Recent Study Recommends SEO for Higher Education Marketing

SEO for Higher Education Marketing | Sixth City Marketing | Morgan MeadeI vividly remember my search for information when exploring higher education options around 2009.

Even with the wide use of Google, and decent websites, it left a lot to be desired. The process was downright frustrating at times. Today, things must certainly have improved, right?

SEO is one of the most important factors for college marketability today, according to the 2014 E-Expectations report sponsored by Noel-Levitz.

Why SEO? It turns out over two-thirds of students prefer to use web-based resources to learn about colleges and universities.

The same ratio (67%) of Seniors surveyed reported that his or her perception of a college or university was influenced by the institution’s website. 64% of Seniors had looked at a school website the within seven days of completing the survey.

The wide use of the web for information gathering on prospective schools means SEO typically produces a respectable ROI. However, less than half of all four-year public institutions have focused on making their information easier to find, more impactful, and able to drive lasting connections with SEO.

Read on to discover what these statistics mean for your institution’s marketing efforts, and how optimizing your site can ensure you are not overlooked in the search for education.

Top Variables Considered by Students

Do you know what students’ No. 1 concern is when considering college options? Do you make this information readily available to them? With the increasing precision with which Google delivers results, you may find yourself changing the way you seek information.

In the past, a searcher entered in a general phrase, then sorted through information within websites on his or her own. Today, spoken queries and specific searches are expected to deliver immediate results.

Read more about this phenomenon and my research on Google Hummingbird here.

The most important factors seniors reported when weighing their options were (in order of importance):

  1. Academic program listings
  2. Cost
  3. Scholarships
  4. Financial aid
  5. Academic program details
  6. Housing details
  7. Enrollment/admissions information
  8. Student life information

Students Googling specific phrases related to their most sought-after consideration factors such as “cost of attendance Ohio University” should be delivered to appropriate, persuasive results as seamlessly as possible.

Does your site facilitate a smooth trip down the sales funnel, or are possible candidates left to sort through tangled web pages? Are your results as engaging as they are informative?

Worse, do competitors who deliver more interesting information distract your target audience? Maybe their landing pages offer opportunities to stay connected with the brand via email or social media. This is where search engine optimization can provide a marked benefit.

The best educators realize they always have something left to learn.

Maximizing Mobile-Device Usability

Additional benefits of employing SEO best practices include making mobile experiences pleasant, to retain goodwill throughout the exploration process. 70% of respondents reported viewing a college website on a mobile device in the past week. A responsive or mobile-dedicated site is another way colleges can gain points.

Maintaining Communication the Modern Way

As found by the same E-Expectations survey mentioned earlier, students AND parents were most receptive to emails rather than direct mailers. Students reported being more likely to consider schools using email communication, social media, and text messages 59% to 41% over traditional media such as phone calls and mailers.

PPC Marketing and Videos for Colleges

Video was the most valuable tool for increasing brand perception in a study by Google comparing types of colleges.

I would infer that the same is true among college brands. Affects measured included:

  • “Provides a valuable degree”
  • “Is a school that employers respect”
  • “Has a reputable accreditation”
  • “Will provide a degree that is competitive in the job market”

Increase in positive affect brought on by video ads ranged from 98-135% improvement. This was followed by search ads, or PPC, which delivered an increase in positive perception by 50-73% across categories.

Is My Institution the Last to Adopt SEO as a Key Component of Our Marketing Strategy?

Despite the clear benefit afforded to institutions by employing search engine optimization tactics, less than half (41%) of all public four-year institutions do so.

For private schools, the proportion has reached a marginally better 57%. These statistics imply two important key takeaways:

  1. You stand to gain the advantage of improving your retention rate of interested “leads”
  2. You stand to gain a competitive advantage over other higher-ed providers by becoming more fluidly navigable and compelling on students’ (and parents’) information source of choice: the Internet

Will your organization neglect to fill its potential, instead filling mailboxes with postcards? Advertising online offers direct traceability of effectiveness and precise monitoring of ROI. We will leave the choice up to you.

Know more about your options for SEO by exploring here.

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