SEO Guide for Higher Education or University Education

by Outranking
Updated On: August 16, 2023
SEO Guide for Higher Education or University Education

Would you like to enhance the visibility and search engine ranking of your website? Look no further than SEO. Over 60% of traffic to higher education sites starts with an organic search. On-page optimization is a crucial aspect of improving a website’s search engine ranking. One important SEO component for improving website rankings is ensuring that the website is mobile-friendly. In today’s digital age, students expect and demand online engagement and interaction with their universities. In this blog post, we’ll explore the importance of SEO for higher education institutions and provide tips on how to build an effective SEO strategy to attract more potential students to your website.

Why is SEO important for Higher Education Institutions

In this context, SEO is essential for universities for the following reasons:

  1. Increased Online Visibility: By enhancing the ranking of their website on search engines, SEO enables universities to enhance their online visibility. When potential students search for keywords related to a university’s programs and courses, SEO ensures that the university’s website appears at the top of the search results.
  2. Improved Student Acquisition: SEO helps universities to attract more potential students to their websites, which can lead to increased student acquisition.
  3. Marketing that is efficient and economical: Universities can benefit from a budget-friendly marketing approach through SEO, as it enables them to target a broader demographic with reduced expenses compared to conventional methods like print advertising and billboards.
  4. Improved User Experience: SEO is not just about optimizing content for search engines; it is also about improving the user experience for website visitors.
  5. Competitive Advantage: In a highly competitive market, SEO can give universities a competitive advantage. By optimizing their website and content for search engines, universities can rank higher than their competitors in search results. Good content writing will help you rank higher on Google.

SEO KPIs for higher education: How to Measure the Success of Your SEO Strategies

When it comes to higher education institutions, it is crucial to have a strong online presence and be easily discoverable by potential students. By optimizing your website and online profiles, you can improve your visibility in search engine results and attract more qualified leads. Here are three key performance indicators (KPIs) to consider:

  1. Client Booking: One important KPI for higher education institutions is the number of inquiries received through your website or online profiles. This can include requests for campus tours, information sessions, or admissions appointments.
  2. Appointments: Another important KPI is the number of appointments scheduled and attended by potential students. This can include campus visits, meetings with admissions counselors, or consultations with faculty members.
  3. Position in Google Business: Finally, it is important to track your position in Google Business listings for relevant search queries. This can help you assess your overall visibility and make adjustments to your SEO strategy as needed.

How to implement SEO for a University Education website

Step 1: Create Website Architecture by Breaking the website into core programs and departments of the Institution

For the university to effectively organize its website, it is important to differentiate between its primary academic subjects and their corresponding subtopics. This involves identifying all of the core areas of study and breaking them down into more specific categories.

Core Academic AreasExtended List of Sub-Areas
1. Business1. Accounting
2. Finance
3. Marketing
4. Management
5. Entrepreneurship
2. Education1. Curriculum and Instruction
2. Educational Leadership
3. Special Education
4. Early Childhood Education
3. Engineering1. Chemical Engineering
2. Civil Engineering
3. Electrical Engineering
4. Mechanical Engineering
5. Computer Engineering
4. Health Sciences1. Nursing
2. Physical Therapy
3. Occupational Therapy
4. Public Health
5. Health Administration
5. Humanities1. English
2. History
3. Philosophy
4. Religious Studies
5. Linguistics
6. Sciences1. Biology
2. Chemistry
3. Physics
4. Mathematics
5. Environmental Science
7. Social Sciences1. Psychology
2. Sociology
3. Political Science
4. Anthropology
5. Economics

Step 2: Make a List of Keywords That Align With the programs and services the Institution offers

When performing keyword research, there are three key things to keep in mind:

  1. Create a comprehensive list of crucial vocabulary related to each significant component of your webpage.
  2. In case you have more than one primary or secondary area of concentration, it is advised to perform the keyword research process for each individual.
  3. Eliminate irrelevant and outdated keywords to focus on the most important ones more efficiently.

To perform keyword research for a university education website, we can use Semrush or Outranking. Here are the logical steps to do so:

Use Semrush

  1. Identify the core academic areas of the university education website, such as Business, Engineering, or Humanities.
  2. Plug in a keyword related to each core academic area, such as “Accounting”, “Finance,” or “Marketing” into Semrush’s Keyword Magic Tool.
Screenshot of SEMrush's keyword magic tool with generated keywords relating to the Sub-Area "Accounting"
Which keyword here best represents you?

3. Examine the numerous potential keywords produced by Semrush and eliminate any unsuitable or antiquated ones.

Screenshot of SEMrush keyword filters
Keep your list as refined as possible.

4. Download the CSV file of relevant keywords for each core academic area and combine them into one file for easier management.

Screenshot of selected keywords
You should have a list like this.

