Reaching Prospective Students of For Profit…

Reaching Prospective Students of For Profit Universities

Key audiences and online trends in for profit universities.

Ranking For Profit Universities

While the for-profit education industry struggled for years against diminishing student enrollment, several accredited for profit universities have recently seen major stock gains and are re-focusing on rebuilding their attendance.


Over the past year, Walden University gained a strong traffic lead over University of Phoenix, which was the industry frontrunner for years. University of Phoenix lost a lot of visit share in the for-profit industry, but Walden’s growth in traffic may be at least partially attributed to increasing engagement on their student web portal (since their traffic ramped up suddenly in the beginning of the school year).

for profit universities website ranking 

Top ten most visited for profit universities based on custom industry, month of January 2018.


For Profit University Search Trends

Although the University of Phoenix lost traffic share over the last 12 months, it remains the most-searched university by a long shot. However, Walden University has a very low paid click rate, meaning they get quite a lot of organic clicks from search.

for profit universities branded search term ranking 

In terms of unbranded searches (keywords that don’t include a brand name) terms like “online universities” and “online college courses” have lower paid rates, meaning higher organic opportunity. For profit universities can use these terms to compete for better SEO.

for profit universities unbranded search term ranking 

Top branded and unbranded search terms driving traffic to websites of for profit universities, month of January 2018.


Understanding Prospective Student Audiences

In order to identify prospective students online, we need to focus on behaviors that indicate interest in a certain type of school, rather than broader behaviors that may include current students or faculty (for example, visiting a university website). We created audiences based exclusively on people who researched school tuition costs, accreditation status, available degree programs, reviews, and other indicators of the evaluation phase.

While audiences researching educational institutions online tend to be young (mostly 18-24 years old), and are roughly split down the middle in terms of gender, they exhibit several differences depending on the type of degree or institution they are pursuing. For example, although Caucasians are the the largest racial segment for all prospective student groups, we see below that the most over-indexed racial group varies depending on the type of school they’re interested in.


for profit universities prospective audiences 

Based on audience profile reports and overlap analyses of prospective students for trade schools, for-profit schools and traditional 4-year colleges. Characteristics or attitudes with highest index or the most overlap (relative to the other segments) were selected.


The University of Phoenix Audience

How does University of Phoenix ensure their marketing is attracting new students? Below are differences between their current audience, and their prospective audience. Though they have similarities, potential students have unique characteristics and motivations which can inspire more tailored messaging and marketing creative.

for profit universities demographics 

Although their overall audience under-indexes for both men and young fathers, University of Phoenix’s prospective audience over-indexes for Millennial dads. They could reach out to this segment with advertisements depicting a young father with a toddler, who is looking to achieve more and support his family.

attitudes of for profit universities prospective students 

Although both audiences show strong overlap with these lifestyle interests, prospective students feel much more strongly about them. Perhaps University of Phoenix should highlight their hiking club, the healthy options in their cafeteria, or their LEED Gold campus rating for energy efficiency in their outreach to prospective students.


Audience overlaps pulled from AudienceView over 4 weeks ending Feb 10th, 2018.

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