SEO Strategy Guide for Higher Education

By Heidi Smith | Oct 12, 2017
More Articles by Heidi

Search engines help us answer a question or a need, fulfilling a demand instantly with a few clicks. For higher education, search engines guide us in our search for the perfect university and the perfect degree.

As a higher education marketer, search engine optimization (SEO) is likely a high priority for your team, but one of the more difficult marketing initiatives. Not only are you in a highly competitive space and SEO is increasingly more technical, but changes to Google’s search engine result pages means up to four paid ads may be shown on the top of a search results page, making your SEO efforts more important, but harder to achieve.

Our SEO strategy guide specifically tailored to the higher education market can help you focus your efforts on what will earn you the best results, and will guide you through how to know you are actually making a difference with SEO. Read on for an overview of what you can access with the full guide.

Where to Focus SEO Efforts

Page Speed

Back in 2010 Google announced that page speed was added as a search ranking algorithm signal. Seven years later, and they’re still obsessed with how quickly a website and individual pages load – and you should be too if you want users to have a positive experience with your website (and brand) and get kudos from Google in the form of rankings.

You don’t want your university’s website to be the one behind the times when put up against competitors – you will lose out on higher rankings and in turn traffic. Evaluating current page speed is a must-have focus for 2017 to ensure you aren’t losing out on prospective students, or worse, application submissions.

Mobile Optimization

October 2016 marked the first time ever that mobile traffic surpassed desktop and tablet traffic, with this number only likely to grow as smart phone adoption increases each year. According to a 2016 MoovWeb study nearly 70% of education websites are mobile-friendly, and a NRCCUA Survey from 2012 found that 52% of students looked at college websites via their mobile devices. Making your website mobile-friendly is of the utmost importance so that regardless of device type or screen size, prospective students visiting your website have a seamless experience.

bar graph of student mobile device usage

Not sure where to start? Our guide can help, along with tools we recommend that will make analysis and improving mobile-friendliness easier to accomplish.

Keyword Research

It may be 2017 and SEO may be less focused on keywords than in the “old days,” but you still need to complete keyword research. As 80% of queries on Google are informational, consider addressing information queries related to your organization on a variety of levels – the over-arching university, specific departments, and perhaps most importantly, at the degree level.

Marketing Mojo worked with Kogod School of Business at American University to revamp keywords for Master’s programs and graduate certificates, resulting in a 10% increase in organic search traffic year-over-year. If you do it right and with the correct processes, targeting the right keywords can help make a difference in your organic traffic and should be a key part of your SEO strategy. The guide offers eight total focuses for the upcoming fiscal year.

How and What to Measure

Knowing what to focus on and how to implement certain SEO best practices is one thing, but how do you know if all your time, planning and implementation is actually working? Using a third party analytics service is the way to start, but you should move beyond tracking just sessions and bounce rate.

Determine KPIs

Key performance indicators (KPIs) are quantifiable measurements used to gauge performance relative to a goal. To determine which KPIs you need to measure, consider your marketing goals and the conversion path of a prospective student. You want to be able to measure these types of goals so that you can track improvements, successes, and failures of your various marketing initiatives.

Setting up specific KPIs can also help you understand the full process a prospective student goes through from initial visit to submitted application. Use analytics software to track these KPIs on your website and gain insightful data into how users interact with your site, with the end goal of determining the true value of your SEO and improving organic search performance over time.

Collect {Organic} Data

Search engine rankings alone are not an adequate measurement to determine your SEO results. At Marketing Mojo, we are always focusing on the data – what top rankings are bringing you in terms of traffic, leads, conversions, etc. and how those metrics are fueling your bottom-line.

56 percent of CMOs says their marketing teams need better analytics skills

Analytics in higher education can be a special kind of challenge, with segmented departments, a remote or inflexible IT team, and limited bandwidth. Often times if the marketing team doesn’t take on the handling of analytics data collection, it may not get done at all. Setting up your analytics in the correct way and having your team manage it can make all the difference.

The guide will help you discover the best way to organize your analytics from the top of the university to the smallest degree program, convince your IT team to give you the reins, tips on setting up the all-important KPIs, and more!

Monitor Your Site

Setting up analytics and KPIs can help you manage and be aware of traffic coming to your site. But it is also important to understand how Google is viewing and indexing your web properties. Google Search Console offers a plethora of information about a website’s performance and web presence, including but not limited to:

  • Pages crawled by Google
  • Inbound and internal link information
  • Organic search impressions

To access this critical information, you will want to set up Google Search Console for all of your domains and subdomains.


Ready to get more detailed focuses, instructions and tips to rock your university’s SEO for the upcoming year? Our SEO Strategy Guide for Higher Education is waiting!

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