Each day, Google processes about 9 billion searches. These queries are from people from all walks of life, including students looking to enroll in universities and trade schools.

Because other colleges are using SEO to boost their rankings in Google results, it’s important that you upgrade your marketing strategy as well. Doing so will boost your visibility, get prospective students interested, and heighten your number of applications.

Here, we’re going to talk about how your college can benefit from an SEO marketing strategy. Read on to learn how you can set up an SEO campaign that yields actual results.

The Basics of SEO for Colleges

68% of all online activities start with a Google search. Once results appear, 75% of those that made queries will not click past page 1 of Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs).

This means that getting into the top results is essential for your inbound marketing. Search engine optimization (SEO) aims to boost your up in SERPs.

SEO campaigns employ both on-site and off-site methods to make your page more appealing to Google crawlers. These bots scour the web and index pages based on how reputable and high-quality they are. They also figure out what queries each page is relevant to and rank it for relevant keywords and topics.

Investing in SEO services is especially important for college campuses and trade schools. This is because you can’t rely on repeat “clients” in the way that eCommerce or B2B businesses can. You need to engage and draw in new students annually.

College marketing professionals must find ways to remain up-to-date with content. You work with young people almost exclusively. If your site is not cutting-edge, appealing, and rife with engaging multimedia content, people are less likely to browse your website.

Students are then less likely to apply for admission to your institution. They simply won’t have the interest to get information that could lead them to make the right decision.

How Can Higher Education Institutions Benefit from an SEO Marketing Strategy?

SEO strategies can help you to create content that appeals both to new “clients” and to younger audiences. SEO marketing professionals are experts in content creation. They aim to produce blog posts, graphics, and video content that appeals to your specific target audience.

They also know how to optimize it to boost your visibility. High school seniors and potential graduate students are likely to search for specific topics regarding programs that you offer. SEO professionals can identify what services they’re most likely to look up and optimize for relevant queries.

This helps you get more traffic in Google. Since you’ll be targeting the appropriate audience, it will also help you get attention from prospective applicants. This means higher conversions and more potential applicants to consider for admission.

When more people apply to your higher education institution, you will have the chance to select the best possible candidates. This keeps your university’s statistics high so that you can showcase that your students are successful. More people will graduate, more people will receive honors and accolades, and your school’s reputation and funding may increase over time.

Higher education is also an extremely competitive industry. There are 4360 higher education institutions in the US alone. This figure includes 29% of the world’s top schools.

This means that students have a lot of available options. You will need to become more visible than competitors targeting students of similar backgrounds and achievement levels. This will get people interested in you so that you can show the ways that you can provide students with a better possible education than your competitors.

Developing an SEO Strategy in 8 Simple Steps

Before you can begin your organic content marketing strategy, it’s important to conduct an SEO audit on your website. Audits assess how well your website relates to online best practices. They see what pages are performing well, what keywords you rank for, and how you can improve your SEO strategy.

You’ll get an overall assessment for your webpage in the form of a numeric score. You also will get a list of things that you’re doing well at vs doing poorly at. This information will come from data and analytics gathered by the audit.

At this point, you’ll discuss your specific pain points with a professional. They will help you create an implementation plan for your SEO strategy.

This plan will take place in multiple steps. It’s important to understand some common steps so that you know what to expect when planning an SEO campaign that boosts your site’s foundation and performance.

1. Set Goals and Objectives

The first thing to do when constructing a battle plan is to set good goals. A smart goal is quantifiable, objective, and measurable. You need to be able to back up whether you’ve met the goal with real data and objective figures.

Some examples of SEO marketing objectives may include:

  • Rank in the top 3 Google results for the keyword “best college math department”
  • Increase application rates to the university by 20%
  • Get 1000 prospective students to fill out a contact form/sign up for a newsletter
  • Gain 5000 new social media followers within 3 months
  • Boost campus visits by 15%

Of course, the figures and percentages used in your goals will depend on what is realistic and what can benefit you.

Once you have a list of realistic and attainable objectives, you are ready to actually begin planning your SEO campaign.

2. Talk With a Professional

At this point, it’s time to talk with a reputable college SEO agency about your objectives. Tell them the results of your audit and what goals you made after getting the results.

The experts will evaluate whether meeting your goals is possible. They will help tweak your plan if it is not realistic. They also will help you set more useful objectives that you have not yet considered.

Regardless of your objectives, SEO experts will help you come up with a plan to meet them. They will determine what strategies will best boost your rankings, research keywords and how you can rank for them, focus on link-building strategies, and update the user interface of your website to help improve UX. They also will create quality content that prospective college students are interested in.

3. Focus on On-Site SEO…

There are two basic types of optimization: on-site vs off-site SEO.

