SEO for Universities: 12 Important Focus Areas to Consider
Why is SEO Important for University Websites
Students search for the best universities to pursue higher education, and with internet technologies flourishing, Google has become the go-to source to filter the top-ranking universities.
Students now run a thorough online background check before doubling down on which university to attend.
This makes it imperative for universities to maintain a well-updated website, optimized with the latest SEO best practices.
With Google reigning as an omnipotent in the search landscape, the ranking of your university website in the Google search results page matters more.
Nowadays, almost every university provides the option of applying online. All of this necessitates the proper implementation of SEO for university websites.
Let’s take a look at how SEO is useful for colleges and universities to find more students, and the top 12 SEO tactics to follow.
What is SEO?
Search Engine Optimization helps in ranking your page on Google so that your website is visible. Various studies suggest that about 71% of people click on the first page of the results.
If your page is not on the first page, there are almost no chances for you to be visible to people who are looking for information related to your niche.
12 SEO Tips for Universities
If you’ve not yet thought about implementing SEO for universities, this is a good time for you to educate yourself and make changes to your seo strategy for online marketing so that it ranks well.
With that said, here are 12 easy steps that you can take to attract more students to your university:
1. Go for an SEO Audit
If you’re willing to make changes to your website for it to rank better, you have to identify what are the changes that need to be made.
This is where an SEO audit will benefit you as a part of your marketing strategy. An SEO audit lets you assess all kinds of changes that you must make. For technical changes pertaining to IT, the IT department of the university can always help.
You can either look for an SEO expert or an agency that can conduct this audit for universities search engine or use a free tool like SEMrush, DeepCrawl, etc. An agency would be able to help your higher education institute better since you’re interacting with experts directly.
Once you know the definite changes that you have to make, the process becomes easier, and tasks become more streamlined.
2. Review your Keywords
There are a variety of course names that students look for. Try to include the most common course names. Let’s say you offer a course that has a unique name but is a synonym for a more common course name.
When that’s the case, it’s always better to use the common name so that your page is displayed when people use that search term.
You don’t have to change your actual course name. Just make sure you accommodate the alternate course name in your content several times so that it ranks for the commonly searched keyword.
Conducting keyword research would help you find the most searched keywords, and you can include them on your website.
You can also add your brand name with certain keywords like “Bachelors in Psychology from (university name).” These keywords can also act as anchor text and will help you in the internal linking of your website or for link building campaigns.
3. Have Unique Content
Recently Google was spotted using Q&A videos in the knowledge graph cards of universities. The video features the university faculty answering common questions about the university. it is safe to say that Google is still experimenting with this new feature and it will take some time until it is completely rolled out for the public.
Google has been enhancing knowledge graph cards for universities in June 2018, and it was seen that the features were further expanded in summer, this year. If Google rolls this out successfully in the future, it could prove to give a great marketing boost to universities and help candidates learn about the universities from present faculties.
Google always prioritizes quality, good user experience website interface and unique content over most of the SEO factors. This is because it always strives to provide the most useful info to the audience.
While you need to have pages related to your university like academics, courses offered, careers, about the university, etc., it’s equally important to have blogs so that you can retain people on your website for longer.
Whether it’s a course-related page or blogs, try to put at least 500 words on the page. This is how you would be able to add keywords to the website and not make it look like keyword spamming.
If you can opt for email marketing, it will help you directly reach the broader section of your audience. You can let your subscribers or enrolled students and their parents know about the events inside the university as well as anything related to academics.
4. Build Relevant Links
Having links from various other high authority websites makes your university search engine and courses even more credible.
These are called inbound links. Try to request inbound links from other university and college portals that provide info about various universities. If a site uses your name, make sure you ask them to link their content to your website.
Besides that, you can also add outbound links that link your content to other high authority websites. This contributes in improving your ranking factors. If there are broken links, fix them since such links can challenge your position in the Google search results.
5. Optimize for Local Searches
Many students may also be looking for universities that are located near their residence. This is more common in the case of adults who are looking for part-time courses.
Chances are that students from other cities and countries might also be looking for a university in your city. All of this necessitates putting the effort in optimizing your website for local searches. This is what we call local SEO.
Use location-specific keywords, like “universities in Philadelphia,” “Bachelors in Mass Communication in Philadelphia,” etc. You can also list your university on online directories and make use of Google My Business.
Many students would also leave reviews to which you can reply and even answer their questions. This attracts more people to your university and helps students make a sound decision.
6. Make it Mobile-friendly
Mobile phones are always the best source for finding info on the internet. No matter where you are, you can readily access the internet on your phone and make quick searches. With a rise in the use of mobile phones for Google searches, many people might be accessing your website through their phone.
The mobile-friendliness of your website matters. As per mobile-gaddon update of google, having mobile-friendly website and content is necessary.
However, the desktop version may not be highly compatible with mobile phones. If your website doesn’t open properly, many users might exit, and this would increase the bounce rate, which affects your rankings.
This is why you have to make sure you optimize your website such that it runs smoothly on smartphones as well. Here’s a perfect example of a website that’s optimized for mobile searches.
