Better SEO: 10 Tactics For Higher Education

There is a common misconception that ranking highly on Google is costly. While most schools will run some form of Google Ads to top the search results, developing a sound search engine optimization (SEO) strategy for your higher education website is a much more cost-effective way of generating traffic.

Below we take you through ten higher education SEO activities you can perform for free to improve your search engine visibility and rank higher in organic search results.

Just a quick side note: While there are plenty of search engines out there (shout out to Bing, DuckDuckGo and Yahoo!), we’re realists and therefore will be focusing entirely on Google.


Why go after organic results? I can just run ads

We hear this a lot. 

SEO 101 tells us that website content needs to match search intent. If the information contained on your website answers the questions potential students are searching for, there is a much higher chance of them sticking around and converting into leads than simply clicking on an ad out of curiosity.


1) Use Google Search Recommendations

When you start typing something into Google’s search bar it automatically tries to guess what you are looking for. These are called Search Recommendations and are actually a fantastic way to gain insight into the most common search terms for your school. 

Make sure you use Incognito mode on your browser to keep the search recommendations as unaffected by your search history as possible. Once you know the most search for pages your school has online, compile a list of recommended search terms and audit these pages accordingly. This will all contribute to your website content matching search intent as mentioned above.


2) Utilize Google Trends

Google Trends is a free tool anyone can use to identify search trends specific to certain locations and times. It’s also very handy for comparing search patterns between other higher education institutions. Using Google Trends, you can begin to understand how competitor websites are performing in terms of gaining organic traffic.


3) Leverage prepositions and questions

Many people now ask questions to conduct their Google searches (known as Natural Language Searches). Due to the increase of voice search on mobile devices (Siri, Alexa, and Google), many search quires will include either a preposition (e.g., universities for, near, without…) or an interrogative word (e.g., why, how or which university…).

Make sure you have a clear picture of what potential students could be searching for. Ask your own student body what kind of search queries they performed when searching for a university, or what they might search for now. 

You can also use free tools like Answer The Public and ahref’s Keyword Generator to discover previously untapped keywords and popular questions.


4) Listen to Google Analytics

When it comes to data around your website Google Analytics offers insight after insight. But which ones are most beneficial to you and your organic traffic aspirations?

Google Analytics Site Search and Landing Pages from Organic Search are your best places to get information you can act upon. 

Using your site search results you can gain a better idea of what your website visitors are searching for. You can then use these insights to better inform future decisions around content creation. This will further bridge the gap between search intent and website content.

Be aware that Site Search needs to be set up in Google Analytics before you can access the date. Learn more about setting up Site Search.


5) Identify top landing pages

Google is not that great at reporting organic keywords on its analytics platform. Therefore, you will need to look into your organic search analytics to identify which pages on your website are your top performers.

Once you have identified your most visited web pages, determine which ones have the strongest search value for your target audiences and optimize them accordingly.

The following were taken from the Words On Brand website analytics. As you can see, three out of the top five most visited pages are blog content related.


6) Use Google Keyword Planner

Identify search volume for particular keywords (whether branded or not). Using this tool will give you the best overview of how certain keywords perform over time. You can then use this information to better plan when to capitalize on certain search terms.

Please note that you will have to set up a Google Ads account to use the Google Keyword Planner. More information on using Google Keyword Planner here.

7) Fix your broken links

 This is a big one for SEO performance. If your website contains broken links Google will mark it down in its rankings. Make sure you don’t fall foul of this very easy fix. There are plenty of tools you can use to check your website for outdated or broken URLs such as Dr Link Check.


8) Make sure Google My Business is up to date

Another piece of low hanging fruit to increase your chances of SEO success is to make sure your Google My Business profile has the most current information available. 

Top areas to focus on would be:

  • Official business name
  • Address
  • Contact (email and phone number)
  • Images and videos

9) Optimize your images and videos

The second most used search engine after Google is YouTube. So, with that in mind the importance of high quality and well-optimized video content should be clear. Video is also an excellent way to answer frequently asked questions, showcase your student experience and shine the spotlight on brand ambassadors.

Here are a few tips for optimizing your videos for search engines:

  • Use searchable titles.
  • Use keywords in your video tags users will be searching for.
  • Include subtitles and closed captions.

Taking advantage of metadata is equally important for images. Make sure image files are suitably named and the ‘alt text’ of each image accurately reflects what is being shown.

10) Use Google Search Console Insights

Google have seriously revamped its suite of tools to give increased visibility into the performance of individual keywords. Google Search Console Insights allow you to see high ranking keywords as well as trending keywords related to your website.

Note: Before you can use the Search Console Insights, you will need to set up your Google Search Console account and validate your university’s official domain.

SEO won’t work on its own

Using these 10 tactics for better search engine optimization you can be well on your way to improving your page ranking and organic search traffic. But remember, your SEO strategy should not exist in isolation. Search engine success also relies on a thorough content marketing plan, continued improvements and iterative testing.

Need an extra pair of hands getting your SEO strategy up and running? Words On Brand are here to help.

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