After getting my certificate in SEO for Higher Education and doing some research on Search Engine Optimization for Higher Ed for my latest University Business column, I’ve come to the conclusion that SEO is part science, art and even sometimes what looks like dark magic.
It was actually quite challenging to find the SEO success stories from higher education I need for this article, because:
- there aren’t many yet and,
- the institutions (or their respective SEO agencies or consultants) aren’t too keen in responding to questions about this topic
Yet, if you’re wondering whether or not you should spend time on search engine optimization for your higher ed website, you are probably looking for some success stories to inform your own decision.
While I mentioned most of these examples in my column, the word-count and the editing process meant lots of details were left out. But, hey, that’s what blogs are for, right?
Simple title tag SEO to get better rankings *where* it matters at The University of Dayton, Ohio
If you’re only trying to recruit students in-state, there is no point trying to rank at the top of the results for all the searches pertaining to undergraduate or graduate programs.
However, you have a real problem if your institution doesn’t rank on the first page for a more localized search.
That’s the kind of problem the Univeristy of Dayton in Ohio had. For programs they share with schools like Ohio State, Ohio University and Miami of Ohio, the University of Dayton was losing the “war” on graduate program searches for “[program name] ohio,” because its name didn’t include Ohio.
Kevin Schultz, Assistant Director of University Marketing & Digital Innovation, explained in an email that all it took to improve their low SERP for these programs was to add “Ohio” to the title html tag of these program pages.
“While it wasn’t successful for every program, it did help some, and we’ve stayed on that first page (though usually the 3rd or 4th result) for a while now, whereas before we weren’t even on the first or sometimes second page,” wrote Kevin.
Without any major SEO work, the University of Dayton website performs pretty well according to SEO ranking tools. For Kevin, it proves that by paying “close attention to some of the more easily achievable SEO items” [you] can go a long way.”
Comprehensive in-house on-page SEO to increase search traffic at Radford University
Radford University spent 9 months implementing a comprehensive in-house SEO project across tens of thousands of its web pages.
“We touched every single page on the university website in an effort to improve SEO. We focused on updating page descriptions, page titles, page headlines and headers to include keywords,” explained Jaime Hunt, Director of Web Strategy and Interactive Media, in an email.
The results of this in-depth project?
An increased percentage of traffic coming from search engines from 4% in 2011 to 22% in 2013.
While this was a comprehensive SEO initiative, the efforts definitely paid off for Radford University.
Image SEO to influence rankings and fix a problem at Ithaca College
It’s not often that you would rather NOT have your content rank high in search engines, but it can happen. And, the good news is that SEO can also help in this situation.
Ithaca College used simple SEO optimization tactics to help fix an image issue with “unofficial” mascots. These images were widely distributed during the 2010 official search for a mascot. The search was later abandoned in the summer of 2011 for a variety of reasons.
Unfortunately, the images for the mascot finalists kept ranking very high, creating some confusion about the right mascot (there is none) in the public.
“Some institutions had incorrectly created banners a few times including one of the three mascot finalists to welcome our athletic teams,” explained Colleen Clark, Marketing Analyst in charge of SEO.
Colleen picked a few key terms to optimize for after evaluating search volume and the types of related keywords searched on the website. Then, she optimized the official Ithaca College
athletics logo images and content to improve their positioning over the mascot images. This optimization project also included the creation of new pages of content, updated internal links, changed image file names and alt tags.
The official Ithaca College athletics logos are now positioned above the mascot finalist images for targeted keywords.
While image SEO is overlooked, it is indeed more and more important as the web becomes a more visual space.
Search Engine Optimization as part of the online recruitment strategy at Eastern Kentucky University
When prospective students want to get their degrees online, they are definitely searching for it on the Web as a recent Google Insight report on Higher Education SEO showed us this past summer.
At EKU, Joshua has recently worked on the online program for police studies. To distinguish the program in searches, he applied several SEO tactics – exactly what he teaches in his own course.
“We created a police studies blog that utilizes keyword research in October 2012,” explained Joshua. Most of the blogs are written by police studies faculty members, which has been an amazing collaboration between marketing and faculty. This not only allows the program to use keywords for which prospective students search, it also showcases the faculty and their research interest areas.
As a result, EKU has seen a steady increase in Google search impressions, visits to the program page and interest in the program. From September 2012 to June 2013, visits to the website from organic search traffic increased by 327%.
Definitely a big win attributed to SEO tactics implemented by Joshua.