Ideas, insights and inspirations.

Google page 1 is destiny. 90% of searchers never go beyond page 1 of Google results. Organic rankings (i.e. the 10 natural search results) are trusted more, clicked more and convert three-folds better than paid ads. This is precisely why smart colleges and universities take the long view. They develop a plan that goes after the lowest hanging fruit first (local rankings), then harder-to-achieve rankings (regional), and finally the hardest-to-achieve national, international and reputation rankings. They follow the age-old wisdom: slow and steady wins the race.

Before we share the glossary, let us share a very brief history of search engines and search engine optimization (SEO).

SEO is the process of improving your website to increase its visibility on Google, Microsoft Bing, and other search engines. The earliest search engines that emerged in the mid-nineties trusted marketer’s claims being made on their websites. Marketers naturally began to game website content by jamming boatloads of content on their websites. In 1998, Google came into the picture and changed the game: instead of ranking websites based on marketers claims, it started ranking them based on relevant conversations and inbound links to the marketer’s website from other websites. In response, marketers started buying inbound links from content farms that were created to game Google’s algorithm. Google got smarter yet again. It started penalizing websites for content stuffing and buying links from content farms. It diversified its ranking factors to include legitimate brand discussions on quality websites and social media. Thus began the era of Inbound marketing. It involves marketers creating a continuous stream of high quality, trusted and relevant content (such as articles, blog posts, videos, infographics, white papers, thought leadership articles, social posts, quizzes, games, etc.) and igniting it via promotion and conversation-starters to encourage peer-to-peer sharing. Thus the label SEO was transformed into SEO/Inbound marketing, even SEO/Inbound/Content marketing.

We hope you find our SEO glossary beneficial.

higher education seo glossary seo terms

SEO Glossary for Higher Education Marketers

301 Redirect – A permanent link from one URL to another sending visitors and web crawlers to a different web page than originally requested. Used to transfer “link juice” to new website pages during a website redesign They are also used to avoid duplicate content penalty and broken links, and maintain authority when renaming a page or domain.

3xx Errors – Web links-level HTTP error code family (e.g. 301 is moved permanently and 302 is moved temporarily).

4xx Errors – Website-level HTTP error code family (e.g. 404 is page not found and 410 is page gone)

5xx Errors – Server-level HTTP error code family. (e.g. 500 is internal service error and 503 is service unavailable)

Above the Fold – The area of a web page which is visible to a visitor before scrolling — dependent upon device, screen size, and orientation. 

Affiliate – A website which promotes the products of another company and receives a commission for each referral or sale resulting from its promotion. 

Alexa Rank – A global ranking system that utilizes web traffic data to compile a list of the most popular websites.

Algorithm (Search Engine Algorithm) – The algorithm is a complex set of rules and heuristics used by the search engine to determine the relevance and ranking of web pages in search results. These algorithms are constantly evolving and being updated to provide users with the most relevant and highest quality search results.

Alt Tag (aka Alt Text) – A word or phrase that can be inserted as an attribute in an HTML document to tell website viewers the nature or contents of an image. 

AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) – Web pages coded in simplified versions of HTML and JavaScript. AMP pages are cached and delivered directly by Google and load significantly faster than normal mobile-friendly web pages.

Anchor Text – The visible, clickable text in a hyperlink.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) – Artificial intelligence (AI) refers to the development and implementation of computer systems that can perform tasks that typically require human intelligence. AI aims to replicate and simulate intelligent behavior, allowing computers to perceive, reason, learn, and make decisions in a manner similar to humans. Machine learning is an AI technique that is widely used in programming search engines.

Autosuggest (aka Autocomplete) – The search terms that are displayed/auto-populated by search engines in real-time as the user begins typing in the address bar. 

Author Authority – Authority is a concept of using the reputation, credentials and credibility of a person who writes content online as a ranking factor.

Back Link – See inbound link.

Baidu The most popular search engine in China.

Bing The second most popular search engine in the US. Created by Microsoft, it now powers Yahoo Search also.

Black Hat (SEO) – These are practices that are deployed to unethically or deceptively improve organic search results. Cloaking is often used to gain rankings in the search engines by providing false sites to the engines. Humans see the real site, but the search engines see an entirely different version of the website. All search engines oppose the use of black hat techniques.

Blog – A blog is a website where an individual or a group of contributors share their thoughts, ideas, opinions, and information on various topics. Blogs can convey a personal or a corporate point of view. Because the content on blogs changes frequently, search engine bots index these more frequently. Blogging is important for colleges because blog posts tend to surface as coveted featured snippets. Colleges and universities should establish both career advice blogs and thought leadership blogs. 

Bot (aka Robot, Spider, Crawler) – A software application used by search engines to crawl websites to collect data and information about those sites and pages. 

Bounce Rate – The percentage of website visitors who leave without visiting another page on that website. Bounce rates range widely across industries and niches.

Branded Keywords – When a user’s query includes an exact match, or variation, of a specific company or brand name, it’s called a branded keyword. Branded keywords are naturally ranked higher on search results for branded searches.

Broken Link – A link that leads to a 404 not found page. Links can break when a web page is removed without a redirect, 

Breadcrumbs – An element on a website page or SERP which shows the location of a web page in the website’s hierarchy. It can be purely informational or can allow users to click on the hierarchical elements as a navigational tool. 

Cached Pages and Links – Practically every search result includes a Cached link that directs clicks to a saved web page version instead of the current/live web page version. This process reduces internet congestion and compensates for slow or down websites, and decreases site load times and the time it takes to retune search results. 

Canonical Tag – A link element is an HTML element that helps webmasters prevent duplicate content issues in search engine optimization by specifying the “canonical” or “preferred” version of a web page.

Canonical URL – A link element that identifies a preferred version of a web page to display in search engines. This helps ensure inbound links get attributed to a single page and don’t get diluted to multiple versions of the same page.

Carousel (SERP feature) – A sliding row of images, each with an image and caption text, which typically appear at the top of Google’s SERP. 

ccTLD (Country Code Top Level Domains) – Two letter internet domain abbreviations reserved for each country and are managed by organizations appointed by the IANA (Internet Assigned Numbers Authority). 

Citations – An online reference to a business’ name, address, and phone number on a directory or 3rd party website typically increasing the authority of a local business. 

Click-Through Rate (CTR) – SEO click-through rate (CTR) refers to the percentage of users who click on a specific search result or website link after seeing it in the search engine results pages (SERPs). It is a metric used to measure the effectiveness and attractiveness of a particular search result in generating user clicks. More compelling meta data and copy yields stronger click through rates.

Cloaking – A deceptive and disallowed practice where a website presents one version of a web page to users and a different version to search engine crawlers ostensibly to “work around” SEO algorithms. This is considered a black hat SEO technique.

Comment Spam – Content posted in the comment section on blogs, forums, and via other online forms by bots or Blackhat advertisers. Content is created randomly or repeated with the intent to propagate SEO links, advertising, or buzz. 

Container – Self-contained or plug-in software encompassing everything needed to run in any environment like a website, CMS, data package minimizing the potential for disrupting normal function.

Content Audit – The process of reviewing a website to assess the integrity and effectiveness of its content and assets.

Content Gap Analysis – The process of evaluating existing website content on a topic and discovering “gaps” in that content to improve upon. 

Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) – process of improving the percentage of website visitors who take a desired action or “convert” into customers, subscribers, or engaged users. The goal of CRO is to increase the conversion rate, which is the ratio of conversions to the total number of website visitors. Some popular CRO tactics include testing changes to website design, copy, images, price, call-to-action, and messaging. 

