Posted on 26 Jan '23

Share of Search – A New Way to Understand Postgraduate Audiences

Over a million people use FindAMasters and FindAPhD every month to search for and discover postgraduate study opportunities. Their activity provides a unique window onto changing audiences and interests at the most diverse and dynamic level of higher education.

Our new Share of Search data helps postgraduate marketing and recruitment professionals understand and respond to these trends as they develop.

I want to take a moment to introduce the thought behind it, explain what it's based on and highlight some of the things you can use it for.

How Share of Search works (the important bit)

Reporting absolute traffic numbers for FindAMasters and FindAPhD wouldn't necessarily reveal audience trends.

Our teams work hard to keep our sites as visible and useful as possible for prospective postgraduates. This means we can't always be sure how much of an absolute increase in visitors is due to the market, or to marketing.

We also work with university partners to keep our listings as dynamic as the postgraduate opportunities they reflect. This means that we can't always be sure how much of an absolute increase in views for particular subjects reflects shifts in users' searches, or in our search coverage.

Share of Search is an attempt to understand prospective postgraduate audiences in a way that isn't distorted by these factors.


Share of Search focusses on searches taking place on FindAMasters and FindAPhD, rather than traffic to particular pages. This measures how prospective postgraduates are using our sites, regardless of overall audiences and coverage.

That activity is then presented as a percentage of all searches – the Share of Search – for a particular audience segment.

If we use this to measure the proportion of UK users searching for a Masters in Engineering (for example) we reveal the relative popularity of Engineering with domestic PGT audiences, regardless of how many UK users or Engineering Masters we have on FindAMasters.

We can also use this data to measure changes over time: if 40% of UK users searched for Engineering Masters in one year and 50% did so in the next year then the Share of Search for Engineering amongst UK audiences has increased by 25%.

What Share of Search can tell you

Share of Search gives a unique view of prospective student behaviour at the top of the postgraduate marketing and recruitment funnel. You can use it to:

  • Understand the relative size of prospective postgraduate audiences to provide context for your marketing and recruitment strategy
  • Spot differences between domestic and international audience preferences (particularly around subject preferences)
  • Sense check your own enquiries and application data against subject area search trends compared to the same point in previous cycles
  • See recent data for the previous month to inform tactical decision making around subject recruitment and advertisement campaigns

And, as with all of our insights, Share of Search reveals the often striking differences between PGT and PGR audiences – something postgraduate marketers and recruiters should never take for granted.

Where you can find this data

The first version of Share of Search went live with our whitepaper report on the State of Postgraduate Taught Search in 2022. This presents data on relative search trends for audiences and subjects over the past two years.

From January 2023, we'll be including Share of Search data for both PGT and PGR audiences and core subject areas as part of our monthly Pulse report.

This snapshot report currently provides the following data each month:

  • Overall confidence in UK PGT and PGR study for domestic and international audiences (based on Pulse survey data)
  • Study preferences for UK domestic audiences (based on Pulse survey data)
  • Intended start dates for UK postgraduate study (based on Pulse survey data)
  • Audience trends for UK postgraduate study (based on Share of Search)
  • Subject area trends for domestic and international UK postgraduate study (based on Share of Search)

You can get all the above in your inbox, for free, here.

What next?

Share of Search is an honest attempt to provide unique new data for our university partners – letting you see what we see 'under the hood' of some of the world's most popular postgraduate search websites.

But we're not claiming it's perfect and we already have some plans to improve it.

We're working on ways to extend our data coverage as some regions (particularly China) are under-represented in our audiences.

We're also looking at making our audience data even more agnostic of shifts in audience size. Share of Search mitigates against local traffic spikes (caused by campaigns or partnerships), but bigger overall audiences can still 'tug' at the data.

Most importantly, we want to make our data broader and deeper. Right now we're focussing on fairly 'top-level' audience and subject area data for audiences interested in UK study; we're already thinking of ways to usefully report trends for more granular subjects, and to do this for other postgraduate study destinations.

I'm even keener than usual to hear feedback on Share of Search from the postgraduate marketing and recruitment community: what's most useful to you in this data? What isn't clear? What else would you like us to try and include? Please email or find me in the usual places.

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