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3 easy SEO wins for higher education marketing.

When it comes to driving traffic to your website, there are a few easy steps you can take to ensure your search engine marketing is successful. If your site is not showing up when prospective students use google search, you won’t be found and will miss opportunities for potential conversion.

There are two primary ways to drive traffic from search engines—search engine optimization (SEO) and paid advertisements.

Paid advertisements

Pay-per-click advertisements are the links that appear first on search engine results pages and are indicated as an ad with a small bolded “Ad” displayed next to the link. Each time someone clicks on that link, you pay for the conversion. They are an effective way of getting your university out there but can be an expensive conversion tool.

With Pay per click ads, you are essentially bidding on keywords in order to reserve a top spot on the list of search results for that keyword. Depending on the demand for the keyword, you can wind up paying quite a bit for each click that the ad generates.

The alternative strategy is to earn a top spot on the list of results.



Dedicating some time and effort to search engine optimization on your site is an affordable and effective way to drive organic traffic and boost the reach of your recruitment efforts. With the right process, these tweaks can land you a spot on the first page of search results.

SEO tactics are a cost-effective strategy to increase your online visibility. Your SEO strategy should include these simple keys to success: an active SSL certificate, indexing your website, and a complete site title and meta description.


1. Do you have an active Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) Certificate.

SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer. According to Kaspersky, an SSL certificate is the virtual seal of approval that verifies your website is legitimate and allows for an encrypted and secure connection between browser and server.


Why do you need an SSL?

Have you ever tried to visit a site and had a message pop up announcing you are trying to proceed on an unsecured connection? This is the message that is displayed when the site you are trying to reach does not have an SSL certificate. When it comes to driving traffic to your website, this is the equivalent of posting a turn-back now sign and still hoping people continue down the road.

When you visit a secure site, you don’t receive any messages, you’re just brought right to the site with no issue. A small padlock will be displayed at the edge of the search bar to indicate it is secure.

SSL visual example

This is especially important when it comes to higher education SEO because the ultimate goal is to attract students to apply to your school and most people do not feel comfortable entering personal information on an unsecured connection.

It can also create a feeling of insecurity around your brand that could negatively impact the perception of your school, especially for parents considering where to send their child.


How do you get an SSL?

You can purchase an SSL certificate from a Certificate Authority. This involves some preparation on your end in getting your server set up and ensuring the information you submit to the certificate authority is accurate. Once everything is verified and the certificate is issued, you will then install the certificate. SSL certificates do expire and it will be important to remember to maintain an active certificate


2. Is your website indexed?

When it comes to your higher education website, you need to both audit and maintain indexing. This is what makes your site pages discoverable by search engines. It is the roadmap that tells google or other search engines how to move through your pages to present the searcher with the information they are seeking.

Indexing allows you to submit the sitemap you want google to follow when it comes time to crawl through your site. If your site is small and stream-lined, search engines can often figure out how to move through it effectively, but higher education websites often have many pages with duplicate information.

These factors can work against you when it comes to SEO. Taking time to clean up these duplications and building a sitemap can help make your site more search engine friendly.

Google recommends a sitemap under the following circumstance: 


Google’s recommendations for when a sitemap is necessary


Most university websites are going to meet at least some of these metrics and will likely benefit from this process.


3. Is your site meta title and meta description set?

Think of your site title and meta description as the elevator pitch for your website. This is your chance to capture your searcher’s attention and entice them to click on your website link.

Focus on keyword research to optimize your title and meta descriptions for search. Keywords should be identified based on what users are searching for. They should be optimized for local search, be specific to search terms your audience is using and should take into account question phrases used for voice search.


Local search

Optimizing local search results means focusing on content specific to the city your university is located in. More and more students are at least starting their search for higher education close to home, so building content that highlights local aspects can attract those search results.


Be specific

Think about what your prospective students are looking for and what words they might use to phrase their searches. For example, if you want to attract prospective students to your school of medicine, including keyword phrases like “degree in medicine” can help display your site to prospective students rather than to patients looking for medical care.


Question phrases

With so many voice search options like Siri and Alexa, people are changing the way they phrase searches. Rather than typing in a string of words, people are searching with question phrases. Taking advantage of these language patterns with your keywords can increase your visibility and consequently your lead generation.


Focus on organic search results

With both paid ads and SEO, the goal is to increase organic traffic to your website. When it comes to higher education institutions, search engine rankings can significantly impact your conversion rates. Not only does your visibility directly impact clicks to your site, but it can impact the perception of your brand.

In higher education, we are marketing not only to students but also to caregivers who care about their student's safety and success. Our digital marketing can create a sense of security and trust with potential students and parents or can leave them feeling uneasy.

Whether using paid ads or SEO strategies, the goal is to first be visible in search results through site mapping and keywords and second to make sure your site is secure so clicks make it to your page. Once the traffic is flowing, the next thing to ask yourself is: “How do I get more of these anonymous visitors to fill out an inquiry form?

HALDA can help with that :)

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