsustainable or will under-perform. Scaling spend on paid media is not achievable unless the conversion rate delivers optimal performance in the sector. Some in the space have paid media spend levels from 30k+ per month but dedicate minimal resources and budgets to conversion testing. Given the cost per clicks on ad networks will continue to rise, we recommend spending at least 10% of your paid media budget on ongoing conversion optimisation testing schedules to ensure your paid media ROI maintains long term viability, competitive advantage, and sustainability.
Technical Website Compliance
Savvy digital marketers know that having a technically sound website is an essential component of a successful fully integrated digital strategy - plus a site capable of maximising conversion performance. For online learning providers, especially ones which host a large variety of courses at different levels, they'll need to ensure the site is easily navigable in order to provide users with the right information, as quickly as possible.
In our last audit, FutureLearn flagged 2,165 4xx errors, which it’s reduced to 77 in this quarter. Stonebridge College was also one to watch in the previous quarter, with 1,640 4xx errors. In this quarter, Stonebridge College increased this number to 1,643, which it must address to prevent deterring customers from resorting to competitor brands.
Site Speed & Conversion Rate Performance
When 62% of consumers are less likely to convert if they have a negative mobile site experience, ensuring that your site is quick and easy to load makes a significant improvement on your overall conversion rates. A fast site is essential for winning a positive first impression on a user, particularly for online learning providers, who's service itself will be hosted online.
The mobile site speed for this quarter ranged between 62 and 4, with 9 of the 11 brands scoring below 50% (what’s considered ‘good). Open Study College is the provider that needs to adopt the most changes, as it’s as the bottom of the leaderboard. It should reduce the amount of content on the homepage and optimise images to help increase this score.
Building Competitive Advantage with Domain Authority
Domain authority is an essential metric for measuring the effectiveness of SEO performance, and helps create a reliable overall gauge of how effective your site is at achieving organic traffic, ie. ‘free’ traffic that isn’t gained through sponsored ads. Online learning providers have the opportunity to win exceptionally high value links if they seek partnerships with government agencies or higher education institutions.
Domain authority is considered average between 40 and 50, good between 50 and 60, and excellent above 60. The DA range for this quarter ranged between 91 and 26, with 3 of the 11 brands reporting below 40 — LearnPac with the lowest score. LearnPac should incorporate a blog on its website to provide informative content to its audience and help to increase its DA rating.
Organic Performance – Mobile & Desktop
A strong organic performance is strategically important as it ensures your site ranks above competitors for key, transactional keywords. When 93% of your customers won’t go past the first page of Google, your absence or lack of targeting for essential keywords will cost you conversions. The Covid-19 pandemic, along with the year following nationwide lockdowns, saw many of us reassessing our skills and career paths, leading to a boom in traffic for online learning providers. Since this boom, we'd expect online learning providers to see a slight fall in traffic (on average), as a reflection of this fall in interest.
Four of the 11 brands had an increase in mobile traffic YoY — with LearnPac reporting a 622% increase. On the other end of the spectrum, FutureLearn saw a 51% decrease in traffic.
Universal Search Opportunity
Google Universal Search Results is an evolving opportunity to make your pages visible on a SERP (Search Engine Results Page). Universal results often appear before traditional listings and are eye-catching for users. Universal search results refer to rankings on a SERP that are not the traditional ‘blue line’ Google link, and a brand can appear for universal search results without being strong in standard rankings. 'Reviews' will be an excllent way for online learning providers to build trust with potential students, directly from the SERP.
Despite having the biggest traffic fall compared to last year, FutureLearn reported the most appearances for Universal Search results, with the majority of these coming from ‘reviews’ followed by ‘people also ask’. Avado has the least overall appearances and should look to expand its 31 ‘reviews’.
The Longtail Keyword Opportunity
Longtail keywords are often considered high intent and potentially more likely to convert as a searcher is being more specific. Optimising for longtail keywords also puts your content strategy in a strong position to rank for brand new search terms as they enter Google’s index. Online learning providers will want to ensure they are appearing for terms that include high-intent phrases, such as 'industry recognised', 'tuition fees', or 'job prospects'.
Udemy has overtaken FutureLearn for the top 100 appearances for longtail keywords, though FutureLearn still ranks the highest for the top three positions. ICS Learn appears to have an effective longtail keyword strategy — landing in the top four for the top three search results, despite being position 8/11 for the top 100 keywords.
With the number of Facebook users in the United Kingdom (UK) forecast to hit over 42 million users by 2022, it is not surprising that companies have jumped at the opportunity to advertise on the social media platform. Facebook’s UK digital advertising revenue has been estimated to have breached 2.6b GB pounds in 2019. For any online learning provider, Facebook ads are an opportunity to drive traffic to specific courses. If they haven’t already done so, they should be identifying under-subscribed courses to promote to improve numbers or using organic search term volumes as a guide for where general consumer interest lies.
Below, we’ve included examples of FutureLearn’s sponsored Facebook posts. This online learning provider used a maximum of four lines of text to improve scannability as people are scrolling Facebook. This provider also includes images with colours that are customised to the brand.
Top Social Shares & Content
When it comes to social media and on-site content strategies, it is important to release content that has a longer shelf life. An article is considered 'Evergreen' if it has maintained its relevancy to an audience for longer. It's great for your brand engagement, but great for Google too, who will recognise content which achieves traffic over a long period of time. The content opportunities for online learning providers are significant. Each online learning provider has the opportunity to create content specifically related to online learning, in addition to content relating to any of the courses they offer.
All brands prefer Facebook over other social media channels. Udemy has the largest Facebook and Instagram accounts of all, with 8 million Facebook Likes and 3 million Instagram followers. Looking at its Facebook page, this provider uses a combination of content: videos, text, links to their blog page, and announcements.
Website Readability & Accessibility
20% of people in the UK have a disability – 2 million of which are people living with sight loss. In addition, 1 in 12 men and 1 in 200 women have some degree of colour vision deficiency. When websites are not designed to meet these needs, brands lose customer interest as they turn elsewhere. Any place of education should be accessible to all potential students, including online. Even if course materials are accessible, if the site itself is difficult for users with low vision to navigate, this will see them search elsewhere.
In our last audit, FutureLearn flagged 106 alerts, which it’s reduced to 43 in this quarter. Oxbridge was another brand for concern with 144 contrast errors in the previous quarter, which it’s increased to 149 in this quarter and must address. Learndirect had the most alerts in this quarter (87), with the majority of these coming from missing alternative text.
Get the full 70-page Q1 2024 Report
To get a copy of the full report, please complete the enquiry form. If you want to talk to us about accelerating your digital performance, please call us on 01543 410014 or schedule a call with Mike Movassaghi.