Like search engine algorithms, SEO trends are constantly changing. This pushes schools to apply SEO best practices to cultivate a competitive edge and improve their organic performance on search engines.
With many schools vying for the first position on the search engine results page (SERP), it becomes increasingly more difficult to stand out and get results. However, using SEO correctly and embracing the latest trends and best practices yearly can be the first step in reaching your school’s SEO goals. That means improving your school’s online visibility, boosting your web traffic, and increasing your search ranking.
Here’s an in-depth look at the SEO best practices you should pay closer attention to in 2023!
1. Improve Your School Website’s Page Experience and Core Web Vitals
Unsurprisingly, page speed is an important ranking factor of SEO for education websites. That’s because it contributes to a positive page experience, which Google values. But great page experience goes beyond page speed—it’s about how a page feels and responds to its users. With great page experience, users are likelier to stay on your school’s web page and engage more deeply with your content.
To get a sense of your website’s page experience, you’ll want to analyze its loading, interactivity, and visual stability. Metrics that can help you get started include:
- Largest Contentful Paint (LCP): Measures site speed and the time it takes for content to load
- First Input Delay (FID): Measures the time it takes for input-receiving elements of your site to become interactive for users
- Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): Measures the percentage of the screen influenced by the movement, assessing web elements’ instability
Schools can analyze their core web vitals by running a test on Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool. Simply plugging in the URL of the page in question can help you determine the state of your school’s core web vitals and what needs to improve. Here’s an example of a test that failed because of a low CLS score (first image) and one that passed (second image):
Schools looking to apply SEO tips for 2023 can begin enhancing their performance by looking at these metrics and identifying areas for improvement. For instance, removing heavy images and compressing code can increase site speed and boost your LCP. Similarly, you can get rid of bloated web themes that contain heavy elements or unnecessary code. This way, leads can easily and quickly interact with your website by scrolling or filling lead forms due to a faster FID score.
When it comes to your CLS score, you’ll want to make sure that your website promotes a positive user experience. This means working with your web developer to prevent prospects from clicking the wrong button because a pop-up is loaded at the last second. By ensuring a good user experience, which also includes providing a mobile-responsive website, you’ll be able to see a better return on your SEO efforts.
2. Boost Your School’s Content Quality with Topic Clusters and high-Fidelity Content
One of the many SEO best practices for 2023 includes prioritizing the quality of your content. It all starts with focusing on search intent, which enables you to tailor your content to provide your prospects with the most value—no matter where they are in the admissions funnel. This means creating content that aligns with various search queries and keywords while resonating with your student personas.
A great technique to produce higher-quality content involves creating topic clusters. These topic clusters include a pillar page, such as your school’s program page, that links to various subpages. The subpages would link to one another and the pillar page in a way that thoroughly explores a subject for your prospects. Although this process may be time-consuming, it’s well worth the effort to create an SEO-driven blog and position your school as a credible leader in the field.
High-fidelity content can also help you accomplish this goal. Videos, in-depth and long-form articles, Infographics, and podcasts are all high-fidelity content that can help your school stand out and reach its prospects. Through this content, search engine marketing for higher education can become easier, allowing you to reap the multiple benefits of your hard work. Essentially, higher-quality content equals more engagement, driving quality traffic and ultimately boosting SEO.
Example: Hult International Business School created an infographic that delves into how business schools can go beyond business to help students thrive. In addition to being beautifully laid out and clearly branded, this content provides valuable insights backed by research—delighting prospects in an effort to improve engagement:
It’s important to ensure that any media you add to your website is well-optimized for the web. For instance, if you’re adding images, then be sure to resize them appropriately and use alt tags for descriptions. You’ll also want to ensure that your images are mobile-friendly and match your text, adding value to your written content.
3. Refine Your Keyword Strategy Using Long-Tail Keywords
User behaviors are notorious for constantly changing, as are trends. For this reason, your target keywords will likely change over time. You’ll need to conduct keyword research to make sure you’re targeting keywords that your prospects actually use—ones that are relevant for your school and are within your abilities to rank for. Oftentimes, these keywords would be long-tail, usually between three and five words long.
Generally speaking, short-tail keywords are more competitive than long-tail keywords. Although they generate more search volume, long-tail keywords are much more useful for schools looking to reach a more targeted audience. Because these keywords are longer phrases, they allow your school to focus on specific school features, programs, or areas of interest in their content and SEO efforts. Since they’re more specific and less competitive, they often generate better results.
There are various online tools you can use to help identify your high-gain long-tail keywords. Tools like Semrush, Google Search Console, and Answer the Public are all great options for discovering what your prospects may be searching for in relation to the core subjects you offer and the content you create. This strategy can improve SEO for private schools, language or business schools, and even colleges or universities.
Example: You can use Answer the Public to brainstorm potential long-tail keywords and content ideas. Below is a screenshot of the search queries generated by inputting “pharmacy assistant” as the short-tail keyword:
Source: Answer the Public
You can look at different metrics to narrow down your long-tail keyword options. Monthly search volume, keyword difficulty, and cost per click are all important factors to consider when making this decision for better SEO for schools. Once you have your focus long-tail keyword, you can integrate it into your content. In doing so, you can drive web traffic.
