The Q1 2024 benchmarking report for UK student home providers has just been published. Learn how the top 12 UK student home providers perform across the digital space.
The latest Q1 2024 benchmarking report for UK student home providers has just been published. It covers the largest 12 UK student home providers, including iQ Student Accommodation, Chapter, Host, Collegiate AC, Vita Student, Nido, Unite Students, Student Roost, Scape, CRM Students, This is Fresh, and Yugo.
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 student home providers to win brand exposure locally, increase their organic visibility, and drive online enquiries. 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 takeaways, 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 student home providers on, check out our quick-look table below;
Continue reading for further detail on this quarter's best and poorest-performing UK student home 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 site 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 student home providers, they'll want to ensure key pages, such as locations and fee information, are clearly signposted and easy to access.
In our last report, Vita Student had 489 4xx errors, which it’s increased to 609 this quarter. This student home provider must fix any broken internal links, as they prevent search engine crawlers from accurately indexing your site.
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. For student accommodation providers, they'll want to ensure they're delivering an exceptional experience for a mobile-first generation.
In our previous audit, iQ Student Accommodation had a 21% mobile speed site score and needed to make the most improvements out of all providers. Unfortunately, its score has dropped to 19%, and this provider should adopt lazy loading on its homepage to help increase this score and prevent consumers from switching to a competitor. Only three of the 12 providers scored above 50% (the recommended site speed score), with This is Fresh reporting 61%.
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, i.e. ‘free’ traffic that isn’t gained through sponsored ads. For student home providers, they could be looking at collaborating with local publications, or bloggers with a large following of students.
A ‘good’ DA really comes down to how your competitors are performing, however it’s generally considered average between 40 and 50, good between 50 and 60, and excellent above 60. The DA rating for this quarter was between 57 and 33, compared to the previous report where the lowest score was 34. Chapter reported a DA rating of 33, and it should include more relevant keywords in its blogs to help increase this 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. Private student housing providers may see a fall in interest in their accommodation due to the cost of living crisis. With students potentially opting for lower-end accommodation to make their maintenance loans go further, student home providers will want to ensure they're staying on top of their share of organic traffic, and highlighting any potential benefits of opting for their housing.
Only two of the 12 student home providers had an increase in organic mobile traffic compared to last year, with Host reporting a 17% rise. On the other end of the scale, This is Fresh saw a 59% loss in organic mobile 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 site can appear for universal search results without being strong in standard rankings. 'Reviews' and 'Image Pack' are both important universal search opportunities for student home providers, as prospective students will want to hear what current tenants have to say about their experience and see what the accommodation looks like.
iQ Student Accommodation has moved from second place in the previous report to first place for the overall appearances in Universal Searches this quarter. It received most of these impressions from the ‘Image’ category. All student home providers received zero appearances for ‘Reviews’, which they should address to improve their rankings in SERPs.
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. For student home providers, longtail keywords are an opportunity to rank for specific search terms that indicate high levels of interest in private student accommodation, such as "private en suite student room available September".
iQ Student Accommodation secured the most longtail keyword searches in the top three search engines (987), though Unite Students is at a very close second place with 968 appearances. Unite Students also has 1,358 appearances in the top 4–10 search engines, implying that it has a strong keyword strategy.
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. Facebook adverts can be used by student home providers to target users looking at universities in particular cities and increase visibility in key locations.
We’ve included 3 examples of Host’s sponsored Facebook posts. All of its text is across six lines, which it should reduce to 1–3 lines to keep copy short and scannable.
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. Student home providers can think outside the box with content campaigns and should consider creating content on general student life (and advice), pre-university shopping lists, and information on their local areas.
Most brands favour Facebook, while Nido favours X/Twitter. Vita Student has the largest Facebook following, with 210,600 Likes (a decrease from the previous quarter), while Unite Students holds the largest Instagram account, with 13,600 followers (an increase from the previous quarter). All brands should look to include content that’s targeted towards their audience and insightful, while adopting a strategy that boosts engagement.
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. With private halls of residence often meeting additional needs for students more than landlord-owned properties, we would expect student home providers to have excellent levels of accessibility on their sites.
In Q1 2024, iQ Student Accommodation flagged 73 alerts — an increase from 71 in the previous report. Upon closer inspection, the majority of these alerts are caused by redundant title text and skipped heading levels. Chapter has the highest contrast errors (57). Both brands must address these accessibility issues to improve the experience for those using a screen reader and those with a colour deficiency.
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.