These days, you can use a search engine like Google to find pretty much anything - from a local spa to information about Vienna.
Marketers are very aware of this. They use paid search advertising and SEO (search engine optimization) – to ensure that an organization, or ads for that organization, are best positioned in search results to drive traffic to their website. What this means is that depending on which search terms you are using, the options returned on that all-important first results page may not be relevant for you at all. The option that may be the best-fit for you could be buried on page 3 or 10 or 50. This is the case whether you are searching for something as mundane as printer ink or as critical as a college.
As I mentioned last week, we hosted a panel of education entrepreneurs as part of our Strategy and Competition in Higher Education class to discuss new entrants to the higher education industry. One of our panelists was Joe Morgan, CEO of Noodle Education. The homepage of Noodle claims, “Education search just got smart.” This concept raised an interesting question for me about the decision-making process around education.
As Joe pointed out, “A google search is really good when you know what you are looking for, but it lacks any sort of recommendation process. We know however, that the vast majority of education queries start with unbranded terms. It takes weeks, if not months, to refine a search and make a decision on education. There ought to be a tool that assists in the refining process based on what’s important to you. There should be a tool that allows you to save and return to your search. If you believe in the audacious idea that education is one of the highest of high stakes decisions, then it warrants the ability to be contemplative about a best-fit education solution. Noodle is not a search engine, but more of a ‘recommendation-engine’ – taking you through a thoughtful Q&A process to suggest educational opportunities based on what is important to you.”
Noodle is attempting to allow users to find a wide range of learning opportunities. Instead of going to one resource for Pre-K options for your child, another site for volunteer work, another site for test prep, and another for colleges – Noodle’s goal is to suggest best-fit opportunities to education-seekers from “cradle to career.” Perhaps there is value in developing a ‘relationship’ with such an organization, and returning to the site for all of your education needs. If the ‘recommendation-engine’ works as promised, it could enable consumers to easily find the right learning option for them.
As education’s landscape gets more densely populated, discovering opportunities has become more challenging. In this competitive environment, perhaps it’s more important than ever for students to unearth schools, services, resources, etc. that are truly right for them – not just the ones that appear on the first page of a Google search.
This concept is interesting for providers and prospective learners. For providers, it has the potential to turn traditional lead generation marketing on its head. Instead of providers reaching out to potential users, the users would be initiating the conversation. For prospective students, this could be another way to navigate the process of finding best-fit options.
As a concept, it’s something to ‘noodle’ over.