Top performing SEO agencies help their clients realize that fortune smiles on colleges and universities that pursue and achieve top organic rankings. Prosperity takes many shapes and forms for colleges ranked on page #1 of search engines. Their best practices arsenal includes:
1. Determine Goals and Objectives
The best SEO agencies help colleges and universities realize that a college website has numerous audiences and each enjoys unique benefits. They help their clients determine the right goal for each SEO campaign:
- Prospective Students find them, get them to inquire, show up at open houses, apply and enroll
- Prospective Talented Faculty and Staff find them and motivate them to apply for open job postings
- Prospective Parents: find them and suggest their kids apply
- Foundations and Donors: connect with mission-aligned centers of excellence
- Corporations: seek and connect with faculty for research & development
- News Makers: find faculty experts
- Ranking and Rating Agencies: discover new emerging gems
- Enrollment Officers: boast a low acceptance rate, making the college more exclusive
- Financial Aid Officers: extend aid by design not compulsion
- Presidents and Board Members: garner invitations to speak at top conferences for their expertise
2. Use .edu Instead of Using .com, .org and Other Domains
Since each college and university can be awarded only one (and occasionally two) .edu domains, search engines generally rank .edu websites higher than other domain extensions. Leading SEO agencies steer their college clients to piggyback their websites, landing pages and microsites on their .edu domains.
3. Create a Keyword Lexicon, and Claim Top Search Engine Rankings
The best SEO agencies create a Keyword Lexicon for their college clients. The lexicon is comprised of keywords and key phrases the college should claim. Categories in the lexicon include program keywords, brand positioning keywords, reputation keywords, decisioning keywords, and location keywords.
The best SEO agencies understand that prospective students use different clusters of keywords at each phase of the decision funnel. (e.g. they’ll use reputation keywords during the awareness phase, category keywords during the consideration phase and branded keywords during the preference/purchase phase). They write copy that responds to the issues that matter in each specific phase of the decision cycle.
4. Optimize all Assets for Search Engine Bots
Google serves up a mix of overview copy, images, videos, maps and tabular data on a search results page, the top SEO agencies optimize copy, images, videos, pdf’s, tables, links, and meta-data on every college website page. Search engine bots also review and serve up assets on college social media channels, these assets also need to be optimized.
5. Multiply Social Signals
The leading SEO agencies know the impact of social signals (a webpage’s shares, likes and social media visibility) on organic ranking. They collaborate with the college’s web/IT team to ensure that they are added to every page of a college website.
6. Secure Top Rankings for Mission-Critical Pages
The top SEO agencies help their clients secure top rankings for signature academic programs by developing high-fidelity, sharable and optimized content to secure top rankings for each on Google. This helps colleges combat competitors and lead aggregators.
They also ensure that their clients claim thought leadership by re-packaging, optimizing and re-marketing new content based on college’s natural wellspring of ideas, innovation, and intellectual capital.
7. Embrace Voice Search
The premier SEO agencies know that we have entered a new era of “natural language”, “sentence based” and “question based” search with the advent of voice-activated search on mobile phones (like Google Assistant, Siri, Microsoft Cortana and Amazon Alexa) and gadgets like Amazon Echo, Google Home, Apple HomePod and others. Since they know that 30% of searches are now voice driven, they are taking the following steps to get ready for the voice era:
- Getting responsive. Speeding it up. If a college website isn’t responsive yet (i.e. auto-adjusts gracefully to mobile devices, tablets and desktops), they are encouraging their college clients to build one – ensuring the websites are fast, fully SEO optimized and running in secure mode.
- Writing colloquially. Since people won’t change their speaking habits for the computer, they are adapting by writing new content using everyday vernacular.
- Writing page summaries. They are beginning to write short, persuasive, 29-word page summaries above the screen fold on long-form pages. These summaries act as pop-up snippets served up by voice searches on mobile devices and home gadgets; they also appear as answer boxes on desktop search results.
- Building social shares. They are running social share campaigns because the more shared the page is on Facebook, twitter, LinkedIn and other social channels, the more likely it will surface on voice search.
- Thinking globally. Acting locally. Since more than 20% of searches are local, they are adding phrases such as ‘near me’ into your copy, especially if a college is a local or regional brand.
- Ranking high on desktop/mobile search. They are aware that if their clients’ website is not ranked on desktop/mobile search, it is unlikely that it will be ranked on voice search. Therefore, before investing in voice search, they are focused on achieving top rankings on desktop/mobile search for their clients’ websites.
8. Monitor and Protect Keyword Rankings
The best SEO agencies are diligently measuring keyword rankings to ensure their college clients rank on Google and sustain their rankings. They are watching college competitors for signs of encroachment, and countering their moves on an as-needed basis.
The Best SEO companies inform their college clients that leads generated from high-fidelity content out-convert paid advertising leads by three-folds (which, again, out-convert purchased names by three-folds). They are telling clients that their best prospects prefer to “discover” the college of their choice through word-of-mouth on social media and via “accidental finds” on Google page one.