On-site SEO is a term referring to measures you take to manipulate your own website. The goal of these measures and strategies is to improve the way that Google crawlers view your site. You want them to scour it and decide that you seem reputable, high-quality, reliable, and relevant.

Some on-site SEO measures include:

  • Researching and using relevant keywords
  • Including keywords in blog posts, tags, image descriptions, and metas
  • Optimizing HTML
  • Including video and graphics
  • Linking to other areas of your site to make it more indexable
  • Ensuring fast site load speeds
  • Structuring data appropriately
  • Ensuring a good user experience (UX) with good navigation and mobile readiness

Make sure that you do not neglect these strategies. If you do, your page is still going to look low-quality to crawlers. This is true regardless of how many good reviews or inbound backlinks you get.

4. …But Don’t Neglect Off-Site Optimization

However, you can’t neglect off-page SEO strategies, either. These methods refer to manipulations you make to other areas of the web so you look more appealing to indexing bots.

When more people talk about your reputation and share your links, crawlers boost you because they see that prospective students are interested. To perform an awesome off-site SEO strategy, you should:

  • Link building
  • Getting good reviews on other sites
  • Getting mentions on social media
  • Getting social media shares for your web content
  • Creating podcasts and getting streams

These factors work in tandem with on-page SEO measures for a comprehensive campaign.

5. Do Keyword Research

Keyword research is the cornerstone of any on-page SEO strategy. If you don’t optimize for the right keywords, you may never rank for relevant searches.

This is because high-volume keyword concentration shows crawlers what you’re known for and what searches people might make to find schools and academic departments like yours.

Keyword research is challenging, even if you know how to use top-notch tools like the SEMrush Keyword Magic tool.

You need to choose something with a high search volume so that people actually find your page via Google. However, you also need to choose something that isn’t extremely competitive. If you have too much competition, you will never realistically rank.

Make sure that your search volume (SV) is 100+. Higher scores are better.

Low comp scores are also ideal. You never want to surpass 80.

Higher education SEO professionals can help you easily identify top-notch keywords. They then can incorporate them organically into your content. Expert strategies and tools mean better research, and they also free up your time to focus on other parts of marketing your college and its offerings.

6. Develop a Link-Building Strategy

Just as keywords are the cornerstone of on-page SEO, link building is a critical part of off-page optimization.

In some cases, link-building can be on-page, but this is only true for internal linking. When you link from one area of your page to another, your site becomes more crawlable. This is an on-site strategy.

However, most link-building qualifies as off-site SEO. You need to include high-quality backlinks in your content. These links are for clients that have the same target market as you but are not direct competitors. Examples may include companies that offer tutoring for college students or major school supply retailers.

When you include a backlink in a blog post or description, you “vote” for the site that you’re linking to. This establishes a connection with them and their reputation rubs off onto you. This is why you must select links to pages with high domain authority (DA).

Using quality backlinks can help you gain visibility for your college. However, you also need other sites to link to you.

Post links to your pages on social media. Encourage people to link to you in reviews.

Buy guest post packages or invest in fully-managed SEO services. You will then be paired with a reputable publisher site and get inbound backlinks in their content. This boosts your traffic and DA.

7. Ensure Quality Content

It’s important that everything you post on your website is of a high caliber. Blog posts should be engaging to prospective students. You should talk about subjects they care about, use terminology they’ll relate to, and create a brand voice that they’ll connect with.

You also need to incorporate multimedia content into your website. People remember 80% of what they see as opposed to 10%-20% of what they read. More people want to see video and image content nowadays, especially young people looking to apply to college.

Create testimonial videos from current students explaining what they like about attending courses at your institution. Animate graphics to show interesting and important figures of your university. Use live-action videos to advertise unique extracurriculars that set you apart from other institutions.

8. Track Analytics and Constantly Reassess

The best SEO practices are constantly shifting. Backlinks become broken over time or the linked-to site’s DA decreases. Keywords can become irrelevant over the years, or you may find new ones that prospective students are searching for more often.

It’s important that you hire experts to use services like Google Analytics to track your web traffic. You can see what blog posts people click on most often, which pages lead people to fill out an application, or what lead magnets compel students to subscribe to your newsletter.

You can also see poorly-performing pages. This will let you know what to change. You can make them look more like your better pages that visitors seem to like.

Take Your SEO Marketing to the Next Level

A solid SEO marketing strategy is critical for any business, and colleges are no exception. Now that you know how to develop an SEO strategy for your higher education institution, it’s time to begin the process of optimizing your website.

LocalFinder’s SEO experts are committed to providing specialized services to trade schools and college campuses. We know how to select keywords, find backlinks to other academic institutions, and create quality content that sets you apart from competitors. Contact us today to begin your college’s SEO strategy.

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