Student and Registry Services


How are students accessing our digital content?

22 February 2021

COVID-19 has impacted every facet of our lives, but is it changing what our students are looking for and how they access it?

Let’s look at some of the data from the /students site to see what has changed in Term One compared to last year.

Number of visitors

2020-21: 2,455,052

2019-20: 2,452,827

The number of visitors is almost identical, so nothing unusual there. Students clearly still value the site as a core UCL resource. 

Homepage visits

2020-21: 261,346

2019-20: 677,802

OK, now it’s getting interesting (in the context of being trapped indoors). That’s just over 60% fewer visits to the homepage this year. As you would expect, it’s far and away the most visited page of the site, and as such it’s where we advertise all our key information for any given month. So why the mass exodus?

Source of visits

Organic search (search engines)

2020-21: 662,135

2019-20: 631,248


2020-21: 498,710

2019-20: 716,925


2020-21: 71,504

2019-20: 1,542

Social Media

2020-21: 13,828

2019-20: 7,231

 Interesting. Despite only increasing slightly, search is now the primary method for accessing our content. It’s hard to say for certain why this might be. At the beginning of the year we redesigned the homepage to focus more on COVID-19 related content - could it be that students are suffering from corona virus news fatigue like the rest of us? Perhaps.

Is it the sheer volume of content we have available on the site? Why try and wade through the navigation when you can use a search engine to find the relevant content in a split second?

It could also be that askUCL is now the primary entry point for users. 

Regardless, what we as content managers need to do is ensure our content is accurate, accessible and relevant so that it surfaces as the top result in search engines. There is no secret formula for this. You can read more about accessibility best practice on the ISD website.

What is clear from the data is that emails (myUCL and Students’ Union) are driving significantly more traffic than in previous years. Comparing the content of email newsletters reveals that the nature of the content has shifted from general interest stories to critical information about service delivery. The question is, will the newfound popularity of myUCL last beyond the pandemic?

Another clear winner is social media, although relatively small numbers, it has doubled in traffic year-on-year. The split is about equal between Facebook and Twitter, but what is unclear is whether this is UCL generated content or organic content from students. In any case, social channels certainly seem to be more valuable to students while they are off campus.

If staff are interested, next time I’ll provide some more specific page data on our most popular content and how that has changed over the last 12 months.