Increase Enrollments with these 6 Tips for SEO for Higher Education - Pacifc54 Blog

Increase Enrollments with these 6 Tips for SEO for Higher Education - Pacifc54 Blog

Increase Enrollments with these 6 Tips for SEO for Higher Education - Pacifc54 Blog

Posted: 19 Jul 2019 02:15 PM PDT

In the U.S. alone, there are more than 4,000 colleges and universities offering a wide variety of academic offerings. With so many schools to explore, it's easy for prospective applicants to get overwhelmed during the search process. Students often rely on search engines like Google to narrow down their college options and find one that will fit what they are looking for. To make sure your university's website is reaching its target audience and cutting through the noise, maintaining strong SEO is essential. Ready to make your university website more search engine friendly? Start with these SEO for higher education tips to increase organic rankings for higher education institutions.

1) Implement a strong keyword strategy, especially for individual programs

First, let's take a look at how a prospective student would use a search engine to find a university or academic program. Students would go to a search engine like Google and enter a keyword, such as "best university for data analytics," and see relevant web pages on the search engine results pages (SERPs). Therefore, you should find the most effective keywords that describe your university or its individual programs and are likely to be searched by students.

There are several types of keywords you might want to use for your university. These include location-specific keywords ("Tampa universities") and program-specific keywords ("journalism major"). Keyword suggestion tools, competitor analysis, and existing analytics can yield strong insight as to what students are searching for and how you can incorporate these keywords into your own website.

Make sure keywords are integrated into the website copy, as well as tags, headers, meta descriptions, and more.

2) Leverage a robust content strategy

Search engines like Google reward websites that frequently publish new content, like blog posts or videos, by re-indexing these web pages more often and improving SERP rankings. Posting new content, such as news items, event recaps, and student highlight videos are examples of content that can be used not only to inform students of the goings-on at your university but also improve search engine rankings.

Remember that for any visual media, like images and videos, it is important to include keyword-rich alt-tags and descriptions so that your site is more likely to rank for that keyword. 

In the example below, Florida Tech Online frequently publishes on its blog about topics related to careers, student stories, and study tips. The content is not only helpful for current students or professionals but also its prospective applicants. This blog is an excellent example of inbound marketing and SEO for universities.

Higher Education SEO

3) Address duplicate content

At first glance, it might seem like having multiple pages with the same content can be helpful because it means prospective students can find the information they're looking for in different places. However, duplicate content can be a huge issue for SEO for higher education.

Duplicate content confuses search engines because it won't know which content is the most relevant and which page should be ranked before the other in search results. Your marketing team or your agency partner can conduct a sitewide audit to check for copied text, URL variations, and the same webpages reproduced as HTTP and HTTPS sites.

You can address these issues by creating 301 redirects or canonical tags to give the highest-ranking to the original page.

4) Take advantage of local search, college directory listings, and review sites

Aside from Google, students often use college directories and review sites to research potential schools. Some examples of college directory listings include the NCAA Directory, College Board, and U.S News & World Report. Similarly, college review sites might include College Confidential, Cappex, and GradReports. Maintain an active profile on these sites where possible, since these reputable sites are an excellent place to host backlinks to your website.

In addition, location is often a key factor in a prospective student's college choice. Colleges and universities often recruit from local high schools, and local SEO for universities can also capture a greater share of this audience. Conduct local keyword research that incorporates location names, such as "business schools in Miami" or "engineering programs in Florida." Your location might be as granular as a city or neighborhood, or as large as a state.

As with local businesses, your university should also create a Google My Business (GMB) account, which will list your university's name, address, phone number, photos, description, directions, and business category, for Google's search engine to index. When a prospective student searches for your university, the GMB listing will appear in the top right corner of the screen.

In 2018, Google also started attaching statistics like acceptance rate, notable alumni, average cost after financial aid, and graduation rate, pulling data from the College Scorecard and the Education Department's Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System. Below is an example of what the final listing looks like for St. Thomas Aquinas College.

Higher Education SEO

5) Optimize your website for speed and linking.

The kiss of death for any website is being too slow. In 2018, UMBC's website famously crashed after the men's basketball team defeated the top-seeded University of Virginia in the first round of March Madness. With shorter attention spans, prospective applicants will exit out of your website if it takes too long to load.

Similarly, Google will rank slow websites lower on SERPs. Make sure you optimize your site speed through techniques like using smaller image sizes and hosting the site on fast servers. For your mobile website, you can also use Google's mobile-friendly testing tool to test individual pages and determine which sections need improvements.

Higher Education SEO

Another way to optimize your website is to link to other relevant websites and have these websites link to you. A few examples of high-quality sites that can provide "backlinks" to your website include social media pages, listings lists, and third-party media sites that might host advertorials. You can also link internally to other pages on your website, like if your online press releases link to faculty profiles, department websites, or other relevant content. 

