How SEO Can Help Enrollment
Search engine optimization (SEO) is not reserved for the big businesses that sell material things like electronics and shoes and iPhone cases. Any business can benefit from SEO, which is a website optimization strategy that helps your website get placed in the top search results “naturally” or “organically”. The organic search listings are unpaid results that appear just below the paid advertisements. This is the most sought after placement of any search result since the majority of users click on these links first.
So why does this matter for your college or university?
Circa Interactive estimates that 75% of prospective students start their research on a search engine. If your higher institution shows up in the top listings, your school will get more clicks, traffic and quality leads. If it’s not, it will be your competitors stealing the limelight. Knowing that the majority of college prospects start their search using the search engines, it’s imperative that you develop a strong SEO strategy that will help your school remain in the top rankings.
But how exactly do you land at the top?
The SEO process is made up of two stages: on-page SEO and off-page SEO. Let’s take a look at both stages in depth and discuss how you can apply them to your own optimization strategy.
On-Page SEO Ranking Factors
On-page SEO refers to factors that affect your website and are controlled by you or the coding on your page. Using the best practices for SEO, you can build a website that is easily identifiable by the major search engines. Below are examples of on-page SEO factors.
Quality Content: In particular, publish long content that is 1,500 words in length and contains competitive keywords. All content should offer value to your readers and help them along in their college search.
Keywords: Do keyword research to determine which keywords your college or university should be using so that students can find your school easily. Keyword research can also generate ideas for new content.
Outbound Links: Include outbound links in some of your web pages. This signals authority to Google and can boost the page’s rank. It also gives you a better image with prospects, as they know you’ve taken the time to do your research.
Title Tag: Your title-tag is one of the most important on-page elements. Start your titles with a keyword rather than placing the keyword in the middle or end of the title.
H1 Tag: The H1 tag is your headline tag. Most blog platforms automatically add the H1 tag to your post title, but some will override this setting. Check your settings to ensure that your title gets the attention it deserves.
Speed: Prospects aren’t going to wait for your site to load, and Google knows this. Make sure that your pages load quickly. Ways to speed up your site include compressing images, switching to faster hosting and using a CDN.
Social Sharing: To get your school more love, add social sharing buttons to your content. Social signals are becoming an important part of SEO. They are also helpful in creating more visibility and buzz within a specific audience.
Bounce Rate: A high bounce rate signals to Google that your website isn’t high in quality. To lower your bounce rate, write compelling copy, add internal links and maintain a seamless design. Keep visitors on your site!
SEO-Friendly URLs: Your page’s URLs should be short and keyword rich. Steer clear of long or ugly URLs, and remember that the first 3-5 words in a URL are most important.
Off-Page SEO Ranking Factors
Off-page SEO refers to factors that affect your website and are NOT controlled by you or the coding on your page. In other words, think of it as building an online reputation for your college or university.
Google appreciates that you take the time to optimize your website, but it also wants to get an idea of how the rest of the world perceives your website. The higher number of links you get from trustworthy, relevant sites, the better your site will rank.
While these ranking signals take place off your web pages, there are still things you can do to ensure your success. Here are examples of off-page ranking signals.
Link Building: This is probably the most popular off-page SEO method. By generating more links to your website, you’re getting more favorable “votes” and passing up your competitors.
Social Media: Social media mentions act similarly to links in that they tell Google that your site is well liked.
Social Bookmarking: While not as popular as it once was, social bookmarking can still bring SEO value to your site. Promote your content on sites like digg.com or stumbleupon.com to gain a few additioanl brownie points for your school.
Getting your higher institution into the preferred positions in the search results requires innovative SEO strategies. As you hear and read more about effective SEO campaigns, don’t dismiss them as being for the big businesses only. Your institution is also a brand that is deserving of the top ranking spots in Google, Bing and Yahoo. By getting placed higher in the search results, more prospective students will find you during the research phase. This is what will ultimately get your school more visibility, more exposure and more qualified leads.