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With fierce competition for schools looking to attract leads, higher ed on-page SEO becomes increasingly important—especially in today’s SEO best practices. A well-crafted SEO strategy that includes on-page SEO techniques can significantly boost the visibility of your school’s web content, allowing you to be seen by your target audience on the search engine results page. This, in turn, can help you connect with prospects who your content may further draw in.

Digital student recruitment is more than just attracting clicks; it’s about connecting your school with highly interested and engaged prospects who interact meaningfully with your brand and its content. By optimizing your web content, you can communicate your value proposition and better stand out in a highly competitive market.

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An Overview of On-Page SEO and Search Intent

There are various categories in search engine optimization, and some of the biggest include on-page SEO and off-page SEO. The former focuses on enhancing aspects you can control on your school’s website. At the same time, the latter refers to SEO practices applied off the webpage—typically dealing with new content creation and generating backlinks from external sources.

You must factor in the users’ search intent when taking on an SEO project. Search intent is a user’s goal when submitting a query to a search engine—informational, commercial, navigational, or transactional. Knowing the purpose behind a search query enables you to tailor your content so that your website provides users with the answers or knowledge they seek. In the context of higher ed on-page SEO, that means tailoring your efforts to match the specific search behaviours of prospective students and families. This way, you can ensure that your website aligns with your target audience’s needs, interests, and expectations.

Supercharge Your Content as Part of Higher Ed On-Page SEO 

Having quality content that resonates with your audience is essential. It should inform, engage, and inspire prospects, encouraging them to explore more of your school’s website. This is where historical optimization comes in, giving you a way to refresh your content and update information to extend the shelf-life of your work while also making it more relevant to a more current audience.

Here, you’ll want to go the extra mile with your content and provide more value than currently available at the top of the search engine results page (SERP). SEO-driven long-form content is an excellent approach to keep in mind when reviewing your SEO content strategy. You can use this technique to showcase faculty research or insight, highlight new perspectives from your school’s community, or share helpful resources – such as lead magnets – that entice prospects to share their contact details and engage more thoroughly with your school brand.

When creating your content, use a clear structure that makes it easy for search engines and users to parse it and understand its hierarchy and relevance. This means dividing your content into headings and subheadings and using relevant, high-search volume keywords. 

Example: Hult International Business School uses a clear content structure in its blog post, highlighting voices from its community while also referencing key programs:

content structure 1 hult

Source: Hult International Business School

Conducting keyword research and selecting high-gain keywords for your content can help you boost your web page’s visibility, enabling you to be more easily found by your school’s target audience. Once you select a focus keyword for your web page, you’ll want to naturally integrate that into your headings, subheadings, body copy, and calls-to-action (CTAs).

This on-page SEO practice can help you better connect with users actively using the exact keywords. It can also improve your SERP ranking since the keywords you use can be better picked up by search engines looking for credible and high-value content to show users using those keywords.

Are you interested in generating SEO-driven content and elevating your SEO strategy? Reach out to our team to gain personalized SEO support for your school!

Optimize Your School Web Page’s HTML Elements and Meta Tags

Your school website’s code plays a significant role in how search engines crawl your content and whether or not they display your webpage in the SERP. By optimizing your HTML elements and meta tags as part of higher ed on-page SEO, you can give search engines more precise technical information about your web page and its contents and improve your chances of being ranked for specific queries. These tags allow web crawlers to index your page accurately and determine its relevance to different keywords.

Meta tags are invisible to users on a web page, but they exist in the HTML and are visible to search engines. They provide a range of metadata about your content, things like:

  • Title Tags: displays text shown at the top of the browser as well as in SERP results
  • Meta Descriptions: displays a brief blurb of the page on the SERP, used to compel users to click on a link in the SERP
  • Image Alt Tags: describes an image to help visually impaired users and search engines understand what the image is about

When optimizing your title tag, you want to be concise and compelling. This is where you want to include a focus keyword and add the name of your school, making your content relevant and your school instantly recognizable in a sea of links on the search engine results page. Regarding the meta description, you’ll want to stick to text between 120 to 160 characters long. It’s also best to be concise, using the focus keyword here. Doing so can help you communicate the core message of your content and increase click-through rates.

Example: In a Google search, each school must craft a compelling meta description to stand out to prospects looking for the right fit. Here’s how the meta description appears on the search engine results page:

meta description

With image alt tags in SEO for educational institutions, you’ll want to be as descriptive as possible while being concise and to the point. You shouldn’t exceed 125 characters, and it’s best to include a focus keyword when possible. It’s essential not to keyword stuff and use this space to provide real value to users who rely on these alt tags to discern what the image is about. Taking the time to do this with your images also enables them to become indexable by search engines so that they appear in image searches. 

Example: Cumberland College uses the image alt tag to describe the image while naturally integrating the focus keyword. The alt image can be accessed by viewing the page’s HTML code, as shown in the highlighted box:

image alt tag

Source: Cumberland College

Another key tag to remember is the heading tag, which is visible on the page and part of semantic HTML. This heading tag is designed to logically structure your content and make it readable for users and search engines. Not only do you want to include headings and subheadings, but you also want to make sure these headings and subheadings are correctly tagged and nested. The hierarchy includes an <H1> tag for the main headline, an <H2> for topic sections, an <H3> for subsections—continuing onwards using a numerical structure as more subheadings get introduced.

