College SEO Case Study: Advanced SEO Strategies in Higher Education

SEO for colleges and universities featured image

In the current digital landscape, an impactful online presence and SEO is not just beneficial but essential for colleges and universities.

Our digital agency, Stigan Media, has recently demonstrated the critical role of SEO in the higher education sector through a compelling case study. By implementing targeted SEO strategies for a local college in Surrey, BC, we achieved a remarkable 84% increase in website visitors within just six months.

College website traffic growth after SEO services by Stigan Media

More notably, these efforts led to a significant uptick in program sign-ups, even during January, traditionally a slow month in the educational industry.

In this case study, we will share insights and strategies on leveraging SEO for universities and colleges to boost online visibility and attract prospective students effectively.

Understanding SEO and Its Critical Role in Higher Education

College website organic traffic growth graph

SEO is really important for colleges and universities. It helps them show up more on search engines like Google, making it easier for students and teachers to find them online.

Nowadays, when most people use the internet to find information about schools, having a good SEO plan is key. It’s not just about getting more people to visit the website; it’s about showing off what the school is all about, its courses, and what makes it special.

Good SEO can make a school’s name more known, improve its image, and connect with young people who are always online.

In short, for colleges and universities to keep up with the times and be seen online, SEO is something they really need to focus on.

Top 10 Advanced SEO Strategies for Colleges and Universities

Optimizing for Mobile Accessibility

The example of mobile-optimized page from Harvard which is good for university's SEO

The example of mobile-optimized page from Harvard which is good for university’s SEO

In the realm of higher education, where prospective students increasingly rely on mobile devices for information, optimizing for mobile accessibility is a key SEO strategy.

Many university and college websites, however, fall short in providing a seamless mobile experience which is bad for their SEO. Common issues include small font sizes, elements being too close together, and occasionally, broken styles, all of which can deter a user’s engagement with the site.

At Stigan Media, our SEO team inspects and identifies these mobile-specific issues.

We then collaborate closely with our web development team to rectify these shortcomings, ensuring that your institution’s website is not only mobile-friendly but also provides an optimal user experience. This attention to mobile optimization is crucial in making your website accessible and appealing to the modern, mobile-savvy student.

Website Speed Optimization 

Core Web Vitals test for college website

Speed optimization forms a crucial aspect of our SEO strategy, particularly for higher education websites.

Recognizing that slow-loading websites not only frustrate users but also negatively impact search engine rankings, we prioritize this element.

In 2019, Google emphasized the importance of site speed, making it a key factor in their ranking algorithms.

To tackle this, we employ Google’s PageSpeed Insights, a robust tool that allows us to analyze and subsequently enhance a website’s loading time.

Our team has a proven track record in this area, as evidenced by our recent SEO project for a college. We significantly improved their site speed, ensuring a smoother and more engaging experience for visitors.

Targeted Keyword Research for Higher Education

Keyword research for higher education website

Effective SEO for higher education starts with keyword research, a process that might seem straightforward but requires strategic depth and expertise.

At Stigan Media, we’ve refined our keyword research process to ensure the identification of the most impactful keywords for colleges and universities:

  • Prioritizing High Search Volume Keywords: Our first step is to filter out keywords with negligible search volumes. It’s crucial to target keywords that are actually being searched by prospective students and educators.
  • Determining Keyword Search Intent: We delve into understanding the intent behind each keyword. For instance, a keyword like “dental assistant program in Vancouver” has a clear commercial and local intent, indicating a user’s interest in a specific course in a particular area. Identifying the right search intent is key to attracting the most relevant audience.
  • Assessing Keyword Difficulty: We leverage advanced tools like Ahrefs and SEMrush to evaluate keyword difficulty. This step is vital in aligning our strategy with your budget constraints. Where budgets are limited, we focus on less competitive yet effective keywords that can still drive significant SEO traffic and leads to your institution.

Web Analytics Setup

Google search console impressions graph after successful SEO campaign

At Stigan Media, our approach to SEO for  universities and colleges involves a crucial preliminary step that distinguishes us from others in the field.

Before diving into the core SEO activities, we ensure that every essential aspect of web analytics is meticulously checked and optimized. This foundational work is vital for tracking the project’s progress and demonstrating real value to our clients in higher education.

