SEO. Search Engine Optimatization. If you're looking for the holy grail of attracting students, look no further. By now, SEO may be a blip on your radar - something you have a vague idea about, but aren't quite sure how or why you should be implementing it. So here's your wakeup call to the importance of search engine optimization for universities and their websites: it's crucial, it's relevant and it's definitely something you need to employ to get more website hits.
Let's start off by fleshing out a working definition of SEO, just to clear up any confusion. SEO involves improving your web content in such a way that when it appears on search engines, it is listed closer to the top. Say you're searching for restaurants to eat at in a new city. The restaurants that have optimized SEO effectively will appear on the first page of your Google search, and no one will probably look beyond page one or two. (Let's be real, page 3 of Google and beyond is No Man's land.)
It's the same for students. We have grown up with Google and have been trained to recognize that 9 times out of 10, the quality information we need will be on the first page of search engines. Maybe the second page if we're not too lazy to look. Just maybe. When students are searching for academic programs, they need to know that the schools they're interested in have quality websites that they can easily find. You automatically get bonus points if you seem reputable online. How do you do that? Appear at the top of Google searches.
I know, I know, you're probably asking why you should optimize you webpage when Google already gives you priority because of the .edu attached to your website. While this is true, those top-prized spots are becoming much more competitive to attain. Think about it, other schools, who also have these .edu domains, are jumping aboard the SEO train, resulting in their content being promoted to the top of the results page. So, since your school and their school are starting on an even playing field with .edu, you'll need to get an advantage some other way.
The process of search engine optimization can be as simple as editing the web page address so that it clarifies content better and makes it easier for Google's bots to crawl and index your pages. If you are looking to really jump your numbers of people checking out your page, you can do an overhaul of your content, making sure it all appears in the "Inverted Pyramid" style, with the most important information at the top. This always helps Google know what your page is all about, making it easier for searchers to find. SEO can even be as easy as adding your contact information to every page on your website, making it much quicker for students to find out who to contact. Backlinking, improving keywords and focused content are also some great techniques for SEO.
Just remember, students' time is precious and their attention spans are short, so you'll need to optimize your page to make it simple and quick for them to access any of the information they may need. Bottom line: higher ed SEO, especially in the coming years, is essential to having a great higher ed marketing and social media strategy.