Step 3: Cluster Keywords in each University program or area to determine what topics to create

The technique of categorizing related keywords into clusters according to their semantic significance and purpose is referred to as keyword clustering. This technique is used to streamline SEO efforts, identify content gaps, and improve the website’s overall search engine ranking.

For instance, a sample higher education institution keyword list can include keywords such as “online courses,” “graduate programs,” “scholarships,” “campus life,” “student services,” and “career development. Google Trends is a useful tool for higher education institutions to understand the seasonality of keywords and gather data on prospective students’ search behavior.

Groups of clustered keywords relating to higher education target keywords
See how these keywords are related?

If a university lacks an in-house SEO/marketing team, it is crucial to employ an individual with expertise and experience because the constantly evolving and intricate nature of SEO demands proficiency. An SEO manager can help the university to develop a comprehensive SEO strategy, conduct keyword research, analyze the website’s performance, and implement best practices that can improve the website’s search engine ranking and visibility.

Outranking’s clustering tool can upload the keyword list, analyze the clusters, and provide insights into the search volume, competition, and relevance of each keyword. This tool can help the university to identify the most valuable and relevant keywords for its website and create a targeted content strategy that addresses the needs and interests of its target audience.

Step 4: Create a Content Calendar and prioritize your Institution’s SEO efforts

To prioritize keywords, Outranking suggests setting three priorities: High, Medium, and Low. The table below shows how to prioritize keywords for a university website:

PriorityKeywords ContainingWhy
HighAdmissions, Programs, ResearchThe university can be described as a vanguard of ideas and a facilitator of significant channels for the dissemination of information.
MediumRankings, Reviews, Campus LifeCan place the university among many competitors
LowHow-to and Educational GuidesThe university can be described as a knowledgeable figure and aids in facilitating the dissemination of crucial information.

Step 5: Establish a Content Production Process, SOPs, and Content Briefs, Or Hire an Agency to help

To guarantee a comprehensive process for creating and optimizing content, follow these three expert recommendations:

Screenshot of Outranking's "On-Page Local SEO" target keyword overview
To ensure your content’s success, outline as much as possible.
  1. Creating a solid content brief: Having a precise comprehension of the intended audience and their requirements is crucial for producing compelling content.
  2. Setting up a proper content calendar: A content calendar helps you plan and organize your content creation process. It allows you to schedule content creation, assign tasks to team members, and ensure that you are creating content consistently.
  3. Setting up an SEO workflow for the tasks: Having a clearly defined process flow assists in maintaining organization and concentration, guaranteeing the successful implementation of your plan.
Screenshot of Outranking's customizable kanban view
Keep track of your content every step of the way!

Step 6: Create SEO-optimized content for program pages and blogs for your university website (or hire an agency)

Educational institutions need to develop SEO-optimized content for their course pages and blog articles, as this investment ensures a productive outcome. Given the growing competition in the education sector, it is imperative to have a robust online presence that can lure prospective students. By optimizing the content for search engines, universities can improve their website’s organic reach and attract more organic traffic, resulting in higher enrollment rates.

The platform offered by Outranking assists university administrators who are occupied with various tasks in writing and optimizing web pages, resulting in maximum organic exposure. With its real-time optimization benchmarks against 20 competing pages from SERPs, Suggestions for improving the title tags and SEO description, increasing organic reach, determining the necessary headings and subheadings, and identifying relevant terms to use as well as semantic targets can be provided by Outranking.

An SEO copywriter is responsible for creating compelling and optimized content that helps websites rank higher in search engine results.

Screenshot of Outranking's SEO details for the article, SEO for Higher Education
You want to make your content as SEO-friendly as possible.

Step 7: Optimize Internal Linking

Enhancing the internal linking of current web pages can enhance website traffic by leveraging the authority of high-ranking pages and channeling some of that influence toward the page intended to rank for additional keywords. An SEO content optimization tool will help improve the content and give suggestions for better ranking. To accomplish this, simply click on the internal linking icon adjacent to URLs marked with significant amounts of light and dark green; suggestions for potential internal links will then appear.

Outranking can connect to Google Search Console and identify pages with internal linking opportunities by integrating with the Google Search Console API. This integration allows outranking accessibility of data from Google Search Console, such as search queries, impressions, and clicks, and uses this information to provide insights and recommendations for optimizing internal linking on specific pages.

Step 8: Acquire backlinks and local references for your Institution’s website

For a university education website, it is essential to obtain local citations and backlinks for effective implementation of local SEO because they aid search engines in confirming the presence, authenticity, and credibility of the institution. Local citations refer to instances where the name, address, and mobile number (NAP) of the university are mentioned on appropriate and reputable college websites while backlinks pertain to hyperlinks that direct users from other websites toward the university’s site.

