Whether it’s for a college, university, or trade school, higher education websites have some unique challenges. With audiences that range from prospective freshman, current students, alumni, parents, faculty, staff, and even parents, a higher education website has to serve a lot of different types of people with varying needs. Some users may need content about your institution’s academic offerings and tuition costs, while others may be searching for special events and information about athletics. Is your website helping all of these users find what they’re looking for?

When it comes to delivering a great online experience for users on a higher education website, effective and relevant on-site search should be at the top of your list. Here are a few things to consider when optimizing search for your own institution.

Get relevant!

Your users are already searching, why not deliver the best experience you can. Students know to go to Google for what they need and they are expecting a similar experience from their college, university and trade school websites too. A study by Nielsen Norman group found that both teenagers and college students relied heavily on search. That same study showed that college students in particular were exceptionally impatient and wanted their answers quickly. When looking for a good search platform to integrate to your site, you’ll want something that returns relevant results fast, with tools that capture information from prior searches for further refinement.

Help users navigate with ease.

Colleges and universities likely have vast amounts of content on their website and a simple search for the word “degree” can elicit a wide range of results. Help make your users’ lives easier by providing guided navigation through the use of categories or facets. Features like Hawksearch’s Faceted Navigation allow visitors to sort search results by different attributes to drill down to exactly what they’re looking for.

Dig deep into the trends.

A search bar can tell you a lot about what users want out of your site. You will want to regularly look at the data to ensure you are providing a great experience. Do you know how many search queries delivered zero results? What are those terms? Where did users end their search experience and how far into the results did they get? All of these insights can help you make sure that your higher education website is providing the right information.

Let AI do the work for you.

As mentioned above, it’s clear that there are many different types of users visiting your institution’s website. Advanced search tools like Hawksearch can take pre-existing data about users and curate results based on each visitor’s age, location, and even enrollment status. Machine learning technology can personalize results even further by tracking user behavior to boost content based on their popularity.

At the end of the day, users who come to a higher education website are seeking important information and it’s vital to help make that information easier to find. If you’re looking to optimize your institution’s website, don’t neglect search. To learn more about the Hawksearch solution, click here to schedule a one-on-one demo.