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SEO Checklist for Higher Education

Considering the competition in the higher education industry, there is no wonder that you have to go the extra mile to rank your website on search engines. SEO is at the top of the trends for higher education marketing. With hundreds of educational hubs offering multiple diplomas and degrees to students, you need to understand the importance of SEO for your website.

Google is smart and there are some essential factors your website needs to follow to improve its ranking on Google. If you want to improve your visibility in SERPs that can bring you more exposure, enrollments, and revenue – you will need to follow the SEO checklist for higher education strictly. 

SEO basics checklists are pretty simple to follow but they can bring a remarkable improvement in traffic and revenue. And the best part is, you don’t have to be an SEO expert to implement a stellar SEO strategy. 

With that being said, let’s check the SEO guidelines in detail and understand how they can help you rank better for higher ed keywords.

seo-higher-education-check

Importance of SEO for Higher Education

As students search for suitable career paths and the degrees being offered by various educational institutes, they’re looking for the absolute best. If you rank high on SERPs, you can interest these students in your higher ed programs. This will allow your college or university to improve your enrollment numbers significantly. 

Here are some reasons why SEO for higher education is crucial for ranking your website.

  • Rank higher in search engine results pages (SERPs)
  • Target specific types of students with tailored content
  • Improve the overall quality and usability of your website
  • Track your progress and measure your success over time

Rank higher in search engine results pages (SERPs)

First, SEO can help your institution’s website rank higher in search engine results pages (SERPs), making it more likely that prospective students will find your school when they’re searching for options online.

Target specific types of students with tailored content

Second, SEO can help you target specific types of students with tailored content – for example, if you want to attract students from a specific geographic region, you can use SEO to ensure that your website appears higher in search results for students searching from that area.

Improve the overall quality and usability of your website

Third, SEO can help you to improve the overall quality and usability of your website, making it a more valuable resource for everyone who visits it.

Track your progress and measure your success over time

Finally, SEO can help you to track your progress and measure your success over time. By tracking your SEO performance, you can see how well your website is doing in terms of both search engine rankings and traffic levels, and make changes accordingly.

SEO Basics Checklist

SEO-basics-checklist

There’s no getting around it, SEO is essential for any higher ed website that wants to bring in more visitors. But where do you start? What are the basics that you need to focus on? Check out this SEO basics checklist to make sure your site is up to snuff!

Set up Google Search Console

Google Search Console is a valuable tool for improving SEO for higher education websites. By setting up Google Search Console you can find what are the trending keywords being searched by the students. 

setting-up-google-search-console

Furthermore, you may utilize Google Search Console to submit your website to Google for indexing, track your website’s search traffic, and optimize your website for higher education searchers.

It is a free tool that lets you see who visits your website, what search phrases are used by the students, and what devices they use to conduct their research. 

With Google Search Console, you can find new keywords and queries that you should be ranking for. If you optimize your content to satisfy the search intent of your visitors, you have a high chance to appear at the top of SERPs. 

Set up Google Analytics GA4

Google Analytics is a free application that allows you to monitor the traffic and performance of your website. You can check the location of traffic on your website, what queries related to higher ed are performing well on your website, and how you can design an SEO strategy that can help you increase your enrollment figures. You can see which platforms, devices, and content prospects are using to connect with your school using GA4.

setting-up-google-analytics

One of the most significant advantages of GA4 is that it accounts for the shift from desktop to mobile usage. To research and engage with schools, most prospective students will use laptop browsers, mobile apps, and tablets. GA4 enables your school to combine data from multiple devices for a more accurate picture of user behavior.

Marketers can make a compelling case for prioritizing and optimizing mobile content with this type of data.

Submit Sitemap to Google

A sitemap’s goal is to assist search engines in determining which pages should be crawled. It is a list of URLs that identify the critical content of your site to ensure that it is scanned and indexed.

For instance, if you have a new course to propose to the students, your sitemap can assist in crawling the page so the SERP results can get updated. 

submit-sitemap-to-google

Google supports various sitemap types, the most popular of which is XML. The sitemap for your website is usually found at https://www.domain.com/sitemap.xml.

After you’ve completed your sitemap, submit it to Google Search Console and include a link to your sitemap in your robots.txt file.

Create a robots.txt file

The robots.txt file on your site instructs search engine crawlers which pages and files they can and cannot request from your site. Search engines primarily use your robots.txt file to discover and index material for display on search results pages.

robots-txt-file-sample

A robots.txt file can assist you in informing search engines about which sections of your website to crawl and which portions of your website not to crawl. Higher education websites, for example, can utilize the robots.txt file to keep specific areas of their website hidden from the SERP, such as:

  • Login-required student portals
  • Internal domains for employees and students
  • Outdated web pages that cannot be deleted quickly
  • Sites for staging

Listing disallowed folder paths in the robots.txt file might raise the crawl budget for large higher education websites, but be cautious not to mistakenly prevent Googlebot from crawling your critical URLs or even the entire site! This might damage the organic visitors to your website. 