Cookies – Arbitrary pieces of data stored on a web visitor’s computer by a web browser used to identify users, understand behavior, predict intent, and prepare customized web pages, offers, content, or to save visitor site login information.

Cookies (Third Party) – Cookies that are set by a website other than the one a visitor is currently on. An example would be an advertising service (ex: AdSense) which also creates a third-party cookie to monitor which websites were visited by each user and then attribute various characteristics to those visitors.

Crawl Budget – The number of URLs or pages a search engine’s bot will crawl during one session. SEO tactics can influence the crawl budget for a particular site leading to more frequent indexing of new content as it’s posted. 

Crawl Depth – How far into a web site’s page hierarchy a search engine bot crawls. The more directly linked a site page is to the home page (# of clicks needed to navigate between the two), the more it helps in the overall site ranking. 

Crawl Errors – Unsuccessful attempts by search engine bot to crawl a website often due to site errors and URL errors. 

Crawl Frequency – Frequency of a search engine crawl of a website’s pages to update its index with new and revised pages and content.

Crawl Rate – Requests per second Googlebot makes to a website when crawling. 

CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) – Instructions to web browsers which determine characteristics of web page elements such as text size, position of elements on the page, etc. placed in the header of an HTML page or in a separate CSS file. 

CTR (Click Through Rate) – Metric that measures the percentage of people who viewed an ad or a link on a website and clicked on that ad/link.

Customer Journey – All of the potential touchpoints at which a prospect is exposed to or engages with a brand. All of these exposures and interactions are designed to influence, attract, persuade, and convert that prospect to become a customer, client, or subscriber. A typical customer journey is made up of four main phases: awareness, consideration, decision and retention. Different keywords are used at different stages of the customer journey. E.g. reputation keywords like “best colleges for…” and “top colleges for…” are used in the early college search process, while category keywords like “graduate programs in…” and “masters programs in…” are used in early stages of college search. Branded keywords are used at the final decision-making stage of a college decision.

Deep Links – A type of link that sends users directly to an app or in-app locations instead of a website or page.

Direct Answer (SERP feature, aka Quick Answer, Answer Box) – Google SERP feature that appears in response to implied or explicit queries which can be answered briefly with publicly available information. Categories include: Weather, Dictionary, Calculations, Unit Conversions, Sports, and Quick Facts.

Disavow Tools – Part of Google Search Console that allows websites to discount the value of an inbound link, helping reduce or eliminate link-based penalties. 

Disavowing Backlinks – A process of alerting search engines that very low-quality links pointing to a website are not to be considered for search crawls avoiding ranking penalties.

DNS (Domain Name System) – A human-friendly hierarchical and decentralized naming system for computers, services, or other resources connected to the Internet or a private network. 

DNS server (Domain Name System Server) – Servers that maintain a directory of human-friendly domain names and translate them to Internet Protocol (IP) addresses.

Do-follow – A link that doesn’t use the “nofollow” attribute. In other words, a link.

Domain Authority – A score (between 0 and 100) given to a website that quantifies its relevance for a specific subject area or industry that directly impacts the site’s search engine ranking(s).

Domain Name – The human-friendly name of a website, or what comes after “@” in an email address, or after “www.” in a web address. 

Doorway Page (aka Gateway, Jump, and Bridge Pages) – A highly-optimized web page for a keyword or keyword set with the aim of redirecting users to a different website. Considered a misleading and prohibited practice by search engines and results in heavy penalties or removal from indexing.

DuckDuckGo – A search engine that is often praised for its focus on user privacy and a lack of filter bubbles (search personalization).

Duplicate Content – Almost identical web content which appears on more than one page on a website or on several websites. If detected, search engines can apply a duplicate content penalty to the web page or to the website.

Dwell Time – The amount of time that elapses between when a user clicks on a search result and then returns to the SERP from a website. Short dwell time (e.g., less than 5 seconds) can be an indicator of low-quality content to search engines.

.edu Links – Educational institutions have a top-level domain (TLD) of .edu. For example, A link from such a site is known as a .edu link. Links from .edu sites are considered ‘hard to get’ and thought to have more value for link building. As a result, link builders target .edu websites. Colleges benefit by cross-linking with their collaborating partner institutions and non-competing peers.

Engagement Metrics – Methods to measure how users interact with web pages and content. Examples of engagement metrics include, click-through rate, conversion rate, bounce rate, time on page/site, new vs. returning visitors, frequency and recency, and dwell time.

Featured Snippet (SERP Feature) – For certain queries, usually questions (i.e., who, what, why, where, when and how), Google sometimes shows condensed and automatically-generated answers that appear above the organic search results on Google’s search engine result page. Featured snippets, often referred to as position zero, dramatically increase the click through rate and traffic to the featured website.

Fetch as Google – Google Search Console feature that simulates how a published web page looks to Google — also used to manually submit pages to Googlebot to flag changes to a site.

FTP (File Transfer Protocol) – A standard network protocol used for the server-to-server transfer of computer files.

Google Analytics – A free web analytics program that is popularly used to track website visitor behavior, sources, geographies, content performance, and much more.

Google Analytics Tracking Code – A snippet of JavaScript that sends traffic- and behavior-related data on website visitor sessions to Google services such as Ads, Shopping, Optimize, and Analytics. 

Google My Business (GMB) Directory – Google tool where businesses create and claim ownership of their GMB listing and populate it with vital information such as hours, location, website linking, and photos. 

Google Helpful Content – Google algorithm update (2022) meant to score content value based on the human measure of how well any given content answers relevant web users questions and devalues sites and pages with more generic or keyword overloaded content.

Google MUM (Multi-task Union Model) – Google algorithm update (2021) that reads and collates content in 75 languages, audio, and video to deliver more robust answers to complex and longer tail search queries.

Google Privacy Sandbox – Google tool that provides more aggregated conversion tracking, but individual consumer-level tracking will cease as a result. While Google intends to provide conversion tracking, it will no longer provide this for consumer sessions- thereby killing the ability to link ads, impressions and conversions for individual consumers as marketing tech providers (outside of Google) will lose all of their access as of 2022 to any data gathered from third-party cookies.

Google Sandbox – Refers to a commonly held belief that Google has a filter that places all new web sites under restrictions for a certain amount of time (1-6 months) to prevent them from ranking in searches, effectively penalizing new web sites after launch. 

Google Search Console (formerly Webmaster Tools) – A Google web service which allows webmasters to monitor, maintain, and troubleshoot a website’s presence and indexing in search results. 

Google Trends – Google tool that analyzes the popularity of top search queries in Google Search across various regions and languages.

Google Webmaster Guidelines – An online Google document that outlines specific website practices considered illicit, the severity of various violations, and possible penalties associated with each. 

Googlebot – Google app responsible for fetching web pages on the internet to review each and update the search engine index.

.gov Links – Government institutions have a top-level domain (TLD) of .gov. For example, A link from such a site is known as a .gov link. Links from .gov sites are considered ‘hard to get’ and thought to have more value for link building. As a result, link builders target .gov websites. Colleges seek benefit by linking reciprocally with their funding government agencies.

gTLDs (Generic Top-Level Domains) – Top-level domains (the far right segment of a web address) e.g. .com, .org, .edu, .gov and, .int.

Guest Blogging – Guest blogging is a practice where a writer or content creator contributes an article or blog post to another person’s or organization’s blog or website. The guest blogger is typically an expert or knowledgeable individual in a particular field or industry, and they offer their content as a contribution to the host blog’s audience. Reciprocal links benefit both parties. 

