Driving Traffic to Your Website—What’s the Key?

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With more than two-thirds of all prospective students using search engines to begin their college search, you obviously want your institution to appear prominently in those search results. Whatever the state of your current website, it’s time to be thinking—or re-thinking—about search engine optimization (SEO).

Start researching SEO best practices, though, and you may quickly find yourself overwhelmed, or at least with your head spinning. Let’s leave the metadata and sitemaps for another day and focus first on the most crucial element of SEO—quality content.

In its SEO Starter Guide, Google says, “Creating compelling and useful content will likely influence your website more than any of the other factors discussed here.” The document goes even further to advise, “optimize content for your users, not search engines.”

So what, exactly, does quality content look like? Here are a few ideas to ramp up your site.

Think Like a Teenager (and a Teenager’s Parent)

Be sure your site includes the type of information that interests them, and consider the kind of words that will grab their attention. Think in terms of relevant language. Be sure you’re using the most important concepts—not just catchy lingo—in headlines and in prominent copy. Especially for students (and parents) new to college searches, remember their priorities and choose words that will resonate with them.

We know, for example, that the #1 reason they’re searching college websites is for cost/tuition information. In the earliest stages, they’re probably more likely to be thinking of “affordable” colleges than about “financial aid.” They may think your college is out of reach cost-wise, and they won’t know they can get help until you tell them. Once they’re into their search, they become more comfortable with that professional language, but you want to get their attention early in the game.

They’re also looking for specific academic programs or career tracks. What they’re looking for should be easy to find (or they may not keep looking.) Then ask yourself: Do the words describing your school’s program appeal to a 17-year-old? Does your content give them reason to expect a bright career future if they choose your school?

Apply this logic across all the pages of your website.

Master Your Writing Skills

If you’re attracting users and keeping them on your site, Google notices. Since we live in an age of distracted readers, though, it’s increasingly challenging to accomplish this. You have to be sure your copy is clear and engaging. Start bogging it down with unnecessary clutter, and users will quickly lose interest. If it’s poorly written or contains errors, you quickly lose credibility. But sharp, intriguing content will keep them reading for more. Organize your content well, and convey the information clearly and simply.

Give Them a Reason to Keep Coming Back

As your site becomes more popular with users, it becomes more reputable to search engines. So you not only want to attract new users, but a community of people interested in your site. Keep the content fresh so that they discover something new or interesting when they come back. Use social media posts to draw students and parents to new content or to more pages on your site. Create a blog they can follow, and also use it to link readers to other information on the site.

Offer Some Added Value

Most prospective students have a particular area of academic interest or extracurricular passion. And your school has expertise that you can leverage to position yourself with authoritativeness and trustworthiness on the subject (E-A-T in SEO language). Consider posting original articles or white papers from faculty, students, or alumni on topics related to the interests of your prospective students. You don’t want to overload your primary pages, but link these posts in a way that is clear and accessible.

Need a content audit of your site?

We’re glad to offer an objective review and ideas for boosting your online popularity.