  1. Verifying Google Analytics 4: We start by confirming that Google Analytics 4 is properly set up and functioning on your site. This powerful tool is essential for tracking user behavior, website traffic, and engagement metrics which is crucial for analyzing higher education SEO efforts.
  2. Google Search Console Check: We review your Google Search Console setup to ensure it’s accurately tracking your SEO stats and identifying any technical errors. This tool is crucial for monitoring the health of your website from an SEO perspective.
  3. Access to Google Business Profile: For universities and colleges with physical campuses, we ensure that we have full access to your Google Business Profile. This is essential for managing your online presence on Google, including Maps and search.Example of Google Business Page for Douglas College
  4. Listing on Bing and Apple Maps: If your school isn’t already listed on Bing and Apple Maps, we take care of this. It’s an important step for local SEO for universities and colleges, ensuring that your institution is visible across all major platforms.
  5. Integrating High-End SEO Software: We add your project to our SEO software for continuous tracking of your website’s position in search results. This helps in understanding the impact of our SEO efforts.
  6. Setting Up Goals in Google Analytics 4: In our work with universities and colleges, we prioritize configuring specific goals in Google Analytics 4 to track vital interactions such as sign-ups, email inquiries, and phone number clicks. This approach is fundamental in accurately measuring the conversions and leads generated from their websites. For these educational institutions, it’s important to have a clear understanding of how many sign-ups and requests are received, as this data is critical in evaluating the return on investment (ROI) from their SEO campaigns. By doing this, we ensure that colleges and universities can effectively assess the impact of their SEO strategies and the success in attracting and engaging prospective students.

Technical SEO

Technical SEO audit indicator for College website

In the field of higher education SEO, technical optimization plays a crucial role, often overlooked by less thorough agencies. At Stigan Media, we delve deep into technical SEO to align your college’s website with Google’s stringent requirements.

  • Resolving 301 and 404 Errors: Utilizing the Screaming Frog tool, we conduct a comprehensive crawl of your school’s website to see it through the lens of search algorithms. This process helps us identify 301 redirect pages and 404 errors, which are pages that no longer exist but are still linked to. We promptly address these issues, ensuring that all pages return a 200 OK status, indicating successful accessibility.
  • Enhancing Website Speed: Recognizing Google’s emphasis on site speed, we employ Google’s PageSpeed Insights for a detailed analysis and optimization of your site’s loading times. [Insert example or screenshot of a college project with optimized performance here.] Speed optimization not only improves user experience but is also a critical ranking factor in Google’s search algorithm.
  • SSL Certificate Verification: An active and valid SSL certificate is vital for website security and trustworthiness. We check to ensure that your SSL certificate is up to date. An expired certificate can lead search engines to flag your site as unsafe, potentially impacting your rankings and user trust.

Best Practices for Structuring Your Course Page

Course Page Structure schema for College website

An often-overlooked aspect in the realm of university and college SEO is the structure of course pages.

At Stigan Media, we understand that the architecture of these pages is not just crucial for SEO but also plays a significant role in enhancing user experience. A well-structured course page addresses both search engine algorithms and prospective students’ needs by comprehensively covering intent-based queries. Here’s a breakdown of an ideal college course page structure that yields impressive SEO results:

  • Comprehensive Course Overview: Start with a clear and concise overview of the course, outlining what students can expect to learn.
  • Detailed Curriculum: Include a detailed breakdown of the curriculum, highlighting key subjects, modules, and learning outcomes.
  • Career Opportunities: Showcase the potential career paths and opportunities that the course opens up for graduates.
  • Admission Requirements: Clearly list the admission criteria, prerequisites, and any necessary qualifications or skills.
  • Faculty and Staff Informatioыn: Introduce the teaching staff, their qualifications, and areas of expertise to build credibility and trust.
  • Facilities and Resources: Highlight the learning facilities and resources available to students, such as libraries, labs, and online materials.
  • Tuition and Financial Aid Information: Provide transparent information about tuition fees, scholarships, and financial aid options.
  • Success Stories and Testimonials: Share success stories and testimonials from alumni to illustrate the course’s impact and value.
  • Application Process: Guide prospective students through the application process, making it as straightforward as possible.
  • Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) Section: Include an FAQ section to address common queries and concerns of prospective students.

If you want your school to do well in SEO and get high rankings on Google, make sure to carefully follow all these steps.

On-Page Optimization

College page content optimization score

On-page SEO is a critical element in ensuring your university or college website ranks well on Google. This process involves optimizing not just specific pages but the entire site. Here’s a quick guide on key on-page optimization techniques for higher education:

