How SEO and User Experience Go Hand-in-Hand for Higher Ed Websites

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Watch our two-part SEO webinar for tips on how to start optimizing your college or university’s website now!

Wondering how to enhance your college or university’s website through SEO—or what SEO is and what it stands for? SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, refers to the process of optimizing your website so it is visible to search engines. I recently hosted a two-part online seminar on SEO for higher education websites. The first part focused on the technical components of SEO and the second part concentrated on content optimization. You can check it out here.

The big takeaway is this: SEO and user experience go hand-in-hand. Even if you show up in Google and someone clicks through to your website, if they don’t find what they’re looking for (i.e., if you don’t answer the questions they have), then they are going to leave. Here are some other key points from the webinar:

SEO is about more than showing up in the SERP (search engine results page.) It’s also about:

  • Making users want to click on your result
  • Providing useful content
  • Having a website that is easy to navigate

To elaborate:

Making users want to click on your result

Metadata is your chance to market to prospective students while they’re already looking for exactly what you offer and where they’re already looking. In the webinar, I give my top tips for creating metadata. However, in order for you to show up in the SERP at all, there are a few technical website components that need to be addressed. That’s why I go over the importance of URL names, breadcrumbs, page errors, redirects, keyword stuffing, mobile responsiveness, mobile speed, image optimization, and ADA compliance and accessibility.

Providing useful content

Prospective students are searching for content. They have questions and they want answers! There is a difference between what you want to say and what students are looking for, and you have to find the “sweet spot” where you’re doing both.

Speaking your audience’s language is key. Remember: you may have many different audiences, including traditional undergraduate, adult undergraduate, online undergraduate, full-time master’s, part-time master’s, online master’s, and doctorate. Speaking each unique audience’s language ensures that you show up for the search queries they’re making and they identify with your content.

If the content on your college or university’s website hasn’t been touched in years, then now is the time. First, you need to evaluate what pages on your site are no longer relevant and redirect or deindex these. While you’re at it, you should identify any duplicate content on your website and redirect or deindex these as well. A lot of schools have a lot of duplicate content without even knowing it; I go over a few examples in the webinar. I also talk about how posting fresh blog content consistently and sharing it on social media networks is a proactive way to get prospective students to your website. I review a few blogging tips and discuss how social media networks are search engines as well.

Having a website that is easy to navigate

You want to make it easy for prospective students to take the actions you want them to on your website. This is why your website’s information architecture is so important for user experience. Ask yourself: Is it easy to navigate to other pages on the site? Is it easy for prospective students to fill out a request-for-information form? Is it easy for them to consume the content on each page? Are you utilizing header tags?

If a prospective student can’t find what they are looking for on your website, then they will likely leave. They may even deduce that you simply don’t offer what they’re looking for. This is why it’s so important to have a good internal site search feature, as well as side menu bars, call-to-action buttons, and internal links.


All roads lead to the website, including all your other marketing efforts such as paid digital advertising, social media posts, e-mails, postcards, magazines, direct mail, billboards, etc. Every student who applies to your school is going to go to your website. Even if they land on your site from an ad or e-mail, they will always go back and find you organically. To learn more, check out my two-part webinar now.

You can follow Rebecca on Twitter @beccablanchette for more SEO and analytics insights.

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