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As we have often discussed, keyword research is an absolutely necessary part of the SEO process. It is imperative for schools to make sure they have selected the best possible list of keywords to help them rank well in search engine results and ensure a steady stream of organic website traffic. This list has to involve two types of keywords: branded and non-branded keywords.

Branded keywords usually involve the name of your school. An example would be “McGill University”, which is the name and branded keyword for the university in Montreal. Branded keyword traffic can often be correlated with traditional forms of advertising and your brand equity. They may help garner larger conversion rates, especially if your institution is a well-known school, but they are not particularly competitive. In fact, we find that for most of our clients, organic traffic is related to their brand, creating an opportunity to optimize their websites for non-branded keywords involving programs and faculties.

The landscape gets more challenging, however, when you start competing with other schools for non-branded traffic. Non-branded keywords are those that do not include any reference to the school name and are more specific to a particular program, course or career training, among other things. Therefore, something like “Accounting Programs Toronto” or “Dental Assistant Training,” which do not include the name of a specific school, would be an example of a non-branded keyword. These are more general keywords that can describe entire programs, faculties and departments, and which are very commonly used by prospective students when searching online.

Studies have shown that users tend to favor a fairly even split between non-branded keywords and branded keywords to locate the information they want, starting generally (“Bachelor of Commerce”) and then getting more specific (“McGill University”). Searches also often have a geographic component to it, which means that cities, states and countries are also often used as non-branded keywords (e.g. “Dental Assistant Schools Toronto”). Using Google Analytics, we would be able to identify which non-branded keywords can best serve your recruitment needs, and optimize your website and marketing to meet these goals.

Making sure your website ranks well for both non-branded and branded keywords ensures that you are covering your bases. This will generate traffic and leads from prospective students who know your school, and those who don’t. The combination is an essential element of search engine optimization.

Contact Higher Education Marketing today for more information on search engine optimization.