Make sure your site is crawlable and set to indexed

google indexing

Ensuring your site can be indexed by Google is a crucial part of covering your SEO basics. Suppose you have a new degree or diploma to offer. If your site is not crawled, the service will not be visible to the student as the page won’t appear in the search results. 

Site Audit Tool offered by Semrush or Ahref can help you confirm that your website can be crawled and indexed. 

Simply set up a Site Audit for your school’s website. After completing the audit, you may see the Crawlability report.

Checking that your site’s primary pages are indexed will save you a lot of debugging time and help you improve your enrollment figures by ranking high on search engines. 

Check Core Web Vitals score

Core Web Vitals are the components of the Google Page Experience upgrade, which was completed at the end of August 2021. Google’s algorithm now considers three Core Web Vitals when determining where your website ranks on SERP (Search Engine Results Pages).

core-web-vital-console

This, like many of Google’s search metric updates, is aimed at enhancing the user experience. After all, if visitors to your site are pleased with the user experience, they are more likely to believe that Google has provided what they want.

Google looks for three primary factors: 

  • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) – Perceived load speed
  • First Input Delay (FID) – lag between the first click and processing that click
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) – visual page stability

Website users are accustomed to instant gratification and do not want to wait for pages to load. If your website takes too long to load, students may believe it is hacked or compromised in some manner. They may quit your page in search of one that works since another school or program is only a Google search away. As a result, you should strive to have your website load as rapidly as possible.

Core Web Vitals are crucial for your website’s growth. While your page’s contents may be excellent, every aspect of your website must be supported to rank better in search engines.

Make sure your website is mobile-friendly and responsive

Prospects will create ideas about your school the instant they land on your webpage. A mobile website with a sleek design will present your institution as current. If you believe your desktop site is appealing enough, make sure your mobile site is as exciting as the majority of the students use mobile phones to access your website.

Prospective students use your website through a range of devices with varying screen sizes. As a result, it is critical that your educational website delivers an excellent experience regardless of the device used to access the website.

mobile-friendly and responsive

Responsive design is in charge of making this happen. This web design method rearranges web items according to the size of the screen. For example, if four components on a web page were lined up horizontally, they may be stacked vertically on a tablet or mobile device. 

Furthermore, mobile-first indexing is the new practice introduced by Google so you need to focus on making your website mobile-friendly. Mobile-first indexing means Google mostly uses the mobile version of the material for ranking and indexing. Historically, the index relied heavily on the desktop version of a page’s content for determining a page’s relevancy to a user’s query. Because the majority of Google Search users currently access the service via a mobile device, Google predominantly crawls and indexes pages with the smartphone agent in the future.

Approximately eight out of ten users leave a website that does not display well on mobile devices so you need to make sure to present the best version of your website on mobile phones. 

Check your site for broken links 404

Broken links will not only harm your organic search ranking, but they are also bad for users as they can negatively impact users’ experience. 

broken links 404

Finding broken links on a website has a detrimental impact on users’ perceptions of its quality and reputation so you need to find and fix them on an immediate basis.

Monitoring attempted pageviews of broken links regularly will help you swiftly put up redirects and avoid this disrupted user pathway.

Check your site for content duplication

Duplicate content is not necessarily deliberate, and it might be the consequence of a reformatted site or old forgotten pages. Not only duplicate content can harm your search engine rankings, but it can also degrade your website’s user experience. 

 content duplication

Consider a potential student perusing your website for interesting and helpful material about a certain program, only to come across the same blocks of text again and over. Copying and pasting the same text on multiple pages on your website does not bring value to your information and avoid content marketing mistakes. This type of encounter does not foster trust. 

Students want information that is current, engaging, and that helps them feel connected to your institution.

Check your website structure

website structure

Structured data markup is becoming increasingly important as Google builds a more semantic web.  You need to design a website that is not cluttered and information is readily available.

The structure of your website relates to how you organize its content. A website contains material on a number of related topics which is displayed on posts and pages. The structure of a website governs how the material is organized, connected, and presented to visitors. 

Users will find it easier to navigate your website if you arrange it appropriately, and Google will crawl your URLs more effectively. Taxonomies, such as categories and tags, as well as internal links, navigation, and breadcrumbs, are tools for structuring your site. 

The structure of your website is critical to your SEO strategy. Your website’s structure tells Google which pages on your site are the most significant. This implies that you may affect which content ranks highly in search engines by structuring your site. It’s also a really practical component of any SEO strategy; you can begin enhancing your site structure right away by adding categories and moving the content to the relevant sections.

