The Q3 2023 benchmarking report for UK student home providers has just been published. Learn how the top 11 UK student home providers perform across the digital space.
The Q3 2023 benchmarking report for UK student home providers has just been published. It covers the largest 11 national student home providers, including CRM Students, Nido Student, Host., Collegiate UK, Vita Student, CHAPTER, Scape, iQ Student Accommodation, Unite 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 Q3 report, click here. To get a copy of the full report and the key takeaways, please complete the enquiry form or schedule a call.
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 presented with the highest level of 4xx errors, with 877. In Q3, Vita Student has reduced this figure significantly, falling to 489. Though this is still considerably more than competitors, it shows a marked improvement and move in the right direction. This is Fresh, which had reduced their Q1 figure of 1,606 4xx error codes to 221 in Q2, has seen a further improvement, with our audit finding only 92.
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.
Only three brands are securing a score past the 'okay' benchmark of 50 - down from four brands in Q2. IQ Student Accommodation remain the slowest site, still maintaining a score of 21. In a competitive market, particularly in large cities, IQ Student Accommodation will want to ensure their site is not being slowed down by high-resolution images, videos, or other dynamic content.
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. Our student home providers remain steady, with DAs ranging from 57 to 34, with CHAPTER sitting at the end of this scale (after a one point improvement from Q2). We'd recommend that CHAPTER ensure they're building their backlink profile with high-value links from relevant publications, and review their digital PR strategy to explore new link-building opportunities.
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.
Nine out of the eleven student accommodation providers in our report are now seeing increases in digital footfall year on year. Host. which has lost the most traffic in Q2, with a 54% loss, has now secured a 26% increase year on year. The brand seeing the biggest fall in traffic, of -31% is now Nido Student.
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.
Student housing providers are using a range of Universal Search result-types to share information directly on the SERP, including images, local pack, people also ask, and knowledge panel appearances. Unite Students is still making the most appearances overall, with iQ Student Accommodation not too far behind. Most of Unite Students' results, making up 2,900 of Unite's appearances.
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".
All of our student housing providers are still ranking for few results in the top positions when compared to their total long tail keywords ranked for. Unite Students is making the most appearances for long tail keywords in the top three, appearing for 1,081 terms, though this is down from 1,308 in Q2. With a further 1,227 (though down from Q2's 1,384) in positions 4-10, Unite Students have an immediate opportunity to boost visibility on long tail keywords further by optimising terms falling within this bracket.
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.
Below, we've included examples of Vita Student's Facebook ads. Vita Student has used vertical video, which fits seemlessly into organic 'reels', and captures the attention of an audience readily engaged in short form video content.
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.
Meta is the preferred platform across all student housing providers, with the exception of CHAPTER, which has secured more social engagement on Pinterest. As a go-to place for inspiration, including home, food, and fashion content, this could be a smart choice that gains CHAPTER visibility among an interiors-focused cohort. Looking at Meta engagement, Vita Student still leads the way on Facebook likes, with 211,900 Facebook likes, though has been slightly overtaken by Unite Students, and its 12,400 followers, on Instagram. High levels of engagement point to strong brand recognition and recall, meaning Vita Student and Unite Students will be front of mind for many students looking for accommodation.
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.
All student home providers are performing reasonably well in terms of accessibility. In our last report, CHAPTER were flagging with the highest volume of contrast errors, with a total of 60. In Q3, this has only been slightly reduced to 57 contrast errors. The student accommodation provider with the most cause for concern is now iQ Student Accommodation, which received 71 alerts in our audits.
Q3 2023 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;
GET THE FULL 79-PAGE Q3 2023 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.