Head Tag (in HTML) – A container for metadata placed between the <html> tag and the <body> tag that typically defines the document title, character set, styles, scripts, and other meta information. 

Headings (aka HTML Headings) – Website titles and subtitles ranking in importance from <h1> to <h6>. They signal and create content hierarchy.

Heat Map – A visual representation of data that uses a system of color-coding to represent different website behavior metrics (e.g. visitor navigation, scrolling, clicks, time on element, interaction, etc.)

Hreflang Tag – A data element (tag) that specifies additional URLs with the same or similar content in other languages or designed for specific geographic regions. Hreflang attributes inform Google that translated pages are related and are not plagiarized or illicitly duplicated.

HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language) – The standard mark-up language for documents designed to be displayed in a web browser.

HTTP – The underlying communication protocol which client web browsers and web servers use to transfer web pages and their associated files.

HTTP Headers – The initial requests and responses passed between a browser and a web server that include information such as the client browser, the requested page, the server type, redirects, and more. 

HTTPS – A secure and encrypted protocol for transmitting HTML pages. This is now considered a ranking factor.

Images Box – Carousel of relevant images that is served in response to search queries.

Inbound Link (aka Inlink, Incoming Link, Back Link) – Links from one web site to a page on another web site.Quality Inbound links are considered to be the backbone of Google’s ranking algorithm. 

Inbound Marketing – It involves marketers creating a continuous stream of high quality, trusted and relevant content (such as articles, blog posts, videos, infographics, white papers, thought leadership articles, social posts, quizzes, games, etc.) and igniting it via promotion and conversation-starters to encourage peer-to-peer sharing. Technical on-page SEO must be augmented with inbound marketing to secure search engine rankings. Career advice and research at colleges and universities are fertile ground for creating high-fidelity, democratized and optimized content.

Incognito Mode (aka Private Browsing) – A web browser feature which allows users to open a browser window without saving browsing history, cookies, or site data. 

Indexed Pages – Pages of a website that a search engine has visited, analyzed, and added to its database of reviewed web pages. 

Indexing – The process that search engines go through when they discover a new or updated web page on the internet. After crawling, data is sorted and stored to facilitate information retrieval. 

Information Architecture – How a website is organized (sitemap) and where various content and navigational elements are located on webpages (wireframe and page architecture).

Internal Link – A hyperlink from one page to another on the same website.

IP (Internet Protocol) Address – A unique series of 3-digit decimal numbers separated by periods which serves as a distinct address for a computer on the internet.

JavaScript – Programming language which is often used to create front-end interactive and dynamic elements on web pages. 

Keyword – A word or phrase that users search for on the web.

Keyword (Broad) – Short search queries that cover broad topics.

Keyword (Long Tail) – Search queries consisting of multiple terms and/or specific phrases. 

Keyword Cannibalization – A situation where multiple pages on a website target the same keyword(s) through usage of the keyword in the page’s title and content.

Keyword Density – The percentage of times a keyword or phrase appears on a web page compared to the total number of words on that web page. 

Keyword Lexicon – The Keyword Lexicon is composed of keywords and key phrases the college or a university should claim. Categories in the lexicon include academic program keywords, brand positioning keywords, reputation keywords, decisioning keywords, and location keywords.

Keyword Planner – A Google tool for search campaigns to estimate how a group or list of potential keywords might perform. 

Keyword Research – The investigation and discovery of keywords which have the greatest potential to drive traffic to a website. 

Keyword Stuffing – Illicit SEO technique in which keywords are loaded into a web page’s meta tags, visible content, or link anchor text in an attempt to gain an unfair ranking advantage. Search engines disregard it if it’s packed with too much, irrelevant or unrelated content.

Knowledge Graph – A Google knowledge database and the source for the information displayed in Google’s Knowledge Panel and other SERP features containing vast amounts of data about people, places, events and objects that attempt to understand real-world entities and their relationships to one another.

Knowledge Panel – Summarized information boxes that appear as part of Google’s SERP.

Link Bait – Content designed to attract attention and encourage the creation of hyperlinks to the site with the aim of improving organic search results.

Link Building – Efforts made to generate inbound links from other websites to one’s own website.

Link Equity (aka Link Juice) – A search engine ranking factor where links (internal and external) can pass value and authority from one web page or website to another. 

Link Exchange (aka Reciprocal Link) – SEO tactic when two or more websites agree to host links to each other in order to boost their page rank. (Black Hat)

Link Farm – A website or group of websites created for the sole purpose of boosting another web site’s page authority. (Black Hat)

Link Popularity – The combined quantity and quality of the links pointing to a website.

Link Pruning – The method of analyzing and removing unhelpful inbound links to a website with the goal of reducing search algorithm penalties. 

Local Pack – A group of three local business listings which appears in response to search queries for products or services provided by local businesses.

Local SEO – Optimizing website ranking for local geographic audiences and searches. 

Machine Learning – An application of artificial intelligence that provides systems the ability to automatically learn and improve from experience without being explicitly programmed to do so.

Manual Action Penalty – Google penalties having a negative impact on a website’s search rankings based on search algorithms updates or manual review.

Metadata – A descriptive, structural, or administrative definition of underlying layers of data. 

Meta Description – A data element (tag) that summarizes a web page’s content that greatly affects what pages are shown in search results, how those pages are prioritized, and the abbreviated description shown in search results.

Meta Keywords – A data element (tag) used to highlight keywords that are most relevant to the content of a given web page.

Meta Tags – Structured, standardized data elements appearing in the header section of web pages that define specific attributes relating to the page. 

Meta Title (aka Page Title, Title Tag) – An HTML tag that shows the name of a web page. 

Metadata (Administrative) – Data element (tag) providing information to help manage a web page such as when and how a page was created, the file type and other technical information, and who can access it.

Metadata (Descriptive) – Data element (tag) describing a resource for purposes such as discovery and identification. It can include elements such as title, abstract, author, and keywords. 

Metadata (Structural) – Data element (tag) indicating how compound objects are connected or organized, for example, how webpages are ordered to form a website.

Mobile friendly – Website design where the site functions the exact same way regardless of the device. 

Mobile SEO – Search engine optimization of websites for speed and viewing on smartphones and tablets.

Mobile-First Indexing – Google policy of using the mobile, instead of the desktop, version of web pages to index and rank URLs. 

Multi-Touch Attribution (MTA) – The identification of a set of user actions that contribute in some manner to a desired behavior or outcome, and then assigns a value or weight to each of these events.

Natural Language Processing – Area of computer science/AI working to enable computers to process and analyze human language — in SEO terms, to apply that to speech recognition (voice searches) and natural language understanding search intent.

Nofollow – Website and web page links tagged so that they are ignored (not indexed) by search engines. 

Noindex – A meta tag value added to the HTML source code of a webpage to direct search engines to not include that webpage in its list of search results. 

OG Tags (or Open Graph Tags). Open Graph is a protocol developed by Facebook that allows website developers to control how their web pages are presented when shared on social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and others.

Organic Links – 1) Completely unsolicited inbound links and/or 2) Natural and uncompensated inbound links that a website receives from other sites.

Organic Search Results – Natural, or unpaid, search results displayed based on their relevance to the search query as determined by the search engine’s algorithm. They are considered more trusted and command the lionshare of clicks on a search results page.

Organic Traffic – Website visits that originate from users clicking on unpaid search results. 

Orphan Page – Any webpage that is not linked to by any other pages on that website.

Outbound Link – A link that directs visitors to a page on a different website than the one they are currently on.

Page Authority – A metric that quantifies the domain authority and relevance of a website for a specific subject area or industry.

