SEO for e-Learning: How to gain search visibility in the eLearning market

The Covid-19 pandemic and the lockdowns and restrictions placed upon work and education have led to greater demand for online learning.

This has been driven by the need for parents to homeschool children, and by students wanting to get some extra tutoring in preparation for exams.

It’s also driven by people wanting to spend the extra time they have at home learning something new, as well as people who feel the need to make a career change and learn new skills while they’re in lockdown.

This increased demand presents an opportunity for online education companies, and those who have recently moved into this area to reach a much larger target audience.

The e-Learning market is forecast to be worth $350bn by 2025, with 49% of students worldwide having taken an online learning course over the last year.

In our new e-Learning report, we look at the online learning search landscape and what a successful SEO strategy should be.

The past year has seen huge growth in search demand in this market. Demand for education related terms spiked in April and May 2020 during the first lockdown and, though demand has decreased slightly since then, we can still see more than 100,000 more monthly searches when compared to January 2020.

The top of the search results in the e-Learning industry

Download the report

Searches for generic online education or subject + course have seen the greatest increase in demand, which suggests people are looking for ideas rather than specific qualifications.

Online education | Search trends over time | Google UK

Screenshot 2021-02-11 at 09.12.26

Image source: Pi Market Intelligence

The highest growth terms are very different year on year, with a decline in searches including ‘free’ and a huge increase in search volumes across the board.

Highest growth and most searched ‘Online Education’ terms

Screenshot 2021-02-11 at 09.14.01

How the top sites dominate the online education SERPs

When looking to improve your rankings in a particular sector, it pays to look at some of the top sites in your target market, ranking for terms you’re targeting.

Looking at share of voice from November 2020, we can see that traditional universities are missing out in this area with just one, the University of London, featuring in the top 25.

The Open University features three times with different domains, and reed.co.uk, better known as a job site, features highly thanks to its learning content.

The top of the search results in the e-Learning industry

Download the report

Category: ‘Online education’ | Share of Voice | Google UK
share of voice

Image source: Share of Voice Pi Market Intelligence

Looking at competitors, it pays to ask several questions about their performance, and what you can learn from it.

  • Are top-ranking sites similar to one another?
  • What do top sites do well that you need to improve on?
  • What are the areas for improvement that constitute opportunities for you? How can you do better than these sites?

Looking at the top sites in this sector, in partnership with OnCrawl(link to homepage), we can pick out some common strategies that help sites to perform well:

  • They ensure key pages are indexable. Many of the sites we looked at had a high percentage of accessible pages, and course pages were found in the easiest to find levels of the site stricture.
  • They proactively manage technical errors. It’s important to monitor rankings and page performance to identify any drops in performance. These may be due to technical errors such as broken links. Managing these proactively avoids losing visibility for long periods.
  • Promote key pages within the site structure. Some online learning sites offering a range of courses can be complex. Most successful sites ensured key pages were near the top of this structure, making navigation easier for users and improving search indexing. 
  • They create in-depth content. The SERPs for many online education terms are generally made up of classic links, and this is an area where users (and Google) are looking for detailed content.

Google looks at the E-A-T (Expertise, Authority, Trustworthiness) of content when ranking pages, and the depth of information can signal expertise.

Opportunities to improve rankings

In many SERPs, you can find opportunities for improvement if you study them closely. We’ve identified several areas in this sector – here are three of them:

  • Site speed. We found room for improvement in terms of site speed in this sector. Google uses site speed as a ranking factor, and it’s also an area where the user experience can be improved.
  • Pay attention to website depth and page popularity. The structure and distribution of links sends signals to Google about the relative importance of pages. Internal links can help you to create this structure, distribute link equity,  and tell Google which pages are most important for you and your users.
  • Keep an eye on duplicate content. Education sites can build up lots of content, and it can be similar from course to course. This can dilute the rank of pages on the site if you don’t have a canonical strategy in place.

In summary

The e-Learning industry has been growing for some time, and the pandemic has served to accelerate this growth, driving demand for online education in a way few could have predicted.

It’s a growing industry, which means that there are plenty of SEO opportunities, and new competitors can out-perform some more established education providers.

The key is to study the SERPs, and the performance of key competitors, both to spot opportunities, and to monitor and maintain your own site’s performance.

The top of search results in the e-learning industry webinar

The top of the search results in the e-Learning industry

Download the report