Searches for online education terms increased over 100% in 2020, says study

OnCrawl and Pi Datametrics analysed the UK market to produce a detailed study on how the pandemic and its ensuing school closures impacted the e-learning industry last year

Searches for terms relating to online education increased more than 100% in 2020, a recent report has revealed.

In a joint study by the technical SEO and data platform, OnCrawl, and the search intelligence tool Pi Datametrics, analysts sought to uncover the true extent of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and its ensuing school closures on the UK’s e-learning market.

With schools closed to more than 90% of the world’s students by 4 March 2020, severely disrupting education across 188 countries, and recurring spikes in COVID cases still causing closures around the globe today, demand for online education has simultaneously soared. The study found that, between November 2019–October 2020, e-learning searches increased 58% compared to figures from November 2018–October 2019.

Upon reviewing the data, analysts identified a range of motivations for this growth, including:

  • Parents taking on homeschooling responsibilities
  • More people investing in self-improvement due to being furloughed, or the shift to working from home resulting in more spare time (eliminating time previously spent commuting, for example)
  • People considering alternative means for education due to the uncertainty and health concerns facing campus-based learning, caused by the ongoing pandemic

The initial spike in searches occurred in April/May last year, and, despite a decrease since that peak, online education searches are still receiving over 100k monthly searches vs figures seen just a few months prior in January.

Source: OnCrawl x Pi Datametrics report


The study also shines a light on the most common SERP (search engine results pages) features relating to online education keywords. According to the findings, ‘Classic link’ appeared the most, followed by ‘People also ask’‘Text ads’, and ‘Video carousel’.

Pulling data from Google’s ‘People also ask’ feature via Pi Datametrics, the report identifies the most searched ‘online education’ terms for the month of November last year.

Search term: best free online courses with certificates

  • How can I get free certificates online?
  • Which online certification is best?
  • Can I get certificate from Coursera for free?
  • Are online certificates worth it?

Search term: online courses

  • Which are the best online courses?
  • What are the best free online certificate courses?
  • Are online courses worth? [sic.]
  • How can I learn online for free?

Search term: e-learning

  • What do you mean by e-learning?
  • What is e-learning and its benefits?
  • How do I access NHS e-learning?
  • How do I start e-learning?

Search term: physics online

  • Can I learn physics online?
  • Is a level physics online good?
  • How do you get an A level physics?

Interestingly, ‘physics gcse online’ was the biggest growing searched term last year.

Source: OnCrawl x Pi Datametrics report

The study also drew interesting insights of the most dominant players in the field of online education. Findings reveal that remote learning platform, The Open University, appears three times in the top 15 sites, landing 3rd, 5th and 8th, respectively, across all domains.

Analysts were surprised to see job site come in second, driven by its digital search tool dedicated to e-learning programmes offered by a number of providers.

The only traditional, ‘brick and mortar’ institution to place in the top 15 for online programme searches was University College London (UCL), placing 13th in the rankings.

To download and read the full report by OnCrawl and Pi Datametrics, click here.

In other news: Female graduates enjoying higher starting salary than male peers, finds US coding school


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