Page Rank (PR) – According to Google, “PageRank is the measure of the importance of a page based on the incoming links from other pages. In simple terms, each link to a page on your site from another site adds to your site’s PageRank. Not all links are equal.” The algorithm was named after Google co-founder Larry Page.

Page Speed – A measurement of how fast the content of a website loads.

Page Speed Tools – Google web tool designed to quantify and improve a website’s performance and optimizations. 

Pageviews (aka Impressions) – An instance of an internet user visiting a particular page on a website.

People Also Ask (SERP feature) – A Google SERP feature which consists of a group of four search queries or questions which are similar to or directly related to the original search query. 

Personalized Results – When search engines use search history, web browsing history, location, and relationships to create a set of search results tailored to a specific user. Unless a user uses a browser in incognito mode, the search results are always personalized.

PPC (Pay Per Click) – A type of advertising where advertisers are charged a certain amount (usually determined by bid, relevance, account history, and competition) every time a user clicks on the ad. Combining PPC and SEO can result in more SERP real estate, clicks, and conversions. Also, PPC data can inform your SEO strategy, and the reverse is also true.

Rank (or Position) – Where a webpage appears within the organic search results for a specific query.

RankBrain – Google algorithm iteration applying machine-learning to interpret search queries in order to understand user intent and then provide the appropriate search results. 

Ranking Signal (aka Ranking Factor) – Any characteristic of a website that search engine algorithms might consider to calculate rankings, popularity, or relevance. Although there are hundreds of ranking factors, the key factors are the domain, URL, meta-data, page content, quality and quantity of inbound links, social media signals, and location signals.

Reciprocal Links – When two websites agree to exchange links to one another.

Redirects (aka URL redirection, URL forwarding) – Temporary or permanent way to send users and search engines to a different URL from the one originally requested. 

Related Search – Autocomplete feature in the Google Search bar designed to predict, suggest, and/or complete relevant searches while users are typing.

Reputation Management – The practice of crafting a positive online perception of a brand or person – including in search results and on social media – by minimizing the visibility of negative mentions.

Responsive Web Design – An approach to web design that allows web pages to automatically resize to render well based on device, orientation, and screen size. Responsiveness is a search engine ranking factor.

Reviews (SERP feature, aka Stars) – SERP feature that displays the total number of reviews and average rating for pages which allow visitors to rate products or services. 

Rich Cards – Mobile search result format which presents a carousel of search results in rotating slides.

Rich Snippet – Structured data can be added to the HTML of a website to provide contextual information to the search engines during crawling. This information can then be displayed in the SERPs, resulting in an enhanced listing, known as a rich snippet.

Robots.txt – Text file that gives search engines instructions about what pages to crawl and what pages to ignore. Prevents indexing of sensitive, duplicate and archived pages. 

RSS Feed (aka Rich Site Summary, Really Simple Syndication) – Web feed process that streamlines access to multiple websites using a standardized (XML) file format that automatically updates information and renders that information in a common, standardized view. 

Schema Markup (aka Structured Data, Structured Markup, Schema Tagging) – Tags or code snippets added to HTML to improve the way search engines read and represent web pages by providing context about the meaning of a website’s data or content beyond the words that make up a site. 

Search Box (SERP feature) – Google SERP feature that allows users to initiate a search on a target website directly from a search result by using a search box that appears below the result’s description. 

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – SEO or “search engine optimization” is the process of improving your website to increase its visibility on Google, Microsoft Bing, and other search engines. In the early days, the first search engines trusted marketer’s claims and the quantity of claims. Marketers naturally began to game website content by jamming boatloads of content on their websites. Google came into the picture and changed the game: instead of ranking websites based on marketers claims, it started ranking them based on conversations and inbound links to the marketer’s website from other websites. In turn, marketers started buying inbound links from content farms that were created to game Google’s algorithm. Google got smarter yet again. It started penalizing websites for content stuffing and buying links from content farms. It diversified its ranking factors to include legitimate brand discussions on quality websites and social media. Thus began the era of Inbound marketing. It involves marketers creating a continuous stream of high quality, trusted and relevant content (such as articles, blog posts, videos, infographics, white papers, thought leadership articles, social posts, quizzes, games, etc.) and igniting it via promotion and conversation-starters to encourage peer-to-peer sharing. Thus the label SEO was transformed into SEO/Inbound marketing, even SEO/Inbound/Content marketing.

SERP (Search Engine Results Page) – The page of search results for a particular keyword or search phrase displayed by a search engine. Elements of SERPs include ads, (above and below the organic search results), featured snippets (a.k.a., position zero), images, knowledge panels, local Pack (with map), news, related questions, related searches, shopping results, sitelinks, tweets and videos.

Server Log Files – A file automatically created and maintained by a server consisting of a list of activities it performed.

Sitelinks – Hyperlinks to website subpages – automatically and independently added by Google’s algorithm – that appear under certain Google listings.

Social Media – Platforms (websites and apps) where users can interact with each other, as well as create, share, and consume content. 

Social Signal – Any factor that demonstrates authority and influence on popular social networking websites. For example, the social authority of a user on Twitter.

Although many correlation studies have indicated that social signals impact rankings (e.g., number of likes/shares a piece of content receives), Google has publicly stated that social signals are not a direct ranking factor. Popular sites that have a lot of social media engagement tend to rank well for other reasons.

Soft 404 Error – A URL that returns a page with conflicting status information (page does not exist + a 200-level success code). 

Spider Trap – A set of web pages that may intentionally or unintentionally be used to cause a search bot to make an infinite number of requests or cause a poorly constructed crawler to crash. 

Structured Snippets – A version of ad extensions shown in paid Google search results.

Subdomain – A division or alias of a domain that is used to organize a website into distinct websites on a single URL. 

Tag (HTML Tag) – A snippet of code typically up to about 155 characters.

Title Tag – An HTML meta tag that acts as the title of a webpage. Typically, the title tag is the title search engines use when displaying search listings, so it should include strategic and relevant keywords for that specific page. The title tag should also be written so it makes sense to people and attracts the most clicks. Typically, title tags should be less than 65 characters.

Top Level Domain (TLD) – Top-level domains (the far right segment of a web address) e.g. .com, .org, .edu, .gov and, .int. 

Top Stories (SERP feature, aka News box) – SERP feature which displays news stories relating to a search query. 

Twitter feature (SERP feature – SERP feature which displays the most recent or trending tweets in relation to a user’s query.

Uniform Resource Identifiers (URIs) – String of characters that unambiguously identifies a particular resource over a network using specific protocols.

Universal Search – When search engines pull data from multiple databases to display on the same SERP. Results can include images, videos, news, shopping, and other types of results. Universal Search is also known as Blended Search.

URL (Uniform Resource Locator) – A complete web address containing a domain name as well as other components and extensions needed to locate the specific page or piece of content.

URL Parameter – Suffix elements added to a base URL to identify a specific web page variation with customized content and/or to aid in detailed behavior or performance tracking. 

User Generated Content (UGC) – Content that has been created by visitors on a website or app.

User Experience (UX) – The overall feeling users are left with after interacting with a brand, its online presence, and its product/services. Google has always maintained that what’s best for the user is best for google bot.

Video Thumbnail (SERP feature) – Related and relevant video clips served in individual search results. 

Voice Search – A type of voice-activated search technology that allows users to speak into a device (on a smartphone or voice gadget like Alexa) to ask questions or conduct an online search. Natural Language Processing increasingly powers search engines. People are uttering sentences containing approximately 8-12 words to get answers to their questions. More than half of searches are now voice activated. Primarily because of voice search, colleges must create both formal and informal/colloquial optimized content.

