UK Online Learning Providers - Digital Marketing Benchmark Report, Q3 2022 Published Today

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The Q3 2022 benchmarking report for UK online learning providers has just been published. Learn how the top 9 UK online learning providers perform across the digital space.

The latest Q3 2022 benchmarking report for UK online learning providers has just been published.  It covers the largest 9 national online learning providers, including FutureLearn, Udemy, Learndirect, Online Learning College, Open Study College, Stonebridge College, NCC, LearnPac, and ICS Learn - it highlights year-on-year digital performance, plus winner and loser comparisons in 20+ online performance metrics.

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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, online orders and in-store footfall (where applicable). 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 Q3 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.

Online Learning Ipad cover - press release blog

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.

We found that Stonebridge College have a huge 1,563 4xx error codes, meaning that would-be students are frequently being met with dead ends when trying to navigate the site. When supplying any service, it’s key to ensure your site is easy to use, but this becomes even more important when the service itself is to be hosted online. Stonebridge must ensure that users are getting a positive site experience, right from the word go.

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.

As with ensuring your site is free of errors, if your customers are looking for a good digital experience throughout interacting with your brand, your site speed must be up to par. For Open Study College, mobile site speed is posing a big issue, with the online learning provider only scoring a mark of 4. Looking at core web vitals, all our online learning providers seem to be in good shape for desktop performance but, with Google placing specific importance, it’s still essential to ensure mobile site speed is up to par.

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 guage of how effective your site is at achieving organic traffic, ie. ‘free’ traffic that isn’t gained through sponsored ads.

Domain authority is considered average between 40 and 50, good between 50 and 60, and excellent above 60. ‘Good’ DA score depends on the competition level of the industry. However, a ‘good’ DA really comes down to how your competitors are performing. The stand-out winner for online learning is Udemy, who have a hard-to-beat Domain Authority of 91. Though this is a challenging figure to match, providers at the other end of the scale, such as Learn Pac, who have a score of 23, should be identifying link-building opportunities with valuable websites in order to boost their score.

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.

As with many sectors we’ve been researching, mobile organic traffic for online learning providers has almost universally fallen, with only Udemy and Open Study College seeing a (negligible) increase YoY. This could easily be a reflection of the lower demand for online providers – as the Covid-19 pandemic prompted many people to consider retraining and changing careers, our online learning providers may simply be seeing a gradual fall in interest in training opportunities. Regardless, this reflects a shrinking opportunity for these brands and they must ensure they are poised to make the most of limited 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 are a significant interest driver for online learning providers. In the absence of being able to attend open days, potential students will be looking to reviews from their peers in order to assess whether a particular provider will be of good value for time and money. FutureLearn have made the most of this opportunity, receiving 11,100 reviews for their courses.

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.

FutureLearn have the most longtail appearances within the top 3, with a total of 6,232. Though Udemy have the most longtail keywords ranking overall, they’re only appearing in the top three for roughly one-third of the amount FutureLearn have achieved. With such a huge number of longtail keywords already ranking, however, they’re in a great place to start optimising existing content for high-potential phrases.

Facebook Adverts

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.

NCC Home Learning are using Facebook ads to show a variety of their courses on offer. With ads for nail technicians, teaching assistants, and counsellor courses, they’re able to appeal to a wide variety of interests.

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.

NCC Facebook Ads

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. This is clearly appreciated among our 9 online learning brands, with all but two showing evidence of a strong, consistent content strategy.

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.

Our online learning providers should be prioritising accessibility, in order to provide the same learning opportunities for anyone interested in their courses. Each brand have areas they can improve on in this regard, though NCC Home Learning’s 85 contrast errors should be their first port-of-call, to ensure they’re meeting the needs of learners with vision deficiencies.

Q3 2022 Winners LEaderboard

For a glance into just 6 of the metrics we evaluated these top 9 online learning providers on, check out our quick-look table below; 


If you want to explore how you can improve your performance relative to your competitors, reduce media spend wastage and drive more performance from less, read the 10 Week Performance Accelerator Programme for CMO’s & Marketing Leaders.

Get the full 70-page Q3 2022 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 Phil Robinson.

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