Ready to level up your school’s SEO performance this year? Reach out to our team of experts to develop a winning SEO strategy, which includes everything from data-driven keyword research to personalized SEO audits!
4. Embrace Link-Building as One of the Top SEO Best Practices for 2023
Link building is another one of many SEO best practices for 2023 that’s still going strong. It basically allows Google to judge your content quality by helping it determine your page relevancy as well as value, especially when highly authoritative websites link back to your content. As a result, it’s key to establishing trustworthiness and domain authority, which is crucial for SEO schools.
The top ways you can improve your link-building strategy and build backlinks include:
- Guest blogging and collaborating with others
- Generating hyperlinks from reputable and credible directories
- Creating sharable infographics that can be embedded elsewhere on the web
- Conducting a competitive analysis to determine where your competitors have backlinks and filling those gaps in your own strategy
You can include a mix of internal and external links on your school’s website, each providing its own set of benefits. External links reassure Google that your page is credible, whereas internal links help users and search engines more easily find pages within your site. They can even be used to increase the ranking of specific pages on your site.
Example: CLC Canada’s website has a great blog that features insightful and relevant information for prospects. The blog post shared below on learning a language through immersion contains various internal links that can further delight prospects while also guiding them closer to the end of the admissions funnel:
Source: CLC Canada
Pro Tip: External links, though essential to your SEO strategy, should be used sparingly and only when relevant. Be sure you’re only linking to high-quality, reputable sources and that none of them are broken—leading to unpleasant 404 error pages.
5. Use On-Page Techniques to Boost Your School’s Visibility
On-page SEO is about optimizing your content for human users and not just search engines. For this, you’ll need to rely on accurate and reliable student personas. You can use them to cultivate the right messaging—including the type of content your school should cover.
On that note, your content must include relevant keywords to reach its target audience. These focus keywords – which you would have developed through long-tail keyword research – will need to be added to the title, headings, body copy, and meta description of your blog post. It’s also important to include them in your image captions and alt tags as part of on-page SEO for educational institutions.
Example: The Academy of Applied Pharmaceutical Sciences (AAPS) created a blog post that has a focus long-tail keyword. This keyword is used in the title as well as the meta description of the blog post:
This same keyword is also used in the article, integrated into the heading (H2) and body copy:
Embrace Technical SEO when Applying SEO Best Practices for 2023
Technical SEO is part of on-page SEO, but it’s more focused on optimizing content for the search engine (i.e. Google bots and crawlers). With it, your school can increase its page ranking more effectively.
Technical SEO includes things like having a strong sitemap – a list of web pages found on a single website – as well as an SSL certificate, which indicates the credibility and security of a website. This can improve the user experience, which in turn would boost SEO.
Knowing how to leverage the search engine for schools through optimization is also key in 2023. One thing you’ll want to start paying attention to if you haven’t already is your URLs. Generally, you’ll want to:
- Avoid long URLs
- Include the focus keyword
- Keep them simple without any extra symbols and characters
- Make them descriptive
Example: North American Trade Schools carefully curated its blog post URL to meet industry standards. The link is neither long nor does it include unusual symbols ad characters. Notably, the URL is secure, and it also includes the focus keyword:
Source: North American Trade Schools
6. Create Featured Snippets for Your School’s Web Content
Featured snippets are special boxes in the search engine results page (SERP) where the description appears before the link, and it’s given more emphasis over other links on the page. It appears at the top, attracting attention and driving clicks since it’s strategically crafted to answer a user’s search query.
Featured snippets can come in various forms. This includes lists, paragraphs, and tables. These featured snippets are chosen by Google directly, determined by how well the page addresses a user’s search request.
Schools looking to apply higher education SEO best practices can aim to generate featured snippets by carefully targeting and optimizing their content. You must target the right keyword and focus on question-type search queries. To create content that will more likely win this spot, you can take a closer look at the “people also ask” section of the page. The questions listed here can provide various content development and SEO opportunities. Similarly, creating a dedicated FAQ page on your school website may be a good approach to increase your chances of getting a featured snippet.
Example: By optimizing its content for this search query, InFocus Film School was able to snag the first spot on the SERP. Through this featured snippet, prospects can quickly glean an answer to their question and are more likely to click on the link in anticipation of learning more:
By optimizing another blog post with a specific search query in mind, the school was also able to prove its relevance to Google and earn a spot in the highly coveted “people also ask” section:
This gives the school more than one opportunity to appeal to its prospects, appearing twice in the same SERP with different yet relevant content.
7. Remember to Regularly Audit and Optimize Your SEO Strategy
Auditing your SEO performance is one of the most important SEO best practices in 2023—and it’s considered an essential step toward a strong SEO strategy. Taking the time to study what’s working well and what isn’t can help you save time and resources in the future, giving you the chance to quickly transform your results and generate a high return on investment.
You can customize your SEO audit to focus on different aspects of your performance. You can use it to monitor your organic traffic, backlinks, keywords, page speed, mobile friendliness, and more. Your findings will ultimately allow you to refine your content strategy and strengthen your web design and performance—both of which can elevate your school’s education SEO in 2023.