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More and more of your prospective student audiences are looking for education programs online, making it fundamental for your college to rank well on search engine results pages. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) will make you more visible on major search engines, generating more traffic and helping to increase leads and conversions.

SEO work involves numerous different techniques and tasks. The foundation, however, is always the keywords that you use.

Here are a few keyword research basics to keep in mind when starting your SEO campaigns:

Know Your Goals
What are the goals of your SEO campaign? Are you trying to reach a new specific audience? Are you looking to increase online leads? Improve ROI? You have to know the answers to these questions. Remember, you don’t want to increase website traffic just for the sake of it. By defining clear website goals, you can develop a list of effective keywords that brings in traffic and increases conversions.

Focus on Non-Branded Keywords
Your branded keywords should, in theory, rank well enough on their own. Your SEO efforts, therefore, should focus on non-branded keywords (e.g. “accounting diploma” or “executive MBA” instead of keywords that emphasize your school name). Click here to find out more about branded vs non-branded keywords.

Popular Keywords
The more popular the topic and keyword, the higher the search volume, which increases the potential website visits, leads, inquiries and e-registrations. This is what you want. However, popular keywords are obviously very competitive, which means it can take longer to attain a high ranking with popular keywords.

Keyword popularity can be determined by using keyword research tools, such as Google Keyword Tool. These tools should be used in conjunction with Google Analytics to identify the keywords that actually convert to your website goals.

Competitive Analysis
What is the competition for your school like? What is your school’s current rank? With the use of a ranking tool, you should know where your school and its competitors rank for all relevant keywords (for example, you would do a comparison between schools for the aforementioned: “accounting diploma”). Knowing this will simplify your keyword decision making process and help you track the results of your SEO campaign.

Know Where to Use Keywords
Once you have your list of relevant and competitive program-related keywords, you have to use them properly. Knowing where to use your keywords is just as important as finding them. Your keyword list can be used to optimize:

  • URLs
  • Headings
  • Page titles
  • Alt attributes
  • Anchor text for internal and external links
  • Meta descriptions
  • Page text

These improvements are made to ensure that your keywords are present in multiple locations on your program pages. Keyword density is another key factor (ideally it should be near 3%), as text has to be both keyword-rich for Web crawlers and readable to human eyes.

Be Patient on the SEO Side
In Google Adwords campaigns, you can make changes to keywords immediately, but SEOcampaigns require constant monitoring, as the rank of a keyword improves over long periods of time. You have to, therefore, stick with keywords a little longer before you can determine their true value. More specifically, you have to wait until the page gets indexed, developing links that use keywords in the anchor text to that page. Be patient and stay on top of your keyword list.

Think Long Term
There should be no “final list” of keywords. Keyword research is an ongoing process that changes with time, goals and needs. Start with the mindset that you’re putting a continuous process into place, one which will guide your marketing strategies moving forward.

What other Keyword tactics are useful to your SEO efforts? Let us know if we missed anything!



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