Keyword Research Checklist

keyword-research-checklist

Without a robust keyword research procedure, it will be tough to rank your niche-specific keywords (related to higher education). If you’re not ranking for the proper terms, your traffic won’t convert as well as it might and you will lose enrollment.

Here is a checklist of the significant keyword research tasks related to higher ed you must do to experience success in your SEO efforts.

Use Google search recommendations to find trending keywords 

Google search recommendations of higher ed are the real questions student search on the search engine. You can answer these higher education queries on your website, which can help you rank on Google against the relevant queries, as your piece will fulfill the student’s search intent.

For instance, when we searched for “South University”, Google search recommendations reflect students’ queries related to this university.  

Google search recommendations

Use Google Trends to dive deeper into search patterns based on your preferred location

Google Trends gives access to a mostly unfiltered sample of actual Google search requests. It enables Google to exhibit interest in a specific issue from around the world or from city-level geography.

Google Trends is a free tool that may help you assess how other higher education websites are performing in getting organic traffic and enrollment.

Google Trends to dive deeper into search

It can help you not only identify the keywords that are trending but also help you filter the trending keywords according to your set location. 

Use the Keyword research tool for comprehensive findings (Free & Paid)

Keyword research tool

Keyword research tools, including paid and free tools (Moz, Ahref, Wordstream), can help you identify the keywords that can help you attract students. For example, you can select the keywords related to the niche of higher education and then filter the keyword as per your content’s theme.

Keyword research tools

Filter your targeted keywords based on intent, volume & difficulty 

Filter your targeted keywords

Until a new website gains authority, it may struggle to rank for competitive keywords. As a result, you must assess the complexity of the keywords you intend to target. Beginning your higher education SEO plan might help you manage your own expectations.

Keyword volume and intent are essential in raking for a niche-specific keyword, as the volume will bring you enrollments. In contrast, the intent will retain that traffic by answering students’ queries. 

Don’t ignore LSI keywords 

LSI keywords are search phrases linked to the main keyword you’re after. They help to support your content and provide more context, making it simpler for people and search engines to understand what your material is about.

For instance, if you are trying to rank for the keyword “higher education,” using LSIs such as “advanced learning,” “university degree,” and “college degree” can help you target the user who is searching for a higher education option. You can look up LSIs related to your primary keyword on Google or by using keyword research tools like Ahref. 

Considering the example, it is clear that supplementary keywords or LSIs are crucial SEO ranking factors for improving your search engine ranking.

LSI keywords 

On-Page Content Checklist 

Your site will struggle to rank and gain organic visitors if it lacks meaningful content and a pleasant on-page experience. This is true for both website pages and blog articles. Because there is so much rivalry for blog articles, taking every measure necessary to outrank rivals for essential keywords is critical.

Focus more on satisfying user intent 

Understanding user intent is at the heart of modern SEO. Higher ed websites that want to thrive must have a solid grasp of what prospects search for and what they expect to see when they submit these searches. 

Google is smart, and it is becoming even smarter. It focuses on relying on the selection of results that directly satisfy user intent. For example, in the case of higher education content marketing, the user intends to find the best sources for higher degrees. If your website offers higher education services, you can rank in SERPs easily. 

Write compelling content copies 

Even though fulfilling a query’s intent is crucial for ranking high on search engines, the quality of your content also plays a critical role. For example, suppose your content is full of fluff and not optimized. In that case, the user will leave your website without being interested in your higher education options. 

Understand what the user wants from you and what the facts are, and combine both factors to provide relevant information to the users. 

Include your main targeted higher ed keywords in Meta Title, Descriptions, and Headings

Headings, descriptions, and meta-titles are some of the page’s most important elements. Adding targeted higher-ed keywords or keywords specific to the topic can help you indicate the search engine about the topic and the keywords you are targeting. 

Use a short, descriptive URL 

An optimized URL gives both search engines and users a clear idea of what the landing page is about. And SEO-friendly URLs may have an impact on your website in ways other than ranking.

Short and descriptive URLs related to higher education keywords are one of the best ways to signal your service to Google. It can help the students identify the topic at a glance, making navigation easier.

Use Creatives to make your content appealing

The readability of a page is a crucial factor that can help the students interact and engage. Using “Creative” in the form of a quiz, multiple questions, images, and videos can help you engage and interact with the user effectively. It can also help improve users’ experiences, decreasing bounce rates. 

Make sure all images contain ALT Text

If an image file cannot be loaded, alt text will be shown instead. Alt text gives greater picture context/descriptions to search engine crawlers, assisting them in correctly indexing and ranking an image in image search. It also gives contextual information about the page’s content to search engines.

Ensure that the key pictures on each site page have alt tags related to higher ed as Google will read the alt text and relate it to the images.

alt text

Improve text readability by breaking long sentences and paragraphs into a shorter ones

Readability plays a vital role in communicating essential points to prospects. For example, shorter sentences and paragraphs are easier to read and understand than lengthy stories. Therefore, your on-page SEO strategy should focus on making your content readable for prospective students. 

