Getting a website to rank on the search engine is challenging, and doubly so for online colleges. There are so many programs available to students, and many of the websites look almost exactly the same. Read on to learn how you can improve SEO for higher education websites.
Top 3 Marketing Challenges for Higher Education
Marketing departments in higher education institutions face many of the same problems as other marketing divisions, but the education sector comes with its own unique set of challenges as well.
1. Gathering and Utilizing Data
One of the most important facets of online marketing for any company is data. SEOs understand the importance of using data to guide all of their marketing strategies, but many marketing divisions ignore SEO for higher education. However, if colleges are going to craft an effective marketing plan, it must be data-driven.
When creating SEO for online colleges, it’s important to first learn how to best gather data. Google Analytics is a great place to start figuring out what’s working on your website and what isn’t. You can get detailed information about which pages are getting the most hits and where visitors to your website are spending most of their time.
Universities should spend some of their marketing budgets on learning how to analyze their website data and use that information to guide their content creation. This research has the potential to give a huge return on your investment.
2. Setting Yourself Apart From Other Colleges
One of the biggest challenges online universities face is setting themselves apart from other online programs. While the online colleges themselves are different, their websites often follow the same formula and contain similar types of content. It can be a challenge to distinguish yourself and get prospective students excited about what your program has to offer.
There are a few ways to distinguish your page from other websites. One thing you can do is to create a blog with plenty of helpful information for prospective and current students (more on this below). You can also create video content and post on social media.
You should also do everything you can to express what makes your school unique. You can often distinguish your online college by telling your story. What will students get through your program that you won’t get anywhere else? Who is the program for?
3. Getting Students Engaged Online
While most students will spend some time searching online to learn about potential online degree programs, if you want to increase your enrollment numbers, you need to get students engaged. Students often visit a website once and never return. Marketers need to keep the conversation going with these prospective students and to find new prospective students.
One of the best ways to engage with these students is to go where they are online, which is usually social media. Creative marketers know that it’s important to get on apps like Facebook, Instagram and even TikTok to engage new students. You can also try to collect emails so that you’re in students’ inboxes.
7 Tips for Ranking Your Online College Better in Google
If you’re ready to up your game when it comes to SEO for online universities, the following seven tips can help you get started.
1. Keyword Research
By doing keyword research and using those keywords in your content, you can help people to find your website when they’re doing searches on Google. There are several ways you can do keyword research. You can use a program like Ahrefs or Answer the Public to help you find keywords in the SEO for online universities niche.
Sites like SEMRush or Moz can help you find the keywords your competitors are ranking for. You can use these keywords to try to outrank your competitors. You can also get ideas for keywords by using Google search features like autofill, People Also Ask and related searches.
Once you have a list of keywords, use a tool like Moz to find keywords that get a lot of searches, but don’t have a lot of coverage on the web. These keywords are easier to rank for. For example, you may not be able to rank for a broad keyword like “online accounting programs” but you may be able to rank for “online accounting programs for working mothers.”
2. Optimize Content
Once you have a list of keywords, start optimizing your content. Start by creating high-quality, useful content centered around each of the keywords. You should optimize the page around the keyword by using the keyword several times within the text (but not so many times that it’s unnatural), use it in headings and alt text for images. Your goal is to send a clear message to Google and other search engines that your content thoroughly covers that particular keyword.
3. Start a Blog
One of the best tips for SEO for online colleges is to start a blog. A blog will help people find your site and keep them engaged. Most marketers know the power of a blog, but blogs are often overlooked by college marketing departments. Put a blog on your online college’s website and you’ll set yourself apart from the competition.
You can include all sorts of information on your blog. You can update readers on new and interesting things happening at your school. You can also create general informative content that both current and prospective students may find helpful.
4. Clean Up and Optimize URLs
The URLs on your website should be simple and representative of your keywords. If the URLs have dates or a long string of letters and numbers, you’re not giving search engines any indication of what your page is about. It may be a pain to fix all of the URLs on your site (and the backlinks), but it’ll be well worth it as it helps your site to rank.
5. Outdo the Competition
You likely won’t find a keyword that isn’t already ranking on another site. You want to make sure that your site ranks in the first three search results for a given keyword, as most users click on one of the top three results.
As you’re creating content, look at your competition. See what you can do to make your content better. It’s not always about making your content longer. You need to make your content better written and include plenty of relevant information. If a reader lands on your page with a question, ensure that you give a thorough answer to their question. You can also include other forms of content, like pictures, videos and infographics to make your page stand out.
6. Make Your Site Clean, Quick and Responsive
If your website is difficult to navigate or you have lots of repeat content, it’s time to streamline. Make your site easy to navigate and visitors will be more likely to click around and explore.
Your site must be quick to load. Many university sites are slow, but people have short attention spans and they expect the internet to be fast. If your site loads slowly, they’ll go back to Google and look elsewhere. This can increase your bounce rate and may result in losing a top position on the search pages.
7. Use Analytics and Keep Improving
Once you’ve followed these steps, give your website some time and see how it’s performing. Keep an eye on Google Analytics to see what’s working. When you find tactics that work for you keep going with those. Over time, your site will grow and you’ll be amazed at the traffic you’re getting.
With these SEO tips, you can make your online college website into a site that truly stands out from all the rest. You can give students the helpful information they need as they decide whether your program is right for them and as they go through your program. Overall, SEO can help you give students a better idea of what makes your online college the right place for them.