Let’s talk about how to approach search engine optimization (SEO) when transitioning a website from vendor owned and managed, to an internal infrastructure. If we’re being honest, quick wins and SEO are never associated with each other. We have all heard the timeframe of three to six months for a webpage to truly establish Google search rank results. Three to six seems like an eternity when you are seeking quick enrollment wins in higher education.
What can colleges and universities do to optimize content and conversions across specific pages as they approach this transition? How can you position your website for organic search success? Here are your top five SEO tasks for higher education websites leading up to a relaunch:
Verify necessary URL redirects are in place. It sound so basic, but we have all had the experience of clicking on a saved URL only to learn it isn’t valid anymore. The fastest way to lose your audience is to direct them to a broken link.
Evaluate your content. Don’t assume your content is amazing because your faculty, or you, created it. Explore the keywords your audience uses to search for relevant programs and check out tools like Google Keywords and LSI which can help you identify trending keywords. Hint: use these terms in your content and in your metadata fields.
Metadata fields are meant to be used. While the overall algorithm has changed, these fields are still part of the equation, so do not neglect them. What does this mean? Add a title, description and keywords associated with your webpage content to the metadata fields. Hint: while creating content for your site, note what should go in these fields since the content will be fresh in your mind.
Use descriptive text to name and describe images. Additionally, add Alt text for improved SEO. In simpler terms, if your image doesn’t load, what should have appeared? The Alt text will communicate the image.
Test your video on mobile and desktop to confirm it views in both locations. Make sure you video is shareable and linkable. Most importantly, add a title and description to the video.
Test all forms and assure there are no broken links. Most importantly, verify your data is mapping correctly to your CRM—or in some cases, your fancy excel document. Imagine all your hard work down the drain because you didn’t integrate properly to your data source….bummer.
SEO for Colleges and University Websites
The Top 5 SEO tasks above are a good starting point. You can certainly dig deeper to enhance your SEO, but unless your job is 100% focused on SEO, you won’t have time (I’m being realistic). So, in summary, evaluate your URL, content, images, video and forms. These are the first points of engagement your target audience will interact with, so make sure they are searchable and working.
Julie Gacnik is the Founder of Peak Marketing Insights Consulting, a firm focused on integrating labor market insights into marketing and strategic efforts on college campuses. With more than 15 years of experience in higher education, she brings significant experience to enrollment, academic marketing, and CRM-related efforts.