Are You Standing Out or Standing Still?

Adrianna Mieras

Senior SEO Strategist

How SEO Increases Enrollment

SEO is not just for big businesses. It makes a huge difference for your higher institution’s marketing campaigns and online presence. In fact, as many as 67% of Internet users use search engines as their first source of information in the college search. The majority of these users have no idea which school they want to attend, which means your school is in the race. It’s imperative that your school is showing up in the search results, and that you have a clean, professional looking website that impresses potential future students.

The choice of where to attend college is one of the most important decision that young people will make. And you will be taking this journey with them. The key is making your college or university stand out rather than stand still. This is where a strong SEO campaign can benefit your institution.

Let’s explore further.

A Holistic Website Makes All the Difference

While other businesses focus mostly on the homepage, colleges and universities require a more holistic website. Prospects will be looking at admission information, course listings, campus life and student activities. You don’t have time to waste; you must be able to give your audience a clear picture of what your college or university can offer so that they put you in their search. Otherwise, they’ll move on to your competitors, and you may lose a potentially successful and rewarding student for your program.

Why Good SEO Matters to Your Higher Institution

Search engine optimization, or SEO, refers to the process of search engines determining which websites belong in the top spots of the search engine results pages (SERPs). Two of the biggest search engines include Google and Bing, so you’ll want to ensure you are following their best practices for SEO. But there are others to consider as well such as Yahoo! Search, Ask, AOL Search and Wow.

What each search engine looks for when ranking websites varies slightly. In general, you can expect them to evaluate the following when considering where to place websites in the SERPs:

  • Quality of website

  • Site architecture

  • Content quality, frequency and relevancy

  • Social media presence

  • Keywords

  • Mobile friendliness

If your website is not up to the standards that the search engines expect, you may not show up in the first few pages of the search results, which means prospective students will have a harder time finding you. You won’t get as many visitors or have the potential to convert leads. In fact, students may not find you at all by doing a search!

This is where SEO comes into play. Good SEO ensures that your website is getting the most exposure and being seen by the right audience.

Using SEO to Increase Enrollment

To engage prospective students and cultivate a greater number of applications, you’ll need a broad SEO campaign that includes a variety of features. Let’s take a look at what should be implemented.

  • Long-form content: Long-form content includes blog posts, white papers, testimonials, interviews and more. Make the content shareable (think: 10 Tips for Surviving the First Day of College). The more shares you get, the more visibility you get. This is how you become relevant and authoritative, thus improving your rankings in the SERPs.

  • Social media: Social media is probably the most effective channel for engaging prospective students. You can talk to students in real time, answer questions and direct them to your site. Through this engagement, you can increase web traffic and enhance the user experience, which benefits SEO.

  • Responsive web design: Your website should be responsive, meaning that it looks the same across all devices. This gives students a consistent experience whether they’re accessing your website from their tablet or smartphone. A responsive design is a factor of SEO. If you don’t have one, you could be penalized by Google, dropping your place in the SERPs.

  • Keyword targeting: Know which keywords prospects are using when searching for colleges or universities, and include these keywords naturally in your content. Location keyword targeting is especially important since it narrows down a specific niche of students that will be more likely to apply at your school. In fact, a particular location can help you rank high in the initial stages of an SEO campaign and generate the most qualified leads.

Higher Education Faces Slower-than-Average Conversion Rates

Conversion results for higher education are typically slower than for other industries. This is understandable, considering that students can’t just go out and choose a college education like they would a pair of socks or a new book. It takes an incredible amount of research to determine which programs are the best fit. Not to mention, college is one of the biggest investments of a lifetime.

Many students visit a website multiple times during their search to find out more information about the college or university. This is why it’s imperative that your marketing campaigns are ongoing. If a prospect visits your website a handful of times in a few months and it never changes, they may look at your site as being dull and predictable and perhaps choose your competitor who has an ongoing strategy that aligns with their search.

Bottom line: Don’t stand still in your marketing efforts!

Final Thoughts on SEO for Colleges and Universities

A strong SEO campaign is the most effective way to ensure your brand is getting seen by the right audience so that you can generate leads, build relationships, expand applications and increase enrollment. After all, the more students who apply to your school, the more opportunities for increased enrollment there are.

Thankfully, SEO gives you the flexibility and freedom to target specific audiences, increase your placement in the SERPs and surpass your competitors all with one campaign. Better yet, SEO continues to be an integral part of your overall marketing strategy, so it will benefit you today and in the long run rather than being a quick fly-by-night kind of marketing tactic.

About the Author: Adrianna Mieras

Adrianna is an SEO Strategist at SEMGeeks. She holds a BA in Communication Studies with a concentration in Digital Communication, Information and Media from Rutgers University. She takes pride in her work and thrives off of "position one" success. Born and raised at the Jersey Shore, Adrianna spends her free time riding her bike along the beach and swimming in the ocean. She has a passion for people, places and new experiences. It is rare to find her without a smile on her face.

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