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Your current students already know how to find you, but how easy is it for prospects from around the world or around the corner to know about your institution and your programs by entering keywords on Google?

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is your most reliable tactic to increase your ranking on the search engines and thus make sure prospects will find you. Think of it as your chance to make your school and its programs stand out among millions of options. The algorithms are looking for whatever sets your site apart, so here are 10 tips to make sure your website reflects the uniqueness of your institution!

1.     Do some extensive keywords research

Keywords are words or phrases you want your institution to rank for. Stand out from your competition with a specific set of words or phrases that really encapsulate the programs or services you offer. Tools, such as Google Keyword Tool, can provide you with critical data about your website that will help you pick keywords, experiment with them and improve your site overtime.

2.      Optimize each of your program pages for the most relevant targeted keyword

The best way for your site to rank for those specific keywords is to create optimized program pages for each of the specific programs your school offers. The improved user experience it provides (one click links prospects directly to your page) is also likely to increase your lead conversion rate.

3.     Make each page unique

Google is on the lookout for unique content. If your content already appears somewhere else on the Internet, it will probably be ignored by Google as duplicated content. This also applies to using bits of another site’s content with a link for the reader to follow: make sure the wording is YOURS as repetitive content may penalize you. Also, make sure that each page is unique from other pages on the Internet but also from the rest of the website.

4.     Create concise, keyword rich URLs

Make sure your URLs include relevant keywords. Use dashes instead of underscores so that Google understands these are separate words and thus does not hinder your prospect’s search by keywords. Beyond the format of the URLs, make sure they include as few common words such as “I”, “the”, etc, as possible. These words are known as “stop words” and are famous for hindering searches.

5.     Write keyword rich title tags on each page

Now that you have pinpointed some of the keywords that define your institution, make sure that the 70-character titles include these keywords. Unless your institution is very famous, it is probably best to put the title of the specific page first and then add the name of your school.

 6.     Use heading tags correctly

In order to use heading tags properly, make sure you start each page with one headline (H1 heading). The content section of the page should start with H2 and sub-sections with H3. In order to optimize those tags, use the main keyword on the page in the H1 heading and do not skip heading levels (e.g H1 to H3).

7.     Carefully craft your meta descriptions

Meta descriptions appear below the title on Google results pages. As such, they are the first description prospects read about your school online, so make sure they will want to read more by using keywords and phrases that may pique their curiosity.

Using keywords that are relevant to your audience is critical to bring them to your site and helps increase your website’s click-through rate. Here too, be sure to use different wording for each page so as to avoid any duplicate.

8.     Add a blog to your website

A blog is the perfect way to cater to Google’s craving for original content. Make sure to update your site often with relevant content and to create a strong copy that will make readers want to link back to others sites. Allow them to leave comments and to share the content with others with share buttons. Also, do not hesitate to have the blog appear on your homepage so that your homepage is updated every time you update the blog.

9.     Link, link, link

Make sure you have links coming in to as many pages as possible. This will tell a search engine that your website includes lots of worthwhile content. Also, make sure that these links are titled and that the anchor text (the visible, clickable text in the hyperlink) is keyword rich as some search engines figure this into their relevancy for a page. Both internal and external links will b count and both should be keyword rich as well.

A comprehensive link strategy should consider the total number of incoming and outgoing links, the importance of the sites you link to and from, the relevancy of the sites you link to and from, what you include in the incoming and outgoing links and the ratio of links to content on the pages involved. Your main focus should be on creating great quality links. 

Watch out: If you must have image links in your navigation bar, include also text links. However, make sure the text links show up first in the source code, because search engine robots will follow the first link they find to any particular page. They won’t follow additional links to the same page.

10.  Create a site map

A side map is the easiest way to let search engines know that new pages have been created. This will also improve user experience while helping the search engine robots find every page with just two clicks. You can create site maps with HTML or XML. HTML sitemaps are used to list all the hyperlinks of your website. Pages are linked through footer links, using plain text links with keywords in the anchor text.  Since all the links are listed hierarchically and may include descriptions, HTML sitemaps also help visitors navigate your site. On the other hand, XML sitemaps are only created for SEO purposes. They list URLs for your website in a special format. XML sitemaps can be submitted from Google Webmaster tools and Bing webmaster tools.

For more information on how to make your institution stand out, contact Higher Education Marketing today and request a free SEO audit of your website.