SEO isn't a one-and-done; it's ongoing and critical for marketing success. Luckily, an agency partner can help you improve your plan for SEO for higher education. Contact Pacific54 today to schedule a consultation. 

TF-IDF: The best content optimization tool SEOs aren’t using - Search Engine Land

Posted: 05 Jul 2019 12:00 AM PDT

TF-IDF, short for term frequency–inverse document frequency, identifies the most important terms used in a given document. It is also one of the most ignored content optimization tools used by SEOs today.

TF-IDF fills in the gaps of standard keyword research. The saturation of target keywords on-page doesn't determine relevance – anyone can practice keyword stuffing. Search marketers can use TF-IDF to uncover the specific words top-ranking pages use to give target keywords context, which may help search engines understand relevance.

Why should SEOs care about TF-IDF?

Conducting a TF-IDF analysis shows you the most important words used in the top 10 pages for a given keyword. You'll see the exact terms that search engines consider highly relevant for your keyword and then compare your own content with competitors.

Now, I'm not suggesting you throw out your other keyword research tools—they are still very useful in the beginning stages when choosing your target keyword. However, they simply do not provide the semantic keywords necessary to fully represent a topic.

Let's compare a keyword research tool's semantic abilities with TF-IDF:

Keyword: 'how to make coffee'

Say you're writing a guide about how to make coffee. Here's what Ahrefs would suggest including:

These tools provide excellent keyword variations but do not offer any keywords to improve topical relevance.

On the other hand, a TF-IDF tool would provide these insights:

In the top 10 pages about how to make coffee, the most weighted words include:

  • water
  • cup
  • brew
  • filter
  • beans

One glance at these words reveals the topic without a mention of the word coffee. That's because TF-IDF provides a list of semantically related keywords, or "context" keywords, as one can think of them, that search engines are statistically expecting to see in relation to the topic of "how to make coffee."

The exclusion of these words from an article about making coffee would absolutely indicate a lack of relevance to search engines… which means you can say goodbye to your chances of high rankings. Traditional keyword research just doesn't provide this type of insight. 

But some may ask: what about E-A-T? Won't a good reputation be enough to override the content?

The answer is: No, not really.

In his presentation on technical content optimization, Mike King of iPullRank offers an excellent "David and Goliath" example of the importance of content relevance:

Moz, arguably one of the most relevant sites for SEO-related keywords, ranks #20 for "what does seo stand for."

Moz's page (URL rating of 56 and 2.54k backlinks):

Alpine Web Design, the "David" in this situation, ranks #2 for the same keyword.

Alpine's page: (URL rating of 15 and 75 backlinks)

From an authority and UX perspective, Moz is the clear winner. But TF-IDF analysis tells a different side of the story:



As you can see, Moz's page does not adequately represent many contextual keywords that Google finds relevant for the term "what does SEO stand for." A significantly higher URL rating and backlink profile couldn't save it.

How to implement TF-IDF with free tools

The advantages of adding TF-IDF to your content strategy are clear. Fortunately, several free tools exist to simplify this process:

1. Seobility's TF-IDF tool

Personally, this is my favorite tool. It's the only one I've found that's completely free, no download or sign-up necessary. You get three TF-IDF checks per day to start, five with free sign-up or 50 with the premium plan.

You also gain access to their text editing tool so you can optimize your content with the tool's suggestions.

2. Ryte's content success tool

Ryte's TF-IDF tool is another excellent choice. You can sign up for Ryte for free and get 10 TF-IDF analyses per month, which includes keyword recommendations and topic inspiration.

This tool also includes a text editor for easy content optimization.

3. Link Assistant's website auditor

This tool is my honorable mention because it requires downloading to gain access. Once downloaded, you should get unlimited TF-IDF analyses.

If you do decide to download, this video explains how to navigate to the TF-IDF dashboard. 

Final word: TF-IDF is a tool, not the tool

It's important to note: using TF-IDF is no substitution for having authoritative authors or reviewers, especially when it comes to YMYL topics.

This method of research should be used primarily to increase your understanding of the most weighted terms in a given document, and perhaps influence the variety of words used in your pages. It will never replace the expertise of a professional in the field.

Similarly, TF-IDF should not be taken at face value. You will be unsuccessful if you mimic the exact average of the weighted terms in your own content. Don't force words in if they don't make sense.

TF-IDF is just one method of content optimization, not the basket to put all your eggs in. If you get one thing out of this post, it would be to consider adding TF-IDF analysis to your toolbox when creating or updating content, not replacing your existing method of keyword research.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

About The Author

Abby Reimer is a digital strategist at Uproer, where she develops SEO and content strategies for e-commerce and technology companies. Her career dream is to use public speaking and content to make SEO more accessible for marketers at all levels of expertise. She believes wholeheartedly that better search results are better for everyone.


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