Make sure to internal link relevant pages & resources as much as possible 

Internal links are vital as assist Google in better understanding and ranking your website. By providing Google with links to follow as well as informative anchor text, you can tell Google which pages on your site are essential and what they are about.

Adding internal links to the relevant educational resources and pages can help minimize the possibility of orphaned pages along with finding new content and updates and indexing them. 

Schema markup for rich snippets

Schema markup uses a format known as JSON-LD (JSON for Linked Data). It describes your page in terms of the higher education niche. Adding schema markup can help search engines to understand your data and provide relevant results in the rich snippet and search results.  For instance, schema markup can help you rank for the higher ed keywords and appear against students’ queries. 

Off Page Activity Checklist

Off-page SEO is as important as on-page as it can help imprint your website’s authority. It can also help in improving your website’s ranking on search engines. Here are some of the best off-page activity checklists you need to follow in devising a comprehensive SEO strategy for your higher-ed website. 

Publish Guest Posts on higher authoritative and relevant sites

Guest posts can author links to your website. It can help improve the authoritativeness of the authors and ultimately improve your website’s ranking. 

You can search for sites covering topics related to higher ed and write an informative piece. Then, you can request the webmaster to check if the content is suitable for their website and ask for a shoutout in return. 

Popular higher education guest posting platforms include Lean Forward, Education World, Answer Prime, ProProfs, CareerAddict, and Cisco Press. You can outreach these websites to get a link for your website. 

Submit News & Press Releases 

News and Press Releases can also generate backlinks to your website. It can boost the writers’ authority and the rating of your website. It can also help you share your achievements and present your higher ed programs to the student.

Academic or higher ed press releases are focused on new events and the latest happenings on your campus. You can share the news about new courses, the start of a new academic year, and recruitment events. You can also share the pointers of an important campus event in your press releases including awards, diversity seminars, and even sports achievements.  

Press Releases 

Review and update your Wikipedia page

As millions of people flock to Wikipedia for knowledge and data, there is no doubt that it is an official content source. It serves as a content source for Google’s college search function. You can update your Wikipedia page with the latest information so prospects will know how to connect with you. 

Wikipedia page

Create or Update your Google My Business Profile 

Google My Business Profile 

Off-page variables extend far beyond links, even though they are an essential ranking component.

If you own a local higher ed website, ensure it is listed (and ranked) on Google Business Profile (GBP). Otherwise, you’ll be passing off enrollment to a competitor.

There is no disputing that optimizing your GBP listing to good quality and keeping it up to date takes work. 

Submit your Higher Education site to Edu Directories

Edu directories can help you place your information on platforms with high traffic. As the user search for higher education options, your address, phone number, and website will appear in the result for easy contact. 

HigherEd Direct, Higher Education Directory 2020 by Higher Education Publications, and Omni CMS Faculty Directory are some of the popular education directories where you can share the details of your institute.

Create Communities on Quora & Reddit

 Communities on Quora & Reddit

Quora and Reddit have a huge audience and are among the top 100 most popular websites in the world. Quora attracts around 300 million monthly visits, whereas Reddit receives over 430 million! As a result, if you handle it intelligently, you may generate a significant amount of traffic to your website.

There is something for everyone. You may contribute to hundreds of subreddits on a variety of themes. Similarly, there are innumerable questions on Quora on a wide range of topics where your experience may be useful.

Effective strategies for building communities on different forums, such as Quora and Reddit, can help you find new topics. It can help you answer other users’ queries and generate referral traffic. 

Next Steps

As you have understood all the core concepts of higher education SEO that can help you improve your visibility on search engines, it is time to utilize the above-mentioned checklist. 

Devise your Higher Education SEO strategy

The checklist can help you understand the core concept related to higher education SEO. If you want to appear in the top search results for higher ed topics, you need to devise an effective digital marketing strategy and follow higher education SEO tips. In addition, planning for the implementation of the checklist can help you analyze your website’s current performance and work on the area that needs improvement. 

Hire a Higher Education Marketing Agency

Even with all the information available on SEO, sometimes you cannot get the desired results and you will have to hire higher education marketing agency. However, implementing the items on this SEO checklist for higher education institutions should help you improve your website’s visibility and organic search traffic. 

However, if you need help or want a more comprehensive review of your website, don’t hesitate to contact us at Orion. We are experts in SEO services for educational institutions and edtech marketing services. We would be happy to assist you in getting the most out of your website. Thanks for reading!

Rayed Chaudhry

Rayed is passionate about marketing and interested in learning new ways to hack (legally) marketing platforms to help businesses achieve growth using unconventional methods. Prior to starting Orion, Rayed has worked in various marketing positions and spent millions of dollars across different ad platforms.