Like many of you, my social media feeds are full of people excited about and applauding Google’s decision to begin including community colleges in their education search feature.

Of course this is good news, as more publicity and validation for community colleges is always a great thing. 

However, I want to caution you against making a bigger deal of this than it is.

Let’s look at the actual experience. I’ve tested the feature, and frankly the experience is not very good. Let’s walk through it.

For starters, the data, or at least how it is presented, isn’t very accurate. I performed a few career specific searches, selected “Nearby” as the distance filter, and every time, four-year universities were given priority over community colleges that were actually geographically closer to me. It seems there may be some stigma bias built-in, unfortunately. As community college marketers, we’re certainly used to that, but it is frustrating nonetheless.

Secondly, the data displayed isn’t relevant to the search query. It doesn’t seem very beneficial for prospective students. In searching for colleges with nursing programs, the information displayed for the community colleges near me isn’t at all tailored to nursing. I am only shown generic info for all programs—and nursing wasn’t even first on the list!

As you’ve heard me say many times before, the quickest way to turn off a prospect is to show them info that isn’t relevant to their needs. And prospective students don’t care much about your college; they care about what you can do for them. If they’re wanting to see info about nursing careers, and they’re shown info about welding, they’re gone.

The point of this video isn’t to criticize Google. They’ve made a step in the right direction, so good for them.

Rather, the point I want you to take from this video is that you can’t rely on anyone else to market and promote your college. Ultimately, it is always going to be your job to be visible, to be relevant, and to be helpful. Yes, this is a positive step. But it shouldn’t change a single thing in terms of your marketing objectives.

Recently I’ve spoken about the benefits of search ads. If someone is searching for programs you offer, within your service area, you should really consider having ads appearing within search results. This way you control the messaging and presentation, and you don’t have to rely on anyone else to get your message out.

If you’d like to discuss if or how search ads could be part of your digital strategy, let me know.

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