Christopher Powell

Want to make your higher education institution a household name? Nothing gets you there as efficiently as search engine optimization (SEO) digital marketing.

Long gone are the days when parents or prospective students looking for an educational opportunity would visit your school to find out more about you. Now, they look online — specifically, on search engines.

Making it to the top of that page requires capable SEO services that can attract new enrollments and greatly expand your online presence by putting you at the top of search results.

So what is SEO, what does a higher education SEO digital marketing campaign look like and what can you expect from one?

Great Digital Content = Better Schools

Why Your Website Matters

It’s difficult to choose where to start explaining all the reasons your higher education institution needs a top-shelf website.

To begin, people want to know more information about your school before enrolling their children or themselves. To do that, they’re going to use a search console to try to find your website.

This might be the very first time your school is introduced to a parent, guardian or student. That makes your website your one and only chance for a first impression. A single glance at an unappealing or outdated design can be enough to turn them away forever, right then and there.

That goes especially if you offer programs that use cutting-edge technology, such as programming or robotics.

That’s just referring to the design. What if they’re searching for specific information about your higher education institution? Prospective students will want to know things like:

  • Where you’re located.
  • Your contact information.
  • Your history.
  • What degree programs you offer.
  • How you help graduates find work.
  • What your vision is.

That’s just putting a few simple examples out there. All this information needs to be readily available and easy to find, along with anything else you imagine the visitor wants to know. If they can’t find it, they should know who to call or email with your immediately visible contact information.

There’s a long list of other reasons your website should be exceptional, from giving parents a place to find out about school events to offering a way for students and professors to communicate.

To put it succinctly: Yes, your higher education website matters and it matters a lot.

What Administrators Need To Know About SEO

SEO is how you make your web pages stand out from an endless sea of others. But making yourself visible on the internet is just one part of great SEO.

Yes, you can do digital marketing without SEO — sort of. Much like canoeing without an oar, you can still rely on the wind and waves to move, but you won’t be going anywhere very quickly — except maybe back to where you started at the shore.

Content marketing is of little use if it’s not optimized. You certainly won’t get as many prospective students that way. If you want to maximize your marketing and recruiting efforts, you need higher education SEO digital marketing.

Common SEO Mistakes To Avoid

Higher education SEO is part science, part art. One nice thing about it is that it’s relatively easy to learn — but notoriously difficult to master.

The proof of that is in the common SEO mistakes beginners make. We’ll outline a couple of them here.

Starting With the Keywords Before Coming up With Any Ideas

If maximizing SEO performance is at least partially about inserting the right keywords, why not identify the popular ones before anything else?

Because that’s just one part of optimizing your content. If you focus too much on the keywords first, you’re very likely to have less-than-helpful content — which Google will notice. SEO is about far more than keywords, and they’re not sufficient on their own to get to the top of a search engine result page (SERP).

Digital content marketing is basically answering a question. That’s why so many internet users ask search engines questions. For example, “What is the best higher education institution if I want to be an engineer?” and “Which school ranks highest for post-graduation employment?” Identifying relevant queries and coming up with persuasive answers is key to content creation.

You can offer the best keywords and then come up with an idea, but that’s reversing your priorities. It’s not enough to just get someone to one of your web pages; they also have to read it. If you only focus on the former, you haven’t actually accomplished much of value.

Putting Too Many Keywords in One Place

There was a time when search engines only looked at how many times you repeated a keyword to determine how relevant your content was. This led digital marketers to make content that might have been borderline unreadable, but it ranked highly on search results because it contained a lot of keywords.

Google doesn’t roll that way anymore. In fact, they’ll straight-up punish you if they detect that you’re guilty of this outdated practice called keyword stuffing. Your result will drop in rank faster than the infamous Prime Prep Academy’s enrollment numbers after it dissolved in January 2015.

Instead, keep your keywords varied and natural throughout your content. It’s all about reaching a balance of having too few versus too many in one place.

Your School’s Best-Ever SEO Performance

Now then, let’s talk about how to take your higher education website and put it at the top of search results.

First, understand that your digital marketing campaign is a team effort by a number of experts. Yes, even the greatest SEO guru in the world needs a crew. Batman may have an accomplished record fighting crime working alone, but even he was better off with a team for the superpowered villains when he was in the Justice League.


This team of yours is going to have a range of people with different rules and responsibilities. For example, SEO managers and keyword researchers will find the best keywords to aim for. The content writers will write out your material. The project managers will oversee the whole operation. If you want to do social media marketing, video, art or anything else in content marketing, you’ll have the best people for those, too.

Creating SEO content generates interest in your digital marketing materials, which will bring more traffic and better visibility. You’ll be able to see exactly how much by looking at the metrics. As your digital content agency crafts your campaign, they’ll continue to adjust their strategy to optimize the results.

Make Your School’s Content Google’s Go-to

Here’s a generic example of a digital marketing SEO strategy for a school.

The SEO Part

In addition to keywords, an SEO expert considers both internal and external links, titles, visuals, word counts and the all-important meta description. This last thing is the part that shows up on the search engine and summarizes the page in 160 characters or fewer (they can technically be longer, but it’ll cut off after that point). If you want to focus on advertising locally, researching local SEO keywords can make a big difference.

Social Media Networking

Let’s first talk about LinkedIn. Having a professional presence on LinkedIn is in your school’s best interest. Take the time to network with teachers, both current and former, as well as alumni to maximize your reach. Don’t just add people to your network — engage with them in meaningful ways that bring value to your school.

Depending on where else you want to have a social media presence, your SEO strategy should be tailored to that platform. For example, Twitter doesn’t have the same demographics as Facebook. Whoever you want to reach, make sure your campaign extends to where they are.

Email Newsletters

If you bring your readers content they find valuable, they’re likely to listen when you tell them in the call to action (CTA) to sign up for your newsletter. This is a relatively simple, though also effective, way to expand your audience. Speaking of which, have you signed up for The Content Marketer yet?


In “The Matrix,” while Neo and Trinity are planning Morpheus’ digital marketing campaign, the character called Tank asks, “What do you need?”

Neo responds: “Blogs. Lots of blogs.”

I’m paraphrasing the script a little, but blogs are a virtually integral part of many digital marketing campaigns. Blogs offer relevant and useful information on various topics that you want to be seen as an authority in.

The purpose of this is simple: Make yourself known by becoming one of the most respected sources of helpful information for the parents or students you want to attract. This will keep users coming back, hungry for more quality content.

Update your blog often with a high standard of quality that has an attractive brand voice. If you succeed in mustering a consistent audience, you’re likely to have an excellent boost to your online presence.

Get Help: SEO Expertise at Brafton

Hopefully, by now it’s clear that a higher education SEO digital marketing campaign is the way to go to not just market your school, but to make it a household name that encourages ever-more people to enroll.

At the end of it all, your capable competitors will see your success and react much like a villain who comes at Superman with a knife — only for it to break against his abs while they stagger back, look at your Google Analytics metrics and shout “Th-that’s impossible!!”