7. Have SEO Friendly URL Structures
One of the SEO factors that most people forget to consider is the URL structure of the pages. People click on the link to visit your page.
If the URL is a random combination of numbers, alphabets, and symbols, it confuses the reader and doesn’t clearly indicate what the page is about.
URL structures are the address of each page. Naturally, they have to have a bunch of words that tell the audience about your page. For the homepage, it’s best to keep the URL simple- www.domain.com.
However, for other pages, there’s a certain order your URL should follow. The first thing in your URL should be the domain name, followed by the specifics of the individual page. Maintaining a healthy, SEO-friendly URL will also help in the process.
Make sure your URL structure is short and meaningful and includes the focus keyword in the URL. URL structures are important since they help Google index your pages more efficiently and provide searchers what they look for by indexing the keywords in your URL. This scores you extra points SEO-wise.
8. Have an Interactive Website
Each year, thousands of students would swarm to your website from all around the world.
Since not every student would be able to visit the campus before making a decision, your website should be interactive enough for the student to be able to find all the possible information, make certain transactions, and reach out when needed.
You should provide the option of filling application forms online and making online transactions. Have a virtual university tour, include the map, yearly schedule, and have a live chat feature.
All these features help the audience understand your website better and let them reach out to you when they have a query without having to wait for days for a response.
9. Optimize Your Website
While it’s important to have an interactive website, it is also equally important to optimize your website so that it makes sense for your website to be interactive in the first place. For instance, the live chat-box typically appears at the right-bottom of the page.
People can easily identify this spot, and their gaze naturally shifts to that space on the screen when they have a query on their mind. When you have the chat-box in the right place, it becomes a well-optimized website. However, this is just one aspect.
Overall, make sure your website is clean, and there’s space for every kind of information. The information shouldn’t be scattered. It helps to have categories and subcategories. The theme should also go well with the logo of your university and your vision as an educational institute.
It’s ideal for university websites to have a combination of two colors for the theme. Don’t have bright colors as this can be distracting for the visitors.
Tuft University website has categories that are easy to navigate and a simple theme for their website- a worthy example of a well-optimized website.
Important information, like application deadlines and upcoming events, should be the central element of the homepage.
It would be good to have other details that add more credibility to your university, like notable alumni and events involving specialists in the center. Update your website every time there is something new coming up.
10. Sub-domains or Sub-directories?
Most people are confused about sub-domains and sub-directories. If you have sub-domains instead of sub-directories, all the sub-domains are seen as various independent websites. This means, even if you’re writing to rank for your domain, it won’t rank well since the content you have written becomes a different website.
A sub-domain looks something like “mba.domainname.com,” while a sub-directory is “www.domain.com/mba.” This is how Google indexes pages, and upon finding a sub-domain link, it treats it as a website different from yours. So, when you’re creating pages with the aim of generating links to your main website, double check and never use sub-domains.
In case you need to have sub-domains, make sure you have a landing page on your main domain that leads readers to the sub-domain.
11. Assess How Your Website Performs
We have been talking about several easy to implement SEO tips. These tips work quite well to boost your ranks.
However, if you’re not measuring or assessing the changes, you won’t know if your efforts pay off well. This is why it becomes important to evaluate your efforts and see what kind of outcomes they fetch.
For this reason, make it a point to use analytics. With analytics, you can work by setting goals and assessing if your organic traffic helps you achieve those goals.
You can see how many people visit your page, the bounce rate, and a lot more that would help you know how to do a better job at SEO.
12. Think of the technical aspects
The SEO aspects that we have outlined so far are quite easy to manage and will help you rank better. However, there are certain technical SEO factors that need professional help. That is the main reason why there are SEO experts to help you.
Some of the technical aspects are quite important to take care of so that your website doesn’t suffer a penalty. Let’s look at some of the technical aspects of SEO for universities that you can leave up to experts:
If you have an expensive website on a cheap hosting site, your website won’t get you the expected results. This is one of the aspects that your IT department would be able to manage. What’s important is that you know you’re investing in an impressive host.
- Non- existing pages
If your website has been there for a few years, there are chances that over the years, some of the pages will cease to exist.
What happens to all the links that other websites direct to this non-existing page? Those links no longer benefit you since the webpage doesn’t exist. We know that outbound links are an easy way to improve rankings. Thus, this problem needs to be solved.
When this happens, you need to redirect all the lost links to the main website so that none of the links that you have acquired are wasted.
These are some of the tips that are quite easy to implement when we talk about SEO for universities. If you dedicate some time every day to optimizing your website, it will perform a lot better.
Moreover, you can also have a few people from the university, who have some knowledge pertaining to SEO, help you.
You can invite students to write blogs for the website that would help you add links and keywords. Taking these small steps would add up to improve your rank.
However, if you’re finding SEO too tricky and technical, you can also look for an expert who specializes in SEO services for colleges and universities.
Whether you decide to do it on your own or seek expert services, just make sure you don’t overlook the importance of SEO for educational institutions.