When a prospective student entering higher education researches universities, an online search is commonly the first step. According to Ruffalo Noel Levitz:
“Prospective students are using Google (and other search engines) to explore their options to build an initial list of schools and navigate the specific college and university sites to find the specific program details they need.”
As a result, it’s essential that your university runs an effective search engine optimisation (SEO) campaign. Here’s a guide to the essential steps.
The first step in optimising your university’s website and boosting its online presence is to define clear and realistic goals. Knowing what you’re trying to achieve will help inform the choices you make in web design, content and keyword research.
A competitive analysis and a full strategic website audit can help. Once you’ve clearly defined and established your goals, you’ll have to focus on keyword research. This entails developing a list of keywords that will help you rank well for relevant search queries.
The more popular the keywords, the higher the search volume. However, these keywords will also be much more competitive. A good tactic, therefore, is to focus on long-tail keyword phrases. Long-tail keywords are often less competitive than generic keywords, providing quick-ranking results. They can also be better targeted to specific audiences which can improve click-through rate and lead conversion.
Create consistent, exciting content
With goals and keywords defined, the next logical step is to develop exciting and engaging keyword-rich content. With your target audience in mind, consider what topics are most relevant and set out to create programme pages and blog posts that offer the most representative and informative (and keyword-rich) content possible.
Content doesn’t necessarily have to be text-based. Use visuals, videos and audio when you can to enliven your net presence – and always follow traditional SEO best practices when doing so.
The other thing to keep in mind is frequency. The more content you produce (a blog can be a good channel for frequently updated content), the better you’ll rank. After all, search engines like fresh content.
Photo courtesy of University of Cincinnati
Focus on quality backlinks
A backlink (also known as an inbound link) is a link directed hosted on a website which leads visitors to your site. Backlinks are among the most important ranking factors for search engines and help to decide where to rank a web page in search results.
Search engines, however, will give more credit to quality backlinks. This means that sites directing links to you must have content that is related to your site. If they do, those backlinks are considered more relevant. The higher the relevance of the backlinks, the greater their quality.
While you may be tempted to go out and get as many links as possible, it’s actually a better idea to focus on acquiring quality links. Keep this in mind: 100 niche, geo-targeted links can be more effective as 1000 random, low-relevance backlinks. It’s quality, not quantity that works.
Look beyond Google
Sure, Google reigns supreme, but that doesn’t mean you have to ignore other traffic sources and search engines – especially Bing and Yahoo, whose alliance helped generate an increase in market share. Clearly, they’re not giving up on this search engine war and will continue to nip at Google’s heels, particularly now that many are displeased with Google’s new privacy policies.
A diverse SEO and link-building campaign can ensure that your university isn’t putting all its marketing eggs in one basket. Your audience is scattered across the internet and the internet is constantly evolving. Your SEO and link building efforts, therefore, have to be diverse and varied and should include blog posts and comments, social media, press releases and more.
Keep page-load-time in mind
As Google says, “speed matters”. Faster loading pages mean more visitors land on your site instead of waiting in frustration or leaving. Essentially, the faster your website loads, the more popular it will be and the better it will rank. Google uses page load speed as a factor in how it ranks websites. Put a premium on quick-loading, user-friendly web pages and Google will reward you.
FULL FABRIC works with leading universities and business schools around the world and takes pride in supporting and guiding innovation within these institutions. Book a free consultation to discuss your university’s marketing and recruitment processes.