Create an Internal Building Strategy to Elevate Your School’s SEO Content

Internal backlinking is a significant aspect of on-page SEO for higher education, and it can even be used to generate more traffic to specific pages of your school website. These links don’t just guide prospects to other pages on your school’s website. They also establish an information hierarchy for search engines to enhance SEO performance. 

Consider the value and benefits of SEO topic clusters if you want to use on-page SEO techniques on your school blog. These topic clusters, combined with other on-page SEO efforts, can strengthen your school’s credibility and help you position your school as an expert in your field. This, in turn, will improve your website’s authority and topical relevance, allowing you to increase your online visibility more effectively. You can create blog posts around various topics relevant to a program page and have those blog posts link to each other as well as the pillar page—which, in this case, is the program page. 

Generally, you’ll want to use keyword-rich anchor text when integrating these internal links. You can even feature these internal links on your school’s home page to optimize that page specifically. The key is to link strategically, directing prospects where you want them to go and making those links easily visible on your page. If these efforts are being applied to a blog post, that means featuring some of these internal links at the beginning of the article and peppered throughout it. 

Example: This blog post by John Cabot University integrates internal links using keyword-rich anchor text that directs users to key pages on the school’s website. In this case, prospects reading the blog post to learn more about studying art history in Rome can click on the link to learn more about the degree on offer:

link building jcu

Source: John Cabot University

Utilize Schema Markup and Structured Data for Higher Ed On-Page SEO

Schema markup is a powerful tool that helps search engines understand the context of your web page content, which can be particularly beneficial for search engine optimization in higher education. It also equips search engines with structured data that they need to display more prosperous web page links on the results page, ones that feature more information better to guide users towards the right page for them.

Structured data can appear in a variety of ways on the SERP. It can include rich cards, featured snippets, and even a knowledge panel. Giving search engines more data about your web page can present your content in a more appealing way that entices your prospects to click and informs them before they even take action and visit your page. 

Example: Earning a featured snippet, as shown below, can help you become more visible to prospects—boosting your ranking on the SERP while showcasing your school’s industry knowledge and credibility:

featured snippet

Examples of structured data for higher ed on-page SEO include a brief FAQ section, a concise how-to guide, some site link markup, and more—depending on your website’s content and structure. FAQ structured data would answer commonly asked questions about a key topic relevant to your school and its programs, how-to structured data would provide a step-by-step breakdown of a key topic also linked to your school and its content, and site link markup would add navigational links to your SERP web page listing to give prospects more options to click on. 

Example: Here’s how the site link markup would look on the search engine results page. In this case, prospects interested in Audencia Business School can quickly navigate to the right program using these links instead of touring the website:

Sitelinks markup schema

Incorporating this type of structured data into crucial pages of your school’s website can help you boost traffic to those links and better attract prospects. The key is to provide value to your prospects and deliver high-quality information relevant to the prospect’s search query and your school’s content.

Prioritize Your Page Speed and Performance 

A mobile-friendly website is no longer optional in today’s digital world; it’s a necessity—especially since more and more prospects are gravitating towards online web browsing on mobile devices. Responsive design is not just about visual appeal; it’s about ensuring your site is accessible and user-friendly across all devices, which is a critical factor in SEO. 

In addition to improving your mobile-friendliness, you can enhance your page speed and boost your overall SEO efforts. Page speed is a direct ranking factor for search engines and a key component of user experience. Slow-loading pages can lead to higher bounce rates and lower rankings, preventing you from connecting with your prospects. 

You can use online tools to audit your website and optimize your media files to increase your page speed. Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool is a great way to identify areas of opportunity and gain action points and recommendations. A common one is ensuring that your images and video files are adequately optimized for the web, using the suitable file types and resolution sizes to avoid slowing down the loading speed.  

Example: Using the PageSpeed Insights tool, you can analyze your school’s website and gain a list of actionable feedback to improve your page speed. This includes reformatting and resizing images as well as revising your code:

PageSpeed Insights

Source: PageSpeed Insights

Track Your SEO Progress to Support Your School’s Success 

A common question is: Why is SEO important for schools? SEO is essential for schools because it boosts their online visibility and better attracts prospects searching for relevant content. With on-page SEO, schools can increase their chances and boost results.

Another common question is:  What is an SEO strategy for education? An SEO strategy for education is a series of efforts to improve a website’s online visibility and ranking on the search engine results page. The goal is to boost a school’s presence online, generate more traffic, and connect with the right audience for more enrollments.

On-page SEO is not a one-time task but an ongoing effort that needs to be monitored and adjusted as search algorithms and user behaviors evolve. As a result, conducting regular SEO audits on your website and continuously seeking ways to align your content with your audience’s search intent is key to your success. 

Balancing search engine requirements with user optimization is essential for a successful SEO strategy and can even help you improve your enrollment growth. Checking your analytics and the performance of your optimized pages can help you determine whether or not your efforts are paying off. By using tools and tracking your SEO progress, you can gain insights that allow you to make data-driven decisions to achieve your school’s goals better.

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