Universities looking to increase enrollment and attract top talent need to be thinking about their SEO strategy.
By fully optimizing key landing pages on your college website, you can appear at the top of the Google search results. These days, Google is the first port of call for students looking into higher education options.
To make sure your courses & related articles are the first ones they discover during their search, follow these seven university SEO tips. Doing so will help you rank higher in Google and ensure that prospective students visit your website instead of your competitors.
SEO Quick Wins (Striking Distance Keywords)
University SEO is a long-term strategy that you should use to increase the authority of your website over time. However, in the beginning, it can help to focus on quick wins. This means targeting the low-hanging fruit as a way to see a rapid increase in traffic. In order to do this, do some research to uncover your striking distance keywords.
This term refers to those keywords that are not quite at the top of the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) but have a pretty good chance of getting there. Keywords ranking at the bottom of page 1 or anywhere on page 2-3 are prime candidates for this approach.
With a few tweaks here (add internal links) and a little keyword optimization there, you could see these striking distance keywords hit the top 3 spots of Google. Remember, these 3 collectively win 60-80% of the clicks.
Once you publish these changes, it typically takes a few months to see results; that’s what makes it a quick win.
Competitor Research (Direct + Indirect)
Another crucial part of university SEO is researching your competitors. These are pretty easy to identify because they’ll be other universities. In particular, focus on colleges in and out of your local area, those that attract a similar caliber of students, and any that specialize in the same courses as your institution.
These are your direct competitors. You should also do research about indirect competitors as well, companies that aren’t selling degree courses but do target the same audience with information about college life, courses, etc.
At its essence, competitor research means analyzing the SEO strategies of other organizations & copying what works well while avoiding their mistakes. This helps you identify some areas they cover that you don’t.
More crucially, though, you can also identify their weaker areas and fill the SEO vacuum that they’ve left behind.
Site Organization Recommendations
One of the best ways to quickly improve the SEO of your university’s entire website is by focusing on organization. This refers to the way information is laid out on the site and how easy it is to navigate. This helps users quickly find the course they’re looking for, increasing the chances that they enroll. It also improves your SERP ranking by lowering bounce rate and allowing Google’s crawlers to swiftly move through and figure out the relevance of your site.
There are four considerations to make here, the last 3 of which should include the use of SEO keywords:
- First, work on the XML sitemap. Make sure you include the pages you want Google to crawl.
- Next, organize your URL directories and folders. This also helps site crawlers understand the structure and hierarchy of website content.
- Third, think about menus (both the main menu and the footer menu) which help a user navigate to the relevant page more easily.
- Finally, adding internal linking across the site helps both users and bots understand how pages relate to each other as well as passes SEO authority from page to page.
Degree/Program Keyword Research
The main role of university SEO is to help students find the right study program. Therefore, some of your keyword research should focus on this area.
Most students will have an idea of what they want to study and they’ll perform a Google search related to this. If they’re interested in becoming a journalist, then the chances are that they’ll search for “journalism degree courses” or “bachelor’s degree in journalism.”
For any course you’re looking to recruit for, then do keyword research using an SEO tool like Ahrefs or SEMRush to uncover keywords most likely to climb the rankings (not too competitive for you). Your degree keyword research can include related keywords and frequently asked questions, which you can then weave into your degree/program pages.
Technical SEO Site Audit
Part of your university SEO strategy should also be to complete a technical audit. This is essentially a health check for your site, going through it with a fine-tooth comb to check that it’s all functioning properly.
Bugs and broken links can slow down your site, ruin the user experience (UX), and bring down your SEO score. Use an online site auditing tool (ScreamingFrog + Google Analytics + Ahrefs) to spot any issues and get them fixed straight away.
You’ll see your ranks increase the next time the search engine bots crawl your page.
Article Keyword Research + Editorial Calendar
To improve your content strategy, you need to be doing article keyword research.
Rather than writing articles at random, create content according to what users are actually searching for (and isn’t too competitive to rank for). This will help you to create content that is relevant, informative, and valuable. That, in turn, increases the odds that your university pages rank higher on Google.
To make sure you’re consistently putting out the best content you can, you need to create an editorial calendar. This organizes what content to publish and when to publish and promote it for maximum effect. After all, Christmas content rarely does well in July.
A content calendar ensures you’re hitting all the bases and consistently delivering great content.
Backlink Outreach Strategy
How many quality backlinks does your university have?
If it’s not many, then your SEO score is bound to be low. Google won’t know that your institution is a legitimate one until other authoritative sites start linking to it.
Consider outsourcing your backlink strategy as a way to ensure your website’s pages (not just your homepage) are being linked to on as many authority sites as possible. This will bring in traffic from users reading articles about higher education while also increasing the domain authority of your site, helping it rank higher.
Adding Rocket Fuel to Your University SEO
University SEO is the key to getting more site visitors & supercharging enrollments.
It helps prospective students visit your site more than competitors, encouraging them to enroll with you. Use the seven tips above to take control of your university SEO strategy and enjoy the quick wins and long-term success that come with this.