XML Sitemap – A website file that provides information about the active pages, videos, and other assets on a site and how they are related or connected. Traditionally it’s named sitemap.xml

Website Audit – A full analysis of all the factors that affect website’s visibility in search engines. 

White Hat (SEO) – SEO tactics compliant with best practices that optimize a site in search results without incurring penalties. Contrast this with illegal Black Hat SEO.

Yandex – The most popular search engine in Russia.

If you are a college or university looking to increase the quantity and quality of new leads for your undergraduate, graduate, doctoral, certificate, or professional – executive programs, view our work with many higher ed clients and consider partnering with us.

About Elliance
Elliance, a Pittsburgh-based higher education marketing agency, has helped grow enrollment, endowment, and reputation for more than 100 colleges and universities including 20 professional schools, 12 faith-based universities, and 20 liberal arts colleges. Click to see all of our blog posts for higher education.

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Because people can only buy your products and services if they can find them, a website should be easy to use and have a fighting chance at securing the highest possible ranking on search engines. As one of Pittsburgh’s longest standing website design agencies, Elliance has been delivering prosperity with SEO-friendly websites for regional, national and global clients for the past 30 years. Here are six ways we infuse SEO into every stage of website design:

1. Strategy + Keyword Guide

At the very start of your website redesign project, ensure that you not only declare your SEO goals in the website strategy document, but also craft a Keyword Guide that contains clusters of keywords and phrases spanning your products/services and areas of thought leadership, innovation and intellectual capital. Laying claim to the keywords begins with an intentional plan.

2. Information Architecture

After completion of your sitemap, build wireframes with a balanced mix of digital assets to increase user engagement and page scroll depth. Map out a rational URL naming structure and nomenclature that is friendly to search engine bots. Develop a plan to map old URLs to the new URLs to ensure you retain your website’s current SEO rankings and so new rankings are secured in addition to the older ones.

3. Design

Incorporate and optimize the right mix of images, copy, videos, tables, pdfs, interactive elements and links on each website page to maximize page engagement and scroll depth – both of which are ranking factors for Google.

4. Copywriting

While writing short, inspired and poetic copy that informs, persuades, engages and delights prospects and customers is critical. it must be artfully infused it with the right keywords.

5. Front-End Development

Partly to develop websites more efficiently and, more importantly, to ensure they rank higher on search engines, build responsive websites i.e. ones that auto-adjust to various-sized devices. Because page load time is a ranking factor, ensure that you are generating standards compliant HTML, CSS, and JavaScript code, and off-loading functionality off-page whenever possible. Populate meta-data to influence search engine bots and humans alike. Build your website pages to meet accessibility criteria for people with special needs i.e. make your code ADA WCAG 2.1 Level AA compliant.

6. Back-End Development

Since mentions in social media is now a key Google ranking factor, enable social sharing on all website pages. Generate automatic XML sitemap which is used as the list of all active pages on a website. Avoid duplicate content penalty and direct old URLs to the new ones using 301-redirects. Activate 404 pages to improve user experience, lower bounce rate and increase site usage. Wire robots.txt files to skip sensitive, duplicate and irrelevant pages.

When designing and building websites, remember that God truly is in the details.

If you are seeking a website design agency with 30-years of SEO mastery for your organization , view our website design capabilities and consider partnering with us.

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As one of Pittsburgh’s longest standing B2B and higher education branding agencies, Elliance has been delivering prosperity to regional and national clients for the past 30 years. In launching over 100 brands, we’ve tested the strength of our brand propositions using the following criteria:

1. Brand Idea/Ideal

There is a deep yearning in people to belong to a tribe of like-minded people. Along with the wish to “buy” a product/service, they have a subliminal desire to “buy into” the ideals that the brand embodies and personifies. Great brands intentionally attach an idea/ideal to their product or service e.g. independent thinking and open-mindedness for St. John’s College, and environmental and social responsibility for Patagonia. What’s yours?

2. Distinctive

One key way to outsmart competitors without outspending is to elevate the brand by creating a memorable and distinctive brand. Indeed, in the sea of sameness, a distinctive brand always wins.

3. Authentic

True and believable authenticity sells. To live authentically, brands unshackle themselves from a life of ought’s, must’s and should’s. They must know themselves and yet remain devoted to telling better stories of smart, real, honest, surprising and delightful customer heroes – filled with grace and hope.

4. Resonant

Buyers are taking in the entire gestalt of a brand they endorse: what it stands for, its identity, its visual essence, its origin story and the stories it tells. To win the hearts and minds of buyers, a brand must continually curate, orchestrate and elevate its content so it’ll continue to resonate with the right-fit buyer’s senses and sensibility.

5. Human

Great brands always remember that prospects, customers, users, ambassadors and loyalists are real people, with real wants, needs and motivations. They never forget that they are in the business of making the lives of people (their customers) easier. They treat them like human beings. They know that their customers are the real heroes of their brand’s story.

If you are seeking an inspired branding agency for your organization, view our brand development capabilities and consider partnering with us.

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Higher education enrollment marketing is not a set-it-and-forget-it endeavor. Continual monitoring, measuring, analyzing, and optimizing are necessary ingredients for successful higher education enrollment campaigns. They are critical in building a qualified prospect list that is responsive to nurturing — from lead to application, and ultimately, to enrollment.

As a higher education leader, you’ll want to know which key factors will provide your marketing team with the guidance and clarity they need. While there is an array of technical details, metrics, and data points every month, focusing on these five factors will help keep your marketing team on track.

1) Prioritize your most important performance metrics.

To keep the most impactful measures as a top priority, be clear about your north star metric and communicate that often and consistently to your marketing team. For most colleges and universities, the goal of digital marketing is lead generation. While metrics such as impressions, clicks, click through rates, and bounce rates are informative and directional, they rarely drive meaningful paid media strategy.

Spotlight the number of leads, conversion rate, and cost per conversion. Any conversation, report, or analysis should start with metrics and trends related to those specific measures – everything else plays a supporting role.

2) Determine a clear and concise definition of a lead.

How do you define a lead? A “lead” can simply be someone who has submitted their first name, last name, and an email address using an online form. Or a lead can be something more. For example, a lead may not be considered “complete” without a working phone number, valid email, program of interest, or lead source. At a minimum, for a lead to be counted, it’s best to have a first name or initial, full last name, and a valid means of communicating like a working email address, phone number, or mailing address.

Basing campaign performance, and your marketing decisions, on clearly defined and standardized lead data will allow for more accurate performance assessment, improve the quality of your prospective student pipeline, and ensure your marketing team is effectively distributing time and budget resources.

3) Recognize that different degree programs have unique performance metrics.

Prospective students for different degree programs have a wide range of demographics, motivations, and expectations, so it follows that the key metrics (cost per lead, conversion rate, etc.) for each are very different. For example, the cost per lead for an on-campus EMBA program may be 4-6X the cost per lead for an online undergraduate cybersecurity program. Differences in costs per lead between programs simply reflect each unique degree path at your school.

For this reason, comparing or benchmarking dissimilar programs can set unrealistic expectations. Stating a goal of “generating leads for all programs with a cost per lead of $100” may sound bold but ignores the interplay between audience and media as well as acceptance rates, yield, revenue, matriculation – even the influence of the market and competitive programs. Concentrate on continuous improvement in lead quality and quantity and positive performance trending by program.

4) Keep a running record of events that affect strategy and performance.

