SEO for Higher Education

NOTE: This is another in a series of articles about web marketing for higher education.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is an important component of any higher education website, and not paying proper attention to it can have a dramatic, even devastating, effect on organic searches.

The purpose of SEO for higher education is two-fold.

1. It makes your website more visible to search engines by tailoring and expanding content on your website to appeal to search engines. As a result, your website will appear higher up on a Search Engine Results Page (SERP) – and more prospective students will see and visit you.

2. SEO also focuses on creating content that in turn creates a more fulfilling experience for your prospective students and their families – leading them into an ever deepening relationship with your institution.

SEO is ever-evolving

SEO is ever-evolving, and today a variety of components play a role in it.

The latest criteria for great SEO necessitates that your content not only match the user’s query, but demonstrates engagement with your audience and receives social shares for the page. This is why it’s so important to consider your prospective students when you add content for student recruitment – better content is more likely to engage them and be shared by them.

Optimizing your website for search engines and prospective students

So, how do you optimize your site for search engines AND prospective students? Here are some pointers to help you along your way.

Consider your prospective students and their families.
In the early days of digital, SEO meant sprinkling keywords around your site in the hopes that search engine bots would pick them up and list your site higher up their search engine results pages (SERPs). The problem with this method was a keyword-filled site did not produce a great user experience. Fortunately, times have changed.

Today, you want to think about your audience and create an experience for them that is helpful, easy and pleasant. Think about what your prospective students and their families want to accomplish by visiting your site, then make it easy for them to do it.

Think in terms of adding value.
You want to create the best experience for your prospective students. How do you do that? For every web page, blog post, or social media update, make sure you’re adding something of value that enriches your users’ experience with you.

Best of all, if you have great content, people will share it.

Provide answers.
With Google’s 2013 Hummingbird update of its algorithm, searchers became able to search with sentence queries instead of by picking individual words, i.e. “What colleges offer a B.S. in Engineering?” versus “College B.S. Engineering”.

As a result, searching has become much more convenient, and Google wants to deliver answers instead of results. Focus on the answers your prospective students are looking for, and you will bring them your way.

Assess the purpose of each page.
Make sure each page has just one purpose. Think of that purpose as a thesis sentence – anything that does not contribute to that purpose/thesis, does not belong on the page. Remember that if you don’t learn anything from the page, neither will your prospective students.

Keep your site dynamic.
Keep adding content to your site. A site that never changes looks old and forgotten, and both search engines and users will quickly lose interest.

Pay due diligence to search engines.
Adding great content to your institution website guides the way, but it is still important to pay due diligence to search engines. Periodically audit your site.

Here are some key metrics you may want to consider:

  • Number of visits/visitors/unique visitors (monthly average)
  • Top performing keywords (in terms of rank, traffic, and lead generation)
  • Number of inbound linking domains
  • Total number of total pages indexed
  • Total number of pages that receive traffic

Higher education SEO pays long-term dividends

Not only does the content you build become a collective asset you own forever, but content developed especially for prospective students and their families help guide them deeper into a relationship with your institution.

In addition, high organic search rankings bring a lot of credibility in and of itself.

Interested in learning more about the effects of SEO? Be sure to read The Importance of SEO before Launching a New Website to see what happened to an unsuspecting college that forwent SEO of their newly designed site.

About VONT Performance Digital Marketing

At VONT we believe that change is the only constant in the digital world – and that excites us. Over the years, digital marketing has played an ever-growing role in higher education recruitment. From lead generation for inquiries, campus visits, and applications to increasing brand awareness and student yield – digital marketing and ongoing optimizations can have a significant impact on the objectives that confront today’s higher ed marketer.

We believe in this idea of continual fine-tuning so much that we named our company VONT, which means to achieve exponential improvement in incremental steps. It is our core belief, and the reason why we are not simply a web design company or simply a digital advertising agency, but rather a long-term, single source partner providing a comprehensive array of web development and digital marketing capabilities for higher education clients.

In short, we’re here so that our clients achieve success in the ever-changing digital world. If you’d like to learn more about VONT and the work we’ve done with our higher education clients, visit our Work page. Or, if you have a question, contact us. We’ll get right back to you!

Heidi McInerney
Written By

Heidi McInerney

UX Writer | Digital Content