Screenshot of Higher Education Institution Yelp profile
Yelp can help build trust and credibility

For higher educational institutions, local citations can enhance their visibility in local search results and aid in local SEO. As per Moz’s survey findings, citations rank fifth among the crucial factors that impact rankings for localized searches. Moreover, business directories tend to dominate search outcomes for regional queries; therefore, being listed on such directories can assist aspirant students in discovering the university.

Structured and unstructured citations are the two categories of citations. The first one pertains to the NAP details of the university that can be found on directory listings and social media profiles, while the second one relates to any references or mentions of the university in blog posts, forum discussions, or press releases.

Universities need to adhere to these four sequential measures for the creation of citations.

  1. It is advisable to have your university’s NAP information included in the databases of the major data aggregators, namely Acxiom, Infogroup, and Localeze. By doing so, your institution’s details can be disseminated through various directories and websites.
  2. Share with additional primary platforms: Share the NAP details of the university on leading business listings like Yelp, Yellow Pages, and Google My Business.
  3. Share with reputable local and industry platforms: Share the NAP details of the university on relevant directories that cater to specific industries as well as local listings including Chamber of Commerce websites.
  4. Pursue unstructured citations: Reach out to local bloggers and journalists to get mentions and backlinks to the university’s website.

According to BrightLocal’s Local Citations Trust Report, universities should aim to get citations from at least 40-50 relevant and trusted sources to see a significant impact on local search rankings. Additionally, universities should ensure that their NAP information is consistent across all directories and websites to avoid confusing search engines and potential students.

A compilation of sources for citing universities including data aggregators and websites.

Data AggregatorWebsites to Get Citations From
AcxiomYellow Pages, Superpages, Citysearch
InfogroupYelp, Bing, Yahoo Local
LocalezeGoogle My Business, Foursquare, MapQuest
Screenshot of Northeastern University contact page on the Yellow Pages
Provide as much information as possible about your Higher Education or University Education

Step 9: Optimize page speed and website experience

In 2023, search engines will give priority to websites that offer fast loading speed and a smooth user experience, making it essential to optimize these factors for improved rankings. The impact of a university education website on the user’s perception of the institution and its student enrollment decision is significant.

By utilizing lightweight themes available on Codecanyon and plugins such as Nitropack for WordPress, one can efficiently enhance the website experience while improving page speed.

Step 10: Track rankings Using Google Search Console

For a university administrator, connecting the institution’s website to Google Search Console and monitoring its ranking is crucial to enhance the SEO content tactic and increase organic traffic. With assistance from ranking data, it becomes possible to improve low-performing pages, identify fresh prospects, as well as optimize existing content.  An SEO content audit tool will improve the quality of your content and make necessary changes.

To interpret the website ranking data, you can use the following table as a guide:

GoalActionRanking Data
Optimize internal linkingLocate pages that require improvement in their internal linking structure to enhance their Pagerank.Webpages containing relevant keywords in the 4th to 14th positions.
Find new opportunities to build topical authorityExplore novel territories and concepts to produce original material that can be readily placed highly in search engine rankings.If the user’s search intent is not aligned, pages that do not have any ranking keywords are in the top 20 positions.
Find underperforming pagesImprove or redirect underperforming pages, especially for medium to large websites with many pagesPages that do not have any keywords ranked in the top 20 positions and are not relevant to the user’s search intent.

Step 11: Optimize your University’s Local Google My Business account

Businesses can enhance their online presence with Google My Business, a complimentary service that enables them to furnish additional details about their operations when they surface in search outcomes. These particulars include images, clips, working hours, and connections to booking platforms.

Screenshot showing Google result page for "Higher Education Institution in Boston"
Setting up your Google My Business account can help establish you as an expert

Expert tips to improve the university’s Google My Business listing include:

  1. Use relevant keywords in the business name and description, such as “Top-ranked university in [city name]”.
  2. Add high-quality photos of the campus, facilities, and student life to showcase the university’s unique features.
  3. Encourage students and faculty to leave positive reviews to improve the university’s online reputation.
  4. Use Google Posts to share news, events, and updates about the university.
  5. Monitor the listing regularly for accuracy and respond promptly to any reviews or questions from users.

Step 12: Invest in the right tools to set up the structure, create a process, and optimize content

There are several on-page SEO tools available but investing in the right tools is crucial for a university’s SEO success. It furnishes services such as examining keywords, refining content, and monitoring progress. With keyword suggestions, content optimization recommendations, and performance metrics, therefore, it is highly recommended that you consider choosing an assistant or an SEO writing checker to ensure that your page is optimized for search engines. The outcome of this could be an improvement in search engine rankings, a surge in website visitors, and ultimately, a higher number of prospective students discovering and registering for the university.

Step 13: Focus on the ultimate goal: student enrollment and engagement

Organic traffic is the primary focus of many websites due to its cost-effective nature in luring potential clients.