As leadership, staff, and agencies come and go over time, it’s risky to count on organizational memory to keep track of internal and external factors that had significant ramifications on your marketing performance. Inflection points such as a new website launch, changes in program deadline dates, migration to a new database, a rebrand, or new leadership all have the potential to create uncertainty when looking back at results over time. Not having a simple “impact map” sets you up to make less than optimal decisions based on incomplete information.

When did your organization first feel the effects of COVID? When did that new website launch? How many times have student loan payments deferred? When did the new Provost start? There’s an easy solution: Start a simple shared Google document with columns for Date, Influencing Event, and Potential Impact. Make the document available across departments and staff so as many organization stakeholders as possible are sharing critical information — and working even more collaboratively.

5) Build and follow a paid media testing plan.

Testing different elements and aspects of your paid media plan is a powerful tool in your marketing toolbox. A testing plan, much like an editorial calendar for content creation, maps testing priorities and timelines. Testing can include ad copy and images, audience targeting, or landing page variations.

Testing plans do not need to be overly complex. In fact, they can be simple and straightforward, especially if they align implementation requirements with the capabilities of your team. Incremental wins are your goal. In baseball terms, you’re looking for singles and doubles – home runs are few and far between. An annual plan with six 8-week tests where each test provides a modest 5% performance lift, will generate 20% more leads at the end of the year — from the same budget!

Testing Tip: Try to keep personal preferences out of the planning process. It’s impossible to predict what an audience will respond to. It is not unusual for the “least popular” test option to outperform the “favorite” option, so developing a testing plan by committee can be problematic. Just make sure any test is on-brand and tests a hypothesis. The test plan will evolve, but without one in place, any testing that is implemented is likely to be disorganized if it happens at all. 

Trust your team and let the results guide the evolution of the plan over time.

If you are a college or university looking to increase the quantity and quality of new leads for your undergraduate, graduate, doctoral, certificate, or professional – executive programs, view our work with many higher ed clients and consider partnering with us.

About Elliance
Elliance, a Pittsburgh-based marketing agency, has helped grow enrollment, endowment, and reputation for more than 100 colleges and universities including 20 professional schools, 12 faith-based universities, and 20 liberal arts colleges. Click to see all of our blog posts for higher education.

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Fourth of a four part series on web development best practices we have used as one of Pittsburgh’s longest standing web development agencies. These practices have consistently delivered prosperity to regional, national and global clients for the past 30 years.

Today, more than any other marketing touch point, a website is the digital soul of an organization. All roads lead to it. As a mission-critical asset, it must be kept current and fresh with an easy-to-use content management system (CMS). There are four types of CMS systems: proprietary, cloud-based small-business, open-source or commercial grade. Which one should you pick? The answer depends on four factors:

The Right Features

A good CMS system must be:

  • User Friendly – The CMS should be easy to use for both non-technical content administrators and web/technology teams. It should have spell-checkers, content preview, and content rollback features.
  • Customizable – It should be flexible and customizable for standard tasks, but it should also have the ability to extend its capabilities with custom language support.
  • Scalable –  The CMS should be able to handle large amounts of content and accommodate the needs of multiple users and divisions.
  • Accessible – A good CMS system should generate code that supports all users including those with disabilities. They should either offer accessibility checkers or easily integrate with third-party accessibility checkers.
  • Responsive Design Friendly – Because this is both efficient and a ranking factor for Google, it should support the creation of responsive design which automatically adjusts to various viewing devices and browsers.
  • Integration Friendly – Because websites exist in a digital ecosystem, the CMS should be able to integrate with other technology tools and platforms such as social media, CRM systems, event management tools, HR tools, catalog tools, marketing automation systems, analytics packages, and more.
  • SEO Friendly – Because you can only buy what you can find, a website should support mechanisms that facilitate Google rankings: meta-data, social shares, automatic XML sitemap generation, 301-redirects, 404 pages, search bot friendly URLs, robots.txt files and more.
  • Multi-Lingual Support –  If you are serving international markets or multiple ethnicities, your CMS should provide support for multiple languages.
  • Access Controls – Granular permissions, access control, audit trails and roll-backs are par for the course.  
  • Secure –  The CMS should have robust security features, including SSL encryption, firewalls, and user authentication. It should be regularly updated to address any security vulnerabilities.

Although commercial CMS systems are a little more expensive as compared to proprietary, cloud-based and open source systems, inclusion of these features is a customary practice for commercial CMS softwares.

The Right Support

Commercial, proprietary and cloud-based CMS systems are created and maintained by dynamic software companies. Open-source CMS systems thrive due to the dedicated contributions from a vibrant community of developers. All CMS systems require community websites where robust discussions are taking place between developers and users. Size them up.

The Right Teams

If you don’t have a sizable Web/IT team or expertise in the specific open source CMS system, contract with a commercial grade, proprietary or cloud-based small-business CMS company, and shy away from using an open source CMS system. However, we have had clients ask us to develop using open source CMS so their teams can learn from our best practices and apply them to other internal strategic projects. Occasionally, client teams are busy with other internal projects and have asked us to develop a website using an open source CMS system of their choice.

The Right Budget

If you are a small organization, it’s best to rely on either cloud-based small-business or a proprietary CMS solution. If you are a medium to large organization and if you have a large Web/IT team, then you can use an open-source CMS system. However, if you are a medium to large organization and your Web/IT team has too much on their plate, it’s best to buy a robust, commercial grade CMS system license (most of which are now available in the cloud).

At the end of the day, a good CMS system should bring you peace of mind. It should work for you rather than the other way around.

If you are seeking a web development agency for your organization, view our website development capabilities and consider partnering with us.

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At Elliance, a Pittsburgh-based digital and paid marketing agency, we create unique landing pages for each of our higher education marketing clients as part of our paid digital campaigns. Along with distinctive elements for each landing page which give it an individual flavor, there are common features which consistently work very well in attracting and engaging prospective students.

Here are some best practices that we follow when creating these higher education paid landing pages for our clients:

Clear and Concise Argument Construction:

The argument construction for each landing page depends on the client’s situation and target audience. We consider who we are trying to attract, such as undergraduate students, adult students, first generation students, or graduate students, etc. A one size fits all approach does not work. 

Examples of landing pages from 3 of our clients which show how different audiences are addressed:

Maker Culture at Capitol Technology University:

The culture at Capitol Technology University is focused on providing a real-world, hands-on education to students. They attract students who are interested in hands-on learning such as working on projects in labs, making their own robots and creating their own gadgets. In the landing page that we created for this client, we used this as a cornerstone for our strategy for attracting right-fit students: 

Attracting Graduate Healthcare Students at Carlow University:

Carlow University’s newly created Graduate Health Science Programs would fill the region’s demands for healthcare professionals. Elliance created a landing page which would help get more students into these programs, eventually creating a pipeline into Pittsburgh’s healthcare job market. The landing page makes the case for graduate health science education and Carlow’s central location with accessibility to top hospitals in Pittsburgh:

Carlow University’s Graduate Health Sciences Landing Page – Developed by Elliance

Creating Inspired Futures at John Carroll University

John Carroll University in Cleveland, Ohio is a Jesuit Catholic university focused on inspiring students to excel in learning, leadership and service. Elliance created a landing page which would drive right-fit prospects to this page and make the case for a Jesuit inspired education.

Strong Calls to Actions:

Providing a clear intent as to what you want the prospect to do is an extremely important feature of each landing page. Many of the pages we create are lead generation landing pages, so we include a clear “Request Info” button to make it easy for the prospect to fill out the client-specific request information form. Each landing page provides call to action buttons at the top which persistently follow as you scroll down the page so they are never out of sight for the user. 

