Using insight to automate University Clearing 2020: How Clearing Monitor got wise

By Rob Keery,

University Clearing 2020. It’s Black Friday for Higher Education.

If that’s a phrase you’ve not heard before, it’s one you’re going to become more familiar with in the next few weeks as we head towards the most critical period in the academic calendar.

And this time, it’s arriving in the middle of the Summer of the most unpredictable year in living memory.

Although much of the intensity and expectation focuses on A Level results day itself – Thursday August 13th, three weeks from today (mark your calendars) –  Clearing isn’t actually a one-off event. 

In reality, it’s a process, an experience. One which varies from person to person – and from institution to institution.

Students start researching the Clearing process from early spring. It builds through August, peaking on Super Thursday and running throughout the end of the month. It’s an elastic, frequently anxious period of time when young peoples’ entire futures can be decided at a stroke. 

As the Higher Education sector has become more and more important to the UK economy, Clearing has become likewise important to the Higher Education sector. It’s the point where the best laid plans are abruptly discarded, where critical margins can be closed, and where bold ambitious targets are eclipsed in a matter of hours.

The Black Friday comparison is inescapable for those reasons alone. But there’s a deeper layer of resemblance there.

Because both events are shaped by the technology we use to manage them.

The dangers of shopping at US malls on the fourth Friday in November – 12 deaths and 117 serious stampede injuries in a decade – are only the clearest example of how technology produces these intense events. Online, TV, Radio and Out-of-home advertising for unmissable bargains whip up such excitement it turns bargain-hunting into an extreme sport.

Shoppers are getting smart and keeping safe, with $7.4bn of Black Friday 2019 sales happening online. The queues are more boring – but less dangerous.

There is a comparable, though less physically risky, intensity around university Clearing.

The urgency is driven by Higher Education institutes eager to fill places on onboard students for the new academic year. And of course, it is driven by the social expectations and economic realities around the benefits of Higher Education for securing a brighter future. 

In 2020, students and institutions respond to the pressure in the same way. They go online.

For the Students it means Search. Those that don’t get the results to guarantee their first choice immediately take to Google to discover their new options. 

Figures from the Kelton 2019 research study show Search is students’ number one digital touchpoint – and the best measure of their forward intent.

For the Higher Education Institutions – Universities, Colleges and more – it means Search too. Except they aren’t hunting for places on prestigious courses. They’re battling for position on high ranking search terms.

On the day of Clearing, getting your Google Ad to appear on high-competition search terms is  the difference between success and failure for the whole year ahead. And that make-or-break demand sends the cost of Google Ads’ auctions soaring:

The trends on those key search terms change too rapidly for a person to keep up with. It’s impossible to keep up with the change stream of data and adjust your bids and other account settings in response. Machines can cope, but making the right call for effective action takes human instinct and insight. 

That’s why we developed Clearing Monitor. It scans your Google Ad accounts in the run up to the day of Clearing to analyse trends and optimisation opportunities. It displays the changing data in a clean, configurable Dashboard that tells you what you need to know. 

During Clearing week a daily email alert gives you the broad picture. Then throughout the day itself alerts arrive every hour with a current summary, learnings to date, and actionable insights from our experts.

it is monitored by aip’s team of award-winning paid Search experts to deliver you up-to-the-minute alerts and actions for switching your bids to stay at the top of the Google results giving you:

  • A full optimisations log.
  • Key insights and next steps.
  • Page, campaign and keyword-level performance views.

Anything is Possible means delivering beyond the normal for our clients through strategy, planning and creativity. Success for us as an agency doesn’t just mean great media campaigns. 

It means applying that same commitment to technological innovation. Our Insight and Automation team has grown by 30% since lockdown, letting us anticipate, respond and solve with pinpoint accuracy the specific challenges we know our clients face.

It means we can transform Clearing in 2020.

So avoid the search crush this year. Talk to us and let Clearing Monitor manage the queue.