For a university, a short-tail keyword like “college” may bring in a lot of traffic, but it may not be targeted to the specific programs offered by the university. However, a more specific keyword like “online master’s in data science” may bring in fewer visitors, but they are more likely to be interested in that specific program.

The primary objective of a website is to transform visitors into paying clients or customers; therefore, emphasizing leads and conversions holds significance. Traffic is important, but if it doesn’t lead to conversions, it’s not as valuable. Focusing on leads and conversions ensures that the website is attracting the right audience and providing them with the information and resources they need to become paying clients or customers.

What are the criteria for assessing an agency that can assist in enhancing the SEO of your Higher Education Institution?

Expertise, Reviews, and Results

Below are some suggestions that may be useful in this regard:

  1. Look for an agency with experience in the higher education industry. By doing so, they will gain an improved comprehension of the rival environment and create a personalized approach that suits the distinctive requirements of your university.
  2. Evaluate the feedback and recommendations provided for the agency. Look for reviews from other universities or educational institutions to see if they have a track record of success in the industry. You can also ask for references and speak directly with their past clients.
  3. Inquire about their methodology and technique. When conducting website audits and search engine optimization, a reliable SEO agency will adhere to established processes and principles that can be universally applied. Nonetheless, they should also adopt a personalized approach for analysis and strategy development that caters specifically to the distinctive competitive standing of your university.
  4. Evaluate their creativity and innovation. When it comes to designing strategies, the top SEO firms display a great deal of creativity and innovation. Ask them what creative strategies they have implemented to help their clients stand out from the pack.
  5. Look for real-world SEO experience. To achieve superior SEO results, it is important to collaborate with a higher education industry agency that possesses at least 5-10 years of practical experience. This will guarantee their comprehensive knowledge about the competitive environment in this field.

According to a recent study, a higher education website that ranks in the top 10 search results receives 36% more traffic than those that rank on the second page.

The services provided are related to search engine optimization.

There are several aspects to take into account when selecting an agency to assist with your university website’s SEO. Here are some suggestions to help you choose wisely:

  1. Look for experience: Choose an agency with at least 5-10 years of experience in SEO, preferably with experience in the education sector. Having expertise in your specific field, a company can gain a deeper comprehension of the competitive environment and exhibit more originality while developing business strategies.
  2. Check for a customized approach: Employing a tried-and-tested procedure and personalized strategy is characteristic of a competent SEO firm. Look for an agency that will tailor their strategy to the unique competitive position of your university.
  3. Creativity and innovation: The best SEO agencies are highly creative. Look for an agency that has implemented unique strategies to help its clients stand out from the pack.
  4. It is crucial to test the results in real-life scenarios to confirm their validity. Request information on past partnerships with academic institutions by reviewing case studies or example projects. Look for a company that has a verifiable track record of improving search engine standings and increasing organic web traffic.
  5. The state of being transparent. Choose a company that transparently shares its plans and provides regular progress reports on the development of its work.

Contract duration and flexibility

When evaluating an agency to help with SEO for your university’s website, it is important to consider their contract durations and flexibility. Here are some factors to consider:

  1. Duration of the contract: To prevent being bound by prolonged commitments that restrain you for extended periods due to the variations in your website’s SEO requirements over time, it is recommended to search for a company that provides contract durations adaptable to your needs. Choose a trustworthy agency that offers short-term contracts which can be renewed upon completion when necessary instead of being limited by an inflexible firm.
  2. Customized Approach: A good SEO agency will employ a proven process and customized approach. They will analyze your university’s website and tailor a strategy that fits your unique competitive position. Ask for examples of how they have helped other higher education institutions achieve success with their SEO strategies.
  3. Real-World SEO Experience: Look for an agency with at least 5 to 10 years of real-world experience in SEO, preferably working with websites in the higher education industry. Improving their comprehension of the competitive environment and adopting a more imaginative and innovative approach to formulating strategies would be beneficial.
  4. Case Studies: Inquire about past instances and illustrations of how the organization assisted other universities in enhancing their SEO. Search for metrics such as augmented website traffic, elevated search engine rankings, and better conversion rates. A landing page optimized for search engines (SEO) has the potential to boost your website’s conversion rate as it offers visitors precise and pertinent details that motivate them to make inquiries regarding services.

Do you require the services of an SEO Strategist to develop a plan and address all your urgent inquiries?

Based on the research, it is clear that SEO is a complex and time-consuming process that requires sound judgment and experience. While hiring an agency like PageTraffic can offer sound solutions to improve your rankings, it is important to approach the process with caution. The SEO consultant and strategist can assist you in smoothly devising, organizing, and implementing your strategy to achieve the desired outcomes. Outranking can also assist with an SEO content optimization guide. You can always contact outranking to learn more about SEO services.