Example of clear and persistent calls to action on a lead generation landing page:

Depending on the client situation, we add different calls to action. In the example below, we added ‘Apply Now’ to encourage applications as well as ‘Download PDF’ which was a giveaway that was created specifically for Nursing prospective students.

We have also created landing pages for completely different purposes such as improving the yield. In that case, the clear call to action would be to convince the prospect to complete their deposit as the next step and get ready to enroll.

Simple Forms:

The form used on the landing page depends on where your prospects are in the marketing funnel. But, a rule of thumb is to use simple forms with as few fields as possible so that the prospect doesn’t hesitate to provide that information. On lead generation landing pages, a simple form asking for the prospect’s name and email helps get the essential information to begin communication with the prospect.

Example of a simple lead generation form:

Testing out where the placement of the form will work best is a good idea as each situation will be different.

Example of form placement testing in the middle of the page:

Proofs & Success Stories:

Showing success stories of how alumni have benefited after getting their education is a great way to encourage prospects to take the next step. This becomes a really important aspect of our landing pages where we show proof points of how an education from the college or university have enabled the alumni to prosper.

Examples of adding alumni stories on two separate landing pages:

The first example shows the student’s name and where they work and a pop-out when the plus is clicked to read deeper into the student’s story.

This second example shows an image and blurb about the alumni, with a slider to showcase  4 different stories that prospects can scroll through for more information: 

A/B Testing:

Testing headlines, copy, messaging, images, calls to action, form fields and placements can all help your landing page continuously reach your audience and allow you to learn from their behavior how best to communicate with them.

Examples of image testing used on one of our landing pages:

If you are seeking a paid marketing agency for your higher education institution, view our work with many higher ed clients and consider partnering with us.

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This checklist is designed for new deans sizing up a marketing department and prospective vice presidents for marketing as they evaluate a new job opportunity or performance of their marketing department.

1. What’s Your Brand?

In the sea of sameness, brands win. A brand is the sum of all experiences. It attaches a memorable idea to your school.  It creates expectations and a core promise while creating strong to impenetrable differentiation in the marketplace.

  • Can you articulate your brand and its core promise?
  • Do you speak with your distinctive brand voice, striking different notes for each segment of students, alumni, donors, partners and influencers?
  • Are your website, social media, print materials, brand anthem video, and campaigns curated with the same brand voice?
  • What is the meaningful societal cause your brand stands for?

2. What are the First Impressions of Your School?

First impressions matter.

  • What message is conveyed by your architecture, entrance, grounds, signage, classrooms, admission office décor?
  • Do your key marketing touch points (web, search and social) merchandise hope and opportunity? Or are they utilitarian?

3. Do You Back Your Claims with Ample Proofs?

Buyers and partners are both intelligent and skeptical. Remember, it’s your people, not the institution that is the real hero of your story.

  • Do you provide ample proofs in the form of stories, stats and third-party validations?
  • Do you celebrate your students, faculty, alumni and partners?
  • Do you amplify your outcomes?

4. Do You Romance Prospects with High-Fidelity Academic Program Pages?

Getting a professional degree may be one of the most expensive decisions prospects will ever make. They want to be assured that the value of their degree far exceeds the cost of their education.

  • Are your signature program pages built like Ferraris – with the right balance of romance, persuasion architecture, science of conversions?
  • Do you address head-on why a prospect should seriously consider your school?

5. How Well Are You Managing Your Reputation in The Digital Age?

You become the story you choose to tell.

  • Do you bring a “content is destiny” perspective to the school, and turn all publishing — academic, research, alumni, general audience — into a reputation-building, Google-dominating cooperative enterprise that powers enrollment, reputation and fundraising.
  • Do you have a Keyword Lexicon that contains clusters of thought leadership, innovation and intellectual capital keywords that you can rightfully lay claim to?
  • Do you weaponize all new content with the Keyword Lexicon?
  • Are you making your school magazine content productive so each story is ranked on Google or is it cloistered away in the walled gardens of ISSUU, PDFs and mobile apps?
  • Are you empowering various teams — communications, development, alumni, recruiting, corporate/government relations — so they can transcend outdated silo thinking and embrace the integrated nature of reputation-building in the age of digital channels and content.

6. Are You Pursuing and Enrolling Right-Fit Students?

Right-fit students will go on to become engaged citizens, brand ambassadors, recruiters, partners and donors.

  • Are you using AI techniques, big data smarts, A/B testing to precision-target the kinds of students you want more of in your traditional admissions funnel?
  • Are you leveraging the stories of your student and alumni heroes to attract other like-minded prospects essentially inverting the traditional admissions funnel? This should create admission pipes, not funnels.

7. Do You Have the Right Marketing Team and Partners?

You are as good as your team.

  • Do you have a talented VP of marketing, director, writer, designer, and PR director?
  • Are you partnered with the right agency of record who provides strategic counsel and tells your story with verve and clarity?

8. Do You Know Your Numbers?

As management guru Peter Drucker said, “You can’t manage what you can’t measure.”

  • Do you know your cost-per-lead and cost-per-enroll?
  • Are you on top of your website metrics like bounce rate, lead generation rate and number of page one Google rankings?
  • Do you measure your brand strength every two to three years?
  • Do you benchmark the school against your peers?

If you are seeking higher education marketing agencies to grow enrollment, endowment and reputation for your college, view our higher education marketing capabilities and consider partnering with us.

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Experience tells us that great beginnings matter for these reasons:

  • a clear purpose calms the winds of change
  • seeing (our future) becomes believing
  • strong messages invite loyalists
  • trust takes root

The number and variety of decisions, opportunities and challenges that come with assuming leadership of a major law school require a steady hand. Below, we’ve put together 10 strategic considerations for your first 100 days to help you navigate from analysis to synthesis.

1. Establish A Strategic Vision

Start by defining a unique vision that will galvanize the faculty, staff, alumni and partners. Establish a few major priorities that will make your school a school of consequence. Then devote most of your efforts to those few major things that make a school prosper.

Priorities could include things like becoming an innovator, positioning the school as a thought-leader in both established and emerging spaces, and championing a meaningful societal cause that is rooted in your school’s strengths.

2. Assemble Your Team

You will be more successful with a trusted administrative assistant and competent associate deans and other senior administrators for marketing, fundraising and corporate relations. Choose people with complementary strengths who will support you and challenge you. Find people who will be selflessly devoted to the success of the school.

3. Articulate Your Brand

In the sea of sameness, brands win. A brand is the sum of all experiences. It attaches a memorable idea to your school.  It creates expectations and a core promise while creating strong to impenetrable differentiation in the marketplace.

4. Grow Reputation

Bring a “content is destiny” perspective to the school, and turn all publishing — academic, research, alumni, general audience — into a reputation-building, Google-dominating cooperative enterprise that powers enrollment, reputation and fundraising. Craft a Keyword Lexicon containing clusters of thought leadership, innovation and intellectual capital keywords that are rightfully yours and weaponize all new content with it.

Empower various teams — communications, development, alumni, recruiting, corporate/government relations — to transcend outdated silo thinking and embrace the integrated nature of reputation building in the age of digital channels and content.

5. Shape the Incoming Class

Look beyond broad measures — school-wide and department-wide enrollment trends — and arrive at a more granular and precise assessment of your ability to achieve predictable and reliable enrollments for the school, and attract increasingly robust, motivated and diverse students.

6. Cultivate Corporate Relations

Differentiate the school as a source of vision, talent, executive education, joint-research projects, high-content events and global connections for the extended corporate community. Invite aspirational influencers to your advisory board and involve them in charting the school’s future.