  • Meta Titles Optimization: Incorporate your primary keyword into the meta title, as this is crucial for search engines to identify the main topic of your page.
  • Meta Description Optimization: While not a direct ranking factor, a compelling meta description can significantly improve click-through rates, indirectly benefiting SEO.
  • Alt Tags Optimization: Ensure all images have descriptive, natural alt tags that include targeted keywords related to program or course. This improves image search visibility and overall page SEO for your school.
  • H1 Optimization: Each page should have a single H1 tag that clearly explains the page’s content. For course pages, including the course name and location in the H1 tag can be effective.
  • H2 to H6 Optimization: Utilize these headings to structure content for both users and search engines. Be careful not to overuse your targeted keyword within these headings.
  • Schema Implementation: Adding relevant schemas helps explain your site’s content to Google, optimizing for rich snippets in search results. For instance, incorporating review schemas can showcase your college’s ratings.
  • SEO-Friendly URL Verification: Ensure your URLs are structured to include your targeted keyword. This should ideally be addressed during the website architecture phase but always merits rechecking.
  • Internal Linking: Develop a robust internal linking structure throughout the site, including in the navigation bar and footer. This enhances SEO and user navigation.
  • NAP Consistency: Since universities and colleges are often considered local businesses, it’s essential to include consistent Name, Address, and Phone number (NAP) information, ideally with an embedded map on targeted pages.
  • Incorporating Testimonials and Reviews: Add genuine testimonials and reviews to your pages, using keywords where appropriate. This boosts trustworthiness in the eyes of both search engines and prospective students.
  • Establishing E-E-A-T (Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness): Through various on-page elements, such as showcasing faculty qualifications of your university/college professors, accreditations, awards, and detailed team information, we communicate to search engines the credibility and authority of your institution.

Local SEO Specifics for Colleges and Universities

Optimized GBP for college website looks good

Local SEO plays a vital role in enhancing the online presence of colleges and universities, as they are inherently linked to specific geographic locations. This optimization is key to ensuring that colleges rank prominently in local search results, making them easily discoverable by potential students in nearby areas.

  • Integrating and Optimizing Google Business Profile: After adding Google Maps with the correct contact information, we focus on fully integrating and optimizing your college’s Google Business Profile. This includes verifying that all fields are accurately filled with relevant keywords, and ensuring that your college is listed under appropriate and additional categories.
  • Image Optimization on Google Business Profile: We update and optimize images on your Google Business Profile, ensuring they are appealing and representative of your college or university.
  • Service Area Optimization: We fine-tune the service areas listed on your profile to cover the most relevant locations, maximizing your visibility to prospective students in those areas.
  • Regular Updates and Posts: Keeping your Google Business Profile active with regular updates and posts is crucial for maintaining its relevance and engagement.
  • Encouraging Authentic Reviews: Reviews significantly impact your Google Business Profile’s ranking. We encourage our higher education clients to actively seek authentic reviews, preferably containing targeted keywords. We provide templates that tactfully prompt users to leave reviews beneficial for SEO. Our team also professionally responds to all reviews, further enhancing your profile’s SEO.
  • Caution Against Fake Reviews: We strongly advise against purchasing fake reviews. Google’s increasingly sophisticated detection methods can lead to profile suspension. Our approach is always focused on long-term, sustainable reputation building.
  • Optimizing Bing Business Profile: In addition to Google, we also optimize your presence on the Bing Business Profile, extending your reach across multiple search platforms.

Backlinks Strategy: Building Authority with University-Related Directories

Backlinks graph

The final and perhaps most challenging aspect of  university SEO is off-page optimization, primarily centered around acquiring quality backlinks. Backlinks are crucial as they act as endorsements for your website. However, the challenge lies in obtaining backlinks from reputable domains, as low-quality links can harm rather than help your SEO efforts.

  • Listing in Local and Educational Directories: Our first step is to list your college in local and educational directories. We carefully select directories that are reputable and relevant, ensuring that the backlinks are high quality. These listings not only provide valuable backlinks but also reinforce local SEO by confirming your location details.
  • Cultivating Relationships for Valuable Backlinks: Over the years, Stigan Media has fostered relationships with numerous site owners in the education sector. These connections enable us to publish posts on their websites, linking back to our clients’ sites. With a network of over 1000 esteemed websites, we can secure authoritative backlinks that many other agencies cannot.
  • Disavowing Toxic Links: It’s not uncommon for websites to accumulate harmful backlinks, whether through past SEO efforts, spammy tactics, or even competitor actions. Our team conducts a thorough audit of each backlink to your site. If we find any that are detrimental to your SEO, we add them to a disavow file and submit it to search engines. This action tells search engines to ignore these links, protecting your site from their negative impacts.

Elevating Higher Education Through Expert SEO

Effective SEO is crucial for amplifying the digital presence of higher education institutions. By applying strategies like mobile optimization, speed enhancement, and targeted keyword research, colleges can significantly boost their online visibility and connect with more students. The complexity of SEO, however, often necessitates professional expertise.

At Stigan Media, we offer tailored SEO solutions that cater specifically to the needs of higher education. If you’re looking to enhance your institution’s digital footprint, our team is ready to help. Contact us for a quote, and let’s begin the journey to transform your online presence.