increase student enrollment

SEO Strategies That Increase Student Enrollment


increase student enrollment

So, you offer an MBA degree. Guess what? There are over 1000 accredited MBA programs in the United States and over 2,500 in the world. That’s a lot of competition. As with any other purchase, the road to higher education for a student starts with a search!

No matter where you rank in the U.S. News & World Report or any other college ranking list, where you land in the search results will affect how students perceive your rank. If you’re not in the top results, you won’t be seen as top-ranking. So, when your prospective students are searching for a program that you offer, how can you make yourself visible online in a cost-effective manner?

*Drum roll, please! * Let us introduce you to S-E-O!

What is SEO?

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. Moz defines it perfectly as, “The practice of increasing the quantity and quality of traffic to your website through organic search results.” Organic search results refer to the listings on Search Engine Page Results (SERPs) that appear for relevant search terms and are placed below paid ads. If your website is not search engine friendly, it may not be listed in the first few pages of organic search results. That means it is less likely to be clicked on by potential students or parents while they’re searching for a program.

Our research at Sextant Marketing shows that more than 50% of higher education traffic comes from organic sources. Student inquiries produced via organic sources typically convert to enrolled students at a higher rate than other digital marketing methods, such as Paid Search, Social Advertising, Email Campaigns, and similar. Hence, an effective SEO strategy is important for higher education to drive the right traffic to the website and increase online leads and inquiries that ultimately turn into enrollments.


How to use SEO to Increase Enrollment for Colleges and Universities

How can you increase student enrollment with SEO? What are some of the best SEO strategies for higher education and how can SEO influence organic traffic? Let’s discuss some practical tips that will increase traffic and enrollment for your college or university.

1. Keyword Strategy

Keyword strategy is an important step in content development for your website and is an essential part of your overall SEO strategy. Extensive keyword research will help you understand user intent and identify the search terms potential students are using. Your SEO strategy should revolve around answering questions that your students may have or providing the best possible solution for the “problem” they are trying to solve. Hence, while developing your page content, you need to make sure it answers the question or solves the problem of the potential students.

Outside of your on-page content, you also need to make sure you’re using enticing page titles and meta descriptions that include your focus keywords. This will increase the likelihood of clicks on search engines for your website.

Bonus Tip – Remember to use geo-targeted keywords. Many students are likely to search for degrees and programs in a specific city or region. Hence, it is crucial to utilize geo-targeted keywords during content development.

2. Content Marketing

Your editorial content should reflect your keyword research. By using the keyword and phrases your potential students are using, you can create strong, informative, and compelling content that serves a purpose for prospective students. Program pages should be optimized for search engines and should also provide a positive user experience to students.

An effective content strategy should also include regular publication of blog articles that provide informational content to potential students or parents. Consistently publishing new, content tells Google your site is relevant and keeps Google crawling and indexing content and pages on your site. This means any new pages you publish, such as new program pages, will be crawled and indexed sooner.

3.Local Search

When it comes to higher education, most of your business (new and returning) will come from local students. This is even more true today due to the coronavirus outbreak. That means a good strategy for reaching students is to start closest to home and create hyper local content for the city you’re located in. Provide consistent information on social media sites, online directories, and services like Google My Business to strengthen your university’s local reach. By implementing a local SEO strategy, you can make sure you are increasing your online visibility for local searches and influencing your enrollment numbers.

*** Fun Fact: According to Internet Live Stats, the volume of Google searches grows roughly 10% every year. Google now processes over 3.5 billion searches per day (yes, that’s a LOT!).

4. Backlinks AKA Upvotes to Your Website

Backlinks also called ‘inbound links’ or ‘incoming links,’ are created when one website links to another. The link to your website from an external website is called a backlink. Google and other major search engines consider backlinks as “upvotes” for a specific page. The site’s quality and authority are largely determined by the quality of the sites linking to it.

Implementation of an effective backlink strategy will help boost your search engine rankings. Despite being an important factor, link building remains one of the hardest and most time-consuming elements of SEO. But, hey, that’s what we are here for! Contact us to learn how we can take the burden of link building from you and help you create and implement a backlink strategy that works.

5. Social Signals

Take your phone out and start using your audience's favorite social media site to your advantage. Social signals, a web page’s collective shares, likes, and overall social media presence and visibility, contribute to the page’s organic search results. Search engines often see social signals as an upvote to the page and the domain as well, just like backlinks. If your university has a strong social presence, you're likely to have higher conversion rates leading to more sales and more word-of-mouth referrals. To increase your website’s social signals, we recommend:

  • Utilizing a social media calendar to post regularly and easily monitor overall keywords associated with your brand.
  • Implement onsite elements like the social share buttons for news and blog posts.
  • Use Open Graph Protocol to control how your pages appear on social platforms like Facebook, Twitter, etc. which can help improve traffic, brand reputation, and search engine rankings.

 6. Make That Traffic Count! 

After you bring your prospective students or parents to your website, you don’t want them to leave without taking action. Make all your incoming traffic count! Your site must be optimized for lead generation by creating an opportunity for potential student inquiries. Integrating RFI (Request for Information) forms prominently on important pages makes it easier for users to engage with your site and convert, ultimately leading to increased applications and enrollments. Newsletter signups, resource articles, and blog recommendations, etc. will help re-engage users and keep them on your site for longer, ultimately helping your conversion numbers.

7. Audit and Optimize Your Website

Let’s get technical – performing regular SEO audits will give you a comprehensive analysis of your website and elements that could be negatively impacting your search engine rankings and your overall SEO strategy. The goal of the audit is to assess the technical health of your website. It is also an opportunity to check the security, speed, and mobile-friendly aspects of your site.

The importance of mobile responsiveness has increased due to Google’s mobile-first index and is likely going to make a greater impact on search result rankings in the near future.

  • Check how easily a student can use your website on mobile by using Google’s mobile-friendly testing tool.
  • Optimize your site speed through techniques like using smaller image sizes and hosting your site on fast servers.
  • Check your site speed by using Google’s Page Speed Insight.

8. Data, Data, Data (and Data!)

We are data lovers at Sextant Marketing, and so we didn’t want to miss out on this point. SEO takes a lot of time and effort, so we recommend measuring and analyzing results regularly. Keeping track of KPIs and important organic metrics will help measure the success of your SEO strategy.

With all that said, we cannot stress enough how much we agree with whoever said "SEO is a marathon, not a sprint!" Warning: Expecting SEO results immediately might lead to disappointment. But with consistent effort backed by good research and data, SEO will be by-far the most cost-effective way to get in front of potential students or parents. Are you ready to make your higher-ed website more search engine friendly and increase your student enrollment organically? Learn more about our approach and let us help you understand how you can increase online leads and inquiries from your website.