What do you think is the most important tool to advertise your business online? When it comes to digital marketing, learning the ABCs of SEO is crucial to online visibility. For higher education institutions in particular, leveraging the endless possibilities of search engine optimization means better connecting with present and potential students on their search for specialized training. But although the power of SEO has been proven time and time again, many colleges, universities and career training programs have yet to begin harnessing the full potential of this technique. Read on to see our tips to how to get your college to make the grade with good SEO techniques.

SEO: At a Glance

Search engine optimization, or SEO as you’ll most often hear it, involves incorporating keywords through data-driven strategies so that your target audience can easily find you through a search engine. Essentially, SEO, applied efficiently, can improve your visibility online and your bottom-line.

How Higher Ed Institutions Rank

Studies have proven the effectiveness of SEO marketing yet a vast amount of institutions fail to implement this strategy into their marketing approach. The 2015 Adult Learner Marketing and Recruitment Practices Report found that 4-year private institutions deemed SEO as the sixth most important lead generation practice. Remarkably, the same report found that 4-year and 2-year public institutions did not include SEO into their top 10 lead generation practices. Even more alarming, 60 to 80 percent of the higher education market does not invest in SEO at all.

An effective SEO marketing strategy can result in higher organic rankings, which can give your institution a competitive advantage. Reports have shown that 70 to 80 percent of searches result in a click on a page’s organic search results. By comparison, only 20 to 30 percent of searches result in a click on a page’s PPC ads depending on the keywords.

Instituting an SEO Strategy

Many marketers have trouble understanding the difference between branded and unbranded searches. The problem is that most institutions assume students are conducting branded searches on their college’s name—when in reality students are searching for keywords such as, “best business programs in the West Coast”. Optimizing your website’s content to correspond with keywords relevant to your institution’s offerings, instead of just your name, can help your college, university or program get found even with unfocused student queries.

A study by Moz Ranking Factors Report examined 16,521 keyword searches in Google then evaluated the characteristics of the top 50 websites that rank for those searches. One of the top factors that correlated with low rankings was unnatural links. Remember: organic search results get the most clicks. If you really want your institution to improve competitively, consider investing in long-tail keywords. These consist of more specific keyword phrases that students are more likely to search when they are closer to enrolling. Most importantly, you need to rank highly on the first results page—75 percent of your potential students will never see your website if you do not show up on the first page and 60 percent of clicks go to the top three results.

Implementing what your potential students search online will help them find you and learn more about your institution. Study up on the right SEO keywords and your college will ace search engine marketing.

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