If your college or university’s content strategy doesn’t include SEO, it’s time to rethink it!
When’s the last time your college or university evaluated the content on its website? Has it been years since academic program pages have been revisited? Perhaps you recently went through a website redesign, during which you did actually re-evaluate and re-write your content. If that’s the case, here’s my next question: were these new pages created with SEO in mind?
The days of sticking catalog copy on program pages are long behind us. Students expect to find much more robust information about the degrees they’re interested in on a college’s website. But first, they expect to find the program they’re looking for in the first place. Enter SEO.
Did you know that nine out of 10 prospective students begin researching colleges without knowing what institution they want to attend? If a prospective student interested in global warming and the environment is searching for a “Green Energy degree” and you offer a “Renewable Engineering degree,” you want them to find you! This means your content must match up with the way that prospects are searching. In other words, the phrase “Green Energy degree” better appear on the Renewable Engineering program page.
In addition to showing up for a variety of search terms for the program, such as “Green Energy degree,” “Sustainable Engineering degree,” “renewable energy,” etc., your content and keyword research must also take into account the long-tail searches students are typing into Google in relation to the program. For example, they may be searching by:
- Part-time master’s
- Full-time master’s
- Online master’s
- Accelerated program
- How long does it take to complete a master’s in Renewable Energy?
- Is there funding for the master’s in Renewable Energy program?
- Are courses offered on nights and weekends?
- Does the school place students in jobs or internships?
The list goes on and on and on. This is why, before beginning to write new pages or rewrite old pages on your site, extensive keyword research must first take place. In addition to tapping into keyword tools, you should also evaluate your Google Analytics and Google Search Console accounts to glean insights on your current users and traffic.
With all this data in mind, you can then revisit pages to work these keywords into the content for better search engine visibility and user experience! It’s important that keywords and phrases are woven into the content seamlessly.
Aside from frontend content, there’s also some backend tagging to be aware of for SEO. For example, you want to be sure that your headers are tagged properly and that your title tag and meta description for each page is written with keywords and users in mind as well. Furthermore, adding text links and calls to action to your content will also better engage your site users and get them to interact with other content on your site.
Beyond these page-by-page factors, you also want to be sure that your entire site’s health is in check. Otherwise, the whole site can bring down that one awesome page of content. That is why a full technical audit is always a good idea.
Finally, in addition to lining up all the SEO factors, you want to ensure that prospective students are having a positive user experience on your site. This means that the content should address all of their questions and concerns, but also that the site should be designed in a way that makes it easy for them to learn more. Your site’s information architecture should be intuitive, so that internal site search features work properly, menu items are labeled clearly, RFIs are easy to find, etc.
In short, the content of a single page doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Prospective students will visit many pages on your site to evaluate whether or not they think your school is a good fit. What kind of impression are you making?
If you want to learn more about SEO content development and copywriting for your college or university, we’re here to help. You can also follow Rebecca on Twitter @beccablanchette for more SEO insights specific to higher ed.