SEO for Higher Ed: Why Is It Important?
Here's why you need to prioritize search engine optimization (SEO) for any higher education website
- Perform a website audit: Use an audit to evaluate the SEO strengths and weaknesses of your website and identify technical issues.
- Figure out which keywords to incorporate into your web pages: Make a list of keywords that prospective students will use to search for your school.
- Use Google Trends: Identify terms and phrases that prospective students use to search for information about your school.
- Find out why prospective students want to learn about your school: Publish an FAQ on your website that answers common questions of prospective students using the language they use to search.
- Assess your rivals: Visit the websites of rival schools and evaluate which keywords they prioritize on their web pages.
Higher education institutions must leave no stone unturned to connect with web visitors from around the world. Yet, colleges and universities frequently ignore SEO — despite the power of a comprehensive SEO strategy to help them drive website traffic and student enrollment.
What is SEO?
SEO refers to the process of optimizing your website's visibility across Google, Bing, and other global search engines.
Search engines use bots to crawl pages on the web. These bots collect information about web pages and put it into an index. Then, search engine algorithms analyze and index those pages. They account for hundreds of ranking factors to determine the order pages should appear in search results for a specific term or phrase.
Algorithms surface relevant, authoritative pages in search engine results. In doing so, they provide search engine users with the best answers to their queries.
Why you need to account for SEO
Search engines are the primary source of digital traffic for many global brands. Billions of online searches are conducted each year to find information about brands, their products, and their services, and millions of those are searches for college and university information.
You want your website to appear at the top of the search engine results for terms that matter to your success — the higher your website ranks in these results, the more likely it becomes that people will click on the link to visit your site. With an effective SEO strategy, you can get your web pages to rank higher than ever before in search engine results. Over time, this will lead to better student engagement and increased enrollment.
Tips to develop and implement a successful SEO strategy
Don't wait to get started on improving your website's SEO — here are five tips to help you develop and implement a successful SEO strategy.
1. Audit your website
A website audit lets you evaluate various SEO factors, including:
- Web page speed: Your web pages should load quickly on mobile and desktop devices.
- Page titles and headings: Your page titles and headings should be clear, concise, and include relevant keywords.
- URL structure: You should include accurate keywords and avoid superfluous terms in your URLs.
- Link building: You should include quality links in your web pages.
- Content: Your content should include pertinent keywords, engaging headlines, and speak specifically to your target audience.
Your audit also helps identify technical site issues, such as:
- 404 error pages
- Pages with broken internal links
- Pages with repeat content
Use the audit to understand your website's strengths and weaknesses, and then craft your SEO strategy accordingly.
2. Determine which keywords you want to target
Make a list of five to 10 keywords for each page of your website that people may use to search for your school. Don't forget to incorporate terms relating to your school's location and degree programs, too.
Use this list to determine which terms to incorporate into your web pages. Then revise your page content to serve these keywords and track your web traffic to understand what works for your site. Evaluate web traffic regularly and update keyword lists for your web pages as needed.
3. Find out what students want to know about your school
Put together an FAQ that accounts for common questions prospective students ask about your school. Collect feedback from faculty, staff, and students to find out what recruits want to learn. You can also search Facebook, Twitter, other social media platforms, and online forums like Quora and Reddit to see what students are asking about your school.
Produce content that answers these common questions in the same terms your students use to search for the answers. Incorporate that content into relevant pages on your website.
4. Take advantage of Google Trends
Use Google Trends to retrieve data on the terms and phrases about your school that prospective students search for online. Google Trends also lets you capture information about when prospective students search for that information, where they’re from, and other pertinent insights. You can even use Google Trends to identify "Breakout" keywords — i.e., any keyword that experiences over a 5,000% increase in search volume.
5. Learn from your rivals
Look at how other colleges and universities optimize their web content. Visit their websites to see which keywords they commonly use. You can also utilize SEMrush, Moz, and similar tools to identify keywords your competitors are ranking for and how much web traffic they generate.
How to measure SEO success
Once you develop and implement an SEO strategy, you need to track its performance. Key SEO metrics to track include:
- Organic search traffic: Number of website visits generated by people clicking on your web pages when they appear in search engine results.
- Click-through rate: Percentage of people who reach your website from search engine results pages (SERP).
- Bounce rate: Percentage of people who visit your site but only visit a single page.
- Time spent on page: Average amount of time a site visitor spends on a web page.
Monitoring SEO performance is a marathon — not a sprint. It takes time to see the results of an SEO strategy, but, with ongoing assessments, you can continuously find ways to optimize web pages across your site.
If you want expert help with SEO, KWALL is here for you. Our team knows the do's and don'ts of SEO, and they can help you build and launch an SEO strategy that delivers outstanding results. For more information or to request a free website audit, contact KWALL today.