7. Nurture Donor Relations

Build a culture of shared beliefs and purpose across the school (advisory boards, key corporate partners, alumni leaders and emerging stakeholders). Balance annual and long-term fundraising priorities. Inspire others to create next generation alumni activities and constituent relations programs, and train thought leaders and more visible/influential representatives.

8. Build Relationships

Build relationships within and across the university system. Foster a diverse faculty, their productivity and intellectual capital all of which are essential to the larger strategic goals.

9. Benchmark and Measure KPIs Periodically

Keep a pulse on operating, brand, enrollment, giving and reputation metrics.

10. Embrace The Roles You’ll Play

Listener. Evangelist. Storyteller. Fundraiser. Communicator. Recruiter. Relationship-builder. Visionary. Strategist. Leader. Above all, always be nice while you play the roles of a dove, a dragon and a diplomat.

If you are seeking a strategic planning agency, marketing agency, or a branding agency for your law school, view our capabilities and consider partnering with us.

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This is the third of a four part series on website design best practices we have used as one of Pittsburgh’s longest standing website design and SEO agencies. These practices have consistently delivered prosperity to regional, national and global clients for the past 30 years.

Because Google page one is destiny-creating, our second crucial web development best practice is to apply this search engine optimization (SEO) checklist. The key elements are:

1. Write Distinct, SEO-Friendly Page Titles

Arguably the most important on-page ranking factor, these titles are served up on search results pages. They should make a promise to users, motivate users to click to explore further, differentiate you from competitors, and guide search engine bots on what to expect on the page.

2. Compose Proper Meta-Tags

Though partially invisible to human beings, they provide content and ranking guidance to search engine bots. Parts of the meta-tag are served up on search results pages and social media post news streams. The two groups of tags that must be present are:

  • search engine meta-tags including page title, description and keywords that describe page content to search engine bots
  • open-graph tags that are displayed when page is shared via social media

3. Activate a Robots.txt File

It contains instructions on which pages a search engine bot should crawl and index and which ones it should bypass. To avoid being penalized, it is advisable to instruct the bot to skip sensitive, duplicate and irrelevant pages.

4. Generate and Submit Search Engine Sitemap XML File

Your CMS should automatically enable you to generate this file which lists all the website pages you want search engine bots to crawl and index. It contains signals that define content hierarchy, identification of new and updated pages, and takes the guesswork out of the pages the bot will crawl.

5. Enable and Use the 404 Error Handling Page

This is the page that your website generates if a user tries to land on a non-existing page.This page becomes mission critical if you decide to move your pages around, or rebuild your website. We recommend revealing the most critical parts of your sitemap. With a well-designed 404 page, you:

  • improve the user experience by providing suggestions for important pages.
  • don’t lose website traffic that is going to old URLs because they are baked into an old sitemap structure.
  • improve your website bounce rate.
  • improve your SEO performance because search engines penalize dead pages and dead links.
  • track page-not-found error logs and can take corrective action.

6. Create a Sitemap Page

This page typically shows your critical website pages organized in a hierarchical manner.  It is a useful fallback if a site user gets lost, and doesn’t think of using the site search feature. It also helps search engines understand content hierarchy, and at times even assists the search engine bots in crawling the website.  Make it useful and pretty.

7. Map 301 redirects

When you redesign a website or consolidate website pages, you’ll most likely change all the URLs which were ranked on search engines. Ingenious architects of the web devised 301-redirects as the surest and safest way to:

  • retain your old search engine rankings so you can continue to build upon them as opposed to starting from scratch every time you change your website. With a 301-redirect, you automatically transfer the “link-juice” – a key search engine ranking factor – to the new page.
  • manage duplicate content which search engines frown upon by penalizing rankings.
  • keep people who might have bookmarked the page happy by showing them the new page rather than a dead end or a 404 page.

Know that the steps outlined above are simply foundational SEO. To secure and sustain Google rankings, you will need a keyword-inspired content strategy. If you don’t wish your website to be a lotus flower in the Himalayas yearning to be seen by crowds, it would behoove you to follow this checklist and undertake an ongoing content campaign.

If you are seeking a web development agency for your organization, view our website development capabilities and consider partnering with us.

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This is the second of a four part series on web development best practices we have used as one of Pittsburgh’s longest standing web development agencies. These practices have consistently delivered prosperity to regional, national and global clients for the past 30 years.

Our first crucial web development best practice is to begin with a good plan. The key components of this include succinct articulation and thoughtful mapping of the following:

1. Purpose, Goals and Objectives – Always begin with the why. The list could include:

  • realizing the goals outlined in the strategic plans
  • generating leads
  • growing revenue
  • expanding market reach – to new geographies and new markets
  • building reputation 
  • securing top Google rankings
  • growing donors and donations (for non-profits and colleges)

2. Project Plan –  To establish expectations with project stakeholders, include:

  • timeline
  • budget
  • stakeholders
  • progress meetings

3. Features and Requirements – To ensure clarity and alignment, and to provide a roadmap for development, these lists will help.

Features can be derived by knowing the answer to the following questions for each website audience (users, content administrators and business units):

  • what are their needs
  • what tasks must they be able to perform
  • what key message should they be able to hear
  • what features must they be able to enjoy

Requirements could include:

  • desired user experience
  • the variety of calls to action a website must support
  • merchandising of various programs, products and services
  • content reuse with COPE (create once, publish everywhere)
  • domains and subdomains for marketing and promotions
  • landing pages for promotions

4. Website Architecture –  To map out a rational user experience, define:

  • sitemap
  • wireframes – with both persuasion and conversion architecture
  • navigation and sub-navigation system
  • workflows and interaction maps for applications

5. Technology Stack – To help future-proof your website, pick front-end, back-end and CMS technology stack with:

  • the ability to support features that need to be built
  • the right scalability (program, department or enterprise)
  • the right security
  • ease of maintenance
  • the right mechanisms to support integration requirements with third-party applications such as Google Analytics, marketing automation software, CRM system and more
  • support for page speed because people are impatient and Google bot rewards fast-loading websites with higher rankings

6. Content Strategy and Migration Plan – Since content poses the highest risk to website completion, it’s good to:

  • develop a content inventory – pages that must be rewritten, merged, migrated, retired, archived, etc.
  • map URL redirects – to retain your current SEO rankings and so that new ones can built on top of them

7. Website Maintenance Plan – Since websites are now mission critical assets and Google rewards a stable website, deploy: 

  • a content governance plan – for both planned and opportunistic content needs
  • a new features roadmap
  • uptime monitoring
  • software upgrades
  • security patches
  • backups and restoration

8. Hosting Plan – Because websites are mission-critical, people are impatient and Google penalizes slow websites with lower rankings, hosting matters a lot, and websites need a hosting plan that:

  • ensures your website is hosted securely on a high-speed Tier-1 environment, and weekly software and security patches are deployed.
  • protects your website hosting environment from ever-evolving malware and attacks. 
  • keeps your uptime high with 24×7 monitoring and daily backups.
  • automates infrastructure configuration and code deployment.

9. Test Plan – Since accuracy, functionality and predictability are such an integral part of brand trust, it’s best if you, rather than your website users, find the problems and fix them with:

  • unit testing, functional testing and system testing
  • devices and browser testing
  • ADA compliance testing
  • speed testing

Despite all the planning, be prepared for some surprises along the way especially with third-party integrations and unanticipated new requirements. Nevertheless, plan on delivering joy, brilliance and satisfaction for all stakeholders.

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