Industry Resources

SEO Tips for Colleges and Universities

Some college-bound students are determined to attend one particular college or university. Most, however, only have a list of criteria like location, size, and available majors. Considering that there are almost 5,000 colleges and universities in the United States alone, that leaves them with a lot of possibilities. So how can you get their attention and make your college stand out from the rest?

SEO plays a big role in getting your school noticed by these students. The majority of students use the search engines like Google to find information about colleges and universities, and 71% of search engine users click on a result on the first page. That means that if your college doesn’t rank well when prospective students use Google and other search engines in their college search, there’s a good chance they’ll never find you. Search engine optimization is the only way to ensure that they do.

If you haven’t yet implemented an SEO strategy—or want to get better results from your existing strategy—try these tips for improving your rankings in search engines.

Create unique content and pages

Google ranks websites based on many different factors, including number of unique pages and time spent on the site. The higher these numbers are, the higher the site can potentially rank. Create as many useful pages as you can to not only expand the size of your school’s website, but to keep visitors on the site longer.

Of course, the operative word here is useful. Don’t create pages just for the sake of creating pages. That will just make your site look cluttered and spammy. Instead, aim to create informative and relevant pages about topics like:

  • Individual degrees and programs
  • Faculty and staff
  • Financial aid
  • Admissions and application requirements
  • Campus and nearby cities

The amount of pages you can create ultimately depends on the breadth of your offerings. Page length is also a factor, so pages with only one or two paragraphs aren’t really worth the effort. Instead, aim to put no fewer than 500 words on each page.

In addition to quantity and length, all of your pages should be optimized. That may take a bit more SEO knowledge than you currently have, but at the very least, here are a few tips to help you get started:

Optimize page URLs

If your page URLs are comprised of random numbers and letters, search engines can’t understand them. As a result, those pages don’t rank very high, if at all.

Your page URLs should explain exactly what the pages contain. For example, if you are creating a page about financial aid, a logical URL would be, “www.yourcollege.edu/financial-aid.” As an added bonus, this will be easy for site visitors to remember and come back to later.

If possible, try to add page keywords. If a URL contains the terms that students are searching for, that can be a signal to search engines that it is relevant. That being said, avoid “keyword stuffing,” or using as many keywords as possible in the hopes of ranking well. Google views this as spam, and will penalize your pages accordingly.

Build keywords and content around your ideal student

Who is your ideal student? A high school senior looking for a business degree? A full-time professional hoping to advance in his or her career? Or someone else entirely?

Build your content around your target audience, and choose the right keywords to go with it. If, for example, you want to attract more military and veterans, concentrate on VA benefits, CLEP credits and other things that would be relevant to this population. If you want to enroll more students in online programs, focus on phrases like “distance learning” and “online programs.”

Highlight individual programs

Prospective students look for a lot of things when choosing a college, but one of the most important is the quality of academic programs. Because of this, many prospective students perform searches specific to their intended majors. Assuming that you already have unique pages for each of your programs (and you should!), you should optimize them for relevant keywords.

When optimizing your pages, consider the different terms and phrases people may search for. This will likely require keyword research. For example, don’t just optimize the page about your business program for “MBA”—optimize it for “masters in business administration” and “graduate business degree.” By including multiple keywords that people may be looking for, you increase the chances that the right ones will find you.

Consider optimizing for local SEO

Location can play a huge role in where a prospective student applies. Adult learners, for instance, typically prefer to attend classes close to home, while high school seniors may see college as an opportunity to experience a new region or city. Both groups research based on location, so consider optimizing your website for location-based searches.

If your school is located in a large city, include that city in your web copy, emails and other content. For example, a search for “colleges in Philadelphia” returns results for schools like Temple, Drexel, and University of Pennsylvania. Interestingly enough, La Salle University isn’t even on the first page. Care to take a guess at which one did not optimize for local search terms?

Optimize non-text elements

Many site owners make the mistake of only optimizing the text on their pages, and while that’s certainly important, there are a few other elements to consider. Make sure to optimize your title tags, headers, and meta descriptions, as well as the alt text of your images.

These things may not be a big deal to you (or your visitors), but they certainly matter to search engines. Because of that, you should pay close attention to them on all of your pages. They won’t affect readability or user experience, but they can make all the difference in whether or not a prospective student finds your site—and your school.

Need help?

Students of all ages search for colleges and universities to meet their educational needs. A comprehensive SEO strategy can reach them all.

If you need help creating a strategy and optimizing your site, feel free to contact us! Our knowledgeable team of Internet marketers is more than happy to help you start attracting new students online.

Find out how WebpageFX can create an effective Internet marketing strategy for your website. Call 888.449.3239 or contact us online today for a free evaluation.

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